Working As A Doula
Doula work is rewarding work, and it’s just that…work! There are many reasons one steps into the supportive role of a doula. Yet, It’s not often discussed what this work truly looks like in the sense of sacrifice, boundaries, balance, longevity, and sustainability. The ins and outs of doula work can be overwhelming. Jumping in blindly can lead a newer doula to leave the work as quickly as they came in. Having a sense of the different avenues that make up birth work is one grounding force for keeping in the industry.
DOULA WORK AND SCHEDULING
Think about the responsibilities you have in your life: at home, at a job, in the community, and in the various roles you may have in the different aspects of your life. How much time, focus and energy are you able to give to running a business? The responsibilities won’t end because you’ve made the decision to achieve a new path. Do you have little ones relying on your care? Do you have another job to work around? Are you involved in team sports, school committees, volunteer roles, etc? These are all responsibilities that can impact your schedule with doula work.
What’s your availability? Are you only able to work in the daytime? Nighttime? Are you available on weekdays, or do the weekends allow you to flourish? Babies come at all hours of the day and night, and even on holidays and birthdays. Families seek support at all hours of the day. Having an idea of your overall schedule will help with deciding on what due dates you are available for, and what shifts you can accommodate. Just because clients ask, doesn’t mean you are obligated, of course, unless you’ve already contracted and committed to it.
This leads me to the balance of doula work. Everything in life is a balance. Family life, work-life, self-care…doula work, it’s all a balance game. Understand that while juggling all the balls, some may fall. And that’s okay! Planning and organization are the keys to being able to balance things while doing all the things. Boundaries are another part of creating balance and preventing doula burnout. What you allow to happen in your business, WILL happen in your business! Think about different scenarios and how your business plans to navigate them. If healthy professional boundaries aren’t set, you may find yourself questioning things that you once felt confident about.
PRICING YOUR SERVICES
What should I charge? A question that plagues almost every newly certified doula! Some doulas pay to get trained and certified; then choose to provide their services pro bono. Other doulas pay to get trained and certify and decide to work on a sliding scale. Many doulas pay for their doula training, complete certification, and go on to provide sustainable services to their community. The difference? When you value your work, your clients will value what you provide.
Pricing your services is more than what you *think* your potential clients can pay. There’s the cost of keeping up your certification, obtaining your insurance, keeping your skills honed, and the marketing aspects. But there’s more! What is the cost of your time, talents, education, and expertise? What is YOUR worth in the work you provide to others as a doula? Beyond the tangibles of gas money, keeping the lights on, and paying the bills, think about your price for you to want to miss a holiday or a birthday, work for 12+ hours, console an anxious new mom, or soothe a colicky baby in the wee hours of the night.
Start with a base and know that you can always go up or down from there. You will learn your worth as you go if you are unsure at this moment. Value yourself and value what you have to offer. Don’t decide that people can or can’t afford you. That’s actually quite offensive. People will pay for what they see value in and will save and plan to make that happen. Take a gander at what other professional working doulas are charging in your area. Be mindful not to undercut the work that your colleagues are doing by coming in and lowballing your services. Having a heart won’t pay the bills but having a heart with a head will keep one working in the field long past the 3-year doula average.
FINDING DOULA CLIENTS
You come out of doula training pumped and ready to begin supporting families. You complete your certification, thrilled to have solidified your role as an expert. Now what? How does one begin to find clients and actually put the passion to purpose? Your doula training will equip you with ideas on where to begin. (If not…let’s talk!)
Start by where you already frequent and talk about being a doula. Do you enjoy wearing your favorite band, pop culture icon, or saying on a t-shirt? Why not be your own walking billboard and wear a doula shirt instead? Better yet, wear your own company’s insignia out and about. Warm chatting is talking to those you meet in a friendly and genuine manner about what you do. Some conversations will be short and unengaging, while others may leave you feeling on cloud 10 relaying the importance of doula work to a very interested party.
Attending networking events around your community is another fantastic way to get the word out about your new venture. Think outside of the box, and don’t only attend birthy events, but also business mixers, chamber of commerce events, family fairs, etc. People know pregnant people, and expecting individuals and new parents are everywhere. Making a good impression on people that don’t know what a doula is, leaves a ripple effect of a positive view of doulas.
When people think about marketing, they think of big budgets and flashy moves. In reality, a simple marketing move of dropping off goodies to a provider’s office, and leaving a stack of business cards at a pregnant or parenting establishment. These are all easy ways to show your community who you are. Business cards can be easily printed for a low cost. Pens are a useful resource, and leaving a nicely branded one at the table after a lunch meeting for the server (with a nice tip) is another out-of-the-box way of putting your name in strangers’ minds.
SUSTAINABILITY IN DOULA WORK
Building sustainability in a field that ebbs and flows, but is always needed, takes grit. What you do today will show the fruits of your labor in 3 months. Let that sink in for a moment, but don’t let it discourage you! Many people will call it quits before they’ve even begun. Anything worth it is worth the time. Build the foundation of your work with the future in mind. Who are your mentors? A mentor is someone who is where you want to be, and someone you respect and that mutually respects you.
Keep your structure a priority. Your licenses, your certifications, your presence online and in-person, don’t let those lapse. Slow and steady will win the race every time. While you may not get everything right all of the time, if you’ve created a space for longevity and learning, you’ll be here for a long time.
It cost money to do business, and there are sacrifices that may occur in front of the opening and running of a business. Map out what that means for you in the aspect of time and money. Expect to give yourself at least 18 months to see a return on investment in your business. Consistency is a key component to building a business that lasts.
You Got This Doula!
Everyone has started off somewhere in this work. When you begin to treat your passion for doula work as a career option, you will begin to see and reap the rewards. Sustainability looks different for every doula. Don’t compare yourself to your colleagues, because you’re only in competition with yourself. Remember to surround yourself with those that encourage, lift, and cheer. Reach out to your doula training organization when you feel lost or alone.