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Maternity Leave … for Bloggers?!

This guest post is by Kat Griffin of Corporette.

How do full-time bloggers take maternity leave? How do you schedule posts and get help, when you’re not sure when you’re going to go into labor, and when you have no idea what to expect when the baby first comes?

This is my account of how I not only maintained my traffic but grew it, all while taking ten weeks of maternity leave.

By Summer 2011, I had two very happy things going on in my life: I was pregnant with my first child, and my fashion and career advice blog (Corporette) was doing so well that I had quit my job as a lawyer to focus on it.

But this created an unfortunate problem—how could I have the baby, be a good mother, and keep my blog at the level my readers expected? My number goals: maintain 15 posts a week, and keep as much of my hard-won traffic as possible (which at that point was about 57K uniques and almost 500K pageviews a month).

It would be nice, I thought, if my blogging income stayed where it was, but I prepared myself for a dip. I had read that a newborn’s crying peaked around weeks six to eight, so I picked ten weeks as the optimal time for myself to take off.

Why I didn’t hire anyone

For some people, the answer would have been obvious—hire an assistant or an intern to take over content. But my site has always been a bit difficult in that regard—in fact, I think I owe a lot of my success to the fact that I actually had a conservative job for many years, so my workwear and career advice comes from a very realistic place. (I started my blog while working as a litigator for a Wall Street firm.) So your typical 22-year-old hire just would not do.

My answer? Some scheduled posts from me, but a lot of highly curated guest posts. To be clear: I also did not hire a baby nurse or nanny, although looking back I suppose that was an option also. I was very concerned that the mixture of sleepless nights and postpartum hormones would make me unfit to give career and fashion advice, even if someone else was looking after the baby.

Dividing my content

I looked at my regular content and asked:

  • Where do I make the most money? For me, those are always accessory posts (shoes and bags), so I kept those posts to myself. I also decided to write and schedule one meatier post each week, to keep my voice present on the site.
  • For the posts that could be scheduled, what kind of content was missing from my blog that the guest posters could bring?
  • Which posts had to be timely, and couldn’t be scheduled far in advance? I dropped some of them (such as my news roundup); for others, I took great care in inviting guest posters. For example, my first post, every workday, recommends an item of clothing that is available for online purchase. They’re not long or hard posts, but I know from experience that clothes sell out, particularly if they’re on sale, so they do have to be timely. I gambled that a) I could ask guest posters to take a full week’s worth of posts, b) I could trust them to send them to me in one fell swoop, a week ahead of time, so I could get everything coded appropriately (including adding my own affiliate links) and c) that their choices would not sell out by the time the post went live.

Reaching out to guest posters

I estimated I needed ten people to pick outfits for each week, and I needed about 25 people to write meatier posts. I drew up a “dream list” of guest bloggers, and individually emailed each person to say that I admired them and would love for them to guest post, suggesting a few topics for each blogger.

I wrote the email the way I advise my readers to write business emails: extremely clearly, using short, to-the-point paragraphs (including one titled, “What’s in it for you: exposure to my 57,000 unique readers”). The subject: “Invitation to guest blog on Corporette, deadline 7/25.” This was around early June, and my due date was August 10. Happily, almost everyone I reached out to accepted.

Editing

Honestly, it almost took as long to edit everyone’s pieces as it would have taken to write the posts myself. But I liked the diverse voices and topics that were coming to the blog.

At the beginning of every post, I wrote a short paragraph describing the topic and introducing the guest poster to my readers. In addition to being great for SEO, it helped lend a bit of my voice to every post, as well as to immediately make clear to my readers how each post was relevant to them.

Scheduling, three months in advance

I used a monthly calendar to keep a bird’s eye view of the process—for example, I didn’t want to schedule a “should you cover your gray hair” post right next to a “when is naturally curly hair appropriate for the office.”

But once I had things scheduled (using WordPress’s default scheduling feature), I sent a screenshot of the post, as well as the full HTML, to each writer for approval, and told them what day and time the post was scheduled to go live. I also thanked them, hopefully a lot. This was all done in early August—some people weren’t scheduled to go live until October!

Schedule reminders

I used Google Calendar to keep track of which post was scheduled for when. Each Saturday, I would find time to email the guest posters slated to go live that week, reminding them what day and time the posts were scheduled to go live, and letting them know that I had scheduled a Tweet to promote the post as well. (I used Tweetdeck. Facebook, at that time, did not have post-scheduling capabilities.)

In theory, this all sounds great, but how’d it go?

I scheduled guest posts to start going live on August 15. Again, my due date was August 10—I had read that first babies are often late; I also figured that if I went into labor before that, my readers would be kind enough to deal with a few days of minimal content.

My son, as it turned out, had other plans, as August 10, then August 15, both came and went without a baby in sight. The thing they don’t tell you about the last week or two of pregnancy is that between the false alarms and the doctor’s visits, you’re pretty much at the hospital or doctor’s office every day, sometimes waiting for hours. My pregnancy discomfort and exhaustion was also at an all-time high.

I wound up being incredibly thankful that the guest posts started “early” on August 15, because there’s no way I could have kept up my regular blogging schedule by myself. Oh, and those meatier posts that I kept for myself to write? True to personality, I was often editing those right before I published them—I even wound up blogging from the post-partum ward in the hospital, hilariously, about work/life balance.

The results

Somewhere between all of the guest posters, the Tweets, and the tightly-written first paragraphs, traffic increased. (It may have helped that I guest posted for Lucky Magazine in June 2011.)

I jumped from 57K uniques in June 2011 to 75K uniques by September 2011. Corporette currently has around 111K uniques, so I’ve maintained the increase.

