What to Expect When You’re an Expectant Freelancer6 min read
Pregnancy is an exciting time for new mothers, but as a freelancer, it can be hard to juggle the new change with existing clients. Not only do you have to be flexible with physical changes, but you also have to make budget adjustments to accommodate your growing family. It can be challenging to prepare and plan for a successful freelance career through pregnancy, since every pregnancy is different.
These tips will give you a better idea of what to expect when you’re (self-employed and) expecting.
Freelancing during pregnancy brings unique challenges
While there are many unique challenges that accompany freelancing while pregnant, the hardest one to swallow is dealing with unpredictability. Each pregnancy is different, and how you feel can drastically change between each trimester and after birth. Before pregnancy, I just assumed I would keep up my workload during and after pregnancy. I didn’t realize how tiring pregnancy and caring for a newborn would be. One of my pregnancies also ended in a miscarriage at 11 weeks, which brought on a unique set of physical and emotional challenges.
“Processing the emotions while dealing with the physical symptoms, like morning sickness that felt like a raging hangover 24/7, was really hard,” said Anna Christensen, a freelance journalist and copywriter. “After I got through the work I had already lined up pre-pregnancy, very slowly and painfully, I passed on some new jobs to freelance friends. I knew I wasn’t working to my capacity and didn’t feel confident in delivering work to my usual standard. Luckily, I still had money flowing in from past jobs so taking a bit of time off wasn’t too debilitating.”
The first trimester can be rough for new moms because of the surge of pregnancy hormones. The feelings of nausea and tiredness usually go away by second semester, and then third trimester is usually filled with aches and tiredness again.
“It [pregnancy] got better into the second trimester, and I was able to do a bit more work,” says Ana Reisdorf, a registered dietitian and freelance health writer. “I had to slow down again as I got bigger, but also my focus shifted: I became very interested in getting the house organized and everything ready for the baby. My nesting phase was off the hook, so I didn’t really care about work.”
What should I tell my clients?
While new moms might be excited to share the news of their pregnancy with friends and family members, many freelancers decide to keep it hush-hush when it comes to informing clients.
Victoria Heckstall freelanced through two pregnancies and did not tell her clients for the first two trimesters.
“I felt like they would decrease my workload because they would think I would use it as an excuse for why I couldn’t meet deadlines,” she says. “However, once about three weeks from my due date, I would alert all clients of my pregnancy and projected due date so they could assign me work ahead of time, so when I took my week off they wouldn’t fall behind. Most clients took it well, while one client forced me to work while I was in labor to meet an emergency deadline, so I could get paid for prior work.”
In one more extreme case, Michelle Lily Bast, who runs a freelance graphic and website design company, worked through her induction, labor, and the morning after her C-section.
“I’ve heard horror stories about women being fired when they come back from maternity leave,” said Bast. “While I didn’t think my clients necessarily would find another digital marketing company because I took a week or two to have my baby, I felt this huge pressure as I watched my emails pile up with urgent requests.”
Should you tell your clients? The answer is ultimately up to you, and each new mom will need to base their decision on their own situation. With my first pregnancy, I told a few of my clients, and while they were understanding, I felt less productive. When I was pregnant with my second, I felt pretty good and actually worked more than I had before pregnancy. I jumped right back into my freelance game a few days after birth only to burn out four months postpartum.
Looking back, I should have taken Reisdorf’s advice: “You should rest if your body needs it.”
How to approach the health insurance conundrum
Pregnancy is a financial undertaking and opting for the wrong health insurance plan can result in extra bills once the baby arrives. There are countless curveballs that can arise during pregnancy and child birth, even in healthy and young women. As such, it’s recommended to opt for a plan that will cover the unexpected, even if it means you have to pay a higher premium for the year you have it.
If you have a working spouse that offers health coverage through their employment, that’s likely your best option for coverage. Not all freelancers have the option of signing on to their spouse’s health insurance, though. There are a few different options to choose from, but make sure you don’t pick your insurance based off of what is cheapest. A cheap insurance plan might save you money each month, but could end up costing you more after you give birth.
Research health coverage plans, as well as health care sharing ministries, such as Liberty HealthShare and Samaritan Ministries. If you opt-in to a high-deductible plan (a plan that costs less per month but has higher deductible requirements and covers less), make sure to enroll in an HSA plan too. An HSA is like an IRA for your medical needs. The money you put into the account is not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit—hello, tax bonus!
An HSA can help you pay pregnancy and delivery costs, but if you don’t use it, you won’t lose it since HSAs roll over. For 2017, individuals on a high deductible health insurance plan can contribute a maximum of $3,400 and families can contribute up to $6,750. Since it is a tax-advantage account, you could save 20 to 30 percent off your medical bills.
Note that you will not be able to change your current health insurance until open enrollment. Many insurers will allow you to make changes to your coverage upon marriage or gaining a dependent. If you can plan when you get pregnant, plan to conceive after you can adjust your health coverage needs.
Pregnancy doesn’t mean you have to stop your freelancing career, but expect life to look different. Position yourself to be flexible and allow yourself enough time to enjoy your new baby, because those first weeks go fast.