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Pregnancy and self employment

March 26, 2014

2013-10-27

I am currently pregnant, so I thought I’d share with you my thoughts on the impact that this has on my business.  How does it affect me, and how does it affect my clients?

When asking me about this, people seem to assume that pregnancy is a special case with an unusual impact on self employment.  I’d like to argue that it isn’t all that different to any number of life event that might impact on my work.  And life events are a thing that any good project manager plans for.

When you’re pregnant you have to go to medical appointments.  There’s scans, and the midwife, and other bits and pieces… but these are fairly occasional.  As a self employed person you need to juggle personal appointments amongst your work commitments, whether pregnant or not.

When you’re pregnant you might get ill… but when you’re not pregnant you might get ill.  As a self employed person you need to have sufficient contingencies in place to manage periods of illness.

When you’re pregnant you need to expect to have some time off to have the baby and then probably to care for it… but when you’re not pregnant you might want to take time off for a holiday or study or a family commitment.  As a self employed person you need to schedule periods of absence.

Being pregnant could thus be considered to be virtually irrelevant, just another outside issue to factor into project plans.  Just as I wouldn’t feel the need to tell a client if I was having an ingrowing toenail removed or going to a wedding (I’d simply not arrange to be working for anyone during those days) I have no need to mention to my clients that I’m pregnant.  Except as a courtesy.  After all, as things progress they can see it.

As with any pregnancy, it is up to me to decide if I need to make any adjustments and when I need to schedule appointments and for what period I want to take maternity leave.  The great thing about self employment here is that I have complete flexibility.  I don’t need to make advance decisions or answer to anyone on when and how much I work.  I can do what I like as long as the jobs I’ve committed to are done as promised.

I think the main thing to note is that – pregnancy or not – I never ever take on projects if I can’t commit to completing them.  I just don’t bid for or accept work if I won’t be able to do it.  Every week I see a bunch of projects I could go for and I have processes in place to decide which (if any) to bid for.  If they look relevant and I can do what they need I go for it.  Pregnancy is restricting in that there is less I feel I can go for now I’m pregnant.  Advertised projects that run near to or through the due date are just not open to me now because I wouldn’t be able to deliver the work.  When usually I might bid, I now see these project specs and I dismiss them.  But again, this is not solely a pregnancy issue.  When I’m considering whether to take on work I always look at whether I can do the dates.  If I had a holiday planned or if I was close to capacity or if I already knew I needed to be somewhere so couldn’t be somewhere else, I would routinely not bid for work.

Self employment is all about managing your time effectively in order to take on a manageable amount of work for your current circumstances and deliver what you have promised you will deliver.  Pregnancy is actually fairly predictable.  You have a good idea of how long it will last.  This makes the forward planning quite straightforward.

I don’t want to be misleading here though.  As anyone who knows me in real life might be aware, I have had to have a lot of time off work for pregnancy-related illness and medical appointments.  An unpredictably high amount, which is ongoing and is being constantly reviewed. But I thought carefully about how much to take on during this period, and I built in contingency.  It hasn’t been easy.  But I have completed the work on time and my clients will not have noticed or been inconvenienced.

Because that is good planning and good project management, and that is why self employment is all about.

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