Doula Jobs: How to be a full-time doula
Are you wondering if your job can actually be as a full-time doula? What does the doula jobs industry look like? Wondering if there is even room for more new birth or postpartum doulas to thrive in your community? Or perhaps you’ve been doing doula work part-time or on the side for years and you’re wondering if you should take the leap to make doula care your full-time employment.
It’s an age-old dilemma. You need the money, so you have a part-time job in another field instead of being a full-time doula. That part-time job keeps you from fully committing to growing your birth or postpartum doula business so it can sustain you. And nothing really changes. Because what you are doing with your doula business doesn’t change.
Time after time I’ve seen birth and postpartum doulas transition to making doula work their full-time job. It can be done, but it consistently requires you to make the commitment to step over a threshold from “I wish I could do doula work full-time” to “I am a full-time doula.” The shift can be a scary one if you don’t have a strong financial cushion – as for most new doulas, it takes some time to find enough clients full client load.
Do you want your full-time 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 birth or postpartum doula business, the answer is definitely:
Over the years I have met new birth and postpartum 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 become a new doula.
I still remember the very first full-time birth 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 (I thought this was soooo cool & professional of her) a doula website! I had already been attending births for almost a decade as a doula, but always as a volunteer doula while working full-time.
8 Steps to make doula work your full time job:
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, the 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.
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, doula business cards, and a doula website, is one of the best moves you can make 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 her professional doula website, she had her first client and now has a thriving doula business.
Make a doula business plan. If you’ve been self-employed before, you likely 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 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.
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. And yes, you definitely should list your fees on your doula website!
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 honest about your limits. It’s easy to imagine doing 5 births per 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!
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.
Have a great website! Ok, I’m biased. But if you want to really grow your doula 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 to build your own website with my help (just $497!). Book your free consult today to learn more about all my options for website design and support.
Here are some helpful blog posts to further research your options for doula jobs:
>> Certification Matters: DONA Certified Doulas Earn Higher Fees and Attract More Clients
>> Working as a Doula – 6 Common Questions
>> 8 Misconceptions about Becoming a Doula
>> What I learned from 17 Years of Being a Doula
>> Making a Living as a Doula
>> The Downside of Doulaing
>> A day in the life of a doula
HOW CAN I HELP YOU?
I do my best to include helpful posts for your online strategy and your holistic business. Whether you are a midwife, chiropractor, doula, or non-profit / advocacy organization, you will find tips & tricks to improve your website and use it as a creative tool to get more clients.
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