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Having maternity leave when you are freelance?

(15 Posts)
flower2009 Tue 09-Oct-12 15:12:39

I don't know if anyone has been in a similar situation and can help me with this, I have a DD who is nearly 3 and would love another baby, but just cannot see how I could do this as I am freelance. I am a virtual assistant and work 20 hours a week, I do all the work myself and do not employ anyone. I did try outsourcing work to a couple of people in busy periods but this did not really work for me so the only options I can think of are:

1. Wait until DD starts school to have another baby, take 2 weeks maternity leave and then just get stuck back in to the 20 hours a week work (DD will be at school and I'm sure the newborn will sleep at least 4 hours in 24 to enable me to work). This will enable me to keep control of the business but I know from having DD one that it will be exhausting, more so with 2 children. And I would be missing out on maternity pay!! My weekly profit is about £200 a week so I would not be much worse off on maternity pay.

2. Second option is to employ someone to work from my home office for 9 months as my own PA, I can train them and I can have 9 months off work and just do the keeping in touch days to make sure everything is going smoothly. This would be great as I will receive maternity pay and the profit from the business will pay for temporary cover. Sounds good in theory. This option does scare me though because I am basically leaving my business in someone else's hands. Also what if they stole my clients??

3. I did also consider getting a mothers help so I could work but this option would not be viable financially, the above two options are better money wise.

4. The only other option I could think of was maybe taking on an apprentice now for 5 or so hours a week and build their hours up (as I could take on more work if there were 2 of us, at the moment I am turning prospective clients away as I am fully booked). But I am not sure if I want the business to grow, I like it that it is just me and it would be costly to buy an extra set of equipment as I would need 2 laptops, 2 desks etc. Also the cost of my time in training someone else.

Which option sounds best?? Or maybe just stick to one DC!!!!

(Sorry for the long post!!!!!)

PreciousPuddleduck Tue 09-Oct-12 15:14:37

Would you be entitled to Maternity Allowance as a self employed person, that is what I get.

flower2009 Tue 09-Oct-12 15:22:05

Yes I would be entitled to maternity pay but would either have to not take this and carry on working so I could keep my clients (I do work for them on a weekly basis), or employ someone to cover me. I'm not sure what would be the best option. How did you manage your maternity leave?

xkcdfangirl Tue 09-Oct-12 15:48:46

You would be entitled to Maternity Allowance, but obviously if you rely on long-term clients who know you you are likely to lose some of them if you go off-grid for 9 months.

I like option 4 - or rather 4(B) because I'd like to suggest an ammendment - there's no need for you to buy two sets of things if you are only doing 20 hours a week, your apprentice/assistant can use your set during times when you are not. Take them on with a flexible contract that will let you increase and decrease hours according to how much work is available. You can supervise them while getting on with other things e.g. ironing etc - then when you want your mat leave, you go onto mat allowance and trim your client list to just the ones who you would lose if you didn't work for them for 9 months, let the assistant deal with those - you do the KIT days once a month - then everything keeps ticking along nicely ready for you to resume when your DC2 is a bit older.

Alternatively, just go for it, take the Mat Allowance and leave your clients to manage without you for a bit. You may lose some, but some will have horrendous experiences with people who aren't nearly as good as you while you are gone (I'm assuming you are good at what you do here of course) and will practically bite your hand off with enthusiasm when you let them know you are available again. If you are turning work away now you are clearly in demand - just get some good written references from previous clients and be prepared to put some work into regaining your client list when you are ready to.

flower2009 Tue 09-Oct-12 15:55:24

oooh I like the equipment sharing idea - I had not thought of that. Next January my DD will be at pre-school every morning so I could work mornings and get an apprentice to work afternoons and be on hand somewhere in the house if they need help. How do flexible contracts work? Do you think that would be appealing for an apprentice or would they prefer a set number of hours?

xkcdfangirl Tue 09-Oct-12 17:41:02

I think you'd have to offer at least a guaranteed minimum number of hours if you called them an "apprentice" - you'd probably also have to show that you were providing good quality training to your apprentice. If they are an "assistant" then you could offer a "zero-hours-contract" (google for details and for sample contracts) which avoids the necessity of you providing sick pay and other employment benefits. This will make the job less attractive to more qualified people so you may find it a bit trickier to recruit, but it's worth a try.

flower2009 Tue 09-Oct-12 19:22:21

Yes I think an assistant is more of what I am looking for rather than an apprentice as they will already need admin experience, the training I will give will just be focused on how to do admin virtually as they may not have done this before. I guess that would work well with a 0 hour contract. Maybe I could offer it school hours term time only in the office to make it more attractive, they could work from their own home in the school holidays and if their children were off school sick etc.

flower2009 Tue 09-Oct-12 19:23:20

Thanks for the advice, it has given me some more options to think of which is great.

