I was watching a video the other day with advice for photographers who just graduated with a degree in photography, and it struck me how much the advice was also applicable to doulas just starting out after doing their training. So with some adaptation, and a huge hat tip to Chase Jarvis, here are three tips for new doulas just finishing their training:
1. You’re NEVER done learning about birth While the basic anatomy and physiology doesn’t change, our understanding of it does. And the medical and political stuff changes even faster! When I first started out in the birth world, it was believed that episiotomies prevented bad tears (we now know the opposite) and VBAC births had fewer legal concerns. No one had ever heard of peanut balls for labor, and spinning babies was unheard of. I have a much deeper and nuanced view of labor physiology than I had in my first year of practice, too.
2. If you don’t learn and master the business side, you will fail. Don’t let the idea that you are in a helping profession get in the way of selling yourself. Yes, doulas can serve women and help them find their power in birth. Just remember that doula work is very demanding and burnout is a VERY real possibility. You’ll be better able to serve women if you also take care of yourself. Make sure that the work isn’t a financial drain on your family. Make sure that you balance your emotional investment in your client with the reality that you are the helper, not the captain. Make sure that *at the very minimum* you have what you need to cover the expenses of providing the service, as that brings a peace of mind to your doula service that will also benefit your client.
3. Don’t be afraid to take risks *and* work your butt off to make them pay off. Starting a birth doula business is a huge leap. So sometimes it can be scary to take other risks, too. Do it. Carefully consider your options, strategically choose one, and go for it! Reach out to that midwife. Volunteer for the local doula association. Invest in a real web site. Whatever you choose, do it thoroughly and do it well! Work your butt off to make it successful!