This episode covers an important topic that doesn’t come up often in entrepreneurial circles: taking parental leave while self-employed.
I sat down with Leanne Ray, freelance dietitian and new mom, to talk about how to make space for parental leave in your business so you can take time off without everything falling apart.
We share tips about how to start planning for your leave, creative ways to self-fund your leave, and how to keep your business alive without you for a few months.
Plus, we discuss our own unique experiences navigating this process and offer insight to other entrepreneurs on what to expect and how to prepare for leave.
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More About Leanne Ray
Leanne Ray is a food blogger, recipe developer and freelance food photographer based in Denver, Colorado. Connect with her on her website where she creates approachable, plant-forward recipes that taste just as good as they look.
Connect with Leanne
- Website: healthyishappetite.com
- Pinterest: @healthyishappetite
- Instagram: @healthyish_appetite
- Twitter: @LeanneJRay
- LinkedIn: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
- Facebook: Healthyish Appetite
Freelance Food photography
Learn about the services Leanne offers including freelance photography for food bloggers
- The Unconventional RD Community group on Facebook
- Virtual Assistants for Dietitians group on Facebook
Erica Julson: This week, we're talking about something that doesn't get discussed too often in entrepreneurial circles. And that is taking parental leave while self-employed. I know this won't apply to all of my listeners at the moment, but if you are even thinking about having children in the future, This will be a good episode to listen, to, to get some insights on how to prepare.
Because having a baby while self-employed can be quite different from the experience while working for someone else. In most cases, if you're employed, you can receive at least some paid time off to bond with your baby. But if you're self-employed, how do you successfully take time off without everything falling apart?
Today, I'm chatting with Leanne Ray. A dietitian food blogger and freelance recipe developer/photographer about exactly this. Leanne. And I both had babies in the last few years and it had to come up with creative ways to make space for maternity leave in our businesses. Leanne has some great perspective on how to take time away as a freelancer while I share my experience with building space in my online course based business, before the baby came.
We talk about how to start planning for your leave creative ways to self fund parental leave and how to keep your business alive without you for a few months. And while neither of us are official experts on this topic. Our goal was just to have a realistic conversation around this topic and to help spark some ideas for other entrepreneurs who may find themselves in the same boat. If you enjoy this discussion, I'd also invite you to come join my free Facebook group, the unconventional RD community on Facebook.
Where we chat all things online business. There are over 13,000 wellness professionals in the group now, and it's a wonderful place to bounce ideas off of others, share your wins and help answer people's questions. It's a hundred percent free. So come join us, just search for the unconventional RD community on Facebook and request to join.
Erica Julson: Hi, Leanne and welcome to the podcast. I am finally back in the swing of interviewing, recording new guest episodes after having my baby like a year ago now, almost a year. And seriously, a lot of the people I’m interviewing, including you, have been on my quote, unquote must interview list for a really long time.
for, so everyone knows you originally reached out when you had your first baby, maybe like five months after you had your first baby being like, Hey, maybe we should talk about, you know, how to take parental leave as an entrepreneur. And I was like, yeah, that's a great idea. And now flash forward, like, you know, a year and a half later, we're finally doing it.
Yeah. so, but maybe that's good because now, you know, before you were still kind of fresh out of taking parental leave and now you have a little bit of perspective on it, so we can maybe see, you know, in retrospect, is there anything you might have done differently or tips that you have for other people?
So, I'm excited. I think it's gonna be a really great conversation for so many people. So yeah. Thank you for being here.
Leanne Ray: Yeah. I'm excited to be here and I feel like I have a lot of information to share. I it's like one of the topics that I really enjoy. Talking about with other entrepreneurs.
Erica Julson: Great. Well, let's start out by learning a little bit more about you. let's let the listeners in on the type of work you do as a dietitian.
Leanne Ray: Yeah. So I was thinking about like, it's always hard to know, like your little pitch that you give when somebody asks like, oh, what do you do? Because you know how unconventional RDs it's like, well, that's kind of a loaded question. I have done like a million things to make money since going off on my own. About four years ago, it's been about like four years to the week, actually that I branched off on my own. And I've done everything from virtual private practice to, contract work for other RDs.
I worked as a kitchen assistant for a professional food photographer, which I loved. And then when I had my baby, I actually shifted my work. And now I focus primarily on food photography, so freelance food, photography, recipe development, and then I manage my own blog and brand Healthyish appetite. In addition to that,
Erica Julson: Love it. And I haven't interviewed a ton of food bloggers on the podcast. So I know this isn't quite the topic of the episode, but just real quick. how did you get into that? And like for the people who might think that sounds awesome. How the heck do you find clients for recipe development and photography?
Leanne Ray: Yeah. So it's mostly just kind of like making connections and through word of mouth. I actually, the main client that I'm working with right now, I actually found in your Facebook group. So somebody posted and said, you know, we're gonna be hiring some recipe developers and food photographers, like email, if you're interested kind of thing.
And I had reached out to them right after I had my baby. And they were like, you know, we love what you do, but we, have enough people right now. So we will like, keep your name on our list and sure enough, they reached back out like six months later and we're like, Hey, are you still wanting to work with us?
And so I've been working with them for gosh, maybe over a year now, I think. And it's been really awesome.
Erica Julson: Yeah, that's great. I have a similar story with freelancing, you know, you apply and you don't get it. And then literally, same thing, six months later, they reach back out and sometimes you're like, okay. Yeah. Like they're never gonna reach back out, but sometimes they do. Yeah.
Leanne Ray: Yeah. I had an, I have another client who's kind of like on and off, she's a bigger food blogger and it was the most random connection. Like on Instagram we connected like on Instagram through some other stuff. And then she was like, oh, Hey, you're a dietitian too. Your pictures are really pretty like you do freelance. And I was like, yes, I do.
Erica Julson: Yeah, no, your pictures are really, really good.
Leanne Ray: Thank you.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Thanks. I appreciate that for anyone listening and , I dunno if you're taking more work, but yeah.
Leanne Ray: Yeah. I'm always, I'm always willing to talk to people about it. Yeah.
