How To Plan For Maternity Leave When Self-Employed – Episode 124

Plan maternity leave for freelancers, entrepreneurs and self-employed.

How should you handle maternity leave when self-employed? How will you make money during maternity leave? One of the things I appreciate about working for myself is the freedom and flexibility. I decide who I work with, what I work on, the hours I work, and from where—but one of the downsides — not having sick leave or paid vacations. If you want to take self-employed maternity leave, in this episode, I share how I saved to take maternity leave and how to plan for maternity leave while self-employed. I also share the behind-the-scenes of quitting my job and life as a full-time content creator and podcasting coach.

Creating a maternity leave plan is highly personal. As a self-employed person, planning maternity leave looks different than being employed in a traditional 9-to-5 job. Instead of notifying Human Resources that you will be taking paid leave, you are responsible for funding your leave and designing what that would look like. Since you do not get paid leave from an employer, all of the decision-making is on you, which can be nerve-wracking and overwhelming, especially if this is your first pregnancy.

With careful planning and after successfully taking four months of parental leave while self-employed, here are my best self-employed maternity leave tips.

Prefer to listen to the audio version of this blog post? This podcast episode airs Thursday, February 9th, 2023. 

In the meantime, follow The Thought Card Podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

In this podcast episode, we also cover:

  • Maternity pay when self-employed
  • How to save for maternity leave
  • How to make money on maternity leave
  • The difference between active and passive income streams
  • Things keeping us from a healthy work-life balance as entrepreneurs
  • Why you deserve (and need) to be able to take extended leave as an entrepreneur.

A special thank you to Mary & Angela from On the Front Porch Podcast with The Rural Housewives, who invited me to be a guest on their podcast. On the Front Porch reaches women worldwide (primarily in the US, Canada, and Australia) to connect over commonality and discuss differences in how they handle things like relationships, finances, family, business, and more. 

Danielle Desir Corbett: Are you wondering how you should handle maternity leave when self-employed? One of the things I appreciate about working for myself is the freedom and flexibility. I decide who I work with, what I work on, the hours I work, and from where. But one of the downsides -- not having sick leave or paid vacations.

As a self-employed person, planning maternity leave looks different than if you were employed in a traditional 9-to-5 job. Instead of notifying Human Resources that you will be taking paid leave, you are responsible for funding your leave and designing what that would look like.

But overall I've been creating content online since 2015 in the travel and personal finance space. I started as a blogger and then I transitioned to a podcaster. So that's what I do primarily now. I also run podcasting communities. I run a coaching podcast coaching program as well. So I'm really excited about podcasting, excited about travel and about affording the lifestyle that we truly, truly want and at the end of the day deserve.

As a small business owner, creating a maternity leave plan is highly personal. It requires not only funding your maternity leave but also deciding how you will continue to run your business while you’re taking time off to be with your baby. Since you don’t get paid leave, all of the decision making is on you which can honestly be nerve wracking and overwhelming, especially if this is your first pregnancy. If you want to take a self-employed maternity leave, in this episode, I share how I saved to take maternity leave and how to plan for maternity leave while self-employed. I also share the behind the scenes of quitting my job and life as a full-time content creator, freelancer, and podcasting coach.

Angela and Mary: A lot of our listeners are entrepreneurs because in small towns and in agriculture communities a lot of times the women in town are the business owners, it just happens a lot, it's a trend that I'm super excited about, that, you know, maybe the woman is at home with the kids, but she is also doing 100 other things. She's supporting her family in countless ways. She has other income streams and so we're going to chat about some of the ways that you can prepare for paternity leave as an entrepreneur. So before we dive into that specifically Danielle, can you talk us through the evolution of your business? And I just want to touch really quickly on the fact that I read in one of your articles that you have nine different income streams that you're using to build wealth and that blew my mind and I can't wait to hear about everything that went into building your business.

