Aggie during this episode talks about how she is prepping herself and her retainer clients for her imminent maternity leave ✨
All the blogs she read and podcasts she listened to were by freelancers doing project work. If you have retainer clients, preparing for maternity leave is a whole different ball game.
This is not a 'this is how you should do it' podcast episode. Just an honest account of what the challenges have been so far and what steps have been taken mid-way through her pregnancy.
No doubt a follow-up episode will follow once Aggie is back from maternity leave to go over what worked and what wasn't needed.
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Hello and welcome to the freelance ads club podcast with me your host Aggie Meroni. Whether you're a veteran freelance ads manager, or just thinking about dipping your toe into the world of self employment, this podcast is for you. Every week, I'll be speaking about my own experiences as a freelance as manager, sharing a freelancer spotlights where I'll have a chat with one of the amazing members of the Freelancers Club, where I'll be asking guests to share their knowledge and experience in ads across all platforms and business. Don't forget to follow and subscribe on your favourite podcast platform so you never miss an episode. Welcome to this week's episode of the freelance ads club Podcast. Today, it's a solo episode and i Isn't this impromptu Actually, I wanted to talk a bit about preparing for maternity leave. So for those of you who follow me on social media, maybe you're in the freelance ads Club, you'll know that I'm pregnant at the moment about six months when you're listening to this. So I announced on the gramme on social media last week, I think, or the week before, that I'm pregnant. But obviously, there's been a lot going on behind the scenes before that time. The reason I've decided to record this episode now is because since my announcement, I've had other freelancers send me DMS saying that they're pregnant, that they're really scared about telling their clients, they don't know where to turn for advice on how to prepare. And whilst this episode isn't advice at all, because I'm definitely kind of trying to figure things out myself, I wanted to share what my experience has been so far. And the reason for that is, I've looked for other freelancers sharing their experiences about maternity leave. And I haven't found any freelancers that have retainer clients sharing their experience and how they're preparing. Because it is very different for someone who has ongoing contracts and relationships with clients. And those that do projects because project work, you can time it so they end before you start your maternity leave, whereas retainers obviously are ongoing. So that's a whole different ballgame on how you prepare for that. So just to like, go back. Let's rewind a little bit. So whether you're someone that is like a woman who is going to have a baby, you're thinking about having a baby, maybe you're a future dad, who's a freelancer and thinking I really want to prepare for a paternity leave, maybe you're worried financially, how you're going to, like have a baby, as a freelancer, these are all things that have gone through my mind. So this is for both men and women. And this is for whether it's you having the baby, your partner having the baby, maybe it's a friend or family member, and you want to understand what might be going through their head. So this is just my perspective. And this is what is going on for me at the moment. So I'm pregnant with my second at the moment, the first time I had a baby I was employed. So this is very different for me. The first time I had a baby, I think I'm still traumatised by the stress of being employed. And being pregnant in a very male dominated industry that it really did impacts how I was viewed and the opportunities I received. And obviously, I was made redundant on maternity leave. So I already had like this trauma, that everything would go to shit. Basically, once I have a baby. And I think having over 10 years in a very macho environment, it's kind of like, it's really hard to explain unless you've been in it, but you have quite a negative outlook on having a baby. So this time round, it's been very kind of like mixed feelings. Obviously, it's a very wanted baby. But it took a lot longer to get here and be planned. And through the whole time. It's always been like, I've literally built up this business with my blood, sweat and tears. And then suddenly, just because of biology, really it could all literally burn and go like turn into ashes because I need to take a few months off. That is a really hard thing to accept or to like process for me personally. Because I was just so tired. You know, it does take a lot to set up your own business to build it up and you literally feel like you've got nothing left at the end of it. So to think that because you're bringing life into the world, potentially. And this is like worst case scenario. This is like the dooms things that go through our mind. All my clients are going to sack me, I'm gonna have nothing left. There's literally going to be like my business is just In the collapse, because I've decided to expand my family, this is like completely honestly, like, what's what was going through my mind? So there was a lot of fear around having another baby, because of that now, but it's like, there's no going back, right? So I was like, Okay, what am I going to do? Like, what? How am I going to make this work? So if you've listened to episode one of season two, which is about the fucker fund, this has helps me emotionally deal with this. So I already knew I had some cash buffer in my business bank account. So this is by no means enough to cover maternity leave for me. But it's already like a bit of a security blanket. So financially, I had that kind of reassurance that I'm not, you know, I'm not starting from scratch in preparing for my freelance friends who've kind of known from quite early on, and have seen the emotional turmoil behind the scenes. This is why I'm going to be completely honest about this. Because all the podcasts and things I've listened to