Erica Julson: Great, so let's, let's think about the timeline on all this. So you were doing a whole bunch of projects running your blog. Maybe not doing as much freelancing before you had the baby, but talk us through like where you were pre-baby when you started thinking like, oh shoot, like I don't have a traditional, you know, nine to five where I would take maybe the regular traditional maternity leave. So like what, when did you start thinking about, oh man, I need to have a plan here.
Leanne Ray: Yeah. I, so before I went off my own, I had kind of like a cushy government job and I knew that that was one of the drawbacks to leaving because obviously they have. Good benefits for that stuff in place. But also I knew that I wanted the flexibility to kind of create my own situation after having kids.
Like I wanted to be able to potentially stay home and, you know, still do kind of like a hybrid of like working, stay at home mom. Like I always just was really inspired by people who could do that. So I mostly just planned, planned, planned, you know, like crazy, how are we gonna do this? And I'm the kind of person who's like, worried about the worst situation possible happening.
And I like over prepare for things so I feel like my husband would be like, okay, I think we're gonna be fine. And I was like, no, we have to save more. We have to save more. So, yeah, I think it just came down to like looking at the actual numbers and then thinking. Ideally, I wanna make sure I can take at least three months with doing no work.
What does that look like? How much of my, like, how can we save three months of whatever I bring in so that I can do absolutely zero work during that time and not feel like pressure about it. So that's kinda how we one about it
Erica Julson: to be more, specific even. Does that mean you like went into your bank statements and kind of like made, I mean, maybe you already had a budget, but may, were you like really looking at like, what am I bringing in and where where's my money going?
And like, how did you figure out how you could save? Cuz it might be hard. I could imagine it might be hard if people are kind of still living paycheck to paycheck, to save for sure. Three months. Yeah,
Leanne Ray: for sure. Yeah. And that was something that we did together and I was working a lot before I had, my baby, like I was just doing random jobs here and there and like picking stuff up.
I was also teaching at a barre studio, so I was kind of just scrappy about it and the way that I've always done it is like, no matter how much I make every month, I transfer like a certain amount of money from my business account over. And so I knew that I could just start shoveling a little bit more money at a time. And then my husband could help too. And we could like work together on that goal.
Erica Julson: Okay. So just to clarify and make sure I understand. So you're like earning money, it's going into your business bank account, and then you would sort of like pay yourself from there a set amount. So you kind of knew already, like how much you should be giving yourself and then you worked extra to stockpile in the business bank account essentially, so that you could then later still take those regular, almost like paychecks, but, yeah.
And side note for people listening, cuz there's different ways people have their businesses structured. Yeah. So for you, it sounds like, are you like an LLC or still so proprietor. Yeah. So either way it would be similar, I believe in terms of like paying yourself, you just kinda like transfer the money over to yourself.
But you can also, I think once you reach a certain level of income, I don't know what, I think it probably varies from state to state. I wanna say in California. My accountant said like, once you get past like 160,000 a year or something in, in profit, like it's probably worth it to switch over to be taxed as an S Corp.
And then you actually hire yourself as an employee with like payroll software and then you get like a W2 from yourself essentially. And you're on an automated, you know, salary that gets paid out to your bank account automatically. So I recently went through that transition. So maybe we can compare cuz I've been literally looking, I never took, formal maternity leave, but I believe since I'm an actual employee of my own company, I could, it, yeah, it seems like it.
Yeah. But then there's like these weird gray areas where you have to have been an employee for like a certain period of time where you're eligible but then you can and pay in. Yeah. Yeah. But then you can take the leave I believe up to a year after the baby's born. So I like literally, which is, you know, like a month and a half away from me right now. So I'm like, oh, maybe I should look into this so I could get the last like month.
Leanne Ray: I know that's wish that I would've done more is kind of look into state benefits. Yeah. because I know Colorado specifically is going to be offering some kind of like paid paternal leave, parental leave. I should say, I wanna say starting in 2024 and that I think it does apply to self-employed people.
So these are things that I kind of felt like imposter-y about at the time. Like I was like, oh, I'm not like a business. Like, I'm not like. Corporation or something. And then like COVID happened. You know, during my last trimester and everybody was. Looking into like the PPP and all that kind of stuff. And I was just kinda like, no, no, no, no, I, I'm not, that's not for me, you know, like I already planned my maternity leave, so I don't need it. Right. And now looking back, I was like, I should have applied for that stuff. Like I was entitled to it too.
Erica Julson: Right. I feel the same way. And it, and to be honest, it's overwhelming a little bit. Yeah. Like you're all like you, I didn't think about it. I knew I wasn't eligible cuz I hired myself like just a few months before I had my baby.
So I definitely wasn't eligible at that point. I think it has to be at least, I don't know the timeline at least three months where you're like paying into it before you're eligible, I believe for California. So I just put it on the back burner and then, you know, I don't know about you, but we had a rough go of the newborn face.
And so yes, I was like, I know I should think about it, but like I also would just wanna sleep. So yeah,
Leanne Ray: I totally, I couldn't agree with you more. It's like. You never know what it's gonna be like. But I always tell friends and stuff like that, plan for a long, like hard recovery. Like not only just learning stuff, but also for your body, like physical recovery, like nobody talks about that stuff.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I, to be honest, I was so naive, I was like, okay. Yeah. Like, you know, maybe I'll take a month off. So in my, schedule for my office hours calls for my course, I only put one month where I was like, okay, like I'm, I'm due like two weeks before this call. So like, I probably shouldn't do this one.
And so , I put a spacer like, okay, pause for this month, I'll be back next month. And then here I am, you know, like a month and a half after having the baby, I'm doing my office hours calls again. And like, yeah. That I would plan that differently.
Leanne Ray: I can so relate to that. I just had no idea. I actually have a story of like, I was gonna do a paid webinar for a workplace and I had to email them from the hospital and be like, I'm in labor so I'm not, I'm not gonna able to do it.
It was supposed to be like the next day. And I was the hospital. Cause I ended up going to labor two and a half weeks early, which is another thing that I tell people is like wrap things up earlier than like your due date, because a lot of people don't make it there and you don't wanna have to like stress about a big project or something when you're like two days home from the hospital, you know, like wrap everything up. Yeah.
Erica Julson: Yeah. That's a good point. Thankfully I did that. Not even intentionally, but I just happened to finish my launch plan like a month before that's good. Cause yeah, same. I, I ended up getting high blood pressure towards the end and so I went into a regular like checkup and they were like, surprise.
