It’s time for a “blog anniversary” post! This year’s topic: how to take maternity leave when you’re a full-time blogger.
It has been FOUR years since I started My Heart Beets!
My Heart Beets is 4 years old! Technically, my blog anniversary was 2 months ago but I’ve been busy with my cookbook launch and so I finally got around to writing this post – better late than never, right? Here we go:
Once upon a time, four years ago (on July 24th, 2013), I started My Heart Beets, a gluten-free, real food blog. Every year around my “blogiversary,” I share a blog post about my blogging journey and typically in these posts I encourage you all to start your own blog. Well, after years of being a self-proclaimed “blog pusher,” I’ve come to realize that writing a blog isn’t for everyone. Shocking, I know. This coming from a girl who once said: “everyone should have a blog.” It’s a TON of work and not everyone has or wants to invest that kind of time into this kind of work. That said, I do hope that those of you who’ve been dreaming about get around to doing so (if this is you, read my How to Start a BLOG post).
How did I come to learn this lesson – that blogging isn’t for everyone?
I became a mom. And my time became far more valuable.
I’m going to share my previous anniversary posts here, just in case you are interested in starting a blog and want to read them:
1 Year Blog Anniversary (2014): How to Create a “Successful” Blog in One Year
2 Year Blog Anniversary (2015): How I Became a Full-time Blogger and Why You Should Start a Blog
3 Year Blog Anniversary (2016): Why Start a Blog in the Summer
In today’s anniversary blog post, I’ll talk about three things:
- What I’ve been up to behind the scenes on the blog
- Lessons I’ve learned after taking maternity leave from the blog
- How I’m currently balancing two full-time jobs: stay-at-home mom + food blogger
What I’ve Been Up to Behind the Scenes:
I’ve been working on three exciting projects this year:
- Food Pun Shirts! This is a passion project of mine and I have no idea if there’s actually any interest in this type of product. BUT, if you are a regular reader then you know I’m all about food puns and silly food-related things. So yes, I now have a food pun shirt line that I’ll hopefully be expanding soon. Stay tuned for an official announcement + more designs later this year. Punny food things are comin’ your way 😉
- New Logo! I am SO excited about my new logo you guys! I’ve had literally 4 different logos in the past 4 years, but this one is here to stay. My Heart Beets for this logo (heheh pun). I just bought my first set of business cards and business stickers (stickers!) with my new logo on them. Yep. It only took 4 years. Now I just need someone to ask me for my card…
- A Cookbook! I’ve been working on this book for a long time and I am so happy that it’s out in the world! It’s an Indian Cookbook for your Instant Pot (or any electric pressure cooker). The recipes are awesome, authentic and well-tested. If you like Indian food and have an Instant Pot, then get my book!
What I’ve Learned After Taking Maternity Leave as a Full-Time Blogger:
My maternity leave seems like it was so long ago – my baby is almost 1 you guys! I’m writing this post for other full-time bloggers who are expecting a baby or might be planning for pregnancy in the future. Hopefully, some of this helps you! Also, if you’re doing something to prepare that isn’t on this list leave a comment to help out other mamas.
How I “prepared” for maternity leave from my blog:
Schedule in advance:
I was definitely more prepared for my maternity leave than I was for life with a newborn. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to work during the first few months with a baby, so I scheduled three to four months’ worth of blog posts in advance, which meant testing recipes, taking photos and editing photos. I also prepared some social media content (not a ton, but some) and updated my google calendar with scheduled content.
When Tony first arrived, I didn’t want to work. Like at all. I am so thankful that I had prepared more than I thought necessary because it ended up being necessary. I didn’t do much during my 3-month (more like 6-month) maternity leave other than reply to comments and emails, put finishing touches on a few sponsored posts and recipe test whenever I felt the desire to do so (which was actually often because I love it and because it doesn’t feel like “work”).