have been very much, I guess, sugar coated a lot of the feelings that you have around it, or that I'm having around it, though, like Yeah, I suddenly launched this programme, and I made like five figures. And that got me through my maternity leave, as if it's all really easy, and plain sailing. For me. It's been like quite stressful, emotionally to prepare. And I'm still like, in my maternity leave. And a lot of the podcasts or blogs I've read, it's always been looking back. So it's people that have been through their maternity leave and already back at work. And they're looking back on the prep, so they're not actually in it. I'm in it now. So just take you like from the beginning, found out I was pregnant, obviously really happy about it. But then I was thinking shit, how am I going to manage this? Like, how am I going to set everything up? So that everything I've built up over the last three years doesn't just crash and burn, I had a massive, crippling fear that all my clients would be like, we'll just find someone else. Because I'm due just as q4 starts. So if any EECOM ads managers, they'll know, q4 is like your busiest time of year, that's when your clients need you the most, because that's when they're making the most money usually. So I was like, Oh, God, I'm really worried they're just gonna find someone else and leave me. So and I don't know if this is because of my trauma of being in a very corporate macho environment where things did go a bit shit, when I told them I was pregnant, but it's a real risk. It happens to women all the time that you know, their careers suffer, once they have a baby will get pregnant. So I was like, okay, you know, I'm a massive mind shift happened for me? Because I was like, What is the worst thing can happen? Okay, what, you know, what if they all do, you know, tell me, you know, they don't want to work with me anymore, and they're gonna find someone else. So I was like, Okay, what I started my business three years ago, I started from scratch, like you'll know, from, I think it's like the first ever episode or second episode where I talk about my backstory on you know, one, I was totally fresh, I had no network, nothing, I will be starting or restarting again next year, in a much stronger position. So that was a reassurance to me. I won't be starting from scratch again. And that was kind of the hugest mind shift for me. I told my clients, and they were all amazing. But I had to be comfortable with the fact that they might not be okay with it. So my clients at the time when I told them, so once I was in the safe zone, which is what after three months, I did tell my existing clients that I was pregnant, all of them are fine. And I reassured them that I would be doing a handover, I had like trusted people lined up to manage their accounts into q4, that was all fine. Then, totally unexpectedly, like business took off. Like I had lots of leads coming in, I won lots of business, or had lots of discovery calls. And I decided at that point to be extremely transparent about the fact that I was pregnant, and I'd be taking maternity leave in September. And I had to be okay with the fact that people would not be okay with this, surprisingly, or not surprisingly, most of those discovery calls, like came in like, develops into client work. So I've actually more than doubled my client list since I announced I was pregnant, which I did not expect. Now, I don't, that is not because I was pregnant. It's just a fluke that it happened. There were a couple of brands when I told them, they didn't Don't move forward with me. But again, you can't control how other people are going to react. For a lot of brands. If it's their first time advertising, that's just a risk too far for them to invest in ads, knowing that just four key for the ads manager is going to be on Matt leave. So you just have to be okay with the fact that you can't control how other people react or what is important to them or what their priorities are. And that was Absolutely fine. But I just thought that, you know, it's more stressful to take on work knowing you're pregnant and then have to tell people later on, especially if it's a retainer client, that you'll actually not be around for them at that critical time for them in their business. So I didn't want that additional stress. For me, I was very open about it the beginning, there was one client that I want, and I didn't tell straightaway. And it was really stressful for me, I don't know why I didn't, I think it was just like, a fear that they'd say, they didn't want to work with me. And I really, really wanted to work with them. But when I told them, they were fine. So you know, it's just totally like, in your own mind. So just to summarise on that, there is a risk, your clients will, will decide that they want to find someone else, you have to be at peace with that, because there's nothing really you can do. But I would say, the thing that I did, which I think helps with that process, is remember, it's really, really hard to find good ads managers. So if you can take the stress away from that situation and say to them, I am going to be trusting my business with this ads manager, who I know is amazing at what they do, and they're going to treat you really well. And you know, I trust you know, if I trust them with my business, then you should as well you should trust them with your business as well, then they were kind of reassured that they don't have the hassle of looking for another ads manager themselves, they know that I'm still going to be in contact with my maternity cover. And I'm going to go into how organising that in a second. So if there's any issues, which I really doubt there will be but you know, some sometimes things happen. They can either contact me or my maternity leave cover can contact me. So it's not like I'm disappearing off the face of the earth. I just I know I won't have the capacity to be in the thick of it every day. So yeah, I'd say in having your mind that it could happen. But also have a plan in place to communicate your client to minimise the risk. And to take that thing off their plate that they'd have to find a replacement for you. If they want to