Self employment: the other baby of motherhood

Feb 7, 2023 | Freelancing & Parenting

On 4th January 2022, 6 months into maternity leave with baby #2, I quit my job.

But why then? Was this choice brave or stupid?

This wasn’t a pure ‘leap of faith’; it was saved for, planned for, until the benefits of self employment around my baby and toddler outweighed the risks of salaried unhappiness.

Over the previous 8 years, I’d built up my knowledge in the PPC space – mostly Google Ads and LinkedIn – and had risen the agency ranks from exec > manager > senior > head at a couple of NE agencies. Then the same month I got promoted to Head of PPC…I found out I was pregnant. Ah. Cue the MD handing over a bottle of champagne, shaking my hand in front of the whole agency; and me glancing a look at my knowing line manager thinking “it’s gonna be a while until I can drink this”.

Which is when I started freelancing.

Like many self employed folks, I started working on evenings and weekends around my FT salaried role. This helped me save for maternity leave, and I had open communication with clients regarding my growing human, as well as a full time freelancer waiting in the wings to take over my accounts at my birthing month.

When I had my daughter, 80% of my clients were taken over by fellow freelancers, and I held onto a couple of lower-maintenance accounts who were fully aware of my ‘new mother’ status, and were comfortable with me working my allocated monthly hours around naptimes. I was fortunate that client comms requirements were low, no calls, and I could continue to optimise campaigns during times that suited me and new baby. It was a nice side-gig, but I hadn’t considered leaving the firm to pursue my own business. The freelancing was for fun.

Back to work, but not to what I knew.

Returning from maternity leave with a ‘request for part time’ in hand, I didn’t feel I could do my 10-strong PPC team justice on PT hours, and my deputy was filling my shoes already. So I took a more generic agency marketing role 3 days per week. While enjoyable, I knew the role didn’t utilise my years of PPC knowledge. And I went from a new role as a mother, to a new role in the workplace – causing chaos for my confidence levels. Thankfully, I still had my freelance clients to offer the financial and mental stability I needed – which was comforting as something that I knew and was good at! So I continued freelancing alongside my new PT role…and then I became pregnant with #2.

Building my business while dad brought up baby.

Having a small pot of money saved from freelancing a couple of hours a week over the past 2 years allowed my husband and I to discuss the option of sharing my parental leave allowance.

We crunched the numbers and 6 months into my leave with baby #2, we arranged the (more complicated than it needs to be!) shared parental leave that my husband could take 12w statutory pay as primary carer for our son.

This 3 month window gave me an opportunity to give ‘building my business’ a true shot, while being able to continue to breastfeed my boy, support my husband when needed, and optimise around naptimes (again!) while working from home.

There was never a point early on in my career that I’d envisioned being self employed – my sights were firmly on climbing the career ladder. But like many new parents, the want for flexibility takes priority and the timing felt right to go back to my PPC roots. I missed managing Ads accounts, and knew that starting a new agency/inhouse role would pull me into managing people, processes and day trips to pitches…rather than at home with my 2.5yo and 6mo. So the ‘leap to self employment’ was the clear new pathway.

Freelancing became the sweet escape

Looking back, adopting new clients while I was growing/breastfeeding baby #1 – then #2 – gave me a mental escape into something fun and familiar. I knew how to manage clients, optimise accounts. Whereas I was clueless at parenting at first (as we all are!), and nothing could’ve prepared me for motherhood – no matter how many books I read and courses I took.

Yes, it was challenging; being nap-trapped at times thinking “I really need to do that client report”. But in the evenings, even with newborn exhaustion, being able to go back to my familiar world of PPC and feel like I was doing a good job, worked wonders for my self-esteem as a parent. As if feeling proud of my freelance work made me a more confident, happier, more present parent – especially with baby #2.

So for now, I’m enjoying the juggle – I worked out my monthly freelance capacity early on, so I know my limits to avoid letting either my family or clients down. My PT hours are still spread across evenings and weekends too, but this is the lifestyle I’ve chosen and it’s worth it for the other freedoms I’m granted.

Enjoying me while I’m young

“Enjoy them while they’re young”…so they say. But I’m also trying to remember to enjoy myself while I’m young.

Go for a morning swim while the kids are at nursery – it isn’t all about business growth 24/7. Sign up to that course and invest in yourself – don’t burn out working all evenings/weekends in pure pursuit of Disneyland savings.

What the last 12 months have taught me is: it’s about being content with the juggle of freedom for family and financial/mental stability – and I’m pretty content with the balance so far. And bringing up my third baby, the business, is turning out to be just as wild and wonderful as raising my small humans.

Hannah Strong is an ID community member and freelance PPC Specialist having previously worked at agencies including Silverbean as Head of Marketing and Mediaworks as Head of PPC.

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