I love being a doula. I love working with pregnant, birthing and postpartum families. I love holding space and bearing witness to the freaking amazingness that is a baby being born.
I also didn't realize quite what I was getting into as I barreled my way into birth work headfirst. Would I ever give up working in the field? Absolutely not. Do I wish someone would have gotten real with me about things like tracking mileage right away? Uh, you bet your sweet butt.
As a doula who loves what I do, I often get asked by other people what they should know about the path. Usually, I freeze and offer up zero insight they haven't heard before. Today I wanted to get some of my best nuggets of wisdom down to help future doulas as they begin birth work.
You'll start tracking EVERYTHING
If you're serious about starting your own birth business you'll need to start tracking everything. Really, everything.
In order to make your business really work and actually get paid, you'll need to track every expense from your initial doula training to the ream of paper you'll use for handouts. This is so important to ensure your expenses aren't more than your income from clients. It's also wonderful come tax time when you can claim everything from ink cartridges to square footage of your home office.
There are awesome tools out there to help you keep track of it all, but I started out with a good old spreadsheet. Eventually, you'll be able to justify a business tool you pay a little for, but to begin, keep it simple.
Choose the right clients for you
As you start out, you'll be desperate to book any client you can just to gain experience. People will tell you to be more selective. You won't listen. I'm telling you the same advice now, knowing you won't follow it. That's okay.
When you have your first client under your belt, start narrowing in on who your perfect client is and the things that would make a client not so perfect. A great example is distance. I've taken clients more than an hour and a half away from my home. Do I regret it? No, because I felt our personalities matched and that made a difference. I did learn that it's really hard to make long distance clients work, but it's worth it if you feel a strong connection that overrides the minor inconvenience of travel.
I have learned that sometimes you just might not get the same warm and fuzzy feelings a client gets for you. It's okay to encourage that client to reach out to a different doula who you know would be a better fit. Which leads me to my next point...
You'll get rejected, it's going to be okay
The first time a client I interviewed with decided to go to a different doula, I was crushed. I thought, "Um, do you know how awesome I am? I'm so funny, have so much patience and will help you so much!" Then I took a step back and reflected on our interview.
We weren't a good fit. That client was looking for someone very tranquil and zen. Folks, that isn't me. If we had worked together it would have made the situation stressful for everyone involved as we worked harder than we needed to for a good birth experience.
As my business has grown, I've worked to attract the right client match instead of just any client. This makes interviewing ten times more fun because there is often an instant connection. I have what they're looking for and they don't know it, but I'm already best friends with them in my head. Do I still have the occasional client who goes a different direction? Yes. I've also had clients I direct to different doulas. It's less regular now and I handle the "rejection" better because I know it's just not meant to be.
Surround yourself with believers
Luckily, I learned this lesson because I experienced the positive outcome rather than a negative one, but always surround yourself with a tribe of people who want you to succeed.
My husband is my biggest fan. Each interview, client visit or birth, he reminds me how proud he is and sends me off with good vibes. I'm lucky, folks. He is as passionate about my desire to help birthing families as I am, which makes crazy unpredictable hours seem less of a chore for our family. He steps up right away to be with our daughter and keep our lives running at the drop of a hat. Simply put, he's a super hero.
I know I'm lucky. What do you do if you need to convince the people around you that your job is important and vital to the people you serve? Show them. Tell them. Get them on board.
Show them the evidence about how powerful a doula's presence is at birth. Get them interested in what you're learning. Show them your potential income opportunities and the many paths your business can take. Communicate your passion and what you need from them to achieve it. Doing this can make those 2 a.m. departures to a birth feel less like a surprise and more like a plan for your family.
Check in with yourself
Lastly, check in with yourself regularly about if this career is what you want to be doing. Birth work and supporting families requires dedication, focus on self-care and the ability to be present. If dropping everything to be at a birth starts to make you feel resentful, maybe this isn't the job for you?
This doesn't mean you have to leave birth work behind! Pivot to figure out how you can support families in a way that meshes with your needs. Become a postpartum doula. Teach childbirth education courses. The opportunities are endless and there is still a place for you in this field, just one that works best for you.
The Sown Seed
Belly, birth & beyond. Our mission is to help women embrace change, find inner strength and live with unapologetic joy.
the sown seed/2018