Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with professional organizer Darla DeMorrow @DarlaDeMorrow Darla helps people find their desktops, keys, time, money, and sanity as a certified professional organizer, but her kids still leave toys on the floor. She was a pregnant entrepreneur twice and wrote the book The Pregnant Entrepreneur. Website: www.PregnantEntrepreneur.com
Smallbizlady: Once I realize that I’m pregnant , who should I tell and when?
Darla DeMorrow: Disclosure of your news requires a plan. Start with your spouse, then family when the time is right. Tell employees, then clients. Then figure that everyone else will already have heard the news, but still be prepared to tell people. Don’t let people wonder too long, especially employees and key clients. You want to assure them that there is a plan for business continuation. Unfortunately, there is still a stereotype that most women decide to stay home after having children, even if that isn’t reality. It’s unbelievable, but you may be discriminated against for being pregnant, and you may not even know it. But it’s almost never worth pursuing, other than to perform your best, just as you always have.
Smallbizlady: What kinds of things should I spend my time on while pregnant, getting ready for change?
Darla DeMorrow: In your first trimester, start any new projects that can better sustain the business, especially passive income streams that you might want to develop. In your second trimester, wrap up any major projects and secure any agreements with colleagues or suppliers. In your third trimester, spend time on building relationships, scheduling business for your return from maternity leave, and putting finishing touches on any new passive revenue streams.
Smallbizlady: How long will I be able to work while pregnant?
Darla DeMorrow: Every pregnancy is different, but with good health, most women will work right up until delivery. Physical changes do start almost immediately, though, so the golden rule is to listen to your body and don’t do something if it stresses your body. Although I was able to do much of my normal workload right up until my ninth month, I did find that I was accomplishing work much more slowly. So if you work alone much of the time, consider bringing in an assistant to help speed things up, even if you are otherwise healthy.
Smallbizlady: How long of a maternity leave can I take?
Darla DeMorrow: The good news: you decide how long you can take. Your bank account determines how long you can afford to take. Do a review of your bank account to see how long your business savings will allow you to run the business and still pay the bills. Decide how to increase revenues or cut expenses if you want to take a longer leave. If you aren’t good with numbers, use the Maternity Planning Guide I developed to help figure it out. The guide is in The Pregnant Entrepreneur and downloadable free at www.PregnantEntrepreneur.com . If you have the opportunity to establish any passive income streams now, like books, virtual consulting, tele-training and paid subscription programs, they may be able to add income even while you are not working.
Smallbizlady: Will I be able to run my business, even with a pregnancy and with a child?
Darla DeMorrow: Yes, if you want to. The keys will be organization, focus, and support. Talk to other business owners. Read what you can. Write down your plans for the business. Do it now. Most women will tell you that flexibility is the most important factor as their family grows, and you probably already have high flexibility as a business owner, so you are ahead of the game.
Smallbizlady: Will anyone else help pay for maternity leave?
Darla DeMorrow: Sadly, no. Unemployment and health insurance don’t cover maternity leave for the self-employed. If you aren’t yet pregnant, you might be able to buy a disability policy to cover time off, but do the math to see if it will pay enough to cover your loss of income. Start with your insurance carrier or a local benefits and insurance broker to research this, but do it before you
Who else can help me run the business, even if I am a sole proprietor? Get a team together. Think like a big company and list out who your key suppliers and subcontractors are. Figure out if any of them might be able to service clients while you are out. Forge relationships with competitors to enable new clients to get serviced and old clients to get help. Consider earning referral fees if you are willing to refer clients out to Consider hiring help.
Smallbizlady: What if I don’t want to continue to run the business? When should I not continue?
Darla DeMorrow: Being an entrepreneur is great, but only if you are profitable. If your review of the business shows a deficit, and you can’t or don’t want to make changes to the business for profitability, then close the business without regret. According to the SBA, 50% of small businesses close after just five years in business. That doesn’t signal failure, but keeping an unprofitable business running while you could spend time on a new business or with your precious newborn is not a smart choice. This time will never come again. Having the option to devote time to your family is a luxury, and can be cherished.
Smallbizlady: I had a very difficult pregnancy and was on bed rest for nearly 6 months. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who run into complications?
Darla DeMorrow: Complications that put you out of work are relatively rare, although they do happen. Plan for the worst, from how you will handle clients or employees to the reserves that you’ll need to close operations for a while, should you run into trouble. If you do get a bed rest prescription, talk with your doctor about how much work you should be doing, even with the help of today’s technology. Really, as a business owner, you should have a plan B anyway. Anyone can run into events that would disrupt a business, from a death in the family to a car accident. We don’t want to think about it, but successful business owners do.
Smallbizlady: Should I still try run my business with a small child?
Darla DeMorrow: Yes! If you are passionate about what you do, then your business will continue to be fun and rewarding, and possibly even a welcome break from all the pregnancy and baby craziness. If you are profitable, even a little bit, the flexibility that you gain from owning your own business will be worth so much more when you have to work around another small person. If you are passionate, you have a better chance of being successful than established businesses in your field.
Smallbizlady: What do I need to know about those first few weeks with my newborn?
Darla DeMorrow: Turn off the technology. Everything changes, so plan but be flexible. Give yourself a chance to unplug. Six weeks is absolutely not enough time to get used to the new normal and handle a full work load. Have a backup plan in place if you need to take a little longer getting your bearings. You may want to keep in touch with key contacts, but don’t immediately jump back into the fray if you don’t have to.
Smallbizlady: What is the one thing you must do as a pregnant entrepreneur?
Darla DeMorrow: If you don’t already do this, pay yourself. Mark your paydays on the calendar. Pay yourself when you sit down to pay your bills, once or twice a month. Write yourself a check or get to the bank and withdraw cash. If you haven’t started taking a salary from your business, start now, even if it is only $25 per week. You’ve probably been pouring all of your profits back into the business, but you deserve a paycheck, too. This becomes super important since you will probably need more income now, whether for necessities or just cute little baby outfits. But if you are going to stay in business for the years to come, it has to be worth it, and working for free isn’t fun for long. Make it pay for you and your family.
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For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.