I did a lot to prepare my business for having a baby, but you’ll find that you can make any of the changes I share here whatever your business or life stage.
Most of the changes I made were around simplification, automation, support, and being more organised and strategic in general. Knowing I had a baby on the way, I gave myself permission to spend more time working ON rather than IN my business.
The “problem” with a “busy business” and being heavily booked with clients is that you may not prioritise stepping back to think about the bigger picture. Might you benefit from doing that now? Read on for some ideas.
Even before I was pregnant, I started to think about how I wanted to evolve my business to accommodate a baby.
By the start of 2015 I had spent seven years creating a business that I loved with lots of lovely clients. I had a lot of flexibility and consistent and sustainable income allowing me to support myself well and plan for my future. I felt grateful for this.
I started to think about how I might transition my business model to accommodate and support life with a baby a few months before I was ready to become pregnant. I knew that it would take some planning to create a new arrangement that would work for me and my family, continue to generate good income and reflect my changing priorities. It was also true that I had some fear that I would lose what I’d created – freedom, money, time, an enjoyable balance – and that I needed to do some work on my mindset around this.
At the start of 2016 I was doing a lot of 1:1 client work across four days a week, and was booked out a month or so ahead. As the year progressed I became booked out even further ahead. I was spending a lot of my time and energy focused on my business at this point and I knew I would have to streamline and simplify things moving forwards. I started to think about where I felt it would be most beneficial and impactful to direct my time and energy. I knew I wanted to focus my energy on my flagship program, Align + Attract, and to reduce my 1:1 work, which was going to be necessary to implement other changes I needed to make in the business.
I decided to move from a Sole Trader to a Company structure for the start of the 2017 financial year in July. At this point I also started paying myself a fortnightly salary rather than just drawing money out of the business to pay myself as I needed or desired to.
I knew that when I had the baby, I wanted some time off 1:1 work completely, and to be able to resume this when I felt ready. I only launched Align + Attract once in 2015, but planned for 3 live launches in 2016. In the end, I did run these three launches, which grew each time, and also did one further Evergreen launch which I had not initially planned. We welcomed 98 beautiful new participants into the program across the year.
My suggestion: If you are thinking ahead to babes, look at this pre-planning as a way to make beneficial changes within your business that may also support a future baby/family, as of course babies show up on their own timeline. Spending time thinking about a business model that may be more sustainable, streamlined and involve less of your personal, 1:1 time can be a smart move however things unfold. You don’t need to have a family to make such changes of course. I was glad for the pre-planning I did as once I became pregnant I was tired and foggy headed. I found it difficult to think strategically throughout first trimester. So a little pre-planning is great if you can.
I talked with people who had already made a successful and happy transition with business and babies.
Part of my preparation also involved having conversations with successful entrepreneurial friends about how they had prepared and then found their own business balance post-babies. I didn’t have a lot of role models for this; many of my entrepreneurial friends didn’t have kids, had older children, or started a business post-children, and having children when you’re in a job is a different set of logistics. So I had to look hard for examples of people who had created what I might want to create. I found some in online communities I’m part of such as B-School and Denise’s Lucky B Money Bootcamp.
Denise Duffield-Thomas and I both presented at Leonie Dawson’s conference at the start of 2016 and we hung out and had lots of conversations about what she had done in the lead up to her first baby. This was incredibly useful and timely as I started to think about how it might look for me in the future.
Some of Denise’s main advice for me included – focusing on my main program: Align + Attract, moving to an Evergreen model, writing a book, outsourcing as much as possible, systemising, scheduling, batching and being very disciplined with focus when baby arrives. A lot of this validated what I had already been thinking, but perhaps didn’t yet feel confident that I could execute.
The most inspiring thing was seeing how Denise had actually grown her business post-baby (and now babies) AND how happy and balanced her life felt. She introduced me to her mantra: “Babies bring abundance.” At that point I was still worried about what I might be “losing” and all the unknowns so this was a great re-frame. Of course I was excited about having a baby but there were a lot of unknowns that I felt nervous about.
Denise wrote this great article about how she “baby proofed” her business. Kathryn Hocking also shared this excellent article about how she prepped her business for her second maternity leave stint (she started her business during her first).
My suggestion: Reading posts like this one, and those by Kathryn and Denise help give you ideas how to set up your business so you have more space to enjoy your baby, whilst also ensuring the business continues to run beautifully. Be sure to seek out your own examples where people have created a version of what you hope to achieve and have discussions about how they’ve made it work for them. Even just one or two examples can really help shift your mindset around what is possible.
