Taking Maternity Leave Owning A Business

I understand this topic doesn’t truly fit everyone. But I also know there isn’t a lot of information out there for those who run a small business and need to plan a self-scheduled maternity leave. So here’s how I did it.

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When my husband and I found out we were expecting Baby #3 in January 2018, we knew so many things would change for our family. Besides adding yet another mouth to feed and tiny human to love, one of those things would be leaving my full-time, 13-year, nine (well eight) a.m. to five p.m., corporate career to stay home with our 3.5 year old and 2 year old daughters, as well as this new edition, a baby boy who was due in September. Daycare for three kids is just too expensive.

We actually calculated we could fortunately live off my husband’s income alone, but would need to cut back our monthly spending quite a bit. But being able to bring in additional income would allow us to continue our lifestyle and continue to pursue our personal financial goals. And to top it off, owning my own business has always been a dream of mine. I just never had the big push to do it.

However, this time, the new baby on the way somewhat forced my hand (in a positive way) and I finally took the plunge and started Lauren Austin Creative, LLC in March of 2018.

But there were so many questions. Here I was with a really new business, my first one, and I was planning on taking a leave of absence only 6 months into it. There were so many questions I had to answer.

How much time should I take?

Corporations, like the one I worked for over the last decade, have mandated state and federal laws they must follow regarding leave, and additional benefits they offer. For my past two children’s births, when I was working for that corporation, I received 6 weeks paid leave and the option to take 6 weeks of unpaid leave as well, which fortunately for my family I was always able to take. But when running a personal business, even just 6 weeks off isn’t feasible - both for both my clients and for me. That’s 6 weeks of time away from my clients and 6 weeks of time I’m not being paid. Plus, that’s 6 weeks that I’m leaving the business I’ve worked hard on the last half year, and I didn’t want to backtrack on any of that time I put in.

At the same time, bringing a new baby home is life-changing, and sleep depriving, regardless of how many kids you already have. I was scheduled to have yet another repeat C-section, which results in a more involved recovery. I knew I’d have to take at least some time to heal and get into the flow of a new baby. Considering this, plus being that I’m a virtual, online serviced-based business with part-time hours at the moment, I factored I could take a full 3 weeks off before diving back in and getting into the swing of things.

But of course, figuring out a number is going to be based on the type of business, how you work, how many customers or clients you have, and how long you feel you can be away from your business.

And there’s also more options than cut and dry, opened and closed. You could take half-days or come back part-time. Or if you feel up to it, answer emails, but not do work. And although I seriously thought about subcontracting my work during this time, I didn’t feel like it was needed. But subcontracting to someone else while you’re out, or at least for your day-to-day work can be valuable. Definitely research your options.

How do I prepare my clients? 

This summer, a few months after I officially launched Lauren Austin Creative, I was already working with a few clients. I was open and honest with them about the baby and taking leave from the beginning, and reassured them the plan was to organized and plan for them as much in advance of my leave. And you know what? They still hired me knowing I’d be taking time off in September.

Sure, it took more work up front on my end, creating and scheduling social media content moving around 3 weeks of hours to the earlier part of September and into October. But it allowed my clients to continue on as regular while I was actually out. And of course I can’t thank them enough for being flexible and understanding enough.

Again, this is going to depend on the type of client you have, and how much work you typically provide them. Do you need to stay in contact with them? Are you more project based, or do you help them daily? All questions you’ll need to ask yourself.

How do I prepare my business?

My clients always come first before my own business. But I also knew I couldn’t leave my “virtual baby”, my business, in the dust either. So a month or two in advance, I started letting my subscribers, followers, and potential new clients know my plans as well - that I’d be “closed” for a few weeks, but that they could always contact me for when I return. And so that I didn’t seem to fall off the earth, and that I stayed in my customers daily viewing, I started creating and scheduling my own social media content to post while I was out.

I also knew, like this post, I’d probably have to do a little work while on leave, but I honestly enjoy it, and love having an outlet to work on that doesn’t involve feedings and rocking a baby (although, there’s plenty of that great stuff too!)

If you have employees, which I do not, that definitely gets quite complicated. Either you can leave someone trust worthy to manage the business while you’re gone, or keep a solid foot in the door on your leave to keep your employees going.

If you’re a product based business, you could always close down shop, but take orders, letting customers know they won’t ship until your back. Or you could bulk up all your handmade wares before you take leave, so all you’re doing is shipping during leave, still making sales.

Do what you want.

The one thing that’s true for all small business owners is that there’s no cut and dry answer, and no one-size-fits-all. Being a business owner, you make your own rules. Take leave, don’t take leave. Take a week or take a year. Or just cut back hours, or change services. Bring the baby to the office, or hire child care. There’s so many options for you.

My biggest piece of advice is to plan, and plan early. The more time you have before your leave, the better organized and prepared you can be, and in turn, run the best business you can.

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12 Reasons To Hire A Virtual Assistant

If you're here, you probably know V.A. is short for a Virtual Assistant. It's a position similar to a Personal Assistant who provides services that relieve his or her employer from the stress of tasks that are associated with managing one’s personal life, but typically a job focused with your own business goals in mind. The person is typically professionally trained in specific tasks and software to aid in reaching those goals.

The “virtual” part of the job is due to the fact that each VA is mostly, if not always, working remotely on tasks to help your business and/or personal life be successful and less overwhelming for you. I live in, and my business, Lauren Austin Creative, is officially located in, the Mid-Atlantic, just north of Baltimore, Maryland, but as of today I support clients in different states all closer to the West Coast. And they all started and run businesses completely different from each other.

