In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about self-employed women and the issues facing them when trying to get proper compensation from Bituach Leumi/Social Insurance. However, a self-employed mommy faces another significant dilemma after giving birth: how can you just stop your business for three months?
Can you afford to lose clients?
Running a business involves more than just getting the work done â€“ it means being there for your clients. Loyal clients are very valuable, and part of what makes them happy is that they know that you are there for them all the time. This is particularly true if your clients are other businesses. In Israel, as I’ve written before, business is very fast-paced and chances are that most clients won’t be able to wait three months for you to get things done. They need your services now; they want results yesterday! Losing these clients is very costly, so you really want to make sure you retain them.
And how about new clients? Every new client presents not only the opportunity for income, but also the opportunity to grow your business, which is probably the number one goal for most business owners. If they are happy, they will hopefully come back to you again, and even recommend you to others. But if you turn them away, you have lost an opportunity to create a new net of potential customers.
It’s possible that the situation is different for large, established businesses. If you own a business with tens or hundreds of employees, and you’ve been around for many years and the business can kind of run itself, then you may be able to fade out for a few months. But if you are a small business that is relatively new, and you don’t have the resources (time and money) to hire a team to take over while you’re gone, I don’t know if you can just turn out the lights and hope for the best. Owners of small businesses are often the business â€“ clients work with the company because of the owner. In addition, the owner also takes part in more than just management and actually provides the service as well.
My maternity leave strategy, which failed â€“ or succeeded, depending on how you look at it
My personal take on maternity leave as a business owner was that I would not make any efforts to bring in new business. That way existing clients would be happy, and I could maybe rest a bit, read some books (I did manage to read The Tipping Point), and/or learn something new (during my last maternity leave I learned how to build websites and started planning my new business â€“ all from the comfort of my computer chair!). Well, that didn’t work out quite as planned; business actually started pouring in from the day I gave birth! I don’t quite understand that one, but there is an old Yiddish/Hebrew saying: “A child brings their bread with them,” i.e. you don’t have to worry about how you will support your children because they bring the income with them. It’s one of those metaphysical things.
Ok, but babies = no time for anything else!
The final question that many of you may be asking yourselves, especially other mothers who’ve been there, is “How can you get any work done with a baby around?” The answer to that, dear readers, will be in Part 3â€¦