“I could never take a sabbatical.”
“No one could do my job for me.”
“What if they mess up?”
“What if I miss an opportunity?”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – delegating is one of the hardest, most rewarding aspects of being a business owner. Taking extended time off is one of the most challenging and best things a Type A person like me can do. And there’s nothing quite like having a baby to force you to take some much needed time off to be away with family!

This time around, I kept thinking to myself – I’ve done this before, and I’ve hired someone new. I’m in a better place than last time I did this, so it’ll be easy peasy!


I’ve found that there were some important things I forgot! And to be honest – now I’m in a time crunch. We’ve realized it’s GO time.

Taking extended time off is all about setting clear expectations, communicating clearly, and training your team.


Because I want to always keep improving, and I want to help you along the way if you ever want to take a sabbatical or maternity leave, here are…

10 Steps to take to prepare for Extended Time Off:

1. Add a footer to your email signatures 2 months before you go on leave. This is a great way to set expectations across the board in your communication. Here is my current signature:

I’m about to have a baby! I’ll be taking maternity leave July 17th – October 31st,  and will not be answering emails during that time. Callie and Olivia will be managing the studio and my emails while I am away! Please contact Olivia@nancyrayphotography.com if you need anything while I am in newborn la la land.


2. Make a master list of things to do, dividing them into two categories: Tasks and Responsibilities. I first started with a giant brain dump of everything that needed to get done, but ended up filtering them into “Tasks to be completed before I leave” and “Responsibilities for you to take over while I’m gone.” I, along with each member of my team, have a Maternity Planning Checklist of Tasks and Responsibilities we are slowly checking off prior to my last day.


3. Schedule Team Meetings to discuss lists, progress, and issues that come up along the way. We currently have 4 Team Meetings Scheduled between now and when I leave!

4. Write a blogpost (like this one!) to set expectations for your readers / followers. Enough said.


5. Email your close vendor friends, including any you plan to work with while on leave. For example – I’ll be shooting 2 weddings while I’m on maternity leave. I am going to reach out to those planners NOW, so I don’t have to worry about emailing them later. I’ll let them know that I’ll need time to pump built into the wedding day, and I’ll ask them to go ahead and send me the timelines as soon as they are able.

6. DELETE ALL EMAILS while you are away! No, I’m not kidding. Let’s clarify though… I’m not talking about completely shutting your business down while on leave. But I am saying – redirect all emails to your team, to other resources, to your instagram, to your blog. (I learned this little tip from Michael Hyatt!)

7. Draft and schedule your Away Signature to let them know about #6. Here is my email signature. Feel free to customize it and use it!


Thank you so much for your email!  I am currently on maternity leave until November 1, 2017. We are so excited to welcome #babyrayinjuly into our family, and you are welcome to follow along with our journey as new parents on Instagram and our blog.

If you are a current or potential client or vendor, you are very important to us! You will hear from the studio within 72 hours. If you are inquiring about our wedding and family photography services, we are still accepting bookings during this time, and we look forward to connecting with you!

All other emails received will be deleted from my inbox, which may seem extreme! But, I know how important it is to completely step away from my business in order to be fully present with my family during this time. If you would like to get in touch with me, please re-send your email when I’m back at work beginning in November.

Thank you so much for your understanding! Here’s to a new season filled with sleepless nights and lots of cuddles!


Nancy Ray

Follow the #nrpteam on Instagram!

Nancy : @nancyray
Will : @willrray
Callie : @calliepittsdavis
Elizabeth :  @elizabethtate_
Olivia : @oliviawolf


8. Send one final email to your Family, Friends, Vendors and Email list on your last day of work to seal the deal. Let them know what they can expect from you (or not expect from you) in the coming months!


9. Plan to take off at least two weeks before your due date. This isn’t something I did with Milly, and I wish I had. I felt like I was thrown from a crazy storm of work into crazy newborn life, and there was no room to catch my breath in between. I was literally working while I was in labor, as I was trying to launch a brand new website. I’m looking forward to some days off (as long as baby doesn’t come early!) and some quality Milly-mama time before baby #2 comes.

10. Plan in some time for YOU. On my list? Get a manicure and pedicure. Get the house cleaned. Get a haircut. Get the carpets cleaned. Go to Whole Foods and buy some fresh fruit and flowers.

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I am SO glad I stumbled across this post!! As I prepare for baby number 1 and still feel like my business is my baby (just a year and a half in!), I’m just figuring out what my maternity leave might look like and steps to take to get there.

You’re an inspiration and I so appreciate your thoughtfulness and intentionality with this time in your life! Praying for you mama and that new babe!!

I’m sitting here with my big belly and tears streaming down my face because I, too, didn’t take a minute off with my first and now am just a couple months away from meeting baby #2 and am busier than ever. Stepping away from my business seems so scary, but I’m so excited to have hired a full time office wizard (now just have to pray I can train her in time) … and thanks to you, I just changed my auto-response NOW (and not as I’m in labor, haha).

Thank you, I really needed this!

Good luck with your second arrival, sweet mama! xoxoxoxo

I love this list! As a type-A person I have bookmarked this little gem for the future if warranted Lord willing. (:

Congratulations miss Nancy!



Thank you so much for sharing this! As a first time mama-to-be (due in December), I found this extremely helpful and already made a few notes in my planner to remind me to prepare some of these things before baby arrives. I am SO excited for you & the rest of the Ray Fam, and can’t wait to find out what #babyrayinjuly is! We are also not finding out the gender, and I gotta say it’s a lot more fun than I originally thought it’d be.

Thanks again for being so open and helpful. It really does make a difference to photographers (and I’m sure many others!) out there who are new to it all! Best of luck to you!

Kati Mallory

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