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The Doula Interview: 3 Mistakes to Avoid

Doula interview mistakes to avoid
Mistake 1: Turn it into a mini prenatal  


Some clients are so hungry for information that they come to the interview with a copious amount of questions. They might ask you everything from your opinion about their care provider to what your thoughts are on circumcision. The potential Clients might even ask so many questions that before you realize it, hours have passed and you will have conducted a mini childbirth education class right there in the coffee shop. If you don't reign them in, their questions you might also have covered most of what you usually do during a prenatal. 

Being a source for quality information is great and I'm not suggesting that you should avoid answering all questions. What I do suggest is to limit your questions to those that are essential for helping with the hiring decision or help them with an immediate need.

Example of hiring decision questions: "What is your backup situation?" and "When do you meet us in labor?"

Examples of immediate need questions: "Is my hospital natural birth friendly?" or "Do you have a childbirth class that you recommend?"

Examples of questions that I suggest saving for he prenatal include: "How will I know when it is time to go to the hospital?" and "what positions would you suggest for back labor? "

The interview should be used to find out if you are a good match. It's the time to make sure that they know the great skills and qualities that make you unique. Use that limited time to ask them questions. You are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you!

Mistake 2: Bash their choice of care provider or birthing location

Many times I have received an inquiry from a potential client who was upset about a phone call or interview that they had with another potential doula. The other doula openly criticized the client’s choice of care provider and/or hospital and told the potential client that they would have a negative birth experience if they stayed with those choices. The first time I heard about this I was shocked and I thought it was a one-time occurrence. This actually is fairly common! Bashing someone else's choices isn't empowering. As doulas we need to honor their choices. If they ask opinion about their choices we can give input. If they aren't aware of challenges that come with their choices was can let them know, but not at the interview unless we are asked for our input. Doulas are there to support clients, not show our bias or force clients to birth with our favorite providers or favorite birthing locations. If you know that you don't like working with their choice of birthing location or care provider tell them that you aren't the best fit for them. Allow them to work with a doula that would feel comfortable supporting them where they are at. And please don't agree to be their doula with the intention of changing their mind during the prenatal.

Mistake 3: You don't interview them

When I first started out I was very eager to get clients. If they wanted to interview me, then I wanted to be their doula. I was ready to go and wanted to work with everyone. I would ignore red flags and not listen to my gut. This was a mistake that is one of my top 5 lessons learned in my first 10 years of doula work. Don't look past red flags during an interview. Doulas should be interviewing the potential clients just as much as the clients are interviewing doula. Make a list of questions for clients and bring them to the interview. This is an important step and also shows the potential clients that you are taking this relationship seriously.

doula interview coupon code

Doula Data - 7 Steps to Achieving Nirvana

Doula Data It's not a requirement to be a master at data management in order to be a good doula.  But, having a good system to store and retrieve your data will help you run your business and serve your clients better. 

I started out with a very disorganized system.  Mine began with a series of spreadsheets and a few paper files.  The spreadsheets were cumbersome and didn't allow me to access my data when I was out of the office.  If I forgot a client's address on the way to her house I was out of luck.  Keeping up with paper birth records and contract was also not my strength and soon were lost in a pile 'to sort'.  My system was a wreck.  However in the past few years, I've perfected my own system and would like to share my thoughts on how to achieve nirvana with your doula data.

7 Steps to Doula Data Nirvana

1.Organized Plan

2.Easy to enter

3.Easy to retrieve

4.Keeping the right pieces of data

5.NOT keeping non-essential data

6.Keeping data safe

7.Keeping data secure

 

It is very important to realize that your data management system is only as good as the data that you put into it. A system must be used in order to work. Many people fail with this important step. They get something setup and then they don’t integrate it into their daily work. The result is a failed system. Please don’t make this mistake. I highly recommend taking the time and making an effort to make your data management system into a business habit.

Once you have a system that you have worked with for a while, I recommend periodically evaluating it. Ask yourself these 3 questions:

1) Are you tracking information that isn't needed?

2) Is there information that you are missing?

3) Can you access your data easily?

 

March 10, 2016

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A Web of Support for Doulas

At Your Doula Bag we support doulas in so many ways, but sometimes it can be confusing.  This is a visual representation of the products and services that we have created for doulas.  

