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:
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.
I still remember the very first full-time doula I ever met, 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.
How to have a full-time doula 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 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.
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.
4. 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.
5. Make an investment .
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.
6. 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.
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