Danielle Desir Corbett: Yeah, so it definitely fluctuates, I think at one point was like 17 income streams that I've been trying to pare down now the baby's here because I can't really do as many things, I don't want to do as many things as I used to do. But yes, so when I started in 2015, I just kind of just wanted to just share my thoughts which is why my whole brand is called the thought card. And the first thing I actually did in terms of making money was freelancing as a freelance writer. So it was a two fold, it was like income as a side hustle but also it was validation that your skills are employable, your writing is actually someone wants to pay you. That's like so exciting. So I started off as a start off as a freelance writer and then dabbing into various income streams today like a membership coaching and all these different things but it was definitely like a slow build and I think what's important was that consistency before introducing additional income streams is just getting consistent, making sure that I can appear and show up when I say I'm supposed to show up, I think that's very very important. Um now I miss the original question. So the evolution, right? The evolution micro yeah, so overall like it started off with freelance writing and then when podcasting came along that definitely introduced other opportunities, there are things like Patreon and buy me a coffee. There's also consulting and coaching that comes on from your experience. So I really think about, okay, what are the income streams that are two types, there's active income streams and then passive income streams and especially now that I'm a mama and an entrepreneur on top of that is that I really wanted to focus more on the passive income streams, passive income streams is when you build up something. For example, let's say its affiliate marketing and you're deciding to promote other people's products and services through your blog. For example, when you're actually creating those blogs, you're putting a lot of thought and energy into creating that piece of content, but it's going to live out there on the internet for years to come. And that to me is like really exciting that I could work today and be able to continuously earn for months and years to come. Um, so that's what my challenge now is like, how do I find opportunities that are passive income that are lucrative and then if I am going to do exchange time for money, making sure that it's high ticket and like really worth my time because I am a stay at home mom as well and I'm the primary caretaker of my son. So everything I say yes to takes me away from my son and my family. So I have to make sure that it meets the standards of what I'm trying to accomplish. Um, so overall, it's been a lot of experimentation. It's been a lot of testing things out. Um and also trying to understand like what do I enjoy the most? Like I love working with brands, I love having clients and coaching clients. So those are the things that I kind of really gravitate towards more versus the other things that other people can find really successful in, but it might not be the passion of mine or really worth my time to do.

Angela and Mary: It is so cool having so many different streams of income, but also your thought process around them, like you said, you're very intentional with what you're doing that way, It's giving not only you the amount of time that you need for your family, but it's giving you like the best life that you can for your family and a lot of people actually don't, they don't get to pick and choose. Does that make sense? Like they don't get to pick and choose the time that they get to spend. A lot of people have nine to fives and sometimes those nine to fives are 72 nines or 40-60 hours a week instead of just 40 being the cut off. So what are some of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs and business owners when it comes to work life balance?

