I’ve been a Certified Birth Doula for six months now and I’m still not making much money doing doula work. I did my three no-cost births for certification and since then I’ve only had two paying clients. I’ve been dropping my cards off around town, at doctors and midwives offices, public bulletin boards, etc. I’ve got a great website and set up my social media pages. What am I doing wrong? I’ve been working so hard to get my name out there but I’m just not seeing any return. I’m working part time at a boutique and money is tight. I thought by now I’d be able to quit retail and do doula work full time. I love going to births but I think maybe I chose the wrong career. I’m pretty down on myself lately and feel like a fraud. Any advice? Thank you!
Dear Broke Doula,
My dear, I so get you. My first year of doula work, I got maybe 6 or 7 paying clients (low fee). I was doing childcare for most of my money, but desperately wanted to attend births and be paid well. I did a lot of volunteer births for an organization that paired low income mamas with free doulas...it was amazing but I was broke. And like you, I didn’t feel like a doula - I felt like a fraud (because a real doula would be getting great clients, right?!).
So - I have three pieces of advice for you:
Don’t give up. It takes time to build any business. Six months seems long, I know, but really, most businesses take 1-5 years to make a profit. It should not take you 5 years as a doula, but see where you are in another year. I think you’ll surprise yourself.
It sounds like you’re doing a lot to get your name out there (great job!) But while it does take time to get your name into the community, trying some new approaches wouldn’t be a bad idea. Check out this blog article on The MOST Important Doula Marketing Tips. I think it’ll give you some new ideas to try.
Find a badass, amazing, soulmate, successful doula mentor near you who wishes to nurture you through your doula infancy. I’m not kidding. Here’s the thing - every place is different. So while I could spout off for hours about ideal clients and preggo hotspots, etc - only a successful doula in your community is going to know what works where you live. In my city, prenatal yoga is a great place to market but maybe yoga isn’t the jam in your town. You need to find the preggo watering holes in your specific area. I had three births under my belt when I met Shannon (check out her awesomeness here: http://www.empoweredmamas.com/). I spotted her at a local networking meeting for doulas and fell in doula love immediately. We went on our first doula date and I was just smitten. She had sparkly brown eyes and the sweetest smile and I was doula crushing on her so hard. She had been to 90 births, which I was in awe of, and had 4-6 clients a month, which was my goal too. We sat at a coffee shop for two hours and I felt like we could have talked for days. She offered to be a resource to me and have me shadow her at births. As my practice grew and I became more experienced, we exchanged referrals and became each others backups. She also gave me a ton of great business advice and shared things like her intake forms, educational tools, etc. She instilled in me a sense of deep reciprocity - there are enough clients to go around and other doulas are NOT competition. What was in it for her? In her words “I love the energy of new doulas, it reminds me why I got into this in the first place, especially when I get burnt out.” Also, since I was shadowing her at births, I got to soak in SO much knowledge from her and she got a “birth servant” (as I jokingly called myself). I could run out and get her food or give her a break or just be company for her (doula work can be really lonely sometimes). It may take a few doula dates to find your doula mentor, but keep at it and the rewards are endless.
So, hang in there, Broke Doula. These are the growing pains of doula-hood. In a couple years, when you’re seeing a nice stream of clients and checks rolling in, all of this uncertainty and growth will be completely worth it.