You’re pregnant! You told your clients! You shot a bunch of weddings while pregnant! What comes next? Now what?
You haven’t had the baby yet, but inquiries for the following year are rolling in and you need to have decided with your family how you’re going to handle this. Are you going to stop working all together? Will you take any maternity leave? Will you need to hire a nanny or pick a day care? As a Wedding Photographer you are always looking to the next season of weddings. Being prepared for whatever you decide is something to consider early on, not at the last minute.
What did we decide?
Jared and I took a lot of time to consider time, finances, and personal desires when it came to my 2014 wedding season. We knew that we couldn’t live completely off of Jared’s income. We have spent the last 2 years paying off a lot (Thanks Dave Ramsey!) of debt and we could probably scrape by with Jared’s income alone, but it wouldn’t be that great of a time. And, we still have financial goals! Having me work meant we could still attain those. Decision one: Lauryn would definitely still be working. The next thing we thought about was the balance between how much work outweighs the need for childcare. We have always known that we wanted me to be at home with our children. So, part time work right? Yes. I will be working part time…technically. We ran the numbers and thought through time away from home/how much time it takes to work through ONE wedding/etc… and I will be taking 10-12 weddings in 2014. That’s half of what I normally take. But, that also requires some sort of childcare at some point. Thankfully we will be able to work this out with Jared’s schedule, and local family and friends. We will be paying for childcare every now and then!
You may decide to work full time. Maybe you and your family need that full income, or maybe you have always known you wanted to be a working parent! Whatever you and your family decide is best, that’s the BEST thing. Don’t let anyone else’s choices dictate what you think you SHOULD be doing.
How did we execute this?
It’s really hard to turn away work. Like, excrutiating sometimes. Deciding to take 10-12 weddings may not sound that hard. The hard part is balancing those 10-12 throughout the whole year without one month having 5 weddings and running yourself into the ground. June is already completely booked up for us. My ideal goal was to take 2 weddings a month May-November. Things don’t always play out like that though, and they already haven’t for us. Our “back up” was no more than 3 weddings in a month. And, it’s not just turning away work based on dates. I have always tried to book clients that are a good fit for my brand, and in turn that I am a good fit for the couple’s vision of the day. Only taking 10-12 weddings in a year has put that on a whole new level. I have to make really sure that every wedding I book is a great fit on both sides. I have to make sure my brand is growing and moving forward, and that means turning down weddings sometimes because I wont be the best fit for them.
If you decide to work part time, you need to go in with hard and fast rules. You have to stick to them. Or, you will just end up working full time. If you decide to work full time, you will still need to go in with a number in mind and stick to it. Being a parent is full time too, and if you want to spend time with your kids you probably can’t shoot 30+ weddings a year. (If you do, you are a SUPER HERO!!)
What will your days look like in 2014?
Of course this all depends on what road you decide to take, but this is what we are anticipating. We are absolutely going to have to be flexible though! I am planning on utilizing our kids sleep. I hope to be able to crank out work during nap times, and after they go to sleep in the evening. I will probably utilize their independent play time (30 mins?) for house work. There are probably so many Moms out there laughing at me. But, I have been a full time nanny while also being a full time wedding photographer, so I do have some idea of how it could potentially work. This is our ideal goal, and we will be flexible if we need to. If I am feeling behind, we plan on hiring a sitter for the day, taking a friend up on an offer to help, or Jared having a solo parenting day. I will crank out as much work as I can in those 7-8 uninterrupted hours. My business goals will absolutely remain the same. I plan on delivering images in the same window, answering emails within 24 hours, etc… None of that will change. The only thing I am willing to let go of a bit is how often I blog, which has already started to happen! My goal for 2014 is to blog twice a week, more if I can/need to. I believe that as long as the quality of what I am blogging is still top notch, that readership will still remain and even grow. So many of the photographers that I admire and follow blog less than 3-4 days a week. This encourages me!
What about maternity leave?
Hopefully whatever you decide on, you will be able to have some kind of maternity leave! We are due in February and my “maternity leave” will start Feb 1st. Im hoping I don’t go too late because then I would miss almost a whole month! Either way, I am coming back to work May 1st. However, because I am the only person running my business, my couples will still need me during that time, and I may have a few late bookings, I will be doing a few things. I will be answering emails and I will be doing Skype client meetings. Certain emails will take priority (i.e. New Client Inquiry) and others will be answered when I am able. I will also do client meetings when I am able. It would be nice to be totally off for 12 weeks, but I wouldn’t trade this job for that! I am so thankful for the flexibility it allows me.
The best laid plans right? That’s all you can do. Make a plan, try to make it work, and throw it out the window if you need to. Being a small business owner is hard, and its made even harder when it’s a one person business! Even though a lot of this stuff happens when you are no longer pregnant, making decisions about it now is the best way to be prepared and not stress! I hope that me sharing our thoughts and ideas will help anyone out there thinking through these things as well.
**Here is a peek at our Weekly Pregnancy Picture project! We have been taking them since Week 11. Once the babe is born I will be sure to post a bunch of our favorites!