My business primarily focuses on working with small businesses, providing creative, design, and social media services. I’ve been a professional designer for the last 13 years, so it is the perfect niche for my skills. However, V.A's provide different services and support a wide range of tasks, at all types of skill levels.

This task list isn't exclusive, but gives a general idea of some of the most popular tasks outsourced to V.A.'s:

  • Bookkeeping & Data Entry
  • Scheduling & Calendar Management
  • Payments & Invoices
  • Accounting
  • Course and Teaching Creation
  • Webinar Configuration
  • Event Planning
  • Design - Graphics, Web, Pinterest Pin, Inforgraphics
  • Website Management - Updates, SEO Configuration
  • Presentation Building - Powerpoint
  • Newsletters
  • Marketing - Emails, Sales, Click Funnels
  • Social Media Management & Strategy
  • Organizing Contest & Giveaways
  • Ad Creation
  • System Setup & Management
  • Writing, Proofreading & Editing
  • Resume Creation
  • Blogging
  • Content Creation
  • Customer Service
  • Personal Assisting - Shopping, Booking Appointments, Researching, Bill Pay, Travel Planning and Booking

Almost any task or role a traditional employee does can be delegated to a Virtual Assistant. But it's not only the tasks themselves that bring business owners a benefit. Below, find out 12 reasons why it's actually MORE beneficial to hire a Virtual Assistant than hiring a traditional employee:

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#1 - No Paying Employee Taxes, Insurance, Or Benefits

How is that possible you ask? My package and hourly rates cover employee taxes, insurance, and benefits. These fees are also spread out across all my clients. Keeps things less expensive and more simple for you. Plus I do all the tax, insurance, and benefits prep work on my end, so you aren't left handling the paperwork.

 

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#2 - Reduce Workload

Get back to doing the important job of running your business. As you saw in the general list above, VA's are skilled in multiple areas and take on the tasks that can become a bit overwhelming. Get your day-to-day organized and back to what you do well. Leave what tasks you don't want to us. Hate posting to social media, but know it's a way to drive traffic to your business? Hire a VA to write and schedule the posts for you!

 

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#3 - Leave It To The Expert

You're great at your business, but maybe not the best designer, or social media manager. Don't struggle to product mediocre visuals when you can effortlessly have a Creative Virtual Assistant do them for you. Websites and logos, flyers and presentations - all created by a designer VA list myself. Trust me, you won't regret it.

 

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#4 - Save Money

Hiring someone to SAVE money?? You bet! Let's do the math - say you pay yourself $60 an hour from your own business, but a VA is $40. Instead of doing the mundane and time consuming tasks like answering emails yourself, paying someone to do it at half the cost allows your hourly time to be spent GROWING the business with your important ideas! Financially you can't afford NOT to delegate those tasks.

 

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#5 - No Over-head

A Virtual Assistant is VIRTUAL. This means no need to provide tangible office space, a cubical, telephone, or computer - you provide absolutely nothing. That equates to no overhead for you and no added expenses like a drawer full of post-it notes! V.A.'s supply their office needs at their own expense. 

 

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#6 - Get What You Pay For

Working with most V.A's is pretty straight forward, as many of them work on retainers month to month. If you buy a retainer for 10 hours of work in August, you get 10 hours of work in August. You don't pay for sick leave or vacation days, and no using the time for bathroom or lunch breaks - nada. 10 hours retainer = 10 hours work.

 

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#7 - Get Back Leisure Time

Get back some of your personal time! We could all use more time. Time to focus on our business goals, time to spend with family, and time for ourselves. A Virtual Assistant can take on some of your tasks so you can get back some precious time to do whatever is important to you! What would you do with a couple extra free hours a week?

 

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#8 - Get High Quality Service

V.A.'s strive to provide very productive results at a great value because our business success depends on how well our client’s (you) needs are met and how well your business succeeds. I want to help my clients' grow and reach their goals, so that I also grow and reach mine. This makes me very efficient, proactive, productive, and put in the added effort for my clients.

 

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#9 - Scale-Ability

All businesses have ebbs and flows. There are busy seasons and slower seasons. A great way to deal with the change in flux is to hire a VA. Most VAs book with retainers or hourly packages. That lets you book more time the months you need it, and back off when things catch up and slow down. (Full-time internal employees don’t allow that flexibility and create more difficulty. Why on-board then let go with each change in the season?)

 

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#10 - Improve Online Presence

It takes enough energy to run a business. Now try running a business while growing your social media presence and duplicating it across Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest platforms. Don't forget about communicatingf back and forth on those platforms with customers. Phew! It’s a lot! Hire a VA to be your social media guru, setting and updating your profiles, scheduling your posts and images, and replying to messages. 
Is your social media presence strong?

 

 

#11 - 24/7 Availablity

Some VAs (like myself) work outside the typical 9-5 work day. For instance I'm available evenings and weekends too because it fits my schedule (and my client's schedule) better. Hire a VA with a flexible schedule and give your customers access to you around the clock. Hiring a V.A. in a different time-zone can also be a benefit. Working on the East Coast, I can have work done for my client's on the West Coast to approve before their typical work day is over. Same goes for hiring a V.A. in another country. Figure out what works best for you.

 

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#12 - Product & Service Improvement

It’s your business so you know your products + services best. But a VA can do research, use analytics and data, and communicate with your customers to figure out how you can improve those services and products so you can be more successful. Get behind the scenes information from a Virtual Assistant who also wants the best for you.

 

So now that you see the benefits, what's the main reason you want to outsource to a V.A.? What tasks do you already have lined up? And what are you waiting for? Let's set up a free 30 minute discovery call to find out the best ways I can help you and your business grow!

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