You're having the baby today. yeah. So yeah, it happens crazy how that stuff happens. Yeah. I would say personally. And I did have health complications and my son had some health complications as well. it took me like six months to really feel like I could get back into work in a way that felt good instead of super stressful. But that was just me. We also moved when he was like four months old.
Leanne Ray: Oh, that is a, yeah. That adds a huge, so extra component.
Erica Julson: Yeah. That's it was a lot. So did you have any resources that you found helpful in terms of planning for parental leave?
Leanne Ray: You know, mostly I just scoured the Facebook groups and like all of the same podcasts that I listened to, like the business podcast and stuff like that.
And just read and then asked friends, like, tell me what the postpartum experience is. Would you be able to like work? But then it's hard because if your friends aren't used to like the type of non-traditional work that a lot of us do, you know, it's hard to compare, what it would be like.
Because for me, the contract work that I was doing and that I picked back up after, like, was so flexible and I could do it in little chunks. I didn't need like hours and hours of time. So that was doable. But then some other types of work, like photography are not as doable when you have a four week old baby, because they're unpredictable and you know, you get everything set up, you get the food cooked and you get it all styled and , it's like, then, you know, everything goes haywire on you. So it's like some types of work are more maybe possible than others. I would say
Erica Julson: that's a really, really good point. So did you sort of, foresee that and plan accordingly? Or how did you manage the type of work you'd be doing after the baby arrived?
Leanne Ray: Well, so I wrapped up all of my nutrition clients, which I didn't have many.
I probably had three or four and I wrapped up all of them naturally, like. Maybe the month before or something. And just said, you know, I don't know, what's gonna look like after baby, but, I'm gonna take some time off of coaching. And I'm so glad that I did that because I realized really fast that I could not be on a schedule.
I would try to plan even like a meeting, like say something like a zoom call or something like that. During a, you know, supposed to be nap time. And then of course he wouldn't nap that day and I re I remember one time when I was on a zoom with somebody and I was doing a screen share and trying to like walk them through something and he wouldn't nap.
So I was wearing him and he was like, arching his back to like, look at the camera and like crying the whole time. I was like, I'm so sorry. And that was one of the times when I was like, I can't, I just can't schedule stuff. It's not fair. And it's, it's one of those things where like, I would get upset with him and it's like, he's a baby.
I can't get upset on a baby because they're not napping when you want them to, like, you have to be able to. Be flexible with that stuff. So that's when I kind of stopped scheduling things. And then, the other work became a lot more doable cause I could do it when my husband was home.
Erica Julson: So what type of, flexible work were you doing like specifically?
Leanne Ray: Yeah, so I, was working for Jeanie Petro living plate. I know a lot of your listeners probably will know her. And I worked for her for probably one to two years. She was like the first, freelance client that I had. And I was, I would say kind of like virtual assistant, but a little bit higher level type work, content creation, helping people with the meal planning tool and doing like screen shares and kind of walking them through different features and stuff like that.
I was helping her out with her Facebook live, like cooking new events and, and just assisting in any way that I could. And she was amazing. She was one of my freelance clients that I, I took off probably like eight. To 10 weeks after I had my baby. And then she just kind of let me pick back up when I could. So that was really great.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I was just having this conversation in my Facebook group too, about from the other side of it as a business owner. if you get to the point where you're like able to hire out and hire employees, or even just contractors, I think that's such an empowering part on the flip side, when you are the boss of someone like to, be able to give the leave and the flexibility that.
I assume you would want as well in your own workplace. So, it's really gratifying, I think on both sides, if you can find a good relationship with like a, a smaller business, especially if it's female friend, for sure. Yeah.
Leanne Ray: Yeah. I, I really appreciated the relationship that we had and I feel like we got to a point where I was, you know, I was valuable to her. She could trust me. And so it wasn't like, oh, I'll just find somebody else. So that's one of the tips that I have, I guess if you're gonna be taking some time off from freelance work is communicate like crazy, obviously, but just do phenomenal work all the time, you know, make yourself indispensable and just stay in touch and let them know if you wanna come back after, let them know and just, show that you're motivated and that you're gonna keep working hard for them when you can come.
Erica Julson: For sure. it does take a lot. I'm going through this for the first time. with an employee, it takes a long time, especially if you're only hiring them. Part-time to just like teach every, like all this pass on all the systems you want them to use and maybe create systems if you've never done that before.
And then the thought of having to do that all over again, you're like, okay, like, it's fine. I'll just wait for that. I could totally see it. Yeah. yeah, it's a lot of work. So. There's obviously like different types of entrepreneurs there's from what it sounds like you were working on, you kind of had like your own business with the blog, and then you had the freelance work and then there's obviously people listening to this podcast who do do a lot of like one-on-one work, like private practice and stuff.
So maybe we can talk through, your perception of some tips for those different types of work and how to balance that postpartum. So let's start with your own business. and that would be for you, your own business was kind of more, definitely very flexible with the blogging so how did you prioritize that?
Was that, did that get pushed down on the back burner a little bit? If it wasn't like one of your main income streams or were you grateful that it was so flexible? Cause you could fit it in wherever or how, how did that.
Leanne Ray: Yeah. So my blog isn't, I'm not like making money from it aside from like a small amount of affiliate income every month.
So it's primarily like my marketing tool right now. Hopefully in the future, I will be able to get like connected with an ad network and that'll be like a great source of income, down the road, especially like if, if we have more kids and stuff like that, I would love for that to be, my main source of income.
But what I did was I kind of planned ahead with content for my blog, because I knew that that would be. The last thing that I would work on since it wasn't bringing in money, that's like always the trick with food blogging. Right. It's like, you have to bring in money. So you're working with these freelance clients, but then that takes away from your long term goal of like monetizing your blog.
So I tried to plan ahead with content, as much as possible and did like a few post in advance. And then, I would refresh old blog posts cuz that was something that wouldn't take as long. And like I already had the recipes, I just needed to like redo photos and stuff like that. And mostly I just wanted to like show up on Instagram and so like that to let my audience know that I'm still here and not just leave them hanging for like a year and be like, is this person even still blog anymore?
