How to take parental leave as a freelancer, according to real people

  • If freelancing continues to develop at its present charge, nearly all of US employees might be freelancing by 2027, according to projections in Upwork’s 2017 Freelancing in America Survey.
  • Self-employment comes with a lot of perks, however one draw back is that there isn’t any parental leave coverage — except you create one for your self.
  • Business Insider spoke with a number of freelancers who profitable took break day after the start of their kids with out taking a large hit to their funds.
  • They shared their ideas for prepping for the large day, together with how to save up cash and alert your shoppers, as properly as how to unplug and set an out-of-office message.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

My daughter was a week previous and napping once I accepted an project an editor supplied me. As a full-time freelancer, I had deliberate to take two and a half months off after the start of my first youngster, however the actuality was fairly totally different.

Self-employment comes with a lot of perks — setting your personal hours, sporting what is likely to be questionable workplace apparel, saying no to work you don’t need to do, to title a few — however all these benefits lack the structured advantages that come from a extra conventional workplace job. There’s no parental leave coverage, except you create one for your self.

Megan Rogers

Megan Rogers.

Courtesy of Megan Rogers

“With my first [child], I was a full-time employee, and I could take 12 weeks of maternity leave that was a mix of short-term disability and my saved-up paid leave,” freelancer Megan Rogers advised Business Insider. “This means that I did keep getting paid while on leave — short-term disability was at 60%, but it still was better than nothing. With my second, since I was freelancing, if I didn’t work, I wasn’t getting paid, and I felt like I had to go back to work sooner.”

If freelancing continues to develop at its present charge, nearly all of US employees might be freelancing by 2027, according to projections in Upwork’s 2017 Freelancing in America Survey, and plenty of of them are going to need to (and may) take break day after the start of a youngster.

Here’s how to create a parental leave coverage that works for you.

How to decide how a lot time to take off

One of one of the best components of being a freelancer is getting to set your personal hours, and the identical is true for the way a lot time you take off when including a member of the family. There’s no HR coverage to say you may solely have 4 weeks or 12 weeks. 

How lengthy your parental leave is will range from freelancer to freelancer and depend upon a variety of components, the largest being how a lot time you may afford to take off, but in addition how you’re feeling after your child’s arrival — which is unimaginable to decide forward of time. 

“I only took a couple of weeks off but missed it and had FOMO so started saying yes to projects pretty quickly,” freelancer Lia Picard stated.

Maybe like Picard you will miss work, or perhaps like Rogers you will need extra time. You will not know till the newborn is right here, so construct in as a lot flexibility as you may. Even the time of yr you are anticipating can have an effect on how a lot time you take off. 

“The birth of my daughter Reva was interesting timing in that she was born on June 6, right at the start of summer,” stated Jane Katz, who was within the early levels of beginning her enterprise, Scraps — which creates frozen pizza out of meals that might in any other case go to waste — when her daughter was born. “I decided to take the entire summer off because in my mind, three months felt doable. Also, during the summer, many people are traveling and for an emerging business, things slow down a little because it’s harder to get meetings and plan.”

Plan on taking a minimum of wherever from 4 to 12 weeks. On common, full-time staff getting full pay take simply over 4 weeks of maternity leave within the US, though below the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) most staff are entitled to 12 weeks unpaid. 

If you may set your self up for a gradual return, do it — it will make getting again into your “new” routine simpler. For occasion, when you’ve got recurring shoppers, you might stagger your return dates to give your self time to alter.

How to determine how a lot to save in your parental leave

Determining how a lot you want to save is likely one of the simpler components of making a parental leave plan. If you are somebody that units a yearly aim in your freelance revenue, decide what that aim equals per 30 days, after which calculate primarily based on the period of time off you are planning on taking how a lot you want to save.

If you’ve got by no means arrange a yearly aim and solely have a tough understanding of your family funds, now’s the time to get these funds so as.

“Get an understanding of your current monthly household expenses, adding in a few hundred dollars per month to account for baby’s needs such as medical, supplies, formula, help, etc.,” Cécile Hult, a associate and personal wealth advisor at Argent Bridge Advisors, advised Business Insider. “Build up a reserves fund equal to your monthly short-fall, multiplied by the number of months you plan on taking off.”

Make certain to construct a security web into your funds for something surprising which may come up.

“I wish I had saved more money, and I wish I had known that yes, I would still be spending money during the leave,” freelancer Carrie Murphy stated. “I thought that since I was cocooned at home for most of the time, I wouldn’t be spending much, but I did not account for buying random baby items that seem amazing in the middle of the night.”

Now’s additionally a good time to look into taking out short-term incapacity insurance coverage, particularly if you need to take benefit of a state paid household leave program, such as in New York or California (it is anticipated that related applications in Massachusetts, Washington, and Washington, DC, will open up to freelancers quickly, too). Some of these state paid household leave applications require freelancers to have their very own insurance coverage for a set time period earlier than utilizing this system.

“It was huge for us,” freelancer Anne Miller stated of a change in New York state legislation that allowed her to get hold of incapacity protection and take benefit of New York’s Paid Family Leave advantages after the start of her second youngster. “I had to pay for the policy, but was able to file for FMLA coverage for almost eight weeks. It was only a percentage of my average earnings, but that was enough to get us through that period.”