Danielle Desir Corbett: Yeah, I think one of the big struggles is like, when to turn off because you're your own boss and because barriers and you know, time parameters are kind of like the constructs of your mind in many ways, it's easy to kind of be at the dinner table and just sneakily, like taking a look and seeing what your client is asking you for um, if you are a solo preneurs and you do everything yourself, then there's the burden of, okay, it's only me and I have to wear all the hats and do all the things and that can be really exhausting. But also, if you have a team that could also be really exhausting because now you have to train and you have to delegate and you have to be on top of folks and your business has to have enough income that you can actually pay them as well. Another challenge specifically as a new mom is because I've decided not to do day care and I want to be the primary primary home with my son is finding the time to actually get work done. There's this theory out that the phenomenon out there where it's like, you know, you have one hand that's doing the typing and doing the mouse maneuvering and the other hand is like, you know, bracing your baby and literally that is what a lot of my day looks like. It's like trying to send an email and also making sure I'm attending to him. Um, so that balance, you know, the balance between the two, Also, I think when it comes to just finding your footing as an entrepreneur is like, especially if you've been in the 9-5 space a lot of time, we're trying to fit a square into a circle, so we're trying to fit that 9-5 mentality and the 9-5 time structure into something that is a lot more fluid. So to combat that, I really think about when do I work my best, When do I work optimally, because I'm a creator and I'm very have to be creative for my, my line of work. When am I most creative typically, that's in the morning and I know that, so I have to wake up early and get it done while the energy is there and while the creativity is there, if I'm leaving it to the end of the day, I'm already spent. Um so I think knowing yourself is really important and it takes time to really understand how you are going to work best. Um also giving yourself some grace, I remember I was pregnant while I was also a new entrepreneur and with health challenges, and if you're pregnant you have health challenges. There are a lot of, for me, I was really struggling with, like I really should be getting out of bed and being productive, but I feel awful today, like I don't feel well. Um so that guilt also comes into place, there's like a lot of like mental emotional drama that comes in with entrepreneurship. Um and then the last thing I wanted to say in terms of work life balance is like finances is also really big part of having a balance in your life. Um so for example, just recently I had to dip into my um going full time emergency fund, so that meant like when I was going full time and leaving my job, I put a big account aside. I think we'll talk about this later too, had a bank account aside specifically for emergency situations if I needed money dire while I'm an entrepreneur and I actually had to dip into that actually last month because I had a cash flow issue meaning that I had money coming months later, but not today where bills were due and I felt so guilty and so like, oh my gosh, are you a failure because you dipped into your emergency fund? But that's what the emergency fund is for, right? So there's just a lot of mental drama and mental thoughts, some negative thoughts that come in. Um and it could be difficult to navigate. I do think that having finding your community, finding your tribe um listening to podcasts like yours is also really encouraging because you get to hear all these stories and kind of take little bits and pieces and be encouraged along the way because it's not, it's not necessarily always rosy and peachy and rainbows all the time. 100%.

Angela and Mary: Absolutely. It's so important to surround yourself in community in any situation, but as an entrepreneur, Oh my gosh! All the things that you mentioned, including the mental battle, the guilt that we sometimes face for turning it off. Turning it off rarely is something that comes naturally to people when you're in charge of your own business. I love that we're chatting about this because we could take this conversation so many different directions and I promise we're going to keep it on course, but you have so much wisdom to give Danielle about being an entrepreneur in general, being an entrepreneur as a new mom and we would love to glean from you some wisdom for ourselves and for our listeners because the other thing too, that is unique to some of our listeners is they can totally relate to how you're talking about cash flow issues where money is coming later, it's coming and I'm working today and I will make money off of this, but not until later, for example, with livestock or with harvesting crops like that could be happening today, but you're not getting paid for it today or you're planting today, but you're not harvest for months. There are so many bits and pieces of your story that you're going to share with us today that are things that our listeners can take home and implement, whether they are preparing for maternity or parental leave or not, Congratulations on Baby K. We're so excited for you and the way that you just light up every time you talk about him just makes my heart so happy. I'm not a parent yet, but I do believe that that is the biggest job we will ever have because we're raising humans that are eventually going to be leading the world when we're gone and even before we're gone and so like that is a huge undertaking and I love the way that you love your baby, I can see it all over your face. What we would love to chat more about is how you prepared for maternity leave because you also men, We can't, we cannot just breeze over the fact that you were also a brand new entrepreneur when you started planning for your maternity leave as an entrepreneur, so can you talk us through the steps that you took?

