Getting our first few doula clients

Over the past few years there has been so much talk about whether to charge for our first few clients after we’ve completed our training.Getting our first doula clients

My personal views see both sides of this argument. I say if you can charge for your first few clients, please DO! BUT I see a lot of new doulas who just don’t feel comfortable doing that and to tell them to charge is a disservice to them because they just won’t do anything. It’s like when we’re worried or anxious and someone tells us not to worry. It doesn’t usually work does it? Sooooooo….here’s what I have to say to those of you who are struggling to find your first few clients. My answers might surprise you.

The doula in you

First, I want you to grab a piece of paper. I want you to write down 5 reasons doulas provide a wonderful and worthwhile service.

Now I want you to write down 5 reasons YOU’RE wonderful. What are those nice characteristics people always say you possess? Don’t be shy. Be confident and honest about your skill set.

Now I’d like you to list your previous education, work and life experiences that have led you to becoming a doula and that will make you a good doula.

No experience

Consider the new doula who says “I have never been to a birth and I don’t have a child of my own. How on earth am I going to be a doula for someone for the first time?” As I dig a little deeper I’ll ask about their educational background and life experience. The new doula says “I have been interested in birth since my younger brother was born a few years ago. I wasn’t in the room but went to all my mom’s prenatal visits with her and was SO fascinated by my newborn brother. I took women’s studies in university and I’m considering becoming a midwife at some point. I’m always the friend people come to when they’re struggling with life situations”. EVERY single one of those points has led this person to becoming a great doula even before she has attended her first birth. Keep in mind that what makes us a competent doula is our ability to be committed, unbiased, supportive, a good listener and a good communicator. Odds are, you possessed those qualities LONG before you’ve attended a birth.

So you’re probably wondering when I’m going to “tell” you how to get your first few clients, but the truth is that’s the easy part. What isn’t easy is YOU being aware of how awesome you are and being confident about your ability to get these clients and doula your first few clients.

IF you feel confident charging for your first birth, then I’d encourage you to charge a fee in the range of rates for your area. When we start off charging a low fee because we’re “new” we devalue the service in our area. Personally, I’d rather see people do probono work for agencies who support under-served populations than charge a low fee to a client who can afford a typical doula fee. But that’s just a personal opinion and I would always encourage people to do what’s right for themselves.?

IF you would rather do probono support for your first client(s) then here are some ways to find those clients in a way that doesn’t devalue doula support in your area (as much):

  • Go visit a pregnancy help centre
  • Go to your local health department and see what programs exist focused on under-served prenatal populations
  • Go to a local homeless shelter and discuss with a worker if there is anyone expecting who may need support
  • Chat with local midwives or OBs about single parents who are unsupported and low-income and who would benefit from a doula’s support
  • Find all the agencies in your area who support vulnerable populations and who might benefit from you coming in to do a short chat about comfort measures or doulas (or other in-scope topics). More education for these expecting people is so valuable whether or not they ask you to be their doula. Furthermore, the experience of going and presenting about doula services or labour is helpful in building your confidence.
  • Check with local doula associations that may have programs to support new doulas
  • Connect with your local State or Provincial rep at your training organization to see if they have some good local recommendations

I’ve seen a lot of new doulas post on Kijiji or Craigslist, but I don’t encourage that. In those situations, you may find yourself supporting someone who could afford to pay for a doula. My experience is that when doulas provide probono support to families who could actually afford doulas, they are often resentful of the amount of work they do. This rarely happens when you support someone who can’t even afford basic baby supplies.

You may also find comfort in supporting friends or family members to start. It may feel less intimidating, though your role will be different from supporting a stranger. In addition, be sure you can stay within your scope if it’s a close friend or family member! Part of being a good doula is not being emotionally involved ? If you’re open to this idea then post to your Facebook family.

Your Salesforce

Remember that you are not a salesforce of 1. Every single person who loves and cares for you and knows why you’d make a wonderful doula is on your sales team. Make sure they have a nice little postcard (my preference) or business card (less preferred) to give to pregnant people in their lives (which we ALL have) to help promote you.

Getting clients

If you do even a small handful of these things you will have more clients than you could even handle!

I’d encourage daily meditation and journaling about how you’re feeling about your new journey along the way. Much of our success is around confidence and having the right mindset.

“Smile, Strength, Reflection. I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” Nelson Mandela

Good luck my lovely doulas. I would love to hear what has worked for you and any other ideas I’ve missed here. There are surely a hundred more.

#WorldDoulaDomination #DoulaBusiness #DoulaSchool


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About the Author

Stefanie Antunes has been a Lamaze® Educator and doula since 2002, after the birth of her second son showed her just how valuable it isStefanie Antunes to be prepared for birth and to have good support around you.

Stefanie is a visionary in the childbirth field. She leads the Discover Birth organization providing a variety of services to expectant parents and training for those wishing to pursue work in the childbirth field. Stefanie is a board member with the Association of Ontario Doulas, former Public Relations Director for DONA International, and sits on many local boards and coalitions to improve our communities. She is a DONA-approved Birth Doula Trainer, runs an Approved Program for Lamaze International and runs two doula agencies Discover Birth and The Nesting Place.

Stefanie is the founder of The Birth Doula Program at the Scarborough Hospital.

Stefanie is a contributing author in the best selling Power of Women United and the book Bearing Witness: Childbirth Stories Told by Doulas. She is a regular contributing writer and blogger, and has done many interviews online and for TV/radio.

Before becoming a doula, Stefanie worked in corporate intelligence, helping large companies keep abreast of their markets and competitors. She now works to bring some of those same skills to the doula profession, helping it grow and prosper, along with its many doula members.