How to really save in your parental leave

It’s by no means too early to begin saving. 

“It is OK to start small with $5. People think because they cannot save large sums of money that there is no point in saving. That is so not true!” monetary strategist Emerald Sparks stated. 

Sparks really helpful automating your financial savings as a lot as attainable by apps such as Clarity Money. 

For Miller, saving was a behavior earlier than she was anticipating. “I have my nut — the money I need to put in our checking account — and every other dollar goes into a savings fund for my taxes, retirement, and coverage if my work dipped,” she stated.

Still, infants are costly, and when Miller was anticipating her first youngster she created a detailed funds of every thing she thought they would wish for the primary yr together with the estimated quantity every merchandise would price. She primarily based her child registry and vacation reward listing off that spreadsheet and used a neighborhood parenting listserv to supply objects they weren’t gifted.

“We were able to get almost everything we needed as gifts, hand-me-downs, or second hand,” Miller stated. “It took patience and time to keep on top of the listserv emails, but by doing this I estimated we saved at least $3,000, if not more.”

That financial savings was multiplied after they have been anticipating their second youngster as that they had the crib, glider, and a few clothes and toys already.

How (and when) to inform your shoppers you will be on leave

Plan to inform common freelance shoppers 4 to six weeks upfront of your anticipated due date. Whether you inform them over the cellphone or by e-mail relies on the kind of relationship you’ve got with them, however you need to have a particular plan in place that particulars how lengthy you will be gone and recommendations for the way to deal with the work you will not give you the chance to do — together with the title and make contact with data for anybody you would like to fill in for you. 

“I front-loaded as much recurring work as I could (as in I wrote my weekly columns ahead of time) and gave all my editors a heads up beforehand to let them know I probably would be slowing down on pitches and unable to accept assignments for about a month,” freelance author Beth Demmon stated.

Giving your shoppers as a lot readability as attainable will assist them plan round your schedule. Editor turned freelancer Emily Popek, who labored with freelancers taking parental leave at at a day by day newspaper, stated she appreciated freelancers giving about a month’s discover and letting her know explicitly how it could have an effect on their capacity to take on assignments. 

“A freelancer who wrote weekly features and did occasional news coverage as needed said, ‘I won’t be able to do the weekly features past X date, but please still reach out for the occasional news features as I may be able to take some of those on,” Popek stated as an instance.

How to write an OOO message for when you’re away

Raise your hand when you wrestle to write and put in place an out-of-office message even once you’re merely happening a week trip. FOMO is real for a lot of freelancers, but it surely’s essential to set boundaries in your time whereas successfully speaking and managing your shopper’s expectations of how lengthy you will be unavailable. 

In the case of taking parental leave, draft and save your OOO message six weeks earlier than your anticipated leave, particularly when you’re working up to your due date. This method, even when your child arrives early, you will give you the chance to shortly and simply put your OOO message on. 

The key issues to embrace in your message are: 

  • How lengthy you will be unavailable (together with when you’ll be periodically checking emails)
  • The contact data for anybody masking for you (if relevant)
  • Any different directions you may want to present, such as resending with a sure topic line if it wants your consideration sooner slightly than later

Take this pattern OOO message:


In disappointing information for you and really thrilling information for my household, I will be unplugging to spend time with our new child till [date you’re returning from leave].

While I’m checking emails, I will be delayed in responding throughout this time. Please give me a week to get again to you. 

In the meantime, test my Instagram [your Instagram handle] for lovely images of my child. 

All one of the best,

[Your name]

Or this one:


I will be on maternity leave till [date you’re returning from leave]. In the meantime, please attain out to [name of the person covering for you] at [email] or [phone number].


[Your name]

How to disconnect, even when it seems like you may’t

Most freelancers I do know have a arduous time really disconnecting whereas they’re on leave. We tweet, scroll by e-mail, and test in with shoppers all through any break day. It’s a nervous tick. 

If that sounds such as you, no judgement — it took me a strong month to cease checking my e-mail a minimum of as soon as a day once I was on maternity leave. But there are a few issues you are able to do upfront to enable you to unplug. 

First, repeat after me: Your shoppers (a minimum of those price maintaining) are comfortable for you, they need you to take break day, and they are going to be there with work once you return. 

Jane Katz with her business partner Jessica Smith

Jane Katz (left) along with her enterprise associate Jessica Smith.

Courtesy of Jane Katz

Just a few weeks earlier than your anticipated due date or leave date, disable e-mail and social media notifications in your cellphone (you are able to do e-mail someday, Twitter one other, and so forth, if it makes you nervous). Make a listing of the work-related people you will have to notify if the newborn arrives earlier than your anticipated leave day, and when you can, appoint the particular person masking for you or a trusted freelance colleague to notify these people.

“The only reason I was able to truly disconnect was because of my amazing business partner Jess, who swooped in and handled everything that I normally was in charge of,” Katz stated. “If I did not have a partner, I would have set an OOO on my email for a few weeks, but would have [had] to jump back into the swing of things much sooner than I did.”

Finally, as cliche as it sounds, strive to be within the second. Enjoy this time with your loved ones — you will be grateful you probably did.

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