Danielle Desir Corbett: So I'll start with 2020 as like a back frame because the pandemic was really eye opening and really gave me opportunity to think about what do I want my life to look like I was also working full time for an employer and also working remotely, so I kind of was living my dream life of like living at home and working and I didn't want to go back to like the office and I knew that one day, you know, that will present itself, so I had thoughts about become an entrepreneur because I was hustling for like six years at the time, but I was struggling with how do I replace my income, so I live in a high, very expensive state, high cost of living and I did not want to put my family in a position where okay I go full time and I'm not financially ready for that, so one of my biggest hiccups was how am I going to bridge the gap as an entrepreneur and fill the big shoes of my 9 to 5 job and I kind of gave up on it, but then one day my husband came to me and he was like you know Danielle, if you want to become an entrepreneur, you gotta put in the work and it's, it's up for grabs if you want it, but you gotta put in the work. So in a way, like I questioned him and I also questioned myself like oh my gosh, like this is, I could potentially do this like you know, if I don't become an entrepreneur, I mean the worst case scenario is I tried and I tried right, so I took a challenge upon myself, I said to myself, you know what I am going to save for three months of living expenses and it was twofold part one is, I wanted to have reserved that going full time fund, I talked about rating last month, that's what I wanted, just in case if things get tough, I have something to fall back on Also, I also wanted to be able to prove that my side hustle was profitable and I was only taking that side side hustle money and putting it into that going full time fund. So it was very strategic, I want to save money but I also have to prove that my, my gig works and I can actually get to my goal, so I was starting and saving and doing the things and my dad is also an entrepreneur as well and he went full time, so he kind of had you know, more experience than me and he's like, I don't think three months is enough, why don't you kind of fluff it up a little bit and you know, really, really extend it out? So I said cool. Um I, I took him on that challenge and I kind of made myself have a bigger going full time fund, but again, the goal was, if your, if your side house looking get there, let's do it. Um so overall I was able to, my goal was to quit at the end of the year 2021 december 2021 but I had finished my goal, reached my goal by like june and I was like, whoa, blew it out the water, why were you tripping? Like why were you so scared? Like you're just crushing it? And I sat down with my husband and we're like, okay, I proved myself, I did the work, we're going to go full time. I gave the notice to my boss to say that I was leaving and uh we went off to Disney and we went on vacation and we're like, yeah, we're going full time celebrating, super happy, excited, come back and we find out that I'm expecting a couple of weeks later I'm expecting and now I am like sweating because oh my gosh, do I say to my job, I'm just kidding, I'm going to stay because I have like, I have great insurance, health insurance, I had sick time for my, you know, my parental leave. So all the things were pointing Danielle, you should probably stay. Um and I said, you know what? No, I'm not saying I'm going to figure it out. I want to do this. I took all this time and energy to go full time so I decided not to do it. Another thing I want to also share a vulnerable moment also is that like I didn't want to stay because I also was afraid like, okay, I stay for the benefits and this and that and that cool a year goes by, I'm still here and then maybe I get pregnant again and then I'm still here and then now I'm not really scared now I'm just, now I got a family, it's just scary. So I was like, you know what, I know myself, so I prepared to let me just go off and do the thing so I was able to quit early um, knowing that I was pregnant at the time. Um, and that was really hard because like I mentioned earlier, I would have really bad days where I had no energy to get up and and do things and there was guilt of like, you're an entrepreneur entrepreneur, you got to make money, but you're staying home, but we had a really healthy conversation with my husband and he was like, you're growing life and you have to give yourself grace to be like, you know what, like this is the top priority is your health, health of your baby, so you fit if you want to work fit in when you can um and I found creative ways to do that, I couldn't sleep at three a.m. In the morning, that's when I would actually do the work, you know, when I had the energy to do it. So overall I learned throughout my pregnancy was that um this contract of being in control, I always felt I'm a Virgo also, so very like, gotta be by the book, gotta have you know, structure and stuff, but I learned that being adaptable is so important, so being able to say, okay, this is happening, let's pivot, let's let's be fluid, let's not be rigid um has been very helpful to have all these things happening at once being a mom and being an entrepreneur, so that's a bit of my backstory of like how it all um how it all started, but it's um I'm a year out now and it's been the best decision I've ever I've ever made um and I kind of a part of me thinks like if I didn't leave corporate, maybe I wouldn't have gotten pregnant, I think about that sometimes I wonder, I wonder um so everything happens the way it's supposed to happen um overall.

Angela and Mary: So I guess technically you didn't really have a lot of time to prepare for maternity leave because you had already put in your notice to work and you're already planning on going off on your own, is that correct?

