Building a Doula Practice – Just Like Labor

Wouldn’t it be so lovely if our passion and intention was all that was needed to “market” our business?

One of the questions I receive most often from prospective doulas is “How do I market my services and business?”

The good news is that, at some point, your passion and intention really does sell your doula services to potential clients.

However, you must befriend patience as this process takes some time.   I’ve found that a doula practice is grown and welcomed through good ol’ “word of mouth”‘;  it’s all about your character.

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. – John Wooden

It’s often occurred to me that a doula’s business will progress just like the stages of labor:  in fits and starts (prodromal labor), slow and mellow with moments of uncertainly (early labor), steady and confident (active labor), “What was I thinking?”;  fast and furious (transition),  and a re-focusing, re-energizing,  and coming into your own flow (pushing).

The beauty is that through each of these phases a doula has the opportunity to expand her understanding of birth, develop her personal doula philosophy,  and reflect on her journey as a birth keeper.

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In my own personal experience, building a new doula practice generally breaks down to this:

  1. Spread the word that you are an eager doula and humbly willing to work for a reduced fee (or at no charge).  I think of this like a classic internship, where one gathers wisdom, experience, practice, and deepens their connection to this spiritual work.  Good places to spread the word are social media sites, online doula forums, and connections with midwives and other providers.  Everyone has their own personal opinion on how many “reduced/free” births a doula should attend before they start charging for their services.   I feel this is a decision that can only be made by the individual and one that she will intuitively know based on the manner, setting, and breadths of births she witnesses.
  2. Create a simple website or blog to advertise your services.  Don’t let it expire like I inadvertently allowed mine recently :)
  3. There are a number of websites that offer a directory of doulas (certified and not certified).  Some charge for this listing and others offer simple listings for free.  A few examples are: doulamatch.net, findadoula.com, doulanetwork.com.   Oftentimes, local midwives, OB’s, and other health care providers are graciously willing to provide a list of doulas that serve their surrounding areas.
  4. Sometimes experienced doulas are willing to take on “apprentices”.   These may be few and far between as clients are often trying to pare down the number of attendees at their birth, but it can be worth a try.
  5. As hard as it is, manifest patience.  A business, and a solid character of servitude,   takes time to build.  Your best marketing tool is your happy clients.

One mantra that has stuck with me and consistently rings true: you will be sent the clients you are meant to serve.  Timing is everything.

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Sharing the Holy Work…

  • How did you personally market your new doula practice?
  • What mistakes in marketing a doula business do you often see?
  • How did you navigate the early stage of your doula business?
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