So I didn't feel pressured to like do my, a new recipe every single week and like keep it super updated. But that was kind of how I handled that part.
Erica Julson: Great tip about refreshing content too. Yeah. Yeah. That's a great, I mean. It could take like maybe half as long to just kind of go in and it depends on how bad the first post was, I guess, but yeah.
Leanne Ray: Right. I have both, I have both types of posts where it's like, this is longer than a starting one from scratch,
Erica Julson: right? Yeah. So, it depends. So for people listening, if they're not familiar with what it looks like to refresh content, , I can kind of talk through what I do for that, but typically I'll go in.
I'll just, I'm just thinking about my old food blog, which I have not really done much of this. I totally should because I mean, probably you're in a similar situation I had like. Over a hundred blog posts of recipes that I had created before I knew about SEO. So they're targeting like zero keywords.
some of them ranked by accident, cuz I happened to accidentally pick a keyword in the title that worked out, but there's so many, there's probably like at least 80 recipes in there that get almost no traffic and that I could tweak. So what I would do is, you know, look back at my stats, try to find the lowest hanging fruit stuff.
Maybe. Is on page two or three accidentally for a keyword, that maybe I didn't put it in the title, but it's like somewhere in the copy. So it's ranking, like, you know, I was so, I mean, I was so bad about SEO to the point where like, I didn't even understand headings and I was just using headings to like, make the font bigger.
Oh yeah. I did that at some point. Yeah. So like I have random whole sentences that are headings that have nothing to do with like the layout of the post. Like headings are supposed to break up your content into like organizable sections, like a table of contents. And here I am, like, this was amazing. Like heading page two,
Leanne Ray: you really wanted them to get that you wanted to get that across, but it was very good.
Erica Julson: You know, there's probably people listening who are currently doing that still. So things like that, where like going on, cleaning it up. Also this food blog was from so long ago, like what, probably 2000, some of the poster are probably from like 2015.
At this point. So it was still in that phase where bloggers were still, or at least I was still sort of figuring out that a blog is not your journal and it's actually supposed to be helpful for the people reading . So, that's another area where a lot of people can go back in and be like, oh, you know, I don't maybe need to tell the whole story of how I picked out these gorgeous tomatoes on Saturday from the farmer's market.
I can just, you know, dive right into the recipe and like how to make it and tips for making it. And, you know, I could maybe talk about how to select the best items to include in the recipe, but only if it actually relates and it's helpful to the reader. So stuff like that, in my course, I kind of give people, like an outline of a helpful flow for a food blog post, or you.
Also have tips for writing articles as well, but just things like that, where you're going back and you're like, oh man, what was I thinking? Like, , how can I make this help for the reader? How can I optimize it for SEO? How can I include internal links to other content so that people can, you know, not just one and done, like check out the post and leave, make it exciting.
Like they wanna dive in deeper into your site and see more content, which helps if you have ads helps you earn more ad revenue, get people on your email list, et cetera, et cetera, redo those photos that you took on your iPhone in the dark with like an overhead shining light. Yeah.
Leanne Ray: the extreme close up photos. Like everybody used to do that with their phone. Like just take a super close up.
Erica Julson: Yeah. That's just tip of the iceberg, but that's what we're talking about when we're saying go back in and refresh. cuz there's really no point. If you have all this older content, that's not getting views. It's not really doing anything for you.
So you might as well go back in and try to optimize it, rather than just like burying it with new content.
Leanne Ray: Yeah. And I think it's good to remember that, like your readers haven't been following you since the beginning. Like not all, some of them maybe have like your mom and some other people, but, people haven't seen like a lot of your earlier recipes.
So being able to go in and reshare those, it is like a brand new recipe for a lot of people. And I reshare content all the time, even if I don't necessarily refresh the blog post, like I'll send out an email every week to my list and I'll just pull a recipe out that I did last year and be like, make this this week.
And people are like, oh my God, this looks so good. I'm like, it's not new, but you know, they forget
Erica Julson: exactly. So there's so many things that you can be doing. Yeah. Nobody opens every email. So even your most loyal followers
Leanne Ray: yep. There's so many things you can be working on with a blog. it could be endless. You could work on a blog like 24 hours a day. I know. And, and still not be satisfied.
Erica Julson: Yeah. But that's good tips for, both working ahead and saving yourself some time in order to, you know, increase your production in anticipation of this time off. So that was the blog. So then the freelance work, did you, is it possible to work ahead for freelance work or were you just like, I'm taking a pause? How did that go?
Leanne Ray: Yeah, so I love that question because it totally is possible to work ahead. I'll say that most clients won't pay you ahead of time, just because they're used to that schedule of like paying you like most likely on a monthly basis. But I've had several instances where I've reached out and been like, Hey, I'm gonna be like, traveling next month.
Is there any way I can get the assignment or the recipes or whatever it is ahead of time. and I'll still submit it on a normal schedule. Like I won't submit it early and we can just, you know, keep it going like that. And people are willing to do that most of the time, as long as they, you know, have what they need to give you.
So, yeah, I think before maternity leave, that's a great option, cuz then you can have some money coming in at least like that first month that you're not working. And I did do that, with one of my clients that I was writing blog posts and creating recipes for.
Erica Julson: And how did you let them know that you were going to be going on leave?
Leanne Ray: I was very open from the beginning. Like, as soon as I started telling people, I told them and just, I wanted to stay in really close communication throughout the entire, nine months basically just to let them know, like, this is my plan. like I said, if you wanna return working with them after I think it's good that you let them know that because you can't assume that they're just gonna be like hanging out, waiting for you.
And if they don't hear from you for months after, they're just gonna be like, well, I need help. So. Yeah, I just stayed in really close contact with them. And then after I had the baby same thing, like I reached out and said, like, this is where I'm at. Like, I'll be in touch. Let you know, as things are progressing. Yeah. And just went from there.
Erica Julson: That's a good tip too, because sometimes even just the, the pregnancy portion can be somewhat unpredictable. You never know. You could end up, you know, in the hospital at six months or something. And like, if you hadn't even told anyone, not that you need to tell them, but if you hadn't told them that could come out of left field, it depends in your relationship, you know, with, with your employer.