Danielle Desir Corbett: Yeah. So only had the pretty much the savings of going full time at that time, but definitely would love to share more about the nitty gritty details of the parental leave part.

So once I knew that we were expecting my husband and I sat down and we looked at our budget and we said, okay now as entrepreneurs, me, entrepreneur, we're on the hook for parental leave. We don't have a cushion of like having a boss having days. So we sat together, we looked at how much, how much do we spend per month so that we could have a savings goal to work towards. So we figured, okay, how much parental leave we wanted to take, we wanted to take three months. Uh that's traditional in the United States. So we wanted to take three months, Me and him also being home. So once we figured out what that budget amount was, we put that as a savings goal and now was about opening a bank account. I love having multiple bank accounts and I have one specifically for baby K fund. That was what it was called because I wanted to have it separate from everything else and it would be easier to track if it was separate. So now, once we had this account, we know what our goal target was, It was about strategically coming together and figuring out, okay, what are the income streams, what are you going to prioritize that you can actually get to this in a short amount of time? One of the things that I quickly realized as an entrepreneur and throughout my pregnancy is that your due day is an estimation and things happen and I was thinking, I was going to be, you know, working up until the due date and that was not true. We ended up having to rush to the hospital like eight weeks before um, so which threw us off completely through our whole finances off completely, but during that time before that it was like, okay, what are the income streams knowing that my life is going to change now, I probably can't do x, y, z, but maybe I can do this now. So kind of being really choosy about the projects I took on what I was working on and we were able actually thankfully to actually reach that goal before I was rushed to the hospital, eight weeks ahead of time. Um, but that eight weeks, like the couple of weeks, I was in the hospital um and also my baby was in the nicu as well, definitely in that bill came, that hospital bill came later. So there's just a lot of, a lot of planning that goes with your parental leave. But as an entrepreneur I think what's important is sitting down looking at what you have to feel, how long you want to take, figuring out what that dollar amount is working towards that as quickly as you can because especially in the later trimesters, you're not really sure when the due date will be. Um So that was really important to us. Another thing I was going to also say is that my husband works full time and in our state of Connecticut he was able to tap into state benefits for parental leave. So look at that. Um in your state to see what our options for parental leave and if you can tap into it because like for him he was already paying into that program for years. All he had to do was fill out an application and be in the queue. So that was really really helpful to just be able to kind of have not be stressing about finances during the most like emergency dire situation of actually delivering and giving birth.

Angela and Mary: Yeah that's amazing. So okay just so that I am tracking with everything. You first things first. You sat down together with your husband. Ps cheers to good husband sounds like you've got one. He sounds amazing. So you guys sat down together, you looked at your expenses, how much time you wanted to take for your paternal leave, how much that was going to quote unquote cost you an income and how long it would take you to save that much based on, okay, this is how much we need to divide that by how much time we have to save. And you built in some pretty big cushions in every area, right? Because you hit your goals long before um your eight week early due date. So that's incredible. That's also something that I think can be applied to businesses in general. So whether it's for paternal leave or you want slash need slash deserve time off or you're trying, you're going through a big life transition or any other kind of emergency situation. Super important to have this money set aside so that you can feel freedom in taking the time that you deserve with your new baby or with a loved one that really needs your help or anything in that category. So Danielle, I would love for you to just chat with our gals on kind of like a heart to heart level for a second. Give them some encouragement about why it is not only okay and allowed for them to take maternity leave but also why it's necessary.