Each section of this map is clickable.  Pop around and take a look at the offerings. What are we missing?  What is needed to help you in your work?  Please post in the comments.

 

 

5 MORE Lessons Learned from 10 years of doula work

As it turns out, there are a few more lessons from my 10 years of birth doula work that I would love to share. If you missed the first set of 5 lessons, check them out here

1) Avoid negative doula relationships

I hear about doula drama a lot.  There is often talk about "this doula did this" or "that doula isn't doing this right" or "can you believe she is charging that".  Conversations like this are not productive and can even be hurtful to you or other doulas.  This drama is common in many areas of the country.  It is real and you can often feel like you can't get away from it.  

5 more doula lessons learned After a few negative experiences with doula drama, I made a change.  I removed myself from the situation. This means that I left several doula Facebook groups and avoided in person meetings that I knew were likely to end up with negative discussions and gossip.  The result was more free time (less time in Facebook) and a reduction of negativity.  In my life I choose to surround myself with positive people and this includes the doulas that I network with as well.  If you can't find positive doulas that will lift you up, inspire and support you locally go online. LESSON LEARNED!  Be selective in your doula relationships and avoid those which are negative. 

 2) Ace the Interview 

The interview process is so important. It is a great time for potential clients to get to know you and for you to get to know the potential clients.  I know many doulas have moved to phone interviews, but I still require an in-person interview.  In the last blog, I mentioned that it is important to not ignore red flags and many of these pop-up at the interview.  I can't properly assess the fit with potential clients over the phone and have had a few less than ideal situations as a result..  

If I determine that the client is a good fit for me then I really want to ace the interview.  I want to leave confident that I presented my best self during the one hour that we had together.  But this wasn't always easy for me.  It required that I prepare what I was going to say and even practice out loud or with a friend. Putting time and effort into the small elements of the interview like wardrobe and meeting location were also key components to an awesome interview.  LESSON LEARNED! Work at your interview skills and process and more clients will be hiring you after the interview. 

3) Sometimes I'm Just Plain Wrong

I've attended around 250 births and one would think that I pretty much know how birth works.  I've seen a lot and am pretty good at accessing things like 1) how far along my client is or 2) if my client is in transition and finally 3) if it's a good time to go to the hospital. But, just as I start to get this 'know-it-all' attitude I'll have a client that completely surprises me.  One that I am sure is in transition and yet she is only at 1cm. Or a client that seems like she is ready to push and yet is 4cm. Or one that is surely in early labor when in fact she is about to push. LESSON LEARNED!  Sometimes I am just plain wrong.  Labor is different for every woman and even differs from pregnancy to pregnancy. Things aren't always what they seem.  Now I like to tell my clients that I know a lot about labor, but there are times when I'm wrong.  I might suggest that we go to the hospital and come to find out it is too early.  What I can guarantee my clients is that I do my best, not that my best is always right. 

4) The Doula-Partner Relationship Can Be Magical 

When I started this work I had NO idea how much I would love working with partners.  I knew the value of a doula to partners.  I also knew that doulas in no way take the place of partners.  I just didn't expect that the relationship between a doula and a partner can be magical.  By magical I mean the ability to work together to meet all of the needs of a laboring mother sometimes without even talking.  So many times I have quickly developed a relationship with a partner and there becomes a seamless division of duties.  It is almost as if we are reading each others minds!  When doulas and partners work well together the support is amazing.  All members of the birthing team are working at their optimal level.  I love this experience. LESSON LEARNED! An incredible working relationship can be formed with partners that can be truly extraordinary. 

I have such a passion for the doula-partner relationship that I created a handout for my clients and offer it to all doulas.  If you are interested...you can purchase the regular version or get one customized with your company logo

5) Invest in Your Education...Wisely

I am firm believer that we should all continue to learn and grow.  The world of birth work is constantly changing and it is important to keep up to date.  I think we should all be continual learners! Two ways that I like to grow and learn is through continuing education programs and reading.   I love to learn through both in-person and online training.  I have enjoyed advanced doula training for learning more about the Rebozo and have learned a ton about Facebook Ads through an online course.  I also highly recommend and personally enjoy the educational opportunities available when attending conferences.  Conferences are a great way to learn a lot in a short time.  This style suits me well because when I travel for a conference I can devote time and energy to learning and not have the start and stop routine that happens when I have the distractions of work family and life on call. {I'll be at the DONA International Conference this July in Seattle and the Lamaze International Conference in West Palm Beach in October}  I have also learned that I need to actually put time and effort into my learning.  If I purchase an online course for example I need to complete it! If I attend a conference I need to pay attention in the sessions and take notes. LESSON LEARNED!  Investing in education is important and putting time AND effort into it is just as important.  

