When I first started out as a doula I was a little underwhelmed by what was required to actually become a doula. It seemed relatively simple: take a training, read some books, attend births, 1/2 a dozen other things and voila! Well, yes, technically that is what’s required to say “I’m a doula” but so much more is involved! No doubt as you have begun your journey you have realized how much more there is to it.
Are you overwhelmed by the process? For myself, I was much more excited about the idea of having my own business than actually putting the work into it. Everything was relatively simple in its own regard but as a whole not so much. A few months after my workshop I had yet to attend a birth, create a website, and it took me nearly 8 months to finally finish one book!! (In my defense, it was pretty thick).
It took me nearly three years to get to the point where I don’t panic when a client goes into labor because it’s been six months since I had attended a birth. Nearly three years to feel confident walking into an interview, know I was good enough, what I offer is good enough, and if I wasn’t hired it wasn’t going to break me. It took nearly three years before I actually got to the point where I had to refer potential clients to other doulas because I was booked. It might take some time, but it can happen for you too!! Here are a few things that helped me in my doula business that can help you too!
Join a local doula network:
We are so fortunate in Utah to have the Utah Doula Association! The UDA is a mentoring organization who puts on monthly mentor meetings for its members (among it’s many other valuable contributions to families and doulas in Utah). There are 2 meetings a year that are open to the public. The meetings are an amazing way to network with other doulas, new and old. The information provided will no doubt help you build your business, network, knowledge, skills, and more. This year we have had meetings talking about social media marketing, caring for twin moms, and an experienced doula panel to name a few. Once you are a member you are able to watch recordings of these past meetings!
The UDA’s annual spring conference is another great opportunity for continuing education and networking. There are early bird pricing and discounts for members of the UDA. We hear from providers around the valley on various birth-related topics that are especially applicable to our field. This year there were breakout sessions with seasoned doulas answering specific questions from newer doulas which were my personal favorite. You can learn how to join the UDA here.
You also have the opportunity to join the UDA board if you would like. This is the first year I have been on the board and my business doubled this year from my combined previous two years. Coincidence? I think not. Joining the board has been an amazing experience. It’s come with it’s challenges, but I would say the benefits far outweighed any of them. When you have such close dealings with other doulas you gain lifelong friends. When other doulas know you, they refer out to you when they can’t take clients. You also learn valuable communication skills which help you in other areas of your life. You not only grow as a doula but as a person.
Find Your Target Market:
I feel like as doulas we think we should be willing and ready to take any client that comes along, especially when we are newer and trying to gain experience. This can be fine at first, but the longer to you try to mesh with everyone who comes along the faster you may feel burnt out by your clients because you aren’t being your authentic self. The fact is, there are going to be families you click better with and it is totally OK to market yourself to those families. So who is your target market and how can you reach them?
It took me some time to figure out who I clicked best with and it’s something I am always reevaluating and trying to narrow down even more. Spend some time figuring out who YOU are and what is important to you. If you were to hire you, ask yourself why? How would you find you? What questions would you ask yourself? These steps will help you discover your target market and in turn, it will help them find you.
We are busy people in this world. There is nothing wrong with trying to narrow things down and put your time and resources into what will help you get the greatest yield in your business.
Network! Network! Network!
I spoke about joining a local doula network but networking doesn’t end there! One thing that really helped me was attending different birth classes. Not only is the information invaluable to your profession, but you get to know the instructors. Instructors always need doulas to refer out to and vice versa; you can refer people to their classes. Win/win! You might also get a client from attending a class and spending week after week with them. Attend as many as you want or can. There are so many options out there, different methods, different instructors. Find a list of awesome UDA instructors here.
Scour Facebook for different groups to join related to birth. The UDA has a couple different groups for members that you get added to when you join. There’s also Love What You Doula, Doulatalk, and others. Some of these will offer networking for your area, but they also will offer advice and suggestions for your business. I love asking questions and getting lots of feedback and these groups are great for that. These groups are full of passionate birthy people. Be aware of how much time you are spending reading posts that may not be relevant to you and your business.
Attend events. Once you start following and liking different birth groups you will find there are birth/health-related events almost every night of the week around the valley. Find the ones that will help your particular goals and business and attend them. Add them to your calendar and go! Go with the intention to learn but be open and ready to share what you do with others. Sometimes it’s intimidating, take a friend if you need. These events will not only further your knowledge but they will help you grow your network. Doulas need a reference list for clients!
Finally, find what your strength is and hone in on it. I used to try to follow other doula’s examples of networking and sometimes it just doesn’t jive with my personality. We all have skills we are better at than others. Trying to do something like someone else when it doesn’t suit you will only make you feel bad about yourself and it will take time away from your real skills. Take little bits and pieces from everyone and tailor it your business.
This list by no means represents how many options there are for you to help your business grow and thrive. Once you start networking with other doulas talk to them about what helped their businesses grow. You might be surprised to hear from other doulas how long it has taken to build their business. If you are feeling discouraged you’re not alone. It took me over two years to get “busy” and I still look around at other doulas who book 3 times the amount of clients I do. Before it would have got me down, but now I just remember it’s an ever-growing and evolving process. Don’t give up on your business pursuits! You’ll get there!