I'm sure. But, I would imagine just being open and yeah, just communicating, I feel like communication is always the root of, of
Leanne Ray: is the answered everything. Yeah. yeah. I think the worst thing you could do is just like. Not let them know that you had the baby and just kind of like stop talking to them.
Yeah. And then expect them to pick you back up like four months later when you're like, oh, Hey, I had my baby and now I'm looking to like, people are probably gonna have moved on by that point. And you can see that perspective from a small business owner. Like if you were in that boat and you had somebody contracting for you, it's like, oh, I need, I need the help. So,
Erica Julson: yeah. So from your perspective, how did that go? Like what did, what did people do while you were gone? Did, I mean, obviously we talked about working ahead, but did they hire temp person? Did you offer someone to come in and, and help out to cover you? Or how does that work?
Leanne Ray: I didn't offer anyone. I will say one of my, I had two like main contracts, RD contracts at that time that I was just doing like, kinda like odds and ends for, and I'll say one of 'em I went back to and one of 'em I didn't, But, yeah, I just kind of was honest and said, this is where I'm at.
And, I'm hoping to come. I think I went back to Jeanie like eight, eight weeks, eight to 10 weeks after or something like that. And the other dietitian had just said, like, I, I think I'm gonna hold off for now. That was a smaller contract, but yeah. Yeah. Which is fine.
Erica Julson: And hypothetically, do you think it would've made sense?
Like, could you have found someone to be like, Hey, I'm gonna be gone for three months, but like I have this like sub person, like, could you like subcontract, someone, I guess, beneath you to sort of like do the work for you, but they're still paying you. You know what I mean?
Leanne Ray: I have seen people, ask for it, like in Facebook groups and stuff like that.
I wanna say that I've seen people reach out and say, I need someone to cover my maternity leave. I don't know how that works. From the payment perspective. Like, I don't know if the client would just pay that person and there's like an understanding that you're gonna come back at the end or if you pay them and then I don't, I don't really know. That's a really question probably.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I bet you could do it either way. I would probably do it where it was still going through me so that yeah, they couldn't, they couldn't like, you know, accidentally take the whole business right, right. But I'm sure it depends on just like the contract you set up as well with that person.
Yeah, but I feel like if you were gonna do that, I'm just thinking how that would go. You would probably need to start thinking about that pretty early on, because I imagine as a freelancer, you're sort of like, my business is me so yeah, you would need to find the right match of someone who could replicate what you do, whatever that may be.
and I'm even imagining here, this is a good segue into that third. Type of work that people do, like one on one work. Like what do people do, obviously you decided to kind of like shut it all down, both because you had a lot going on. And also you're thinking like, okay, scheduled things like that's a no go
But what if someone's whole business is like one on one work, you know, like a private practice. Maybe we can just brainstorm since neither of us have that type of job, but, what have you seen people do in that scenario?
Leanne Ray: I think that would be the perfect opportunity to contract someone and especially, I don't know.
I'm I have in mind, like potentially like a newer dietitian who wants to like, get familiar with private practice or something like that, that you could almost like mentor. I think that would be a really great opportunity for them. And it would be kind of like a win-win.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I should probably have someone on talk about I've I've seen, like, I know people who have, who run private practices who have taken maternity leave, like.
We're friends online. So that would be a good conversation to have too, cuz I do think it's different if you're running like a team, like maybe you have a group practice. Like I imagine the way that you set it up might be different than somebody who's freelance, you know, recipe development, like just the schedule and what you're doing is like completely different.
Leanne Ray: I guess the other option would be, some sort of course or something like that that you could automate and you could still touch the clients that you're working with. But I mean, obviously that's not as easy as it sounds and takes like a lot of upfront work and planning, so
Erica Julson: yeah. Yeah. That's sort of like my wheelhouse that's that was my strategy. Going into my leave obviously most at that, by the time I got pregnant, all of my income was coming from not one-on-one work. So pretty much mostly my courses, but I decided, okay, I'm gonna go all in on the SEO course and like. You know, basically redo the whole thing to be like my signature course, it's super high quality.
I redid like all the handouts, I redid my webinar. I made it like, this is my framework, blah, blah, blah. You know, like more like legit in my mind. and like official. So I spent a ton of time doing that before, the baby came and then that was my plan was just like, okay, I'm gonna launch this new version of it.
And it had been closed for at least six months, I think at that point for enrollment. So there was like a lot of excitement when it did open back up again. And then I was able to make enough money to cover six months of my expenses before the baby.
Leanne Ray: That is so exciting. Yeah. It's like amazing that you can do that. It's just like, yeah. Crazy how many people you can reach with the internet. It's awesome.
Erica Julson: Yeah. So that's another option for people listening. So I guess the point and what we're kind of getting at here is there is no one right way to do it. It's whatever makes sense for how you make money, and the types of clients or customers that you have. Do you feel like the time you took off was enough? Would you do anything differently? Looking back?
Leanne Ray: Yeah. I might have gone back like a smidge too early, just because like we were talking about earlier, when you are a freelancer, you kind of feel the pressure like that they're gonna kind of move on or find something new.
But there's just so much to learn in those early days. And the one thing I always tell people is , you don't wanna resent your baby for not following your schedule. that's not a good place to be for anyone. So kind of like. Managing expectations is such a big part of those early postpartum days.
Really. And I think trying to go back to, to work is hard because it fills your cut most of the time, like a lot of us, we enjoy it and it's something creative that we can do just for us. So we like want to do it. But just balancing that with making sure that you are giving yourself grace and you're giving yourself time to heal and you're being flexible with your baby schedule.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I feel that I'm sort of in, I mean, my baby's not even one yet almost one, but, at that push and pull, I'm starting to feel more of a pull like, oh, I wanna go back to work a little more cuz I do. I love it. I mean, yeah. But then I like look and I'm like, oh my gosh, like he was this little. What feels like yesterday, and now he's about to start walking and like babbling all over the place.
And, and then I'm like, I don't wanna miss it. It's going by so fast. So, I also like to remind myself that this is like a phase and a stage of life and it does go by really fast. And like soon-ish in the future. He's gonna be in school for a certain number of hours every day. And then, you know, my whole strategy for how I fit my work into my life is gonna be different.