I raised my rates.
Not only was I booked out well in advance for the first half of 2016, I was also receiving lots of emails from clients and prospective clients who hoped to book in sooner than my availability allowed. My 1:1 services had a supply and demand issue. This is always a great time to increase your rates.
I already knew I was pregnant by the time I increased my rates, but it was too early to make this public. I first announced a final date to sign up for my 3 month Align my Life // Align my Business packages, knowing that I now had a deadline for when sessions needed to be booked in before I started maternity leave. Once I had closed package bookings, I announced I was raising my single session rates. I allowed my clients to book single sessions ahead of time at current rates for one week, and then raised my prices. My rates increased from $220/hour to $330/hour.
Demand did temporarily slow after that, but this simply meant I received less emails and this temporarily created some welcome extra space for a month or so. By this point I was booked out around 3 months ahead, with only a few spaces left on my schedule before I planned to start maternity leave.
I allowed bookings only up until the start of my third trimester. I instinctively knew I would need to switch gears at this point and this certainly proved to be true. My energy levels dropped right off and I also developed an irritable uterus which was really uncomfortable and had to slow down far more than I had expected. Fortunately this did not impact on my clients, as I had kept my schedule clear, however I wasn’t able to add extra Kinesiology sessions for trimester three as I had expected.
My suggestion: Depending on your own supply/demand this may be the perfect time to increase your rates. If your availability will go down post-baby (likely) then it may well be a smart move, and you may prefer to make the transition whilst in business-mode rather than introducing higher rates as you look to resume client work post-baby. Either could work of course, up to you. Be aware your energy levels may drop off in third trimester and don’t assume you’ll be able to continue client work right up until the end – then it’s a bonus if you can.
I focused on growing my business assets.
Business assets might be things like a course, kit, program, book, podcast series, webinars or other content used as an opt-in – any valuable resources that are created and owned by you (ie not on social media), that can be used to grow your reach and particularly those that can generate ongoing sales.
Despite high demand for Kinesiology sessions, just before I became pregnant I blocked out some extra client-free time in my calendar and started writing a book, Align + Attract: Align your energy to create a business you actually love. I knew this book would introduce a whole new audience to my work, and was a perfect introduction for people who would love my Align + Attract program.
I expected I would finish and self-publish the book before baby arrived, but this didn’t prove to be possible given my other commitments, and later, my energy levels and the irritable uterus. Timelines all shortened once I knew when I was due and I had a lot of competing demands. I also found myself having to prioritise income generating activities to ensure I had the money I required to invest in team costs, promotional materials, design work, photography and videography.
However, I wrote a good chunk of the book, invested in the design work for the cover and promotional graphics, got a professional book trailer created and planned out what needed to happen to launch the book.
I also planned ahead to transition my Align + Attract program to an Evergreen format and sourced a team to do this for me. I ran five webinars across the year which all grew my mailing list and led to sales for Align + Attract. I probably should have created a sequence for each so I could continue to use each as an opt in/lead generation option later, but only did this for my last webinar on how to attract your ideal clients, when I had a team supporting me. This can be an issue when you’re a bit too busy IN your business; you don’t tend to capitalise so well on work you’ve already created.
My suggestion: This about what your audience can buy from you without requiring you to show up at a given time. How can you now grow this? Would a book be a good way to share your signature process, philosophy or to teach something that leads into a paid product you already have? If you don’t already have any “passive” or leveraged programs, would you like to create one? If you have a program you currently launch, would it be worth setting it up as an Evergreen program so you can have a break from launching, bearing in mind that promotion and a strategy to encourage sign ups without the deadline of a launch will be required?
Depending on your preferences, some may find 1:1 work to be a more streamlined way to work, so in some instances you might not wish to invest the time and energy into assets which may or many not generate an abundant flow of income and instead save for time off. I focused on growing my savings so I would be able to buy what was needed for the baby and so I could step back from the business as much as desired to when the baby arrived, without financial pressure.
I booked a photo and video shoot.
I worked with Emma of Lifes Light Creative and we planned two photo and video shoots. The date for these were moved forwards once I found out I was pregnant. I didn’t want to be showing in the shoot, locking the photos into a specific time in my life. My shoots occurred when I was 13 and 14 weeks pregnant.
I created a video for the home page of my Align + Attract program and a book trailer for the Align + Attract book. I felt these were an engaging way to introduce people to both the program and book and added an increased level of professionalism to each product.
