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.
So you love birth and babies. You'd LOVE to imagine yourself doing birth or postpartum 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 into being a full-time doula as your job, if you are willing to do the work to build your doula business, the answer is definitely:
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 doula business cards, a welcome packet, a professional doula logo, and even a website. I had already been attending births for almost a decade, but always as a volunteer while working full-time. I was flabbergasted - families would actually PAY for me to attend their births? Remember, DONA was founded in 1992 - the same year as I discovered birth work. We've come a long way in the last 30 years!
For now, here are my top 8 steps to make a successful transition into full-time doula work, along with some helpful resources to start your doula business.
8 Steps to make doula work your full-time job
1. Understand what doula work will require of you.
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. It will also require, for many of you, regular doses of chocolate.
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 clear market research, plans for doula 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 what doula salaries are in your region.
In North America a doula salary can range from $400 - $2000+ per client depending on the city, level of experience, skillset, 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. Here's why you should list your doula fees on your website.
4. Define your niche & what makes you unique as a doula.
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! A great way to do this is to have a defined niche for your doula business, and be clear on the characteristics that set you apart as a practitioner. *Be sure to check out my doula business resources page for plenty of free tips to help you build your practice.
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.
5. Be honest about your limits as a doula.
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. You have to balance 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. Doula burn-out is real...
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 doula logo, business cards, and a 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, she had her first client, and her practice is now thriving.
Remember you don't have to start out with a custom doula website with all the bells and whistles - keep it simple, and let your website grow as you go. Check out my Keep it Simple Website Package designed especially for new doulas & other holistic practitioners. It is always better to start out with something that you can feel proud of & that will transform visitors to clients, than a DIY doula website that doesn't attract new clients.
7. Take the leap to full-time doula care as soon as you are able.
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 world's 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 work as a doula and childbirth educator.
8. Have a great doula 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 doula 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. Choose the MY SIMPLE WEBSITE package for a starter website you can grow with. Book your free consult today to learn more about all my options for website design and support, including the Website In a Day builds!
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 into your full-time job. I've even seen grandmothers inspired by the birth of a grandchild decide to enter the birth and postpartum care field. What will your next step be?