take take that on and they want to find a replacement for you, then that's on them as well. Like there's nothing you can do. So another like when it comes to actually finding cover and things like that. So I think I've talked about this in other podcast episodes, like I've got a few revenue streams for my business. So I've got my retainer work, I do training, I've got one to one consultancy, and obviously the freelance ads club membership. So for my retainers, I knew I knew I'd never find a single freelancers cover all my clients because they have their own clients. And it's also q4. So people are getting booked up or ready to work with brands for q4. So I've got three freelance ads managers covering my clients for me. And I've done that pure and I've selected them purely on their strengths and their past experience. So one of my clients, I manage metta Pinterest and tick tock for them. And I've found or I know an incredible freelance ads manager who also covers those platforms really well. And I totally trust her to work with them. And other ones got experience in like luxury jewellery and things like that. So she's she, she will be the perfect fit for two of my clients. And then there are two other clients retainer clients that will be passed on someone else. So that's all fine. The one thing I didn't really anticipate is how different I would feel during this pregnancy. And this is something that I would stress to anyone who is pregnant at the moment or thinking of getting pregnant, or finds out that they're pregnant, whatever you're about to go through it. And I learned this really kind of, I guess the hard way my first pregnancy and postpartum, that you just never know how you're going to feel what's going to happen. It's all a bit. There's always you know, the birth plan, whatever it you know that it never goes to plan. And also every pregnancy is different as I'm learning. This time, I'm feeling a lot worse than I did last time. My morning sickness was worse. At the time of recording this I'm waiting to hear back if I've got anaemia because I'm feeling so wiped out all the time. So this isn't something that I had factored in. When I was planning what I was going to be doing up to taking time off. I had so many plans, I was going to be launching new course like courses with someone and I had, you know, my meta sprint that I was meant to run like at the beginning of July which I've had to postpone because I just don't have the energy to do the launch and everything like that. And I also scaled back by one to one so this week, I just put out an announcement that I'm not taking any more work so whether that's training once ones or retainer work until I'm back in 2024 And that is purely because I don't want to be so depleted that my current clients don't get the best service, I don't want them to ever feel that I let them down. And also, I also don't want to burn out just before I have a second baby, because for anyone that's got kids, it is full on, I want to have some, some batteries left battery left in the tank or some you know, some energy left when I need it. So a lot of people have said to me, just take it easy, you know, look after yourself, that is really hard to do when you run your own business because there's no backup, like you need to be on it, you need to be available, you need to be ready to like, you know, jump in to do everything that's needed. So that's why I'm just scaling back so that I don't have that pressure on me all the time. It's also made me realise how much I actually get through normally, like how much energy I have normally, and how I'm like a bit of a machine and getting through loads of things. Whereas now I'm just like, write what is the absolute priority that I need to do to keep my business running. And it's all about nurturing and looking after my existing clients rather than doing any like sales or business development. So that is what I'm focusing on. At the moment, I have to say that earlier in the year, I was so booked up with one to ones that I put up my prices, I think it was in January or February because I just literally couldn't cope, which is obviously a nice problem to have. But it's also extremely draining and very tiring. And it did, I did have a huge drop in once once for a while. But I noticed it's actually picked up again. So that's why I've stopped the one to ones. Also when you have a call booked in with someone you have to be, you know, at your best when that call happens. If you're not feeling great, it just drains you even more. So I'm trying to remove any of those, like compulsory calls that are needed in my diary so that I can work more flexibly as I come into my third trimester. So yeah, I mean, one thing as well, that I'm sort of setting up before I go is more processes. So I have an Asana specialist helping me next month to get processes in place to help with my handovers for my clients for my maternities covers. And also all the monthly things that happen in my business will be listed and there will be processes in place. Now the reason I've done this is so that I'm not needed as much in the day to day of my business. Now my plan is to ease back in to work from January 2024. But as I said before, and anyone who's been through maternity, postpartum, whatever, you never know what's gonna happen, okay, so God forbid, any of these things will happen. But you have to prepare for the worst, especially if you are a business owner. So maybe you become unwell, maybe your baby becomes unwell, maybe something, you know, you never know what might delay you coming back to work. So I want to avoid any stress like that, or myself or my family. And also for my clients, I want them to be reassured that no matter what happens, but everything is just gonna carry on and their business won't be affected. So that's why I'm putting these processes in place. It is an investment, financial investment and a time investment. So obviously, I'm gonna have to go through with the asana consultant, every process in my business listed all out so that they can transfer that into Asana for me, but I have heard from others who have taken maternity leave, that it can actually be a massive focus