While article after article exists about people who work in offices telling their bosses and co-workers that they are pregnant, little is out there to explain what to do for a freelancer or independent contractor. That is unfortunate because there are literally thousands of independent contractors today, and the home-based employment movement is gaining momentum. If you are one of these independent workers, then you should think now about how you will handle your clients in the later months of your pregnancy and during any maternity leave you may have.
If you are a long-term contractor onsite with a company, then you will deal with them in the same way as a regular employee. You will need to let your employer know as quickly as possible (preferably before you are showing) that you are expecting a baby. You should wait until you have a due date and go in with a basic plan for how you will complete your projects. Yes, the employer can get rid of you (despite the legalities involved) more easily because you are a contractor than if you were a regular employer.
Freelancers and off-site contractors have it a little more difficult when it comes to letting clients know. Some freelancers have continuous gigs, and those involve telling the employer that you will not be able to work at some point. While some writers and other freelance types will say that you should not share why you will not be able to work, I believe that is the wrong plan. Most people can understand when you have life circumstances and will need to take off from work. You would let your clients know if you will be taking vacation, and you should do the same for them now. Be prepared with the due date and the anticipated time that you will be out.
One of the benefits of freelancing is that you have the ability to work in spurts, which means that you will be able to work on projects as needed. For example, my son was born on a Monday, and I was working again Thursday evening. I only completed about an hour of work, but I was able to keep a client happy and still get some work done. Then I could work an hour or two here and there to keep long-term projects going.
The vital point here is to let others know your expectations. Freelancers who work on assignment have the toughest role here. You should give your editors a worst-case scenario, though you do not need to lay it out in those terms. The six-week maternity leave is the standard in the United States. If you want to take that time, then explain that you will be unavailable for all of February and two weeks into March if your baby is due the end of January. Be specific about the times and that you cannot take assignments that will go into that time period. If you find that you are willing and able to take on work before the time is up, then you should contact your editor and let her know. Also be sure that you notify your editors (or have someone do it for you) as soon as the baby is born. That way your lack of response to any emails that get sent will not be surprising.
Short-term freelancers will need to be sure that they clear their schedules. While that may be difficult as last-minute jobs often come up, it is important not to schedule any deadlines within the two weeks before and after the due date. You may plan to do the work early now, but you do not know how you will be feeling. Instead if you need the steady flow of cash, then you should work on selling reprints during this time. That way you can send them via email (or even coax a devoted husband to do it for you) and invoice as soon as you are better.
Keep in mind that you may lose a job or two along the way. I lost one job when my son was born although I had warned the editor ahead of time, and my husband sent out emails within 24 hours of my son being born. While I was upset at the time, an editor who cannot wait for you to have a baby probably is not a gem of a client anyway.