One education program that I am passionate about is the doula business training program that I created.  This program is called 100percentdoula and is open a few times a year for new members. 

Share a lesson that you have learned in the comment section!

 

5 Lessons learned from 10 Years of Doula Work

I can hardly believe that I am finishing my 10th year of doula work.  The years go by fast, but the recovery from a marathon birth is painstakingly slow.  I have learned a lot over these years and have put together 5 lessons. 

1) The Backup Doula Relationship is Important

We like to think that we will never need to call our backup doula...but, eventually you will.  I usually call in my backup or serve as a backup a couple of times a year.  Because of this real need, I have found 3 doulas to serve as backups for me.  They are doulas that I can completely count on.   When I select a doula for my backup I look for someone who practices similarly to me, is extremely dependable and keeps in communication. 

A few years ago, I had a couple that wanted me to use their childbirth educator as my backup.  This is usually a nice idea since the couple already has a relationship with this person.  I spoke to the doula and she agreed to be my backup.  As it turned out, I needed her at 3 am when I was already at a labor when this other couple also went into labor.  Much to my surprise, the backup doula said ‘No’.  She said that she wasn’t feeling well and that she also had a client that might go into labor and that she couldn’t go to the birth.  She had not been in communication about her being sick or about her other client that was due.  After a mini freak out, I had to desperately call other doulas and beg them to help me.  LESSON LEARNED!  The backup relationship is important and don’t risk it with someone that you don’t know and trust.  After this situation occurred, I had my attorney (and husband) create a Backup Contract which details out the relationship and makes me feel more prepared. 


5 Lessons learned from 10 years of Doula work2) Don’t Ignore Red Flags

When I was a new doula, I wanted every client that interviewed me to choose me as their doula.  If they wanted me then I wanted them.  This usually worked out, until it didn’t.  I completely ignored my gut feeling and accepted a client that didn’t seem like a good fit.  I can’t really define exactly what didn’t feel right, but there was several red flags waving in my face that I ignored.  The doula relationship didn’t go well.  It was my fault because I should have said no.  I wasn’t the right doula for them even though they thought that I was.  LESSON LEARNED!  Just because someone wants to hire me doesn’t mean that I should take them as a client.  Now I pay attention to my intuition.  If a relationship doesn’t feel right then I suggest another doula.  This is best for the clients and for me.

3) Data Matters

When I started out I had an amazing ability to remember my clients and their births.  I could recall details and give out numbers like an encyclopedia.  I am not sure when, but eventually I hit a wall.  I could no longer remember the births!  I didn’t know if I had attended 18 or 21 births.  Everything started running together and I realized that I didn’t have a system to collect my data and keep it organized. 

To be fair, I had few systems but none was used routinely and therefore, none were up to date.  Then I experienced a few tax seasons where I had no clue about my expenses and mileage driven. LESSON LEARNED! Data matters and I needed a system to keep it organized.  At this point, I developed the system that went on to become YourDoulaBiz.  YourDoulaBiz is a web based data management system that I created to easily keep my doula data organized.  Once I had an organized system (that I used on a regular basis) my business grew.  I had an organized history that I could pull numbers from for interviews.  I knew exactly where my client data could be found.  It changed my career.

 

4) Repeats Rock

It usually takes a couple of years for your first clients to have the opportunity to become repeat clients.  I absolutely love when I hear from a previous client asking me to be their doula again.  It is the best.  Working with a client a second, third or fourth time is amazing. {Yes, I’ve had 2 clients where I have been their doula 4 times}  The relationship is already solid.  You don’t have to learn about their previous birth experience because you were there.  You are already part of the team.  I also love to be there when a client has a smooth and quick second birth when they had experienced a long and difficult first birth.   That is a magical moment for me!  It is a true joy to be in a phase in my career when half (or more) of my clients are repeats.  LESSON LEARNED! Repeat clients are amazing. A positive birthing experience will likely lead to another positive birth experience.