Danielle Desir Corbett: Yes. So our decision to take parental leave was really about the quality time spent with our son and as a family together. So we definitely had conversations of like oh well husband, you could leave early if you want. He was like, no, I'm not going to like, I'm not gonna miss this like golden opportunity to be with our child and they're never going to be that small again. Like recently, I think a couple of months ago, like I missed when his belly button uh, went from Audi to an any, like, I'm there every day, but I missed it. So even in the day to day of like still being there, like you'll still miss some like little moments or things like that. Um, so we wanted to just make sure that we were present and we were available to cherish the moment and just be there another thing for us. So we're both raised by single moms and I can speak for myself. My mom was working one job, but she worked in the city and the commute was long and I was with babysitters and she's a fantastic phenomenal mom, did everything amazing. However, I did notice growing up that she was, were at work, you know, I was with my grandparents or with the babysitter. And that played into the decision as to why I wanted to be a stay at home mom and be here with my son full time is because of that, that absence, that was their great mom, but still she was, she was working, she had to, she had to provide and she had to be away from the home. So that multiplies like a personal aspect of, again why I wanted to do something different, but at the end of the day for us, it was just a time time with our son, time spent together um and that bond that like that strengthening of like your relationship when you're both exhausted at two a.m. And and your baby is crying and you don't know what to do when you're trying to figure it all out. Like all those things, those are all memories that um I felt like if I wasn't there I would have missed and I may have regretted that.

Angela and Mary: So as we start to wind down Danielle, is there anything that we haven't touched on that you would really like to share with our listeners?

Danielle Desir Corbett: Yeah, I think, I think that entrepreneurship is a winding journey and everyone's path will look different. I think for me what has been important is trying to align with what I want to, how I want to live, who I want to be and finding a way that I can align that with what I do for work has been really um impactful for me, um sometimes thinking about it, especially when I wasn't in it, I was like um I don't know how this is going to work, like I think sometimes it's not about like how it's going to happen, it's about that, that you want it to happen. So having that intentionality, wanting something and then figuring out as you go is is so important and I wish I would have known this earlier because I always would be like well how do I do this? Well how am I going to quit my job? Well how am I going to make the money? Well how am I going to do all of that stuff? But the belief and another thing, I also think that's been helpful for me is like having challenges that if I don't necessarily hit the mark, I'm still like, it's not the worst case scenario. Um I think what's important as entrepreneurs, trying, experimenting, giving it your all and that sometimes is different from like corporate America, like how, how you're supposed to think in corporate um So overall those are my thoughts and opinions. Um I think the pandemic really did open up a lot of avenue for like what's possible. Um And lastly I would say to daydream, I think that as adults and working women um it's hard for us to kind of have the moment of just like daydreaming and like thinking about what the future would look like without any parameters or barriers, but I try to do it often because it keeps me grounded, it keeps me hopeful and keeps me looking ahead in the future as to what I would like to accomplish and what I'd like to be.

Danielle Desir Corbett: That is such good advice and I feel like because normally I would come back and be like cool, can you share one last piece of advice with us but man, you jam packed that last one. My favorite thing Danielle is that you have such a heart to help other people to succeed in a way that you've been able to succeed yourself and I think that's beautiful will you, before we sign off, will you please tell our listeners um you've got your the thought card on your podcast platform and your blog? Um where else can our listeners find you or and I can edit this part out if you're not accepting clients right now or reach out to you for coaching? Yes, yes, Okay, so definitely connect with me over at instagram at the Daniel Desir, also twitter, I'm very active on twitter at the thought card on twitter, if you are interested in podcasting specifically taking your podcast and making it a profitable business, which is possible even if you're in d in your closet, you know, working on your podcast, which I have done for many years uh yeah, reach out to me over at Danielle Desir dot com for podcast coaching and then on the lighter side if you're just interested in affordable travel, personal finance building wealth, earning more money, Check out my podcast -- The Thought Card.

Angela and Mary: Danielle, thank you so much for being with us today. We're super excited for all of the women that are going to be able to connect with you because of this show, that's why we do what we do. And it was truly an honor. We've read so many wonderful things about you, and we were just tickled when you reached out and said you would in fact, come on the show. So thank you so much, appreciate it.

Danielle Desir Corbett: Thank you again.

How To Plan Maternity Leave For Self-Employed Families

As a podcaster, blogger, and podcasting coach, I quit my job in September 2021 after side hustling for six years.