My advice: try to schedule as many blog posts as possible. The more you do in advance, the more time you can take off from your blog.
I’ve put in a lot of work into my blog over the years and so now it can float along on auto-pilot even when I don’t update it frequently. I doubt I could earn long-term without new content – I do need to stay relevant – but I was able to step away from my blog for several months without seeing a hit in income. If your blog is also your full-time job, then I’m assuming you’ve already put in the work to be able to take leave as well and I definitely encourage you to do it. Taking care of a newborn is no piece of cake.
Set up email automation if you haven’t already:
I am horrible at sending out regular newsletters even though they are so important. I do have email automation set up so that when a new reader joins my newsletter list, they get a few introductory emails without me having to do anything. I plan on adding to the series one day… when I have more stuff to say. I would highly recommend drafting a few newsletters in advance – I really should have done that.
I used to do everything by myself and truthfully, I still do most things myself because I hate the idea of giving up control over my blog – it’s so personal for me. It’s kind of like letting someone take over my (public) diary or something. I’ve realized though that in order for me to keep up with work, I need to let go of some things and focus on what I really care about (recipe development, writing and photography). Figure out what matters to you and do that yourself. For everything else, hire someone to help.
Here are some ideas of things to outsource – and if you have suggestions on other things that can be outsourced, please let me know! These are just ideas – I don’t outsource all of these things.
- Advertisements (I used to handle my own ads but a couple of years ago I signed up with an ad company that handles that for me and it frees up so much of my time and brain space.)
- Web Development (long gone are the days I try to code things myself)
- Social Media and Email (I do this myself but know a lot of bloggers who have someone handle this for them)
- Guest Posts (I’ve stopped allowing them on my site but many others do!)
- Food Styling/Assistant: I take all of my own photographs, but these days I’ll occasionally hire someone to help me style so I can knock out 5-7 recipes in a day whereas before I would only do 1-2. And I always think about hiring someone to help with dishes but have yet to actually do this…
Enjoy your Maternity Leave and Don’t Feel Guilty about it:
I think as a self-employed person, there’s a tendency to feel guilty when we’re not working. Well, trust me, you will be working… on raising a newborn. That is the toughest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
How I’m Balancing 2 Full-Time Jobs: Stay-at-Home Mom + Food Blogger
I am still figuring things out. I work on the blog when Tony naps, goes to bed or is hanging out with his daddy. Having a baby has made me the most efficient I’ve ever been, and I love it.
Focus on Long-Term (less pressure) Projects:
I started a food t-shirt line because it is a mostly hands-off project. I don’t have to create designs myself so most of my effort is spent over email or on the phone. It’s a slow project that I can take my time with it.
I also wrote a cookbook this year and while most bloggers will tell you that it’s a stressful process, I found it easier than keeping to a strict blogging schedule. I don’t have the ability to post 2-3 times a week these days and so instead, I worked on my cookbook – at my own pace. It was a self-published book that came with its own set of challenges. I obviously didn’t have the help that a publisher provides, but I also didn’t have to abide by their deadlines. Unlike other bloggers who start sharing their cookbook news well in advance – I kept the news quiet because I didn’t want the added pressure of having to finish it by a certain time. Probably not a great marketing strategy but I do believe it was a smart strategy for me. I decided to put myself first and the success of my book second. And, thanks to my readers – it was a best-seller!
Just say no:
I say no to requests all the time now. Not always because I want to say no, but because other things matter more to me (watching Tony discover how to do new things, playing outside with him, going for walks with him, hanging out with other moms and babes, watching Netflix with Roby). Every day, my baby does something new. Every day, he’s becoming who he is. I don’t want to miss a single thing if I don’t have to. I am fortunate to love what I do, but the truth is I love my “free time” more.
Alright y’all, that’s it! If you have any tips on planning for maternity leave, share them in the comments! And if you have any tips on how to find balance as a self-employed stay-at-home mom, please share because I could definitely use the advice.