So for now it's a lot of, nap, time working and post bedtime working yes. And then that totally relate. Thankfully, part of why we moved was to be closer to my family. and my parents. Up here in the bay area. So thankfully we have two days a week. They come by, for the day and hang out with Logan. I'm still breastfeeding. And, so it's still work involved, but
Leanne Ray: totally. Yeah, but that is nice to have some extra yeah. Hands and some extra love. Yeah.
Erica Julson: That's how I'm able to do this podcast recording right now. My mom is hanging out with Logan, so
Leanne Ray: that's so nice. Yeah. Win-win grandma gets some time. Yeah. And you get some time.
Erica Julson: Yeah. So that's another option. Obviously. Not everyone has that as a available to them, but, I also play around with like, hiring help. So this phase of life has also pushed me to start thinking about outsourcing more. I don't know if you relate to this, but prior to having a baby, I literally did everything.
And I kind of, you know, people are always like, you can't do it all. Like you need to outsource, but like, I kind of could do it all. You have a kid, I didn't have a kids you're you don't know me. Yeah. Like, yeah. Like, you know, it was like manageable. I mean, I worked a lot, but I liked it. So it was kind of like, I mean, I, I, I don't feel the need, like there's no pressing need for me to like, outsource really.
and then once the baby came out, I was like, oh, crap. Like, okay. See it now. Like there's no, there's no way for me to do it all. So, that was helpful. That's basically why I started, I hired my first employee a few months ago and we're ramp. Figuring out our systems. She helps me a lot with my course stuff, podcast, editing, writing, creating social media, posts around the podcast episodes.
So we're, you know, we're working on it, or I'm working on it, I should say in terms of figuring out what I need to do specifically, like what I have to do that only I can do and what I can kind of let go a little bit. So that might resonate with some people as well, who are entering this new phase.
have you done any outsourcing or were you more like, you know, it sounded like your work is very flexible, so maybe you didn't feel that, that same pressure.
Leanne Ray: Yeah, I kind of was in the same boat as you were before. I was like, I got this, like you, I don't know. I hate being the person that's like, oh, before kids, you can like, do whatever you like.
I don't wanna be the person that says that, but like you just, your time is so much your time management is so much different afterwards. So I kind of did it all before I have, I won't say hired, I've paid, a family member. My sister-in-law to be kind of like my kitchen assistant at times when I'm doing like photo shoot.
And I have multiple recipes that I wanna do in one day. Because if you think about it, it's so much more efficient to like knock out three recipes while you have like all of your gear set up and your tripod out and like all of your plates and just everything is. Than it is to do it on three separate days and to have to like wash the dishes and do all of that yourself.
The problem is, is when you're a food photographer and you're making the food and you're doing the dishes, like one recipe takes a good chunk of time. So I, paid her to basically like help me with prep and garnishes and do dishes in between while I was like only focusing on the photos. And it was such a good use of money because, you know, I can pay her like a decent, hourly wage and still do pretty well for like a few hours of work.
And it just was like a win-win for both of us. So, I've only had to, I've only done that one time so far when I had like a, a busy month of work. And now I, I don't have like, quite as much work every month, but I would definitely do that again. If I, if I picked back up.
Erica Julson: So it sounds like having a baby sort of pushed you maybe to be more, cognizant of your time management oh yeah.
And ways that you could optimize that. Yeah. And that brings up a good point too, because I was sort of in that weird dichotomy where I was like, okay, I clearly cannot do it all and do it all is including not only my job, but you know, raising a child and like having a house that's not falling apart.
Exactly. Yeah. So then I'm like, okay, well then that gives me like a few options here. In terms of outsourcing, I could outsource my business. I could outsource some cleaning or I could outsource some childcare and I've done a little bit of all of them obviously. But one of the things that was very attractive about outsourcing in my business was that it's also, you know, a business expense.
So it cuts down on your taxes. So I'm like, okay, if I'm choosing between, you know, hiring a babysitter and then I'm away in the back room, you know, all day working, but someone else is taking care of Logan. It's like. I could do that. Or I could hire somebody for an hourly rate to do that work for me, I'm with my kid.
And then also I pay less taxes based on that versus paying the, basically it's paying from your business income pre-tax versus the money I would be paying the childcare would be after taxes, you know? So that was another way I thought about it.
Leanne Ray: Yeah. Well, and the other tip that I have, because I think it's good to hear it, even if you've heard it a million times before, like raise your rates, like raise your rates. And the other thing that I did post baby was I raised my contract minimum because it's so much more efficient basically to have fewer clients that are paying you more than to have a million clients every month that are paying you, just like a small amount.
Because that's so many people that you have to communicate with and like stay in touch with and invoice and all of that admin work . So I think it makes a lot of sense to be more selective with your contracts after too.
Erica Julson: Yes. And that applies for anyone listening, even if you're not doing work with people and you're selling something, you can also increase the prices of whatever you're selling too.
I should mention that. That's part of what I did when I relaunched my course. I put a lot of extra value into the course, so I felt very confident. I think at the time before I, raised the price, it was, I think a 590, I think, was the price I was selling the course for. And that was including, you know, ongoing updates to the content and monthly or.
I was running it in a different way, but there were throughout the year, office hour calls for people to get help. so it wasn't like a one and done, it was like ongoing, there's a Facebook group. People asked me questions every single day. So it was like a lot of work. And so I was pretty comfortable.
raising it. I almost doubled it to 9 97, and sold more than ever. So, that was part of getting enough capital up front to fund my maternity leave. But I will say if anyone has watched my webinar and everything, you might notice that yes, you can pay up front in 9 97, but I also offer a six month payment plan.
And I decided not to mark that up. So it's pretty much almost the same price. It's like $5 more cuz of, you know, rounding for the a dollar a month or whatever but over the six months you eventually pay about a thousand dollars. And a lot of people, I would say like probably 90% of the people, who signed up chose that.
So what that looked like on my end was monthly recurring income, right. For six months. Yeah. And a lot, some people worry like, oh, but people will default or whatever, but my default rate is extremely low, so that's very negligible, and not really something to worry about. So yeah.
Leanne Ray: That's nice to see the money coming in over the course of several.
Erica Julson: Yeah. And then you can't rest on your laurels though, because then in six months that's going away. You have to continue selling . but at least you have you a guaranteed nest egg, for your leave. So even if you, so what I did was, and if you list people I've listened to my older episodes, they know this, but I created an automated selling system through my email as well.