We found out we were expecting our first child right before I resigned. Not only was I planning for maternity leave, but I was also a brand-new entrepreneur. The pressure was on!

If you plan ahead, taking maternity leave doesn’t have to stop the flow of your business and doesn’t have to disrupt your career.

When searching for information about how to plan for maternity leave as a business owner, I was surprised that there wasn’t that much information available.

I know what it’s like to have many unanswered questions, so I hope this article and podcast episode helps more families confidently set a maternity plan (or parental leave plan) and fund parental leaves.

I ended up funding my self-employed maternity leave, saving three months of living expenses, and extended my leave to 4.5 months to allow for more time to adjust to life as a new mom.

If I could do things differently, I would have saved four months of living expenses (business and personal) instead of three.

Here’s an overview of how to plan for parental leave:

  • What maternity benefits do you qualify for?
  • How long would you like to take maternity leave?
  • Create a maternity leave savings plan – how much will you save?
  • Determine income streams
  • Hire and train team members
  • Communicate with clients
  • Set email autoresponder
  • Plan a return date
  • Enjoy your leave!

Why take maternity leave?

Our decision to take parental leave came down to spending quality time with our son.

Maternity leave was a non-negotiable for me. At a minimum, I wanted to walk away from my business for three months to care for my son, rest and recover, and spend time as a family.

Our time together was precious, and I knew we would regret it if we didn’t make space to welcome our baby.

If you’re on the fence about taking time off, consider if you’ll regret this decision later — whether you’re having a baby or adopting.

Also, remember that you do not have to leave your business altogether. Reduce your hours or only work on projects that light you up.

Here are the pros and cons of taking maternity leave as a business owner.

Self-Employed Maternity Leave Pros:

  • No prior approvals since you’re your own boss.
  • Have the flexibility to take as much time as you want with your baby.
  • The freedom to work part-time during maternity leave if you choose.
  • Progressively come back to work, decide what you work on and how much you work.
  • Take control of your motherhood journey.

Self-Employed Maternity Leave Cons:

  • Fully or partially responsible for funding your leave of absence.
  • You may have to hustle to bring in enough income to cover your salary.
  • You may not be financially prepared, which means cutting your leave short. 

1. Setting Intentions

Planning for maternity leave starts with setting intentions.

How do you imagine parental leave?

How long will you take off of work? A few weeks, a couple of months, or indefinitely?

Do you plan on completely stepping away from your business, not answering any emails or client calls? Or do you plan on working behind the scenes for a few hours a week?

How will you continue to serve your clients? What tasks will you automate or delegate, and what team members will you onboard?

In summary, the time you take off depends on your capacity, wants and needs, and financial situation.

The beauty of being your own boss, you get to choose what works for you (and you can change your mind).

When should I plan for maternity leave?

I started planning for maternity leave as soon as I found out I was expecting. The earlier, the better!

How long is maternity leave when self-employed?

A benefit of entrepreneurship is that you can pick your schedule. So take as much time as you want or need, and the length of your leave is really up to you.

How long you take comes down to a few key things:

  • How long can you afford to step away?
  • How much money do you need to cover living expenses?
  • Who will support your business while you’re away?

Are maternity leaves paid?

No, in the U.S., paid maternity leave is not available if you are self-employed. While a few states offer some compensation, most do not. Do your research and know your rights.

Keep reading to learn how maternity pay for the self-employed works.

Who pays for maternity leave?

You are responsible for self-funding parental leave as an entrepreneur, small business owner, or freelancer.

While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) doesn’t cover freelancers, there are a handful of states that provide some compensation for paid family leave for freelancers and contractors, including Connecticut, California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., Oregon, and Washington state.

State programs are funded through employee-paid payroll taxes meaning you have to opt into the program before you draw down funds. Check your state laws to see if you qualify and if there are any waiting periods.

Want to get paid during parental leave?

There are a few ways to make money on maternity leave.

Can you start maternity leave before your due date?