Here’s the Align + Attract program video:
We also took a range of photos with the intention I would be able to use these to promote the Align + Attract program and the book. I got shots which could be used on social media for a range of purposes for the following year or more. I got several hundred photos in various locations and in a range of different outfits. The photos were used for the cover of the book and the web and promotional graphics associated with the book.
As part of the photography and video package I chose with Emma, she also created a series of 50 or so quote graphics. I chose to focus on creating a suite of “I am 100% aligned to…” graphics in my brand colours.
These were to serve several purposes: I would schedule one a week on social media, talk about different aspects of alignment and refer to my Align + Attract group program where participants align to their business goals. I would also share the posts in our gorgeous Align + Attract community as the alignment prompt of the week to provide a framework for ongoing support of members and to ensure an active, high vibe in the group for members who were now joining us in an ongoing fashion.
My suggestion: It might be a year or more before you’re ready to do another photo and/or video shoot, so you might like to schedule a shoot for relatively early in your pregnancy, and perhaps post first trimester if you’re feeling tired and/or sick.
When you have a great range of images this can be excellent for promotional graphics, social media, blog posts, website, your newsletter and/or portrait shots if you do interviews on podcasts, or similar. Getting quote graphics created which relate to your book, program or whatever you want to promote in an ongoing way are also a great move.
I planned a final live launch pre-babe for Align + Attract.
I ended up launching the final live round of Align + Attract about a month earlier than initially planned, as timelines started to collapse to fit things in pre-babe.
I opened enrolments for Align + Attract right at the start of my second trimester as soon as my energy was showing signs of returning. I decided I’d run a webinar *if* I felt up to it. I announced the webinar five days before it ran. I set it all up the day I announced it – the first day I felt that I had the clarity I needed. The webinar on Visibility ended up being popular, with 250-300 sign ups and lots of great feedback.
I had created several relevant videos a few months before the launch (one about connecting with your guides and another about what to do if you hate the idea of selling yourself) and shared those during the launch and it was great to have this content set to go.
The fact it was the last live round did drive more enrolments and we welcomed 41 fabulous new participants into our lovely group. The brand new video generated some buzz and also helped new participants gain a “feeling” for what the program was about. This led to more sign ups too. I felt I could have done more with the launch if I’d had more energy, but found a balance that worked for me at the time.
My suggestion: If you have an existing program, plan when you will run a final live launch before baby. It’s obviously worth giving it the best chance to be successful, whilst also respecting your own limits and energy levels.
I hired a team to transition Align + Attract to an Evergreen model and launched the Evergreen program.
The realities of diminishing timelines were starting to pressure me a little at this point. I outsourced the move of Align + Attract to an Evergreen model to a team as planned, but there was still much to do my end. Despite my attempts to reduce my client load, as I’d already been booked out so far ahead, I was still working with more clients than was ideal with my other commitments.
Due to the deadline of Christmas (and not wanting to launch in the New Year), it worked out that we’d need to launch the Monday after the final live round completed the previous Friday, so it all felt very tight.
We launched with a webinar on How to Attract your Ideal Clients. You can get the recording here. I wrote copy for the numerous pre and post emails for the webinar so everything could be pre-scheduled by the team. I also wrote the Facebook ad copy. With extra Facebook ad spend and ads set up by the team, the webinar attracted around 380 sign ups – the most I’d had for a webinar so far. The webinar content led beautifully into the Align + Attract program and a number of new participants said the emails really helped them make their decision – perfect outcome.
I re-wrote all the bi-weekly emails for the program so the wording now suited the Evergreen format and to ensure they provided enough information and support to new participants who would now be going through the program in a more self-guided fashion.
I had assistant help me make the move from MailChimp to ConvertKit mailing list software, as it has more functionality. I also upgraded to a new shopping cart software (SamCart) which cost around US$1k/year but again offered some more functionality compared to using a simple PayPal shopping cart.
The sign up process for the Evergreen program was all managed by my new team. New software (and team) often creates new glitches and one such glitch was a unforeseen integration issue between ConvertKit and SamCart. This created some stress once the doors opened and I discovered participants weren’t receiving their welcome emails. However it was also good to iron any issues out before the end of the year so I knew everything was tested and seamless moving forwards.
SamCart also provides an affiliate platform so we began the process of setting that up for alumni of the program (the previous affiliate software I had used was glitchy). I also prepared some resources and an email sequence for affiliates so they would be supported and encouraged to promote the program via monthly emails for a period of time once invited to join, and we sent out the invites for this after the New Year.
