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Doula Jobs: How to be a full-time doula

your doula job

Yesterday I heard the following from a birth doula:

"I finally let go of the crappy part time job that was using my vital morning time... The time when I have the most energy and focus for my business. It's a risk, because I'm not quite financially ready, but I *never* will be if I don't quit this job and use those vital hours for my business."

SOUND FAMILIAR?

It's the age-old dilemma.  You need the money, so you have a part-time job. That part-time job keeps you from fullly committing to growing my business so it can sustain you. And nothing really changes.  Time after time I've seen doulas step over this threshold to making doula work their full-time job.  It can be done, but it consistently requires you stepping over a threshold - and it's a scary one if you don't have a strong financial cushion.

DO YOU WANT YOUR JOB TO BE DOULA WORK?

So you love birth and babies. You'd LOVE to imagine yourself doing this work full-time but aren't sure if that is a wise move for your bank account. While there are definitely factors you should consider before taking the leap, if you are willing to do the work to build your doula business, the answer is definitely:

Yes!

Over the years I have met doulas who are former managers, musicians, software engineers,  actors, teachers, and nurses. Whatever your career or age, it's never too late to consider making doula care your full time job. I've even seen grandmothers inspired by the birth of a grandchild decide to enter the field.

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I still remember the very first full-time doula I ever met, way back in 2000. I was pretty much blown away that she had actually made doula work her full time job. She had business cards, a welcome packet, a logo, and even a website. I had already been attending births for almost a decade, but always as a volunteer while working full-time. One of these days I'll see if she'll agree to an interview with me and I can share her story.

For now, here are my top 8 steps to make a successful transition into full time doula work.

8 Steps to make doula work your full time job

  • 1 Know what you're getting yourself into! Doula care is not for everyone. It can seem really romantic and exciting from the outside, all precious newborns and glowing parents. However the erratic long hours, stress of self-employment, and difficult births can really take their toll. I encourage you to identify a few professional doulas in your community and ask for their advice on being a full-time doula. Doula jobs unfortunately have a high burnout rate, and it is important to understand the full reality of what it means to serve as a doula.
  • 2 Make a doula business plan. If you've been self-employed before, hopefully you already know the importance of a business plan. It takes time to build up a successful doula practice, and finding those first 5-10 clients can be a challenge. Set yourself up for success with a clear market research, plans for marketing and outreach, budgets, and a realistic timeline. Make sure you include gradual business growth in your plans, starting out with one or two clients per month and growing from there.
  • 3 Know your local market. In North America a doula salary can range from $400 - $2000+ per client depending on the city, level of experience, skill set, and level of services included. Be sure to do your research on the norms for doula salaries in your community, including what new doulas charge compared to more seasoned doulas. When estimating your income potential as a doula, be sure to base this on real local rates.
  • 4 Get clear on your value. Are you in an area with a strong doula community? If so there is likely already a good public awareness of the benefits of doula care, but this is balanced with lots more competition. It will take time to build a name for yourself! If you will be one of very few doulas in your region, it will likely be harder to sell the idea of doula care, but you will also have lots of room for creative marketing and collaboration in the community. *Be sure to check out my Beyond Competition ebook for insights on how to define your unique practice within your community.
  • 5 Be honest about your limits. It's easy to imagine doing 5 births / month, but consider the reality of actually holding five families in your care. Juggling their needs while being continuously on call is not for the faint of heart. Consider the needs of your own family, your personal needs in terms of sleep and downtime, and any other work obligations as you consider the lifestyle of a full time doula. Consider self-care practices you may want to include in your doula business budget such as regular massages to care for your back after the hard work of labor support. Also be sure to book vacation time every year. You'll find a few tips here on taking a doula vacation!
  • 6 Invest in your doula practice. When you decide to be a full-time doula it requires a big investment of both time and money. Creating strong marketing materials, including a logo, business cards, and a website, is one of the best moves you can make a as a new doula. You might decide to take your profits from the first few births to pay for these business costs. In most cases, however, it will end up taking you way longer to find those clients. Last year I built a beautiful website for a brand new doula who had not yet attended a single birth. Within a week of launching she had her first client, and her practice is now thriving.
  • 7 Take the leap. Balancing a part- or full-time job in addition to supporting families as a doula is Not an easy feat. You have to either be self-employed with flexible hours, or have the worlds most understanding employer to make it work. In my early years of doula care I was blessed to have a job that I loved that allowed me to come and go as I pleased to attend births. Even in this scenario, however, when your energy is divided between jobs things just don't tend to flow as well. Your doula business will be stronger and grow faster if you take the leap into making it your full time job. If that's too much, consider a freelance job on the side that you can do on your own time. Here's the success story of one woman who transitioned to full time employment as a doula and childbirth educator.
  • 8 Have a great website! Ok, I'm biased. But if you want to really grow your practice, you need folks to land on your website and feel motivated to take the next step. A strong web presence can make the difference between a practice that is doing "ok" and one that is thriving. Worried about the investment? Remember it only takes a few new clients to cover your costs, or even just one client if you choose my DIY WEBSITE SCHOOL to build your own website (just $497!). Book your free consult today to learn more about all my options for website design and support.

The beyond competition ebook

Filled with guided journal questions & exercises, the Beyond Competition eBook will help you explore your relationship with competition & comparison in the birth community, and better define the value you offer local families.

About Sarah Juliusson

Hi there, I’m Sarah Juliusson, The Website Doula. I support your practice growth with creative website design, seasoned business guidance, and plenty of great resources to help you find your way. With 20+ years as a doula and childbirth educator, I believe in the value of your work as much as you do. >> learn more about my work as the website doula