Freelancing and pregnancy

Well, I’m 18 weeks into this pregnancy adventure. If you read the classic baby books or rely on TV/films for your pregnancy knowledge (like I did), you’ll be under the impression that this is the joyous time when the first trimester is out of the way, the nausea wears off and you’re packed full of the kind of energy that has you spring cleaning the house from top to bottom.

Reader, I’m writing this under a blanket on the sofa, while sipping ginger ale and ignoring the dangerously large pile of washing that has to be done if I want to wear something other than pyjamas next week. I’m also googling sweaty feet, because that appears to be a delightful new pregnancy symptom. SEXY.

It’s not AWFUL. It’s a bit like trying to get a full day’s work in when you feel like you’re suffering the effects of five tequila shots from the night before (when the reality is you were in bed by 9pm with a big bottle of water, and the idea of booze in general makes you gag). It’s just a bit…rubbish.

Don’t get me wrong, there are exciting bits too. Like buying baby clothes, debating baby names, enjoying pregnancy massages and generally getting excited to find out the baby’s gender and meeting the little one in five months.  But I want to be honest with you about the challenges of pregnancy when you’re freelance. I also want to make it clear that every pregnancy is different – some people have horrific morning sickness, while others manage to get through most of pregnancy without a single day of nausea. But I suspect for many freelancers, an element of adaptation is needed. Which is pretty good practice for when you become a mum or dad, right?

The Challenges

The biggest challenges I faced were and are:

  • Exhaustion – Most people I’ve spoken to suffered from a lot of tiredness at some point. If you’re freelancing around a day job, this can be tricky as you simply don’t have enough energy to get stuff done. This also meant I had to postpone a couple of meetings as I simply didn’t have the energy to do them.
  • Nausea – While I was only physically sick a couple of times, I had pretty much constant nausea for months, and it occasionally turns up again when I’m tired or hungry. This meant that I had to take quite a few breaks and take some fresh air at times. A good walk outside did wonders.
  • Hormones – No tears here. Well, only once. I’ve never been a particularly emotional person in terms of crying or flying off the handle. But oh my GOSH has my patience been short. Again, this probably ties in with feeling tired and sick, but I’ve had to make sure I haven’t lost my temper or sent off a sniffy email a couple of times.
  • Guilt – Ah, the go-to emotions for pregnant women and mums everywhere. I’ve felt a lot of guilt, not just from the usual pregnancy things (Am I eating enough healthy stuff? Is this symptom normal? Should I really look like the size of a house already), but from not being able to be as productive as usual. I complained to friends and family that I felt a bit useless when I couldn’t do what I could do before, but everyone said the same thing – you’re being productive by growing a baby. Which is lovely and all but…well it doesn’t put money in the bank to pay for all those baby basics.

Survival tips for pregnant freelancers

Those are the challenges. But you didn’t come here just for me having a good ol’ moan, right? No, you want practical tips to actually deal with this stuff. Fear not, I have some freelancer pregnancy survival tips.

  1. Outsource. For the love of God, outsource if you can. This ranges from passing your household chores over to the other half for a few months if you can, to hiring a VA. I’ve actually hired two – the hugely talented Kerri Walker and Jo Shock, and they’ve really helped keep my business ticking over.
  2. Downsize. I’d advise anyone to do this anyway, but look at your clients and work out which ones are the best value and worth focusing on.  I let go of a couple of clients who were a lot of work for less than my standard rate.
  3. Passive income. This is the kind of work where you put a bit of effort in at the start, then the money rolls in – so ebooks, ecourses and the like. This stuff is going to keep the money coming in and keep you sane If you’re planning to fall pregnant, I highly recommend you look at your passive income and create some projects before you go forward
  4. Stick to your deadlines. This one is tricky, but make sure you stick to your deadlines, even if it means getting help from your VAs and allowing yourself more time. Even if you’re sat at home in yesterday’s pyjamas, eating ice cream for lunch, you still need to give your client’s the impression that you’re professional.
  5. Embrace the Boffice. The bed office has been my sanctuary, and I feel so much more comfortable working there. I’m not saying spend your whole pregnancy there, but work somewhere you’re comfortable.
  6. Work out your rights and have a vague plan in place before you proceed. For example, I’ve just discovered that I had to be a Limited Company for around 11 weeks before I conceived. I’m pretty much sure I’ve managed it, but literally by the skin of my teeth – 11 weeks to the exact day.
  7. Give yourself a break! Seriously. It’s hard during the first three months when no one knows, but after that don’t be afraid to be open with your clients – the good ones will understand.

And a few practical tips:

  • Baby on Board Badge. They’re free to get, and if you spend any time at all on public transport they’re a lifesaver. Not On The High Street sponsor them now, so you get some bonus benefits.
  • Similarly if you take public transport, make sure you always keep a plastic bag with you, for gross obvious reasons. Aldi are great because…well, they don’t have holes in the bottom. Amazon also have a bunch of subtle sick bags. Have a look at seasickness bands too, which I’ve heard good things about
  • Buy lots of bottles of water. I get this on the food delivery (I adore Aldi but I’ve been getting deliveries from ASDA and Tesco because I can’t deal with the supermarket smells right now), and being able to quickly grab a bottle of water whenever is a real help. Yes, I’m aware it’s a recycling nightmare. Shhh.
  • Avoid pregnancy forums like the plague, pick the brains of your favourite parent types and don’t get a doppler.

I’ve got a post planned about the financials very soon, including how I plan to take maternity leave and what I’m doing about maternity pay.

Have you combined pregnancy and freelancing? What were your biggest challenges?