5)Talk to Clients About Visitors

Even as a new doula I would ask my clients about their plans for having visitors at their labor and/or birth.  But as a new doula, I didn’t really discuss what this meant.  I would just make a note of who would be there and go on to my next topic.  Then there was the time that I had a very negative experience with a grandmother to be.  My client’s mother wanted to be at her daughter’s birth, but the grandmother-to-be wasn’t made aware of the couples desires for birth.   When I showed up at the labor and the word got out that they wanted an unmedicated birth, the grandmother-to-be was furious.   She made the couple aware that she did not agree with their decision.  It was extremely uncomfortable for all of us.   The grandmother-to-be actually grabbed my arm when just after I closed the hospital bathroom door {where the couple wanted to labor alone} and accused me of “making them go unmedicated”.  It was a nightmare. LESSON LEARNED!  Now at a prenatal I cover this topic in detail.  I even created a handout about Visitors at Your Birth that includes a test for potential visitors.  I want my clients to make sure that they are aware of the possible problems that visitors cause if they are not completely supportive of the process.  A laboring woman doesn’t need frowning faces and visitors saying things like “Oh honey, you’ve been in labor a long time”. 

Share a lesson that you have learned in the comment section!

 

Goal Setting for My Doula Business

As doulas, we do a lot of juggling.  Most of us offer many services, live a life on call and have a family that would like to see us too.  How do you do it?  Is a question that I am often asked.  One task that is essential in running and growing my business is GOAL SETTING. 

Goal Setting - What my process looks like

My first year of goal setting looked a lot like dreaming.  I was more focused on big dreams and less focused on the steps to get there.  Since then, I have refined my goal setting process.  I am now better at setting smaller goals.  When those smaller goals are achieved the bigger goals are next on the list!

Doula Business Planning2016 is the fourth year that I have used Leonie Dawson's Create Your Shining Year Workbooks as the primary tool in my goal setting process.  I love the workbooks so much that I am an affiliate** for the product.  As an affiliate, I promote the product because I use it myself and believe it.  

I'll admit, the first year I purchased the workbooks I didn't really fill it out.  I went through and filled out the easy pages, then put it on my shelf and went about my day to day tasks.  About halfway through the year I pulled the workbook out and was disappointed that I didn't fill the whole thing out.  The second year, I was much better at filling it out, but didn't check back in with it that often.  Last year I got it right!  I scheduled time into my calendar to fill out the workbook (several 2 hours sessions over a few weeks).  Then I scheduled more time to review the workbook on a regular basis throughout the year.  HOORAY!  This made such a change in my business.  

In case you were wondering...just buying the workbooks doesn't actual make real change in your business!  You have to put in the time and effort. 

New for 2016 - Goal Setting Webinars

I heard from many doulas that they love the Create Your Shining Year workbooks too so I thought it would be fun to set goals together.  Everyone that purchases a workbook through my affiliate link will be invited to 3 goal setting webinars that will take place between late December and mid-January.  

How do you do it? I love hearing about how everyone sets goals.  If you have a goal setting routine please share with a comment. Maybe you don't have a goal setting routine yet.  That's okay too!  Consider grabbing a workbook and joining me for the free goal setting webinars.  It will be a great jump start on this important process. 

 ** as an affiliate I receive a portion of all sales that I refer through the links on this page and in the video

How to Work as a Doula - Doula Outside the Box {5 in a 5 part series}

The three most common ways to work as a doula are as an independent doula, as a member of an agency and with a doula collective.  However, there other ways to be a doula.  Many doulas have thought outside the box and created their own unique way that works for them. {For purposes of this blog I will be using the pronoun “she” as this fits the vast majority of doulas.  Males can be doulas too. Which is wonderful!}

There were four less common ways that appeared a few times in our survey about how you work as a doula which was completed by over 180 doulas.  These were: partnerships, volunteering, hospital based work and dedicated backup. 

