Business Plus Baby has always been about starting a business after you’ve become a mum. But what do you do if you’re already self-employed and are thinking of starting a family?
My own experience is that I was self-employed for six years, then employed for two years, then I had two babies close together, then I became self employed again (are you still with me?!)
So I know what it’s like to be self employed with and without babies, even though I cheated a little and had a permanent job when both my babies were born. I didn’t plan it this way, honest!
Here is my advice if you’re self employed or run a business and are wondering how on earth you’re going to deal with having a baby…
- Learn about Maternity Allowance ASAP
You need to get clued up about this as soon as you can, preferably before you get pregnant. If your friends who have had children are in employment it’s easy to assume that maternity allowance works in the same way as maternity pay, but it doesn’t.
The good news is that there are two articles here at Business Plus Baby that tell you what you need to know: Protect Your Right to Maternity Allowance and Self Employment During Your Maternity Pay Period.
- Don’t assume your pregnancy will be plain sailing
Within 2 weeks of conceiving I felt queasy and by week 10, I was on a drip in hospital because my morning sickness was so bad I couldn’t eat or drink! Up until that point in my life I’d been totally healthy so this came a quite a shock to me – I had no idea that the early stages of pregnancy could be so debilitating. Of course this was an extreme case and many pregnant women feel fine, but it’s best to cut yourself some slack just in case…
- Assume you’ll feel more tired than usual so if you need to work long days or travel, allow some recovery time in your schedule.
- Plan who would cover your workload if you did have to take a few weeks or months off work during your pregnancy – could you work in partnership with another self-employed person? Could your outsource?
- I’d heard of so many pregnant women staying at work until the day before the baby was due that I naively assumed I could do this too. The truth is I was so knackered I couldn’t struggle on beyond 36 weeks. Luckily I was employed so it wasn’t a problem to start my maternity leave a few week earlier than I’d planned, but it could be trickier if you are your own boss. If your work is physical in any way you may need to leave even earlier.
- Take care of yourself. Often, as self employed people, we do things that we wouldn’t be allowed to do in employment. Working for long hours hunched over a laptop in an inappropriate chair or lifting heavy boxes, for example.
- Your priorities change completely after your baby is born. Plan for the unexpected.
This is a tough one, because you really can’t predict how your priorities will change after you have a baby. I fully intended to go back to my job full-time after my baby was born but I completely changed my mind once she arrived. And I’m certainly not alone.
- Read through your childcare options (nursery, childminder, nanny…) before the birth so you have some facts to think about. But accept that your feelings may change after the baby arrives.
- If you plan to go back to work full-time, have a ‘plan B’ that you can turn to if you change your mind and want to work part-time instead. If you intend to take 3 months off, how might you cope if you don’t feel ready to return until the baby is a year old?
- You can’t claim childcare vouchers as a sole trader but you might be able to if your business is a limited company. As this can be quite a saving it’s worth talking to an accountant about whether it’s worth ‘going limited’ before your baby arrives.
- Even if you work from home and your hours are pretty flexible, you will need at least some childcare if you’re going to work more than about 10 hours a week. You can’t really achieve very much with a baby or toddler underfoot and there are only so many hours you can work when they are asleep.
If you have any more tips or advice, please do leave me a comment!
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