There are many perks to the freelance life, including being able to work from home in your pajamas and grow a tiny human without any of your co-workers noticing your ever-expanding waistline. That’s right, I write for several different clients, and they have no idea that two little girls hang on me all day and another one will be making her debut in two months.
That leads us to the long-debated question of expectant freelancers: Should you tell your clients you’re pregnant? Ultimately, the choice to share your pregnancy as a freelancer is yours, but here are the three reasons why I don’t tell my clients I’m pregnant.
1. It Helps My Productivity
Every pregnancy is different, and many women are physically unable to work at some point during those nine months. I’m thankful that I’ve had fairly easy pregnancies — just the usual morning sickness, tiredness and aches and pains. During my first pregnancy, I told my clients I was pregnant. While all of them were understanding and happy for me, the decision sank my productivity. I found myself starting to use my pregnancy as an excuse to delay work and miss deadlines — which doesn’t go over too well with clients.
For my second and now third pregnancy, I kept the good news to myself. There were and still are several days I’d rather sleep than work, but knowing I can’t use my pregnancy as an excuse helps me to stay on track.
2. It Keeps My Workload Steady
Expectant moms are often seen as more delicate, and while I appreciate the break from dish duty, I don’t want my clients to feel like they have to send me fewer assignments to tackle. Every freelancer handles their workload differently. For me, I see pregnancy as a freelancer as a motivating factor, because it pushes me to finish as much work as possible before my little one arrives. This isn’t my first time around the baby block, so I’ve learned how to manage my time better with each pregnancy.
3. I Don’t Want to Lose Clients
Of course, no client is going to outright fire you for taking a short maternity leave, but there’s a chance you’ll get snubbed by a few when you return. Several of my clients were happy to grant me maternity leave when I was pregnant with my first child, but I had trouble getting them to return my emails when I was ready to come back. Losing a client wasn’t the end of the world, but it did mean I had to do a lot of pitching and networking to replace the client and income in the following weeks.
Allie Gray Freeland had a similar experience when she worked as an in-house PR consultant. She returned to her position after maternity leave, only to be laid off just one week later. She’s now a freelancer and six months pregnant with her second child. “[My previous experience] made me fearful of letting clients know I’m pregnant,” she says. Still, Freeland has told half of her clients, but does so with caution. “I think clients subliminally think you’re not capable of working at full capacity if you’re pregnant, so I prefer to be judicious of who I tell and when I deliver the news,” she explains.
If you have a close working relationship with your clients, it’s likely you can judge who will welcome the news and who will move on. It’s up to you whether or not to tell. If you do share, make sure you detail to your clients how you can still perform the work they need completed. Make plans with them for the coming months to schedule out projects, and ensure that you understand what they’ll expect of you when you return.
Is It Best to Keep Quiet?
Even though I personally don’t tell my clients when I’m pregnant, there are still a few pros to informing them. Sharing this news helps you provide your clients with clear expectations — allowing you to come together to determine the right content strategy ahead of time. That way, you can secure yourself in their minds as a vital part of their future projects.
It’s also important to remember that you may experience the unexpected over the course of your pregnancy. If your clients know you’re pregnant, it won’t be a shock if, for example, you go into preterm labor and need to take an unexpected leave of absence.
And there are plenty of success stories out there about freelancers who grew their business while pregnant, and Reena Goodwin is one of them. She was in the early stages of development for her freelance PR company, Facteur PR, while she was pregnant. Goodwin chose to tell her clients who had projects with deadlines close to and after her due date that she was expecting, and she even let them know how they could get ahold of her in emergencies. “I hired fantastic interns who assisted with every project,” she says. “Together, with open communication, transparency, technology and a little bit of magic scheduling, we never missed a deadline.”
Whether you tell clients you’re pregnant is up to you. There are pros and cons to both tactics here. As for me, I plan on telling my clients I’ll be away for two weeks, and I’ll work ahead as much as possible so I can better manage my postpartum time. All freelancers have different clients, and all clients have different expectations. While you don’t have to tell them you’re pregnant, you should tell them you’re taking time off (or that you want to get a month or two ahead on content creation for them). Whichever path you choose, make sure you have plans in place to keep your clients satisfied and ensure a smooth transition back into work when it’s time for your return.