How to be a doula

Partnerships

Doula partnerships seem to be gaining in popularity possibly due to the desire to have a more predictable schedule.  Doula partnerships are usually between two doulas.  The doulas often share everything from income to clients.  Many doulas in partnerships attend prenatal appointments for all clients.  The on call schedule is divided so that each doula has a known schedule for being on call.  When the client goes into labor the doula on call is the one that attends the birth.  The fees are usually split where the attending doula receives the major

The doulas in a partnership generally share the business responsibilities and make business decisions as a team.  Special consideration should be given to setting up contracts between the two parties so that the workings of the partnership are certain.  

Partnerships can be a great way to have more control over your business while preventing burnout of living life on constant call. 

Volunteer Doulas

Volunteering your time as a doula is another way to work as a doula.  Many doulas start their careers as volunteer doulas in order to get experience.  If volunteering with an organization or healthcare practice, doulas are often given set shifts and are not assigned particular clients.  They are available if needed during their assigned shift. Doula may also volunteer their services and follow the typical model of working with clients one on one.  Many doulas that work as volunteer doulas find the work very gratifying. However, volunteer work is not a necessity to being a doula.

Hospital Based Doulas

Hospital based doulas usually work as employees of the hospital.  They are assigned clients through the hospital program and can work with clients on a one on one basis or more commonly are assigned clients in labor.  Hospital based doulas can have the opportunity to work with a wider variety of clients than doulas in private practice.  Because hospital based program generally provide doulas for free, doulas are more accessible birthing women no matter what age or economic status.

While many doulas might enjoy working as a hospital based doula, the programs are not common.  One of the oldest program is at Lexington Medical Center in Lexington, South Carolina. In 2014, they reports to have provided doulas to over 8400 birthing families!

 

 Dedicated Backups

A dedicated backup is a doula that does not have her own clients, but rather only provides backup support for one or more doulas in her area.  Dedicated backup doulas are often paid a fee to provide backup support regardless of whether they attend the birth or not.  Having a dedicated backup doula in place can be a great asset to a busy doula.  Because dedicated backups do not take their own clients they are more likely to be available should they be needed. 

 Series Wrap-Up

It's the final blog in our "How to Work as a Doula" blog series. What did you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Please comment on an article.  If you liked the series share it with your doula network.  If you missed any blog read more here. 

How to Work as a Doula - Doula Collectives {4 in a 5 part series}

Collectives that I describe in this section are independent doulas that work together under a shared group name, but handle all money and contracts on an individual basis.  Some groups use the word ‘collective’ in their names, but actually function more like an agency in that they handle matching of doulas to clients and handle contracts and payments.   For this blog, I looked at 12 areas of business and gave my thoughts on how the agency doula relates to each. {For purposes of this blog series I will be using the pronoun “she” as this fits the vast majority of doulas.  Males can be doulas too. Which is wonderful!}

  • Income – Most doulas in a collective do not share any portion of the fee for their services. They might however owe a due that is paid monthly or yearly to be part of the collective. 
  • Marketing Efforts – Marketing efforts are usually a combined effort between the group and the individual doula. Often doulas in a collective can share marketing efforts by listing their services on a central website and holding group meet the doula events.  The ability to share marketing efforts is often one of the top benefits that draw doulas into a collective.
  • Doula CollectiveBrand – The responsibility of managing , protecting and promoting the brand is usually the responsibility of all of the members of the collective.
  • Reputation – If the doula member represents herself as a member of the collective then she can impact the reputation of the brand. If she represents herself as an individual doula then she will impact her own personal company.
  • Backup Doula – One of the top benefits for joining a collective is to establish a solid backup network within the collective.
  • Input on How the Business is Managed - Each doula in the collective will manage their own business.  The management of the collective itself is usually done collectively by all of the group members.  In some cases, the collective will elect officers who will serve the role of collective manager(s) for their term of office. 
  • Doula Contracts – In most cases, contracts are handled by the individual doula in a collective.
  • Client Acquisition – The responsibility of finding clients is shared between the collective and the independent doula.
  • Client Fit – Some collectives have a matching process where a manager or volunteer processes inquiries and matches them with collective members. Other collectives are very open with the information that they provide about each doula in the collective and allow the client to contact the doula(s) that they are interested in.
  • Schedule Flexibility – Doulas that join collectives generally have complete control over their own schedule. She can book her calendar as full as she desires (or is able to). 
  • Job Security – A doula in a collective is her own boss. This means that she creates job security for herself.
  • Testimonials - All testimonials are owned by the independent doula. If she receives a positive testimonial it will always be a benefit to her business and won’t have to be used to grow a group.   She can grow her testimonials for her own business on her website and other sites like Yelp and DoulaMatch.net.

