This may surprise you, but marketing your business can be one of the highlights of your doula career. It may seem daunting and frustrating if you are getting started or if you are in a lull in your business - but for most of us, this work is so much bigger than a paycheck for some hours worked. Birth work is our passion and a way to create lasting change in the world. If you can go about marketing your business in a way that is impactful and unrushed - your efforts will feel much easier.
Doula work is about deeply personal connections - our clients are inviting us into one of the most intimate experiences of their lives. Many people hire a certain doula because they feel a deep resonance to that person's energy. So if you find yourself not feeling great about networking and not getting hired after doing all the things, one reason may be that you are giving off a vibe of desperation. I’ve had clients in interviews tell me they felt pressure from other doulas during consultations and I seemed much more relaxed. I knew the doulas they were talking about and often they were the ones complaining about having a tough time filling their practice and having financial problems.
What was my secret to giving off a relaxed vibe and getting hired most of the time?
When I was marketing, networking and doing interviews, I knew I didn’t need a referral from that particular practitioner or to be hired by that particular couple because I knew I could pay my bills. There was no rush.
Which is why one of my first pieces of advice to new doulas and doulas struggling to get paying clients is this:
Make sure you can pay your bills - then go out and market your doula services.
When I started, I had three part time jobs. As I was marketing my doula business, there was no anxiety about how I would pay rent or buy food - so I was able to take my time as I networked and marketed my business. I was able to wait for ideal clients and never had to support a client who wasn’t a great fit.
I could go to networking events or meet prospective clients with calm energy. My biggest goal was to connect on a subject I was passionate about: pregnancy and birth.
Of course I always had it in the back of my mind that a paying client could be born from these interactions - but it wasn’t my main priority because I wasn’t desperate for money. And here’s a secret - people pick up on that desperation. If you are telling yourself “I need to have a full practice in four months or else,” then the pressure will be awful. But if you can say “hey, I have a couple years to build this thing” - that will be such a relief. And if you are doing all the right marketing things, it may take less than two years. That mental load off will be so comforting and help you attract more abundance in your business.
Here’s a couple ideas for part time gigs while you build your practice:
Nannying. If you have kiddos, offer for people to drop their kids off at your place and watch them all together - or maybe you can bring your kids to their home. This is a great option if you can’t afford childcare. One of my close doula colleagues watched her neighbor's daughter and her own daughter weekday mornings for a year before she could pay her bills with doula work.
Work somewhere where you will be in front of pregnant people regularly. A part time job at a yoga studio with prenatal classes, a baby store, etc. This is awesome because you’ll make money AND maybe get hired as a doula! A friend of mine worked at a baby store during her early days and the owner let her put her cards at the cash register in case anyone was interested.
It can be a little tricky to figure out back-up but with a little effort it can be done. When I was a nanny I charged a couple bucks less an hour than the going rate so that people would be okay with me canceling last minute. I did more mother's helper type work which meant the moms were around and not relying on me for set times, they just needed an extra hand a few hours per week. I had back up nannies I could call and backup doulas to cover me if I couldn’t leave my nanny job right away.
If you’re working a job you can't leave last minute, you’ll have to find some good back up for your doula clients - often I introduced clients to their backup in case I was still at work. I also worked in partnership in those early days so a client was okay with either of us showing up - my partner had her non doula jobs at opposite times to mine so we could fully cover our clients AND still pay our bills.
Another example is my colleague Amanda, who has two little kids. The first year and half of building her birth business, she worked two evenings a week as a waitress and Sundays at a maternity boutique. Her husband watched the kids while she did her part time jobs and she had a doula partner who covered the twenty hours per week she was working, since she couldn’t leave those jobs to go to a birth. After a year and a half she had reached her goal of making 4k per month with births, placenta encapsulation and childbirth ed classes.
It’s hard work to build a business of your own. We choose this job to support parents, and often don’t have a huge passion for the ins and outs of the business/marketing side of things. But if we are going to be successful doulas we need to conquer the marketing - as difficult and frustrating as it may be at times. You should be proud that you are tackling this work - so give yourself the gift of time when finding the right clients for you. I promise it will create so much more ease in your life and success in your business.