for you. Because you have a deadline, you know, nine months after, you know, all you people usually find out within the first month, usually, I mean, I know there's exceptions. So you do have time to prep, you've got a few months, you know, seven to eight months to get your plan in place. Apart from my cousin in law, he found out a five months. Most people I know find out quite early that they're pregnant. So you do have this window to get your house in order. And for me, it was very much right let's get this let's get these processes in place. So that it's I'm kind of strengthening my business in a way and hopefully it'll be in a stronger position when I take some time off than it was at the beginning of the year. So don't think it's a complete disaster or tragedy that I was like fearing. When I first found out I honestly had such fear and anxiety. Another thing that's happened, which is quite a big mindset shift for me is when I first found out I suddenly thought oh my god, I have to stay visible while I'm away. Otherwise, by the time I come back, everyone will forget who I am. Four months or Whatever is such a long time in, like business world. So I was like, Alright, I need to map out all my emails while I'm away, I need three months of social media content while I'm away, you know, to I, you know, my mindset, so totally shifted, I start I don't know if the world will stop turning, if I actually do just take a total break. And then, you know, having a young bored like young baby, when I start coming back to work, it's not going to be end of the world from fully booked again, at that point, I mean, it's okay to just slowly ease my way back in. So yeah, that's just kind of what's been happening for me. Obviously, once I come back from maternity leave, hopefully, I'll be able to talk about how all this prep set me up for my maternity leave, if all my processes are set up and invested in well worth it, how my clients fared, you know, did I lose any clients, maybe I don't know what's gonna happen again, you just have to make peace with the fact it's not in your control. You can do as much as you can do. And then whatever happens happens. So I'm just gonna go with the flow. So my mind like I'm much more chilled about it than I was, say back in whenever it was January or February, when I found out I have to say having the support of the freelance ads club has been amazing for me. They've been nothing but supportive and cheerleading me, which has been amazing and great, really grateful to my clients for being so supportive as well. And I don't know if it's because I was so I don't know, scared, I guess that things haven't turned out as bad as I feared they would so far. I mean, I still have a couple of months to go before a bit more than that before I take official maternity leave. But I kind of feel like now it's one downtime. So if you're listening back to this, I'm recording this in July or June. In the UK, we have school holidays from sort of like end of July through August. That is usually been really busy for me, even though everyone's supposedly on some holiday. But I think it's because like lots of econ brands, don't take a six week break, they see it as like a quiet time. So start rebuilding. So I have key full strategy days booked in or will not all my clients, but they know that the diary entries are going to be sent sent through soon. So I can set them all up with that before I go on maternity leave. And that will give them some structure going into q4. So it's really important for me that they're confident they've got a plan going into their busiest time of year. So yeah, basically, to summarise, I've had a massive mindset shift, like whatever happens happens, you can only control what you can control, you have to be comfortable with the fact that some companies might not want to work with someone that's pregnant, and that is absolutely their choice and their prerogative. It's no reflection on you, like babies will be born, the world will keep spinning. You know, you just have to make peace with the fact that you can't control how someone's gonna react, you do have time to plan these things like you know, maternity leave is long, or maternity prep is long. So you do have time to you know, make a plan for your clients, organise your business get the support in place that you need. And then I would just have one cautious eye on the future. So you know, what is the worst that could happen? Like to you as the parent to the baby, to your situation? You know, have you worked out the maths of how much you need to cover up? I'm purposely haven't covered maternity cover and statutory pay or whatever. First freelances because I literally just got my certificate from the midwife this week to start the process. And from what I understand, there's a lot of restrictions on what you can do as a freelancer to receive that money. So I'm not sure if I'm gonna take it. But again, I don't know yet. I haven't researched this properly. And I would never advise anyone on that anyway. And that's something that you need to speak to, I don't know, HMRC and your accountant and everything like that. But yeah, I just wanted to add a dash of reality into what it is like to prepare for maternity leave, I'm in the thick of it. Now. I hope if you're in that situation, that you're not really anxious and nervous about taking time off. But if you are, then please reach out to me. I'd be happy to have a chat to see if there's anything that I can do or anything you just want to vent or offload that you think other people might not understand. So yeah, I hope this has helps. As I said, when I'm back early next year, I will reflect on what I've done, see if it actually had an impact or not. But yeah, get in touch if you need to, and you can find all the contact details in the show notes. Thank you for listening to this episode of the freelance as club podcast. If you're a freelance ads manager, don't forget to download the free Client Onboarding Trello you can find in the show notes. If you're a brand or agency looking for support from one of our community, visit our website at the freelance ads club.com to access our member directory, tune in next time