Can you freelance pregnant? Can you take a maternity leave? Does all life end when you see that miraculous plus sign on a pregnancy test?
The answers are: yep, I don’t know yet, and nope. So let’s get into it:
I’m pregnant and due this spring! This has been a crazy, patient journey, and I was pretty terrified during my first trimester because of the health issues I’ve written about in the past. But everything’s going great and it looks like I’ll be a very lucky mom in a few months.
On my personal blog, I tackled “a day in the life” of my freelance pregnancy so far. But for you guys, I want to dig deeper into what pregnancy does to the freelancing experience.
This isn’t about how grateful I am to have the flexibility to work when I feel good or not work when I don’t feel good (though that is awesome, and I cover my approach in The Sweet Spot guide). This is about the hope I have for my career now that a) I don’t feel as reliable and b) there’s about to be a little person in my life who’s even less reliable.
So, let’s talk about it! Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Pregnancy Makes You A Better Freelancer
I read a long time ago that parenting makes you a better freelancer. Now that’s hopeful!
I desperately wish I could find that original post, because the man who wrote it was very matter-of-fact about how much better he was at his job since he had kids. And not just because of “the deadline paradox,” where the less time you leave for a deadline the faster you can finish it (because even if you can get away with it a few times, that leads to shoddy work). He meant that he was a different person, his child made him a better person, and the work he did was more creative, nuanced, and – yes – faster because of the pressures in his life.
He was a different person, his child made him a better person, and the work he did was more creative, nuanced, and – yes – faster because of the pressures in his life.
How awesome is that?
This is also a perspective shift courtesy of Pam England’s Birthing From Within. In her introduction, she explained pregnancy as an incredibly restorative, powerful, and creative time for a woman. I’ve never heard that before, and it gave me the hope that maybe life would be better with a pregnant body and then a baby. Not our society’s warped view of discomfort, inconvenience, and general crappiness. But actually better.
I’ve found that to be true for me so far. Some days, I only get an hour or two of work in. And yet, somehow, I’ve met all my deadlines, added new clients, and billed well over the past 6 months of pregnant freelancing. I’ve also done the work I’m most proud of of my career during this time.
There were periods of significantly less work, and then periods of a lot of work. It all got done, and I grew a little baby human in the meantime. The two were not mutually exclusive for me — though I understand that that may not be the case next time ;-).
Pregnancy Makes You A Better Believer (Which Also Makes You A Better Freelancer)
I also have first-hand experience about how this pregnancy thing (and potentially parenting — we’ll see) forces you (ahem) gives you the ability to trust in God.
Because seriously. Much like pregnancy, this freelancing roller coaster is not under our control. We have a lot of agency — we can develop good freelancing habits like marketing and updating our portfolios, honing our craft by reading good books and participating in writing communities, and getting up every day and write. But our careers are in God’s hands. If we’re not meant to freelance, this ship isn’t getting out of the dock.
Much like pregnancy, this freelancing roller coaster is not under our control. If we’re not meant to freelance, this ship isn’t getting out of the dock.
Fortunately, the opposite is true, too. When you give it all to God, things work out even when you don’t see how they possibly ever could. That client you gave up on calls back. Someone contacts you out of the blue to start a new project. And that’s the story of the past 6 months for me.
Clearly, it’s a give and take between doing the work and letting God bless the work, but before pregnancy I did a lot more “frantically doing the work”. The past few months, I’ve been given the grace to sit back a little and let God bless it, too.
Same goes for my brain function as a pregnant freelancer. I was really worried about “pregnancy brain” ransacking my ability to write and being a vegetable for 9 months (and then who knows how long after). But since I had to give it all to God, I did. I love this line from Peter Kreeft’s Prayer for Beginners:
“[When we ask for the grace to trust him with our thoughts…] He is the Master also of our miserable memories. A thought comes into our mind when he says, ‘Come!’ and leaves when he says, ‘Go!’ He is the centurion, our thoughts are his soldiers. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
This has definitely been the case with me. I place every single workday in God’s hands. I still get stressed and I still wonder if I’ll deliver my best work by the deadline and all that, but in general, I have so much more peace about the work I do, finding new clients, and when I will get paid, that it’s light years better than non-pregnant freelancing. This sense of peace and calm filters into my client calls and emails, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my client relationships are better than ever.
Making and Disseminating Maternity Plans
I got into this freelance thing as a way to have more say over my day. Having a high level of control over when I wake up and where I work is a huge motivator for me, and by far the #1 benefit of working for myself. So, when it comes to a maternity leave, even though I’m tempted to just wing it and try to work, I want to plan to take some time and truly detach from work and attach to this little baby. (And then there’s that whole sleep thing, which isn’t conducive to getting paid to write.)
Having a high level of control over when I wake up and where I work is a huge motivator for me.
Here’s how I worked it out, though we’ll see if it works out: I kept the news private until I was 6 months pregnant. Then I let all my clients know the news, that I’d love to put work together in advance, and that I’ll be limiting new assignments starting two weeks before my due date to two and a half months after. (I gave a three-month date range).
So far, so awesome.
With some clients, this triggered the response that it’d be best to reconnect after the baby’s born. With others (thank the Lord) we’re going to get the work for those months completed before I take off. In the green light scenarios, l offered to set up auto-invoicing with FreshBooks so the client can still pay at regular intervals instead of having one huge bill early on. (This might not be the advice you get from everyone, but in the two situations I offered, it felt really right.)
The Final Trimester
So, here I am, power writing and power napping. I’m wrapping up projects from last year and starting projects that will be wrapped up within the next two months. When I list out all the things to do, it seems overwhelming, but so far I’m still trucking day by day and delivering some seriously awesome work (if I do say so myself). But the best part of it all is the level of peacefulness that comes with knowing I’ll work as hard as I can — and the I’ll stop. And then, God willing, I’ll pick it back up again and have even more to share with you guys. 🙂