So that those sales kept coming in even after. But if you're not there yet, cuz that was a lot of work as well, even if you're just launching every six months. I think a, a, a launch before baby is definitely a way to self fund a maternity leave and I've had some guests on this podcast do similar things as well. So it's definitely possible
Leanne Ray: such a Testament to passive income for sure. And just the beauty of it and how it can work for you in different seasons of life.
Erica Julson: Yeah, I will say it takes some pre-planning you can't just be like, oh my gosh, I'm having a baby in three months and I have no audience and I'm gonna launch a course, course.
Yeah. It's gonna fund me for six months. Yeah. That's probably not realistic. So that's probably another good tip. Think about what you can do, but also think about it from a realistic perspective. If you don't have any audience yet. Maybe like launching a course and having six months of savings is probably not gonna happen.
It takes some time. It took me. I don't know, three years, I think of consistently building my audience, and launching that same course multiple times and refining it, and raising the price each time. I think when I started selling it, it was like 200 bucks it was like so cheap. so yeah, time, but just think about like we talked about earlier, like the other creative ways that you could systematize, automate, outsource, optimize, lots of different options. So get creative, I think.
Leanne Ray: Yeah. And think about your long term goals. Like for me, I know you kind of feel this way too. Like one on one client work was something that I did because I thought that that was like what dietitian entrepreneurs did. So that was what I started my business doing. But it wasn't really like my thing, like, I wasn't obsessed with it.
Like some people are, so I just felt like that was a good time to close it up, thinking ahead to my long term goal of wanting to like stay home with my son. So think ahead and like. Am I gonna wanna potentially stay home? What kind of work could I continue after the fact when I pick it back up?
The nice thing about pregnancy is that you usually have nine months to plan. So, you know, you can kind of get on that and think, what would it look like when I went back to work?
Erica Julson: yeah. And like you said, maybe photography was not the most flexible in the very beginning days. But other things, you know, like writing can be very flexible.
you know, working on your own content for your own business can be flexible. It depends, I guess, on the type of content, but, a lot of stuff you can write or record or, film months in advance and just drip it out while you're not really there live .
Leanne Ray: Yeah. And I know there's dietitians always looking for VAs and that is super flexible work. And if you're a fellow dietitian, you're probably is shooing for something like that.
Erica Julson: that's a great point. Actually the person that I ended up hiring on my team that was her background was doing some VA work, for other dietitians. So lots of options. Yeah. And I did that too, you know, and you did that.
So a lot of people get their start, with online work, by just helping other people. And you learn a lot too seeing how other people run their businesses online that can inspire you for your own business. so to kind of wrap things up, is there anything that you wish you did differently or wish you knew, you know, going back before you, had your first baby?
Leanne Ray: Yeah, I would just say, you know, like we talked about earlier, maybe do some research on what your state offers and just get really specific with the numbers and just figure out kind of what you need and how you can get there. Come up with a plan, start planning early, and then just know. That the postpartum period looks different for everyone.
Like I said, we had the conversation earlier about how both of us had a little bit of a rough time. I have friends that have like a wonderful newborn experience. So I don't wanna like discourage anyone because I feel like some people don't take maternity leave and they're perfectly fine with it and it goes great. So just plan for any situation. Really.
Erica Julson: Yeah. And I loved that point that you brought up earlier about not comparing yourself necessarily to someone who works a traditional nine to five, where they have to commute or leave the home because it is different. So maybe try to find people who do similar work as you, and maybe give a little more weight to that perspective, make sure you're comparing apples to apples. If that makes sense.
Leanne Ray: Yeah. I had somebody reach out to me, not long after I had my baby and she was like a little bit behind me and she was like, I got a full-time, job offer. That would be work from home. Like what do you think about doing that with a newborn? I was like, absolutely not. I wouldn't recommend it.
I don't think it's possible, but yeah, that being said everybody's experience looks different.
Erica Julson: Yeah, same. I'm in a lot of like Reddit parenting groups. And so often people are like, okay, so can I work full time from home when my baby is two weeks old, literally every single person is like, no, , you cannot,
Leanne Ray: it seems like they sleep all the time, but there's so much more to do.
Erica Julson: I know. I literally, if you go back through my emails, cuz I have another like website project that I'm working on with another dietitian and we had, we were just getting things kind of like up and running at that point. And she's like, emailing me, like, so you know, like how's how are things going?
like, when do you think you'll, you'll be able to come back to our regular, you know, schedule of stuff that we do. And I literally, like I said, I was so naive and I remember writing this email, my baby was like four weeks old. Like I feel like this is never gonna end. Like I had no idea I can't do, I can literally do nothing from a day to day, like perspective and I've been talking to people and they're all saying it gets better at.
You know, three months I'm like, so I guess in like eight weeks, like what, and now in retrospect it did go by fast, but oh my gosh. Did it go by slow in the very beginning?
Leanne Ray: yeah. Things that seemed all consuming at the time. You, you have people ask about them now, and you're like,
Erica Julson: I wanna wrap this up with, some actionable tips as much as possible. So if you had to kind of pick three things that a freelancer type of entrepreneur could do right now to set themselves up for a successful parental leave in the future, what would they be?
Leanne Ray: Yeah, I would say communicate early and often, like we talked about, do really good work.
I can't stress that enough. Like when you're a freelancer, you have to. Make yourself valuable and just go above and beyond. I think a lot of times, we're worried about like giving away too much for our whatever rate we're charging, which I get. And I think is important that you're not like doing all this extra work for free, but I also think it's good once in a while to just, you know, do something a little bit extra just to show that you're not like nickel and dime them for everything.
And people tend to respond well to that. and then I would say, just get really concrete with a plan. It's the same thing. When you're starting a business, you have to like, do the numbers thing. Like people don't always wanna do the numbers thing. They're like, oh yeah, I can do it. I can make it work if I work hard enough and it'll be great.
You have to actually like write the numbers down and figure out what you need every month and how you're gonna make that, how you're gonna accomplish that. and I think it's a lot less stressful for you and. You know, your partner, if you have one, just having that all hashed out in the beginning.
Erica Julson: Yeah.