GodisaDJ Tue 09-Oct-12 19:29:02

If you're in Staffordshire / Cheshire area, I'd come and be your assistant and help grow your business grin Seriously, I'll be after work next year when my contract ends (HR manager/PA for a small company, currently working from home).

Separately, you can put in your contracts about stealing clients/work etc, so potentially have the option to sue should they do this.

Himalaya Tue 09-Oct-12 19:39:24

Why did it not work out before when you outsourced? I guess you will need to think about this, as it is basically what you will be doing here in one form or another.

There are tons of mums with admin experience who might be able to do the job, subcontracting to you. If the job is flexible enough that they could do it in school hours I am sure you could find someone to work with you - their home, their desk etc... Do you really need someone to be physically at your house?

flower2009 Tue 09-Oct-12 20:09:16

I tried a couple of people to work from their home for me but it didn't work with any of them, a lot of my work needs to be done the same day, so by the time I had emailed them the task, and they had checked their mail, had come back to me with any questions and then found time to do the work and then me making any corrections if they had made mistakes then the deadline would have been missed. I also tried a student at the local uni but she had bigged herself up alot and I ended up staying up all night to correct her work and she missed a couple of deadlines and then disapeared as the reality of working from home was still actual 'work' sank in. I think the fact that I could not offer a fixed number of hours made the people not think of it as a serious job so I thought maybe having someone in my office with a fixed amount of hours may find a more serious candidate. I am not based in the Staffordshire/Cheshire area I'm afraid as that would have been ideal (if I managed to get pregnant in time! It happened within 2 days of trying last time but I may not be so lucky this time as I know it can take years sometimes or sometimes not at all second time round as I am getting older so I may have plenty of time to look for an assistant!!)

GodisaDJ Tue 09-Oct-12 20:57:01

Damn! That would have been ideal for me too! I would recommend you keep an eye on linkedin, mumsnet, facebook - you'd be surprised how quick networking/advertising a job through these sites can bring the right person about (i.e. a 'friend of a friend' might just be the person you were looking for).

I landed my current job via the job centre website which is not where I'd normally look at all (being in HR, there are various "professional" websites, journals who advertise vacancies) but I went on to nosey (mainly looking for PA type jobs rather than HR) and I just seemed to be in the right place and the right time - they wanted someone flexible, to work from home and to not be bothered about clocking in/out, just to be available - perfect, other than it is temporary.

I'm sure you will get pregnant straight away - both my DSis and SIL (DP's side) are the same as you; pregnant within days of TTC! I think with both of them, their 2nd DC took that little bit longer, but not much grin

<firmly maintains that she isn't anonymous internet lurker who thinks she could do PA work> grin

flower2009 Wed 10-Oct-12 11:26:23

Thanks for the advice GodisaDJ, that has givien me something else to think about, networking to find the right person, that is great you found your job by going on the jobcentre, I have used that in the past to find jobs and its surprising what you can find on there. I even just thought I live by a primary school so putting a card up there or at the local shop by there could even attract the right person as I could offer the job school hours. I just need to make a baby now so I can put put these plans on place!

Thanks guys! x

pinkdelight Fri 12-Oct-12 12:33:29

Hope you find the right person. If not, I have to say that I had to do option 3 - paying someone to take care of the kids whilst I did the work. And no, it wasn't good financially, but I had to suck up the loss to keep my clients and so it was worth it financially in the longer run. But also I didn't mind going straight back to work (part-time) after DS2. If you actually want a proper stretch of maternity leave, then you would of course be better off with an assistant.

TantieTowie Sun 14-Oct-12 22:11:20

I went back to work six weeks after DC2 was born - I worked with her sleeping in a sling a lot of the time until around 6 or 7 months. (I'm a journalist so it was similar to your type of work, at a computer, and I even did some interviews like that. She's a really good sleeper though). DD started nursery at 8 months, shortly after DS started school.
I also work around 20 hours a week. It kept my work going, but I do kind of regret not taking the time out. On the other hand, we're more solvent than we would have been

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