With four Q&A calls available for each of the five live rounds (including transcripts), it was actually the perfect time to move to an Evergreen model as the live Q&A webinars were becoming unnecessary with over two hours of additional content per module now available via the recordings (or to be read in the transcripts). I continued to give personalised feedback for each alignment shared as part of the core program in the Facebook group as I’ve always done.
Despite being only 7 weeks after the previous launch, the Evergreen launch went well, with 18 new participants. My main objective was to cover the team cost to move the program to Evergreen (around $6k). I was not expecting a big launch, especially as we were closing in on the end of the year and I was happy to welcome in a lovely new group, bringing the total number of new participants in Align + Attract across 2016 to 98.
My suggestion: Consider hiring more comprehensive support to ensure your systems and processes are set up well as you transition. Be aware that additional tech issues may be generated as you introduce new technologies, platforms, team members, and if you launch your program in a different way.
We often think spending more will avoid this, but from my own experience and discussions with colleagues with teams of all sizes – this doesn’t seem to be the case. A temporary increase in tech issues as you’re uplevelling and introducing new technologies is probably inevitable – so try not to get too stressed out by it and focus instead on moving through any issues seamlessly, and providing great customer service either yourself or via your team.
I scheduled social media and newsletters ahead of time.
I knew I wanted to keep a consistent feel in my social media post-babe. It would be weird for my clients and followers if all of a sudden all my posts related to my new baby and as much as it is lovely to see the odd baby pic and life snap, I knew a balance would be required. I also knew that I may not be in a space to want to generate a lot of business-related posts for a while, and so that I need to plan ahead to help out future-me in this matter.
I used grum.co to schedule regular business-related posts to Instagram which I could then share to Facebook and Twitter. I had resisted this previously preferring to write and share when I felt inspired, but I soon discovered there was much value in letting myself BE inspired by writing a number of posts in a row and that indeed I could trust that I’d still connect and have a personal approach and wouldn’t turn into a robot just because I was planning ahead, ha!
I also discovered I could more easily create a balance of content and hone in on themes I knew my ideal clients would connect with when I planned ahead in this way. I easily settled into a rhythm of the kinds of posts I wanted to share on a regular basis – whilst still allowing space for the spontaneous posts I’ll more than likely be inspired to write post-babe. I found this process fun and creative and couldn’t believe I had resisted doing it so much.
For my newsletters, I began to more fully recognise the immense value of my free monthly Reiki healings. Whilst effortless for me to do and type out (just costing some time) these healings are much valued by my community and I realised I was not fully utilising and respecting their value – both to myself (as I receive the healing too) and to support others to engage with the healings for their own maximum benefit.
I prepped some Reiki healings ahead of time and scheduled the respective newsletters, and then added bi-monthly newsletters which picked up on a theme or exercise or two from the healing for further reflection, adding additional resources and suggestions where relevant to support my community to engage further in their own self-healing.
I also picked up on an aspect of the Reiki healing each week and elaborated on it in a scheduled social media post. I had done this each month previously but in a more ad-hoc way. I saw how much more supportive it would be to encourage my community to further engage and reflect on their own healing process with the themes that had presented for that month. I was starting to see that I was not only making life easier for myself, but creating a better experience for my community by sharing my own material in a more streamlined and organised way.
I also realised that whilst I had planned to write a bunch of blog posts in advance – it was my REIKI HEALINGS that my audience loved most and that I received the most feedback and genuine gratitude for, and I could elaborate on these rather than creating new content for the sake of thinking I needed to create new content.
I also arranged for bi-weekly blog posts from my archives to be scheduled by an assistant. My blog posts tend to receive great engagement on social media and at two a week I had enough content to share across the whole year. As these posts started to go live and I saw how much value people gained from some of these posts which had been hidden away in my archives from years ago, I realised how helpful and useful it was to share them in an organised way. I also got a resource page collated so my past blog posts could be more easily located.
My suggestion: If you’ve previously had resistance to scheduling social media, think about how you could make this task fun, creative and inspiring, and how this scheduled content might be able to even BETTER serve your community than an ad-hoc approach. Think of future-you and the fact she may not be in a business mindset for a while and how much she’ll appreciate the extra space you’re creating, and how supportive it will feel to know your community are still hearing from you regularly.
Know that you can still share when you feel inspired – but without any pressure as you haven’t posted in “x” period of time. Grum was great, and posts direct to Instagram. I got a lifetime deal for US$25 via AppSumo. Likewise think ahead regarding newsletters. What kind of content do you want to share, how frequently, and what will be MOST useful and beneficial to your readers?
