Hi guys!!! This is part 1 of a Pregnancy & Baby FAQ series I’m doing on the blog in the upcoming weeks!! I have to shout out to Kristen Cloyd who asked this great question!
She said, “I’d love to see a post on what things you should do in the first few years of business to set yourself up for success once you start growing a family.”
This is such a great question that I hadn’t really thought of before! As it turns out – we certainly did things as we grew our business that either were intentional or unintentional that set us up for success when having a baby (or in our case babies)!
Here are our tips!
- Build a smooth workflow and utilize systems in your business. This is essential to having a solid business in any form, but especially essential when you’re sleep deprived and overwhelmed! ha! I have a set workflow that we utilize from start to finish with every single client. I know at what point in the process each step is supposed to take place and we make sure it gets done on time. In order to keep this workflow moving smoothly we implement systems that help us to do so… like software for blogging (Blogstomp), custom client website templates (Showit), super easy client galleries & print ordering systems (PASS), and album design and proofing (SmartAlbums & Album Exposure).
- Outsource anything you don’t need to do personally or that you don’t enjoy doing. For us the biggest bottleneck and time suck in our business was always always editing!! I could never seem to catch up and it was leaving me feeling overwhelmed, guilty and working 24/7. So we started to outsource our editing just a couple years into our business and have been doing it now for almost five years now. This not only allows us to keep up with our turnaround times and client’s expectations, but it also allows us time with our boys! We’d much rather pay someone to handle this task quickly and use that time with our family!
- Build a network of trusted, professional wedding photographers. This may seem like an odd one to add in here, but I think it is vital when starting a family! Other than the fact it is amazing to have a community of likeminded creatives around you to inspire you and keep you accountable for your dreams – these people will also turn into your trusted network of back-up photographers should you need anything during your pregnancy (which I’ll talk more about in another post in this series!)
- Save. Save. Save. I think it goes without saying that babies are expensive, but even more so as small business owners and self-employed people… there is no such thing as paid maternity leave!! It is completely up to you to save money so you can have the maternity/paternity leave you were hoping for. A lot of factors will determine your leave time (another topic coming in a future post!), but nothing will determine it more than how much money you have saved and how much time you can truly afford to take off.
- Sign up for a good health insurance plan. This one probably goes without saying, but I had to include it – obviously! We found our insurance through the Marketplace via the Affordable Care Act. We had a Blue Cross Blue Shield of IL PPO plan and thankfully were able to get good coverage. I had to do the math for our taxes recently and found that out of the total $143,000 for our prenatal care, and labor & delivery costs – we only had to cover $7,100 of it. (I know I say “only” … when that still seems like quite a lot of money, but not compared to what we could have paid without insurance or with worse insurance than we had.)
- Be prepared for an increase in insurance premiums. I recently had a friend write to ask what we pay four our entire family’s monthly insurance premiums as self-employed people and she was shocked to find out that we pay $1,100 a month. James and I used to pay around $600 for the two of us and given that we added 2 more people to that plan, it should could as no surprise that our premiums essentially doubled. Make sure you price this out when you are planning to build a family and make sure you can afford it! Of course if you have one spouse that works a “normal” job and you get your health insurance through their company this won’t be as big of a hit.
- Budget for childcare. Another big cost of having kids is childcare… YES – even when you work from home! Because we are both home 100% of the time we take turns watching the boys and working on our business, so the only day we hire childcare is wedding days. Even so, we are gone for usually 10-12 hours each Saturday and with twins in Chicago that means $20/hour… or about $200-$240 PER WEDDING. In addition, if you are home alone with your baby and self-employed – you are going to need to hire childcare at least a few days a week or a few hours a day as well if you ever plan/hope to get work done. As a friend said recently – the days you desperately need to get the most work done during your baby’s nap are most certainly the days your baby will not nap. ha! Seriously so true though. James and I have managed to make it work so far because there are two of us who can tag team both, but even with that we definitely get the most work done after bedtime (usually from 7-11pm or even midnight and beyond when we are really busy). If that is not something you want to do – then most definitely plan on hiring childcare.
- Build strong relationships with your clients. We believe in this 100% all the time for so many reasons, but this also is important when you’re planning to have a family! We always feel like our clients see us as more than just “vendors” and as such they treat us as more than just vendors. They were so kind to us during pregnancy and beyond and I know a big part of that is because we had strong relationships with our clients already, and they trust us 100% to take care of them no matter the circumstances. Because of that they often showed us grace and patience in times when we needed it most.
- Manage client expectations. This is also important in your business regardless of whether you plan to have kids or not, but again is really highlighted once you have kids. I include our office hours in our signature line in all of our emails and regularly have email away messages up when we are out of the office whether for personal or professional reasons (like when we are shooting weddings). Sundays are our ‘family days’ and we rarely ever take any shoots on those days and do our best to leave our devices and emails untouched. Clients already know all of this based on realistic expectations we have communicated to them throughout the process that includes our office hours, turnaround time, and an email we send after every wedding reminding them of what to expect in the weeks to come regarding sneak peeks, blog posts, and final galleries. If clients feel like they are in the loop and know what to expect – you don’t have to feel guilty posting that Instagram of time you are spending with your family on your days off because they know they are still a priority and their images will get back to them in the timeline promised! 🙂
I know there are probably a million more ways in which we built a business to help serve our greater purpose… which is building a strong foundation for the family life we dreamt of… but these were the points that immediately came to me. If you have questions about anything or think there are points I missed – don’t be afraid to leave a comment below!! 🙂
And stay tuned for the upcoming posts in this Pregnancy FAQ Series including;
Part 2: Preparing for Pregnancy & Managing Clients’ Expectations with a Baby on the Way
Part 3: Tips for Shooting Weddings while Pregnant
Part 4: Determining & Managing your Maternity Leave
Part 5: Not just Surviving, but Thriving: Marriage Tips for your First Year as Parents.
Part 6: Must Have Baby (and Twin) items for your Baby’s First Year.
. . . .
Above hospital photo by Simply by Suzy