Last time I talked about Traditional Business Advice That Doesn’t Work for Doulas so now I’m sharing the advice I’ve heard that does apply to doula work.
Think of what you do AS a business
This is a shift in your mind that is an important one for long term success. If you’re charging for your services, you are in business. That means that all the laws that apply to businesses apply to you. All the taxes that apply to businesses apply to you. Neglecting that can cause you some big issues. Even if it’s “just a side hustle” – the law and the IRS don’t distinguish between the two.
Remember who you are marketing to
This can be a hard one, because we often turn to family and friends for business advice. But if your dad isn’t in the market for a doula, his opinion on your logo designs don’t really matter. Because you’re not trying to appeal to his age and demographic! You need to clearly identify who IS your target market, and make sure that all your marketing works for THEM.
Plan ahead and think long term
Make sure that decisions you make today don’t cause problems down the road. Starting out with a very low price can get you the reputation as “the cheap doula” and make it hard for you to earn a living wage. Aggressively “advocating” for a client in the birth room can get you kicked out of the hospital at the client’s request. I’ve seen it. And I know that the hospital seriously considered banning doulas altogether after the incident. Luckily I was in a position to advocate for doulas to be able to continue to be welcomed there.
Know your numbers and know your customers
In the 2020 Doula Survey, the most common answer to “how much does it cost you to provide the services you provide?” and the most common answer was “I don’t know”. I was truly surprised by this. It’s a vitally important number to know, as it needs to be part of your pricing. If you’ve never done it, add up your expenses from the last year (or as much data as you have) and figure out how much it costs to do business.
It’s also good to know your customers. Think about what they have in common. Do they all come from the same childbirth classes? Are they all on the older side? I periodically look back and see what I can identify. I once realized that nearly half of the clients I had in one year were recent transplants to my area who came here for jobs. So I reached out to several of them, discovered they all used a relocation service. So I reached out to the relocation service, and now they have my marketing materials to send to expecting families they are assisting! Similarly, I once did private classes for several airline pilots, and was able to get my information posted in the pilot’s lounge at the airport.
Deliver what you promise – and make it a great customer experience
Make your clients feel special. If you say you’ll reach out when they’re 36 weeks, make sure that you do. If you promise to send that new parent some breastfeeding resources, do it before they remind you of that promise! Keep them and their experience always at the center of your work with them.
Be flexible and daring
Adaptability is a great skill for business owners. So is the courage to be daring! I know that I have had to do a lot of both in my years of doula work. 2020 with the global pandemic was a great example of how many doulas had some serious challenges to adapt to and stay in business!
I hope these have been helpful and I wish you the best in your doula business!