Tips for going paperless in your doula practice

PaperlessDoulaWhen I started attending births as a doula, there were no smartphones, no tablets, no cloud, and no doulas even had web sites! We had no choice but to use paper to keep organized. These days there are lots of different options, and I’ve found a few that work for me.

I keep my calendar using Google Calendar. I love that I can access it from any of my devices. I also have a separate calendar for all my kids’ events so I can coordinate as needed. (Don’t want to schedule a prenatal on opening night of my daughter’s play!)

SquareScreenshotI accept payments on my smartphone with Square. With a simple swipe and sign, I can take credit cards, debit cards, even some FSA and HSA cards! You can sign up here with my referral link and get some free processing (Up to $1000 processed in the first 6 months). No more checks or trips to the bank, and Square sends them a receipt for you! Yes, this service costs money, but it is worth it to me. Processing fees are taken into account when I set my prices, and I do not charge my clients extra. (It’s not legal to do that, anyway.) It’s been YEARS since I was paid by check, so I don’t have it set up for my business account, but many banks allow you to deposit checks with your smartphone as well.

I handle signing contracts two different ways:
If I am signing contracts in person, I use my iPad. I saved a .pdf version of my contract in my Dropbox account. (If you don’t use Dropbox, you can sign up with my link and we both get extra storage space…) I open the contract in the Notability app, then we review it together and the parents initial and sign using a stylus. When they are finished, I email the finished contract to both the client and I right from the app.
If the client wants to sign later, I do it online. I installed a software called Machform on my site. The software version is a one time purchase that you install on your site and can use forever. (And if the phrase “install on your site” intimidates you, they offer free installation service!) It works on sites where you have your own hosting account. If you’re using a template based service like Wix, Squarespace, the .com version of WordPress, etc, then Machform has a service/subscription model that works there. I have my contract broken into smaller chunks, they check a box for each section agreeing to that section, and then sign at the bottom. The completed contract is emailed to both parties. I don’t give away the contents of my contract, but I’ve created a sample version you can see and experience here. Go ahead and fill out the form to see how it all works on the client end.
If you filled out the form, you probably noticed that it sent you to a payment page at Square when you submitted the form. I’m not expecting that any of you will actually go through the payment process there, but you can see how seamlessly it works for clients.

I don’t actually have any required paperwork for clients beyond the basics on the contract, but if you do the Machform would work for you, just create another form for that.

BirthNotesAt births, I take notes on my cell phone using Apple’s built in Notes app (occasionally I’ll use Notability on my iPad, but that requires leaving my client to go over to the device, where the phone is always right in my pocket, periodically emailing them to myself as a backup. I made sure to tell my clients up front that I use my phone to take notes, then remind them at the birth that my notes are on my phone. Often while jotting notes in my phone I will talk under my breath with what I am writing so the client knows I’m not tweeting or anything. I’ve tried using voice to text, but it’s actually pretty laughable with birth lingo. 🙂

My doula practice isn’t 100% paperless, because I only go paperless when I feel it makes things easier and enhances the client experience. I once created .pdf files for each prenatal, with questions and prompts to remind me of things to discuss, but I haven’t actually found I use those much. I find old fashioned paper works best during prenatals, and is a little more conducive to connecting with clients. I think if we are using a device, there is an assumption we are not paying attention to them. But if I have a pad of paper and am taking notes, it feels less like a distraction to me. But then I take photos of those paper notes and refer to them on my tablet or phone, because that’s just too handy!

Got any tips that work for you? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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