Birth and Postpartum Doula Business Tips
1. I am a business owner- These are words that you need to start saying in your head. When people ask me what I do, I do not say “I train doulas” I say “I am the Director of Birth Arts International, a doula certification organization”. See the difference. “I am a doula” versus “I own (insert your business name here), I am a professional doula.” See the distinct difference. This difference is apparent to potential clients. You are taking your place in the community by taking a place in your community’s league of professionals. Parents/clients/colleagues all benefit from your distinctions. Try introducing yourself to yourself a few times, make yourself believe in your professionalism and ownership of self. No one can own your company but you, but in order to be respected as such and valued as such you must learn to accept and believe this of yourself.
2. Make a business plan- Make a business plan, a list of goals, dream board. You can find business plan resources at- the SBA. Be realistic and be ready to do the work. Running a business is a full time job. Make sure you can work your schedule around your life if you have children. This can be a successful and fulfilling career if you have children and want to work around the needs of being a parent. Be realistic and reasonable with yourself.
Do not start your business from a place of competition or jealousy. Do not compare yourself to other providers, unless it is to improve yourself. Most clients will not choose you over another provider, just for price. Make sure your rates are reflective of your costs, not the other rates in the area. Be true to yourself. If your rates are too low, you will have an unsustainable practice, and you will potentially burn out. Be realistic with your goals, costs, finances, and make sure you are honest with yourself.
Competition is nothing to be afraid of. Make sure you view competition as a positive. So do not make fun of, diss, or second guess another practitioner. Be kind, and gentle. If you start your career from a negative, competitive and “nasty” place your business will not last. Having a business plan that you stick to will help you to keep focus, and give you something that you can work from and use to guide you as your practice develops.
Business investment- a lot of students feel they have spent sooo much on education, etc.. But the reality is that being a doula is a business that you can start with investment costs less than $1000.00. I can’t think of another long term career that you have that can see your seeing a profit in less than the first year. Remember this. Most businesses do not see a profit for the first three years. BAI offers the most intensive and beautiful doula training in the world, remember the value it is, and honor that.
It is essential that you pay for additional education, continue to improve yourself, skills, and keep up with the demands of your local market. You can find a variety of educational options at www.birtharts.com
When you invest in yourself you will be making your business and career path stronger. Make sure you do the work, skimping on your career plan, business plan, etc.. will only work against you. So do the work, after all it is for you.
3. Dress the part!- Do not show up in your sweat suit for a meeting with clients. Until you know your business style and you know what clients expect keep it simple. Does this mean you can’t have style and flair? No, but it does mean you need to be groomed and respectful. No cleavage, no miniskirts, no t-shirts with band names, beer/product/pithy cartoon logos, now is not the time to be “cool”. Parents do not want to see your underwear, bra straps, or lots of make up or jewelry. Parents can be offended from a variety of clothing issues.
Until you know the parent keep it simple. I know this sounds obvious, but once I had a client, about 15 years ago, who said she almost didn’t hire me because I had a tribal print tunic, she thought it was too pagan, or witchy. To me it was a cool shirt, so from then on I kept it simple.
Parents need to be able to visualize you at their birth. You do not know someone’s back story, marital history, or insecurities. Take this into consideration.
Look it is simple if you are respectful, polished and present a professional presence parents will feel safe in your hands.
If you have tattoos, dreadlocks, or lots of piercings be aware that not all people are accepting of alternatives in dress. This is not their issue, it is what makes them feel safe, do not take it personally. Other parents may feel the exact opposite, be aware and make sure you yourself do not judge parents, you are the business, and they are the client.
Some articles on professional dress
4. Promotion- Make sure you have business cards, a website, and advertise locally. Hang fliers, at health food stores, place cards at baby boutiques, ask to leave brochures at doctors and midwives offices. Make your website clean and easy to navigate. In your about you section detail your education, the training organization you worked with and additional beneficial education. Choose a simple business name the expresses to potential clients what you are offering, use an original logo. In the business world you will occasionally find that someone has stolen another’s logo. Make sure yours is original to your practice.
Choose an appropriate email address. If you own your URL make a local email address firstname.lastname@example.org or if you use a free service yourdoulapractice@hotmail/yahoo/gmail.com.
Do not use silly names people will not identify with you. KittenLover21359@whatever.com is not very business-like.
Check out your competition, assess the market.
Check out services like VistaPrint, or Staples Business Services.
Take a look at who other birth professionals are targeting, maybe they are overlooking an area of need. Are you all looking and promoting yourself to the same core group of people.
Here are some categories that you can assess.
• First baby
• Previous birth trauma
• Crisis/teen pregnancy
• High risk pregnancy/high risk/stillbirth/previous loss
• Intrauterine insemination/in vitro fertilization
• Cultural diversity
Then decide if you can serve this population and if so how to effectively market to that area.
5. Create a clear contract- Have a contract for clients to sign that details what you will and will not do, your fees, back up, cancellation of services, refunds, etc.. Make your policies clear. The small business associations in your community, or your organization can assist you. Stick to your contract. It is essential that you follow your end of the bargain 100%. Sometimes legal advice is needed when drawing up a contract, pay for it if you need it, or seek out small business resources in your community.
6. Look you are not perfect, life is not perfect but if you are respectful, stick to your core foundation, follow your end of the contract then you are going to have a more sustainable and profitable business. Remember this. Yes, you will have times when you say, “This sucks”, etc.. Shake it off, assess yourself and believe in your goal. Have friends outside of the birth world who will offer you friendship and distraction from work. Do not get involved with local birth world drama. Never bad mouth another doula, if you can’t address it directly to her, then you shouldn’t be saying it. Stop playing the gossip game, do not pass on the negative, doing this is your choice.
7. Fulfillment and Life. Being a doula is an incredibly fulfilling job and business. You will find that at the end of your hard work a family you have supported and assisted. It is a wonderful feeling, that you are fortunate enough to be a part of. Being a part of this story is life changing and an incredible honor.
Enjoy this magical part of your career!