    Things to consider when joining a collective

    • Collective often have requirements for membership that include participation in both volunteer and marketing activities. It is important to know the requirements of the collective and to be able to fulfill the requirements.
    • Having a network of doulas to pull for backup is usually considered one of the top benefits for joining a collective; however I would make sure that you are comfortable with the backup that you are using before using any member of the collective. If the backup doesn’t not perform well it could be a reflection on your individual business and not the collective.
    • A collective can be a great fit if you want to run your own business, but would like the support system of a group.

     Read more about other ways to work as a doula.

     

     

    How to Work as a Doula - Agency Doulas {3 in a 5 part series}

    Agency doulas are doulas that work in one or more doula agencies. In some cases, they might also have their own businesses, but get client referrals from the agencies which they are members.  For this blog, I looked at 12 areas of business and gave my thoughts on how the agency doula relates to each. {For purposes of this blog series I will be using the pronoun “she” as this fits the vast majority of doulas.  Males can be doulas too. Which is wonderful!}

    • Income – The management of a doula group generally keeps a percentage of the fee that is collected for doula services. This fee varies between groups.  I have seen percentages of anywhere from 5% to 20%.  The payment process also varies between groups.  Groups may pay a percentage after the fee is collected from the client, hold off until the services are complete, make payments on a bi-monthly schedule or any variation of these.  Payments are generally made by the clients to the management of the group and then distributed to individual doulas, but sometimes payments are collected by individual doulas.   While the payment amount and strategy varies, the main point is that an individual doula does not keep the entire fee paid by the client.
    • Marketing Efforts – Marketing efforts are generally handled by the management of the doula group. Individual doula members usually do not incur their own marketing expenses.  Sometimes individual doulas are asked to participate in marketing events such as a meet and greet.
    Working for a Doula Agency - Part 3 in our How to Work as a Doula Blog Series
    • Brand and Reputation – Branding for a doula group is handled by the management of the group. This includes setting up the group name, logo, and website.  Maintaining the brand identity of the group is the responsibility of the management
    • Reputation - The reputation of the group is something that can be impacted both positively and negatively by all members of the group. A doula that stands out as a leader in the area and one that has developed a positive reputation in the community can impact the reputation of the entire group.  Conversely, a doula that creates a negative reputation in the community can create a negative reputation for her group.
    • Backup Doula – Most doula groups have a backup system within the membership. Each member is usually able to use one or more group members as their backup.
    • Input on How the Business is Managed – The amount of input that the individual doula can have on her group varies from group to group. The management of the group might allow for a lot of input from members, no input or some input.
    • Doula Contracts – Contracts are another factor that varies between groups. Many groups have a standard contract that each member must use.  Other groups allow the individual doulas to use their own contracts though this seems to be less common that a standard group contract.
    • Client Acquisition – The responsibility of finding clients in a doula group is usually is that of the management. Individual doulas might be required to attend client meet and greets, teas or speed dating events, but usually are not expected to organize these events.   Most doula groups have one point of contract for inquiry about services.  From that point the management either matches a client and a doula or distributes the client’s information out to the doulas in the group for them to decide whether to setup an interview.
    • Client Fit – In some doula groups, matching a doula with a client is done by the management of the group. In other groups that process of interviewing and deciding upon fit is left up to the individual doulas. 
    • Schedule Flexibility – Scheduling is another factor that varies from group to group. Usually an individual doula can express her scheduling preferences to the management which will be factored into the matching of clients.
    • Job Security – From what I have seen, most members of a doula group are contractors working for the group. They are not employees.  This means that usually doula group members can be released from the group at the will of the management.   The individual doula may or may not be asked to sign a contract to work with the group.
    • Testimonials – Like so many things, the ownership of client testimonials varies within a group. Some individual doulas keep testimonials for their work on sites like DoulaMatch.net and Yelp while other groups require testimonials to be stored on the group’s account at testimonials sites.