You can start maternity leave days, weeks, or even months before your due date. Sometimes pregnancy complications may force you to start earlier or later than expected, which is why you want to be flexible.

While a nine-month pregnancy is an estimate, a lot of women end up giving birth earlier than that. As you’re planning, consider the possibility that things may not go according to plan.

Is maternity leave like a vacation?

No, maternity leave is not a vacation.

While you are resting and relaxing, sightseeing, and exploring on vacation; while on maternity leave, you are working around the clock as a caretaker. Maternity leave is not a vacation.

Your baby will need frequent feedings, changes, and lots of cuddle time. They may wake up at all hours of the night (every 2-3 hours).

Caring for a newborn is tiring and a lot of work. Expect sleepless nights, even if you have support.

2. How To Make Money on Maternity Leave

  • Save monthly living expenses:
    • For example: if you are taking (3) months of leave, save three months of living expenses.
  • Take on extra client work to make more money.
  • Access state-paid family leave benefits or disability benefits.
  • Generate passive income (takes longer to implement but can help bring in the bacon while you’re away).

To make money on maternity leave (or at least have a savings cushion), set a saving goal based on your living expenses (personal and business) and start saving immediately.

Create a bank account for your maternity leave funds as part of your maternity leave savings plan.


Bethany Atazadeh has a great video on what she considered as she prepared to go on maternity leave for three months.

3. Communicate Intentions

Next, communicate your intentions to your team members and clients early, so everyone is on the same page.

Dust off those operations and procedures manuals, start recording tutorials for your team members, and batch assignments for clients.

4. Hire Team Members

Consider hiring team members to complete tasks that will move your business forward.

If you already have team members, consider delegating more tasks to them by adding more responsibilities for a limited time.

If you have a larger team, appoint a point person to manage and communicate with other team members during your absence.

I hired a coordinator for my maternity leave to lead events inside my podcasting community, WOC Podcasters. Since I wanted to keep this part of my business running, I hired help.

I also delegated more tasks to my other team members and empowered them to make decisions without me.

Think outside of your business. What help will you need to run your household? Babysitting, cleaning services, laundry services, or meal delivery?

Lastly, what type of family support do you have? Can your family or friends spend a few days or weeks with you to help you transition?

5. Prioritize Passive Income

Wondering how to make money on maternity leave? Or how to make extra money on maternity leave?

Having months to prepare for our bundle of joy, I set up passive and semi-passive income streams, including digital products such as a podcast planner, a podcasting marketing course, and a paid newsletter, Grants For Creators.

Having passive income helped me afford to pad my savings and extend my maternity leave end date by a month.

Although passive income requires upfront effort, having income rolling in while you rest and recover is extremely helpful.

Looking for passive income ideas? Watch this video by Traveling With Kristin.

Tips To Plan For Maternity Leave

How to save for parental leave
Meet our sweet boy, Baby K!

Will maternity leave hurt your career? 

With proper planning and preparation, maternity leave will not hurt your career or business.

Give your clients advanced notice of your leave of absence. Notify them of your return date and communicate any changes.

Work ahead of schedule (do your best) and invoice clients before departure. Alternatively, set up clients on retainer so you can generate recurring income.

Put on your away message, so all correspondents know when you are away as well as your return dates.

Don’t feel ashamed or insecure about asking for help. It takes a village to raise a child.

As you near the end of your pregnancy, avoid taking on new big projects. Maybe even fire those stressful clients or low paying gigs.

Wrap up outstanding projects, outsource, and be flexible throughout the planning process.

Follow up with leads and past clients upon your return.

Lastly, adjusting to life with a baby takes time so give yourself grace (a lot of it). You’ve got this!

Listen to this podcast episode next: How To Create a Maternity Leave Checklist For Entrepreneurs.

Are you an expecting parent? How did you plan for maternity leave?

How To Plan For Maternity Leave When Self-Employed - Episode 124
How To Plan For Maternity Leave When Self-Employed - Episode 124
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