I’m back with installment 3 in this series for pregnant wedding photographers! If you are new to the blog check out the other posts in this series to catch up :
So this time let’s talk about maternity leave and how to prepare. I’ve done both routes, the first where I photographed a wedding 2 days before giving birth and the second time 3 weeks before. There is a reason I gave myself more of a break the second time around :). If you are totally healthy and you want to work up till you give birth then go for it but with a back up plan in place as we talked about previously.
Days and Weeks will Disappear
If you decide that you want some time to rest and relax before the baby arrives that is totally fine too. Only you can make the best decision for your baby, your body and your business. I recommend giving yourself at least a few weeks break from your last wedding or session so that you can finish them up and deliver the final product to your clients before your baby is born. After having Will my oldest not just days disappeared but weeks, I remember taking him for all those initial doctors visits and time just flew by. Suddenly my baby was 2 weeks old and it felt like I had just had him.
The last thing you want is clients emailing you because you promised them their photos and then lost track of time with your newborn. You want to be able to enjoy those first few weeks without work stress. You will be trying to remember if you got a shower that day and you don’t need to worry about keeping on top of your emails or editing.
Schedule Your Maternity Leave
Seriously you need to give yourself a couple weeks to adjust and if you can, take a couple months. Look at your calendar and figure out reasonably how much time you can block off from having to be in your business every day. I’m not saying you can’t check emails during that time but don’t set expectations that you are back to work and ready to answer them. Once you decide on a time frame put up a notice on your website, a banner at the top is a great idea or having a note on the contact page. Setup an out of office auto-responder so when emails come in they get notified that you are on maternity leave and give them the time frame you’ve decided on. If you decide to extend your leave be sure to update those areas and when you are back to work take them all down.
Hire a Virtual Assistant
Let’s say that it is impossible for you to step away from your inbox, I’ve got an idea for you! Hire a Virtual Assistant (VA) to check your email daily and delete the spam, answer the easy stuff and mark the stuff that needs your attention. Then set aside time everyday to go through the stuff you need to. I would make an appt on your calendar and set a reminder because otherwise you will forget in the first couple weeks. Having a VA sort through things will save you time but of course costs money. If you don’t get a lot of email you might be able to get through it just fine even every other day vs if you have a busy business and get lots of emails everyday you can’t afford not to hire someone to help. Think of it like any corporate job you’ve had, when you are out for vacation you train a backup to take over for you temporarily. This is the same thing!
Gmail Filters & Rules
I highly recommend using Gmail filters and creating rules to organize your Inbox as emails come in. For instance I have a rule setup that whenever a new inquiry comes in from my website it gets starred and put at the top of my inbox. Some back office programs even let you get an SMS message when a new inquiry comes in so you can quickly respond. Beyond just new inquiries I like for all my client communication to get the same treatment. So whenever I book a new client they get their very own folder and a rule that when an email comes from their email address it gets labeled for their folder and starred to go to the top of my inbox.
If you set your inbox up similar to mine then when you only have 15 min to check your email you know the most important ones are at the top! You can take care of them and when you have time scan through the rest to see what is important. I recommend trying out Unroll.me also to put all those sales flyers in one email digest format and unsubscribe from the ones you don’t need. The daily roll-up email is a great one when you are feeding in the middle of the night because you can browse everything conveniently in one spot. Plus they won’t be cluttering up your inbox anymore since they will all go to the Unroll.me folder!
I believe even if you aren’t having a baby that your business needs templated responses! Anytime you have to sit down and write the same email more than once you need to create a template. I would create an inquiry response template for whatever you shoot so when a new inquiry comes in you can pull it up and customize it quickly to the recipient and send it off. Make sure to let them know you are on maternity leave at the moment and will be a bit slower to respond to emails but you are excited to chat with them about their photography needs! I have a wedding inquiry template and a portrait session one to keep things easy for me.
Ease Back In
When it is time to get back to work try to ease back in slowly. Maybe even start a week or so before you’ve told everyone you will be back. Start figuring out what office hours work for you and your new baby. Look into getting a sitter if necessary, schedule calls and important tasks for nap times if you are lucky to get those consistently. Just as a good schedule is important for the baby it is important for you and your business. Take your time and see what works best for your family!
Want the exact email template I used to announce our pregnancies and still keep all of our clients? Click here to download Telling Clients Your Expecting!