     

    Things to Consider Before Joining a Group:

    • Thoroughly review all contracts that you are asked to sign. Be especially aware of any type of non-compete language that is included in contracts that could prevent you from working as a doula if you leave the group.
    • Get all of your questions answered about payment. For example, if a client does not pay or disputes the payment with the doula group will the individual doula receive payment. 
    • Communicate your expectations for scheduling with group management. If you expect to have 2 clients a month, the group management needs to know.  The group might not be able to satisfy your goals or might want to book your calendar with more clients that you are comfortable taking.
    • Learn about the culture of the group and find out if it fits your personally and how you want to work as a doula.
    • Learn about any behavior standard that might exist in the group. Examples include how interviews are supposed to be done, how long after the birth labor doulas should stay and if a postpartum visit is routinely done by labor doulas.

    Wondering about working as an Independent Doula? Check out blog 2 in our series about working as a doula. 

    How to Work as a Doula - Independent Doulas {2 in a 5 part series}

    Independent doulas are doulas that work on their own.  They aren't part of a group, agency or collective.  For this blog, I looked at 12 areas of business and gave my thoughts on how the independent doula relates to each. {For purposes of this blog series I will be using the pronoun “she” as this fits the vast majority of doulas.  Males can be doulas too. Which is wonderful!}

  • Income - An independent doula keeps 100% of the income that is earned. 
  • Expenses – Independent doulas have to cover all of the costs associated with starting a business.  This could include legal fees, insurance, marketing costs, continuing education etc.
  • Marketing Efforts – Small business owners often incur marketing costs in order to build their brand and find clients. All of the costs associated with marketing will be the responsibility of the independent doula.  Marketing decisions will also be solely up to the independent doula.  This means that she will retain all creative control over this process.  She will be able to decide how to market her business and will have the flexibility to change her marketing plan as she sees fit.
  • How to work as a Doula - The Independent Doula

  • Brand – An independent doula has complete control over her brand. Every time she works as a doula she is representing her brand and her company
  • Reputation -  She does not have to share a reputation with all of the doulas in a group.  Independent doulas are able to develop relationships with clients, care providers and other professionals and growth their referral network which will benefit their own business. 
  • Backup Doula – Backup doulas sometimes can be a struggle for independent doulas. It is their responsibility to create relationships with other doulas and develop a relationship with one or more doulas to provide backup.  Usually, independent doulas use other independent doulas as their backup(s).
  • Input on How the Business is managed – The independent doula has complete control over how her business is managed. This is complete freedom to create the business that she wants.  A drawback to this freedom is the burden of being the only one with ideas for the business.   Doulas that work independently can feel overwhelmed with the day to day to-dos of business management.
  • Doula Contracts – Contracts are an important part of a doula's working relationship with both her clients and her backup doulas. The independent doula has total control over this process.  She can set up safeguards in her contracts to protect her business and define the working relationships in her business.  It is her responsibility to create these contracts and use them properly.
  • Client Acquisition – Finding clients and generating income is completely in the hands of the independent doula. It is her responsibility to develop methods for finding clients.  This includes marketing, social media, referral networks etc. If she is having a problem finding clients she is the only one who can fix this problem.
  • Client Fit – The independent doula has complete control over who she takes on as a client. She can be as discerning as she wants and decide on her own criteria for accepting a client.
  • Schedule Flexibility – An independent doula has complete control over her schedule. She can book her calendar as full as she desires (or is able to).  Doula’s that own their own businesses are able to schedule meetings to meet their own needs which include timing and location.
  • Job Security – Independent doulas are their own boss. This means that she creates job security for herself.
  • Testimonials – All testimonials are owned by the independent doula. If she receives a positive testimonial it will always be a benefit to her business and won’t have to be used to grow a group.   She can grow her testimonials for her own business on her website and other sites like Yelp and DoulaMatch.net.

  •  Things to consider before working as an independent doula

    • As an independent doula, you are responsible for all aspects of running a business. This requires a lot of determination, motivation, and drive.  I believe that to be a successful independent doula you must be a self-starter and passionate about running your own business.   Running your own business takes a good amount of organization and discipline. 
    • Many independent doulas often feel lonely. It is good to connect with other independent doulas for backup and support.
    • Working as an independent doula often requires a lot of effort up front in order to get a steady stream of doula inquiries and clients. If you can’t afford the extra time needed to establish your business it might not be the best choice for you.

     Read more about other ways to work as a doula.

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