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How To Work as a Doula - Doula Working Arrangements {Part 1 in a 5 Part Series}

How To Work as a Doula - Doula Working Arrangements {Part 1 in a 5 Part Series}

How to work as a doulaFor the next five weeks we will use the YourDoulaBag blog to explore the question “How Can I Work as a Doula?”  This is a common question that I often hear asked by new doulas, those interested in becoming a doula and existing doulas that might not be satisfied with their current arrangement. Working as a doula can exist in several forms and in this blog we will go through each option.

Data for this blog series was collected from over 180 doulas via a survey hosted on Survey Monkey.  The doulas which completed the survey were a mix of new and experienced doulas and were a mix of certified (52%) and uncertified doulas (48%).  If you took park in this survey, thank you for your response!   

 {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 are 3 ways in which most doulas work.

These are:

The Independent Doula

The independent doula works alone.  She runs her own business and has complete control over business decisions.  Independent doulas might get help in certain aspects of business, but most doulas handle most of the daily tasks for the business. 

Pros of working as an Independent Doula (as reported in the survey) include:

  • Own boss
  • Control over choices for services and prices
  • Independence
  • Don’t have to coordinate schedules
  • No collective decisions
  • Get to keep all of the money, independence and control over business

 Cons of working as an Independent Doula (as reported in the survey) include:


Quotes from Independent Doulas

“I’m my own boss, I work when I want with who I want and the way I want” Paloma Fitzpatrick

“I like being my own boss and not being responsible to anyone but myself and my family.”

“I choose which clients I take and they know I’m going to be the one with them at the birth.  It builds relationships”

“I want to be in charge”

“I am nervous about getting enough work and having a steady income”

Doula Agencies

Doula agencies are groups of doulas that usually have one or more owners/managers (I’ll use the term owner for this blog) and several doulas that work as contractors.  A percentage of the client’s fee for services goes to the owner and the remaining portion goes to the doula that performs the service.   Business decisions are made by the owner.

Pros of working in a Doula Agency (as reported in the survey) include:

  • Comradery support of other doulas
  • Get to have days off call
  • Marketing done for you
  • No business responsibilities

Cons of working in a Doula Agency (as reported in the survey) include:

  • Have to pay part of fee to owner
  • Backup doulas aren’t personal choice
  • Delay in getting paid

Quotes from Doula that work in Agencies

“Participating in a group helps ensure that I have reliable backup, and provides a greater reach as far as marketing and community outreach”

“I wanted a quick way to establish myself in the community and find clients quickly”

“I didn’t want to carry the burden of marketing and networking all by myself.  I’m a team player and thrive in the environment.”

“The backups that I work with aren’t necessarily doulas who have similar personalities or backgrounds as me.  If I were working independently, I would choose back-ups who are similar to me.

“I make a bit less per client than I would on my own.”

Doula Collectives

For this blog, Doula Collectives describe groups of independent doulas that come together to provide support for marketing, backup and education.   Management of the collective is usually made by the members.  Doulas that join the collective usually have some type of fee to belong to the group and/or requirement of their time for volunteer or marketing work.

Pros of working in a Doula Collectiv(as reported in the survey) include:

  • Support
  • Networking
  • Backup

Cons of working in a Doula Collective (as reported in the survey) include:

  • Communication challenges
  • Jealousy
  • Challenges finding time to meet

Quotes from doulas that are part of a Doula Collective

“Can maintain independent businesses but still support each other with marketing large events as well as backup support”

“Having our group allows us more opportunities for professional development, accountability, reliable backups and support.”

“Pooling advertising dollars to inform the mainstream public about the benefits of doula care.”

“Strife between experienced doulas and new doulas (DRAMA that I could live without!)”

“The best thing is hosting events together, having someone to bounce ideas off of, encouraging each other.”

Other options for Doula Work

There are a few other options for working as a doula which don’t seem to be as common as the three options described above. 


Partnerships are when two (or more) doulas work together and share all business decisions.   Often doulas that work in partnerships also share clients and divide time on call so that they have more scheduled time off call.


Many hospitals and birth centers have volunteer doula programs.  Doula that work in these programs often work for an assigned shift and are matched with clients when they arrive at the birthing location.  Volunteer doula program often require doula volunteers to attend trainings and follow program policies.

Agency Owner

Many doula agencies are owned by active doulas that divide their time between duties of running the business and taking on their own clients.

Next in the Series

There are several options for working as a doula and in the next blog of the series we will explore the Independen Doula option in greater detail.  If you enjoy this series and the accompanying video please subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube channel. 


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  • Alice Turner
Comments 1
  • Ashley

    Don’t forget about doulas who only choose to work as a back-up to other doulas. I remember learning about this on one of your business chats. I thought that was an interesting option for those who have other family obligations or did not want full-time work!

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