I like to think my readers got to know a new group of bloggers, and I got to enjoy time with my newborn son without worrying (too much) about my other baby, my blog.

Have you taken a maternity or paternity leave while blogging? How did your plan differ from mine? Share it with us in the comments.

Kat Griffin founded Corporette, a fashion and lifestyle blog for women lawyers, bankers, MBAs, consultants, and otherwise overachieving chicks, in May 2008, while working as a litigator on Wall Street.

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Comments

  1. Ehsan Ullah says:

    Hello Kat,

    Thanks for sharing your story on this. It’s nice for me to know about you and your successful blog. You did a great job by maintaining your blog during your pregnancy time, even you increased It’s traffic.

    I need to ask from you that which is the biggest traffic source of Corporette?

    I mean where from the most of your visitors comes

  2. Great job on the article, Kat, All your methods are applicable for organizing a vacation too :).

    I have a nagging suspicion that your increase in traffic could be due to your guest bloggers promoting their guest posts and thereby sending traffic your way. Could that be a possibility?

    • Ha – I was thinking the same thing. Plan a 10-week vacation and just plan and work hard beforehand.

      Great post – Thanks!

      Andrew Dodson

  3. Nick says:

    Hi Katy,

    Hope you will not be upset on my answer but I think your baby is more important than a blog… Anyway congrats and I hope you will increase more and more traffic.

    • victoria says:

      I’m not sure how “your baby is more important than a blog” translates into — well, whatever you’re implying. Short of entirely scuttling the blog or putting it on hiatus, I’m not sure what more she could’ve done to be present, emotionally and physically, during the newborn period. (Newborns sleep a lot! You can do the few hours of work maintaining the calendar and scheduling posts/thank yous/etc. would take each week without being anything less than a 100% hands on parent.)

  4. Surminga says:

    Thanks for sharing this, just in time me as I’m in kind of the same situation but instead of maternity ill be on holiday for two weeks. I’ve scheduled posts and got guest writers in to write for me, all I need is an hour here or there every couple of days to edit and publish and that’ll be it.
    The only issue I have is about my seo efforts and social media following but they can wait and all new articles go straight to them.
    Any tips for SEO efforts whilst off work for a while ?
    Thanks
    Surminga

  5. Daniel Hill says:

    Hi Kat I’m very Glad of you due to your this amazing & valuable discussion about Maternity for Bloggers ! I think you must forward yout this discussion about Maternity on others network also because more people will come close to know about Maternity or Bloggers ?

  6. Hi Kat,

    Smart tips here.

    No matter what happens in your life – pregnancy or any life-changing event – you can still blog persistently by intelligently planning out your campaign.

    Full-time 9-5 guys and gals run successful blogs. People who work more than 40 hours do too.

    I’ve traveled the past 16 months through Southeast Asia. Plenty of long bus-rides, flights, poor internet connections. I’ve rarely missed a day posting, and usually post to both of my blogs.

    Why? I automate when I can, setting up posts. More than anything, I made a blanket decision to do all I can without letting any travel-related excuses stop me.

    I enjoy my trip but know I have work to do. So I do what it takes to get the work done.

    Thanks!

    RB

  7. Alana says:

    Congratuations on both your baby and your blogs success.

    I am currently on maternity leave but didn’t plan ahead and now am faced with either going back to my real job in a few weeks or doubling my work load to stay at home!

  8. Ayaz says:

    Hi Katt.

    Thanks for sharing your story here and I really love the way how you managed your work load still in that condition and for that’s awesome and inspirational work for me as well.

    Certainly, the other thing is that planning the work in the proper manner that you and your work should not be disturbed and I think that thing can only be achieve after doing or getting lots of years experience in your niche but the passion towards your work always helps you.

    Great work. Well done :-)

  9. kelly says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’m pregnant with twins and gave been thinking about what to do. Congrats on ur baby and continued success!

  10. I am hoping when I take a 3 week leave from my own blog I do not loose readers I am hoping to get guest bloggers in advance to cover the time away.

  11. Di Hill says:

    Great post with good ideas for anyone who is time poor for whatever reason. It doesn’t matter what we do in our lives, there are times when our writing (whatever genre) suffers when we are time poor. Many thanks Kat

  12. Hi Kat,
    What a great post! I have had two babies now, with my youngest now 1 year old. I, too, am a regular blogger (certainly not 15 posts a week… just one!), but was nowhere near as organised as you. I have also been travelling with my family in the last six months and have had to plan ahead of time for when I have been away from the internet.
    I love your suggestions and will most definitely put these into practice next time I need a short break.
    Thanks so much for bringing up a very relevant topic and showing how you dealt effectively with this situation.
    Brigit
    P.S. I hope you’re enjoying motherhood! And aren’t we lucky having an income stream that is flexible and can be done from home! Perfect for stay-at-home mums!!

  13. Rohit says:

    Sir,
    This post is very helpfull for all bloggers and me. I love your site,
    because all posts are very good and simple language.
    I regard U (Blog Author) Ever.

    Thanks!

  14. Julie says:

    Kat, I started reading Corporette when I got my first law firm job back in 2009. Your site was an innovator back then and your approach to pregnancy leave was an innovative one. You never seemed absent even when others were posting. I think readers really loved getting to know a personal side of you and seeing you try to find that balance so many of us women strive to find between work and family. I actually left my more formal life and work outside the box now but I still read your blog regularly. I think the voice you talk about and how well you’ve engaged your readers is why I still keep reading. Thanks for providing a new voice to this site too.

  15. Santosh says:

    Excellent article. I’ve enjoyed your blog immensely and while I hope to see you back posting again in the future I don’t blame you a bit for wanting some time to enjoy your family and a less frantic pace! Congrats on baby to be and enjoy your time with him/her and Charlie!