Newborns and business do not mix
I wish I had written this post in the days after having my second baby, to fully convey the rawness of the message. But it wasn’t high on my priority list, so you will have to cope with my perspective nine months later.
When having a child everyone’s experience is different. Even from my small sample size of two, both pregnancies were completely different. My first pregnancy with Isadora was easy, the birth was hard, breastfeeding was harder, but she was (I now know) an easy baby. My second pregnancy with Felix was harder. The birth was faster (not a c-section) and even though he is a happy little boy, he has suffered with reflux and so have we. But one thing is the same no matter what happens: those first few weeks are wonderfully tough! It might be because you are struggling with breastfeeding. Or your baby is unwell. Or you partner doesn’t get any time off. Or your other children aren’t coping. Or no one is getting any sleep. Or all of the above! Whatever the case, go easy on yourself and get some help for your business.
When I had my first child, as most first time parents do, I got caught up in the birth and didn’t give much thought to how my business would operate in the weeks and months that came after. I remember answering order emails while being induced and thinking “oh, I hope my parents will be able to fulfil that order tomorrow”. But the second time around I knew what was coming: hours sitting on the lounge breastfeeding, sore bits, hormonal waves, lots of visitors, baby gazing; and I knew I needed to plan. Who would take care of my shop orders? Who would respond to emails? Who would take care of my social media posts?
So, as you can’t plan your birth and baby, plan your workload! Here are my tips for keeping your newborn balanced with your business.
1. Get help
The first thing to organise before the baby comes is getting some help. Now I don’t just mean help with your business, I mean help with everything. So much time is absorbed by the baby that you don’t want to load yourself up with business and household duties.
I am lucky that my parents live in the same suburb as our family. In the first few weeks (with both babies) they helped my husband and I out all the time with my business and household tasks. I also have an amazing partner who has flexible work hours and participates in family life as much as he can. He also helped me with business administration and even (mostly) wrote a blog post for Puppy Tales.
But if you don’t have family nearby who can jump in and help, look for things that will let you enjoy your baby and not worry about your business. If you can afford a cleaner it’s a great option, even for just a few months after the baby is born. If you have friends offering to do things for you — let them! They often want to help but aren’t sure how to, so “guide” them to areas where they can be most helpful. Whether that be meals, dog walking, shopping, etc.
For your business assess what you might need. Every business is different but we all have administration tasks. A virtual assistant can help out with emails, stock ordering, customer requests, bookings, social media updates and whatever other admin tasks are necessary for your business. If you’re keen on that idea make sure you organise one before the baby is born and take the time to get in tune with them. If your business requires a hands-on person in the space, look to see if you can get an intern or part-time staff member to start before your baby arrives.
2. Decide on your level of service
Before the baby arrives try to decide what your business will keep doing for the next few months and what it might stop doing. You want to have finished off any major projects or have someone around to continue them while you have a few weeks off. But it is good to decide if you will still have your store open or respond to enquiries (or have an autoresponder). Some businesses do decide to close for a short period, so if you think your business would survive a closed period that’s an option.
I decided before I had Felix that I was willing to blog less but I didn’t want to have any downtime on the shop. So orders continued to come in and get processed as usual.
3. Prepare what you can beforehand
This is definitely easier said than done, but try and think of anything you could knock out now or organise for later. A great way to do this is to create checklists of the main tasks that someone else might need to do. Examples might be updating your social media, packing your products, buying stock, etc.
My blog over on Puppy Tales is a big part of my business and one of the first rules of blogging is consistency. So before Felix was born I prepared a few extra posts that I could use in those first few weeks. I also organised for several people to write guest posts while I wasn’t blogging, so it meant that even though the site wasn’t as active as usual it didn’t lose momentum.
4. Make sure you work space is in order
If anyone else has to work in your office, warehouse or studio make sure everything is in a logical place and you know where it is. If you get a call from someone helping you out you want to be able to say “oh that is in the top drawer”.
When I had Isadora my stock in the warehouse was not well labelled. I knew where everything was but that didn’t help anyone who was in there fulfilling orders. If I had sorted this out it would have saved a lot of time, phone calls and frustration.
5. Let clients, customers and readers know
As you head towards the last month of your pregnancy make sure you let important clients, customers and even your readers know you are about to have a baby. Even if you are not certain of your plans just tell them the basics and let them know you might be slower at replying in the short term. You will be surprised at how most people get excited by the news (even if they don’t know you that well) and it might even lead to some deeper connections. It is also a good idea to put on an automated email explaining to people what is going on and how often you will be checking your inbox.
Even when I started back at work after Felix was born I still often let people know that my lead times were longer as I had a newborn.
6. Give yourself a break
You most likely set up this business to have a more flexible lifestyle and spend more time with your family. Well family time doesn’t get more important than this, so appreciate the fact that you are your own boss and you have a job that enables you to spend time with your newborn baby. From experience those early weeks are precious and you want to be able to spend time staring at your baby, snuggling and — if possible — sleeping. It’s not the time to be worrying about unanswered emails, meeting requests and the ink levels in your printer.
If you have any of your own tips about running your business in those few weeks after having a baby comment below.