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The Secret to a Smooth Doula Business Startup

Guestpost By Darlene MacAuley of Inspired Birth Pro

Over a decade ago, I stepped out of the hotel after my doula training workshop, excited about the opportunity to serve and do birth work. The workshop was all about learning how to be a great birth doula.

What it didn’t really do was teach me and my fellow students how to start a doula business.

Was it like that for you too?

Here’s what usually happens to a lot of new doulas. The research starts. Google is their best bud. But there’s so. much. data. to sift through. Then they join ALL the Facebook groups. And while they do find some good information, a lot of it is piecemeal, so they feel like they’re putting together a puzzle, though they don’t really know what the final picture is supposed to look like, and they don’t have all the pieces, either.

They’re taking action, and they’re puttering along, but it starts to become overwhelming. They wish they had a roadmap with a clear path.

In my case, after I completed my doula training workshop, I followed a process similar to what I did when my husband and I started our business six years before. One of the first business books I read was E-Myth by Michael Gerber. The most valuable lesson I learned from that book was that it was important to set up your business so much of it could run without me, and that’s what I aimed to do when I started my doula business.

But wait, you’re thinking…a doula provides a service… they are the business. Yes, that’s very true, but there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to running a doula business that doesn’t have anything at all to do with you and doula-ing your clients.

So here’s the secret to starting your doula business…

Instead of looking at starting a business as a monumental task, compartmentalize the various parts of your business into systems. These are the four primary systems in your business:


This includes all the pieces necessary to create a new business to be in compliance with the law. This also includes protecting oneself with insurance, disclaimers, contracts, and terms of service. The good news is that once you do the initial setup of your legal tasks, you will only need to occasionally revisit them.


Your financial system is about all the things having to do with money – how to track it, where to keep it, how to pay taxes, expenses and yourself. Once your accounts and tracking methods are determined, and depending on the tools you use, the primary tasks you’ll have financially are monitoring and recording the flow of money and filing taxes.

Client Management

Client management includes all the tasks you need to do in the course of working with a client, from the time you first hear from them until well after your last postpartum visit. If you create and document a step-by- step process or workflow of what to do with each client, you can find nifty tools to help simplify the process, and this will also ensure that all your clients have the same standard of care.


Aside from working with your clients, your marketing system is going to be the one that takes the most time and has the largest learning curve. Included here are all the tasks to attract and nurture clients, online and within your local community. Marketing is also the system that typically causes the most anxiety, mainly because there are so many different ways to connect with people and, well, it can be overwhelming. The key here is to commit to learning different methods over time and consistently put effort into marketing.

In addition to the four primary systems for business, there are three more I want to mention:

  • Mindset and Self-Care

  • Time Management

  • Family and Household

As we diligently work on our business, it’s vital that we consider our self-care, time and family. This ensures that we don’t neglect ourselves and the ones we love as we grow this new baby – our business.

Becoming a doula is a dream, but building a strong doula business requires an investment of time to create systems that help you run your practice much more easily. In fact, the more that can be done without you, the better. Figure out all the tasks that belong in each of these four primary systems. Then you can methodically go down the list for each system, set up each element and cross it off.

As you determine what you want your business to look like, consider ways you can automate tasks. If you don’t have very much money to start your business, you can start with free or inexpensive tools. The goal here is to help you save time so you can focus on your clients. As your business grows, you can upgrade to services that have more time-saving and client-nurturing features.

At the end of the day, your doula business systems = CONNECTION…

…with your potential and current clients, colleagues, community, money, and most importantly, your most important relationships and yourself. Your doula business will be an expression of you and your dream of serving families. Create key systems for your business and personal life to help you make the most of your time and energy. Set up your business so different aspects of it can run on autopilot. Prepare workflow charts and checklists that you can refer to so nothing falls through the cracks. Adopt new routines at home to make sure everyone is fed, and schedule mandatory self-care dates with yourself away from your business so you can rejuvenate.

You’ve got this!

Darlene MacAuley of Inspired Birth Pro

Darlene is a business strategist who helps birth professionals attract clients by coaching them on how to harness the power of connection and community so they can stand out and grow their business with ease. A former birth doula and childbirth educator, she runs Inspired Birth Pro, a site with a wealth of resources on starting, growing and marketing a birth business, and she also offers a variety of business forms for birth doulas. You can claim your free 10-Step Checklist for Starting Your Doula Business for an overview of how to begin setting up your business systems. Darlene lives in Austin, TX with her family and jack-huahua and celebrates her small kitchen appliance and gadget addiction by cooking as many meals as possible without using the stove.


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