And pro tip for anyone who's like crap. Well, I don't think I can save on top of what I'm currently doing. And you're trying to look for ways to bring in extra money. Like you said, like people do post stuff in my Facebook group, which if you're not in there, it's the free unconventional. It's the unconventional RD community on Facebook and it's free.
Yeah. And anyone can join. And I mean, I'd say weekly people post. Opportunities. Some of 'em, you know, are full-time some of 'em are part-time. A lot of them are virtual so keep your eyes open. I know there's also like a, I can put the link in the show notes, cause I don't remember the specific name, but recently there's been a group created specifically for VA dietitians.
Yeah. Both for people looking to be a VA and looking to hire a VA when I posted my job opportunity in there, at the time that I was hiring. So that might be a good place to go to. Yeah. So in case anyone wanted to connect with you and hire you maybe for some work, what kind of freelance work are you offering specifically and where should people go if they're interested?
Leanne Ray: Yeah, so I love, working with other dietitians and food bloggers. I do freelance food photography and recipe development, both professionally. So. If anybody wants help, like we were talking about earlier, like refreshing blog posts, refreshing old photos. I love helping with that kind of stuff. And if anyone's interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk about just the different kinds of packages and rates that I offer. And I would love to hear from me.
Erica Julson: Great. And if someone just wants to follow along, what social media platforms are you most active on and like what's your handle?
Leanne Ray: Yeah. You can find me most often on Instagram, although I am currently taking a break. So it's funny that you asked me that I'm on a break for the month of July, deleted it from my phone, but I'm gonna be back.
And, my handle is healthyish_appetite and I do, a lot of like recipe focused reels and howtos and just kinda like fun photography type stuff on there as well.
Erica Julson: Nice. Yeah. And I remember this is totally a tangent, but you rebranded at some point, right? Cuz it used to be yeah, you had, you had what just under your name. I think when you started.
Leanne Ray: I did. Yeah, I had just my name and then I rebranded, last spring, spring of 2021, I believe it was, just to be something a little bit, less specific to me, I guess.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Yeah. How did that go? Are you happy with that choice?
Leanne Ray: Yeah. Yeah, I really am. So yeah, it's going well,
Erica Julson: it's kind of funny cuz I, I have a whole podcast episode scripted out that I just still have to record about rebranding. So it's top of mind. Yeah.
Leanne Ray: yeah, yeah, yeah. It's a lot of work, but it's kind of exciting too to like have some new, new resources.
Erica Julson: Yeah. And I feel like one of the biggest, because I'm actually doing something similar as a, just an experiment slash fun tech project for myself. I'm rebranding my old food blog cuz it's under my name.
Oh. I don't wanna delete it. But I also don't want that to be like the main thing that Google's trying to associate when people Google my name because it's an exact match. It. That's what comes up first and like, I'm not doing that anymore, so I'm trying to, I'm gonna rebrand it. And so I'm probably 75% of the way done.
I've redone the whole design. I put a new logo. I changed all my social media handles, but I still need to change the URL. So
Leanne Ray: that's exciting. Yeah. So, and then if you ever wanna sell it in the future, right?
Erica Julson: Exactly. Yeah. so it's gonna be happily from scratch is the new name that's coming up. I love it.
yeah. Oh, I love that. Yeah. And that's always the hardest part. I'm just like, I don't know about you, but I spent like. I don't know, half a day, just like in Google domains, like Googling, like, or not Googling, but searching in the domain tool like, oh, what's available. And then coming up with weird combos. And then I like hearted like 50 different ideas. And then I asked my husband like, which one's the best
Leanne Ray: oh my gosh, that process takes forever. And then people like the one that you don't like, like exactly. The one that you like the least. Yeah. Yeah.
Erica Julson: Thankfully I agreed that that was a good one. So I just ran with it. It's like not a big deal, cuz it's not my like main brand.
I just needed it to be something that's not me. yeah. Yeah. Well, good luck. Yeah. Thank you. alright. Well I think this is a helpful conversation. I hope people got a lot out of it and I hope they follow you. And maybe some people reach out. To inquire about what you do or, even just take some inspiration from watching you a freelance and food blog.
So thanks again for being here. Is there anything else you wanted to add before we sign off?
Leanne Ray: No, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. It was a treat to do something like this. midmorning
Erica Julson: yeah, yeah, so thank you.
Hurray for my awkward podcast, endings. I hope that discussion was helpful for you. If you're thinking about how you might take parental leave as an entrepreneur in the future. And I just wanted to provide a quick update to my own parental leave story before closing out this episode. At the time of recording, I had not officially taken any parental leave from the government. I had just relied on my own. Self-funded leave.
However a few months before my baby was born, I had actually switched my company from just a regular LLC. To an LLC being taxed as an S-corp. And as a part of that, I had officially hired myself as a full-time salaried employee of my own company. And then flash forward one year I was now eligible to file for parental leave through the state of California since I'd been paying into those benefits as an employee for a year. And I believe you have one year after the birth of your child to actually take your parental leave.
So after we recorded this episode, I went online. I filed all the paperwork to actually take my leave through California. I don't remember what it's called. It's like bonding leave or something. and for some reason I was initially really intimidated by this and I thought it was going to be a really difficult task, but my gosh, it was actually super easy. I was able to take parental leave at the end of my baby's first year of life.
And since I'm technically employed by my own company, I just had to go into my payroll software and adjust my payroll to take the leave. And California, I believe pays 60 to 70% of your salary for up to two months of leave. So I'm actually really glad that I looked into it and took formal leave through the state. Especially since I had been paying into those benefits as an employee, I might as well use them. Right.
So I know not all states offer paid parental leave like this, but it's definitely worth looking into if your state does and for some of them, I believe you do need to be an employee rather than a hundred percent. Self-employed. In order to qualify. And so if you're a year or more away from thinking about having kids, this could be a good time for you to think about changing the structure of your company. Perhaps you could think about getting taxed as an S-corp and hiring yourself as an employee through your company so that you can take advantage of these benefits and the tax savings that you can get as well from being an LLC that's taxed as an S-corp.
So, again, I'm not a lawyer. This is definitely not legal advice. It's just something to keep on your radar and just sharing a little tidbit of my own personal experience. trying to take parental leave while self-employed. So I hope you have a great rest of your day and I will see you next week.