I got some extra ongoing team support.
I have one experienced assistant who is based in the States who I pay in blocks of ten hours to do more tech-related tasks and support and have worked with her since 2013. I also started with another less experienced assistant in Australia who I knew would be great for quicker tasks and responding to customer service/general emails. My priority was giving myself as much space as possible while ensuring my people were still beautifully cared for. As I mentioned, to receive the government parental payment you need to not be working for the 18 weeks this is paid, so if you wish to access this payment, you do need to make provisions for how your business will run and take care of customer service during this time.
I let my subscribers know that assistants would now be taking over my emails via my newsletter. I set up an autoresponder at around week 35 to advise that I was now on maternity leave and that responses may be from an assistant. I got my technical assistant to set up an email management software called Help Scout (US$60/month for the three of us) as she’d used it a lot previously, and we started to use it in the month prior to baby to begin to streamline our processes. This was an adjustment for me as so often it can feel easier to just reply yourself, so I had to be disciplined in stepping back from this to enable a smoother transition.
My suggestion: What kind of support do you most need? What skill set/s are required? Who can provide this kind/level of support to you in a format that is flexible enough to suit your possibly changing needs? Allow time to develop your relationships and systems before babe arrives.
We planned to continue with supportive structures we had in place at home.
We continued getting Hello Fresh (meal box service) and increased that from three days a week to five, and we carried on with a fortnightly cleaner. When I have a spare 30 mins or more not caring for babe I’d rather spend that doing some work in the business, or caring for myself in some way, not in meal planning or cleaning the house!
My suggestion: Think about what support structures you’d like to continue or start in your home environment to support you to do a little work in your business when you do have some pockets of time.
I streamlined, simplified and said no a lot more.
As the pregnancy went on and my time became more pressured, I had to say no a lot more frequently. This was initially difficult and I could see how my people-pleasing tendencies still played out. I had intended to see more clients towards the end of the pregnancy but that didn’t end up being possible. Saying no to so many clients was difficult but necessary due to time and then energy constraints. I also said no to a lot of interview requests and other opportunities that didn’t serve my core business. I became aware of different places I had been leaking energy and got a bit smarter about systems and efficiency.
My suggestion: Get used to saying no. As the pregnancy progresses this becomes increasingly necessary and you’ll want to make sure you’re investing your time and energy where they can have the most impact (or resting!)
I updated my website.
If your business focus is changing whilst you take some time with babe (or you’re making a more permanent shift), remember to update your website to reflect your current focus and ideal client. I made a number of tweaks throughout my site and re-wrote my About page and Is this you? page.
My suggestion: Read through your whole website and make any necessary changes.
Of course you can’t prepare for every eventuality. You can’t predict how you’ll adjust to motherhood, what your baby will be like, how you’ll cope with sleep deprivation, and when you might be ready to dive, or tip toe, back into your business! So I think it’s smart to set things up in such a way that gives you as much space and choice as possible.
I didn’t know when I’d be ready to resume 1:1 client work, whether packages or one-off sessions would suit me better, and whether I would further increase my rates, and so I didn’t make any promises or plans, instead allowing those decisions to be made when the time arrived post-babe.
Scheduling, automating, bringing on extra support, maximising the business assets you already have and being disciplined in generating savings will all help this process, provide some consistency for your clients, and ensure that when you do take steps back to working in your business it’s because you want to, not because you have to for reasons you could have avoided (of course financial considerations and client commitments may mean it’s necessary before you’re completely ready).
I found that earlier fears I had about the business and how it would transition completely dissipated during my pregnancy. I welcomed the changes that were coming, felt a lot more confident in my ability to navigate and trusted my life and business would continue to evolve.
I remember Denise telling me that a lot of the changes she made to prepare her business for babies were necessary, beneficial changes that moved her into acting like the CEO of her company. I can see how this has also played out for me. Being more strategic and organised can only be a good thing and with a step back, I’ll also be able to more clearly see what is and isn’t working, and how I want things to evolve.
Maternity leave can be seen as a chance to re-set, rather than simply continuing a business in the same way out of habit, especially if things are “busy” and working well enough.
I am so glad I created space so I could fully enjoy getting to know our gorgeous baby boy.
I wrote this post before Charlie arrived and published it several months later. I’ve loved these early months even more than I expected and the business continues to flow; what a blessing.
Feel free to add your own learnings and tips in the comments.