What does it look like to become a doula? What are some of the birth world’s most pressing issues? In our new series, Ask A DTI Doula, DTI educators and trained doulas will answer some of our community’s questions.
For the third piece in the series, we are proud to share an interview with DTI Doula Educator Jessica Diggs on how to start making money as a doula—and the different mindsets required for birth work and business.
Who: Jessica Diggs (she/her)
“My training to become a birth doula began in 2012. My studies in biology and anthropology from the University of North Carolina ignited my awe of the human body—essentially studying all aspects of humankind at the micro and macro level. The training, my mentors, and my first birth changed my perspective and further fueled my interest in maternity health, childbirth education, and natural practices. In addition to providing support during labor, I am a trained ICEA Childbirth Educator. My goal is to provide evidence-based information and preventive care to the expecting family. In agreement with the ICEA philosophy, I believe in freedom of choice based on knowledge of alternatives in childbirth. My experience as a doula and educator has exposed me to a range of births: unmedicated vaginal births, home births, water births, births with medical assistance, Cesarean births, and vaginal births after previous Cesarean birth (VBAC). More importantly, it has honed my purpose. Drawing on my background, I had aspired to serve birthing people as an OB/GYN dedicated to working with the midwifery and doula community. However, my journey has led me to join alongside the community of midwives. I am now a newly licensed midwife serving the Greater Los Angeles area. It truly has been a whirlwind of adventure from which I am excited and honored to aid in the common goal: to provide a safe, satisfying, and joyous birthing experience for the birthing person, their partner and the baby. Combining my experience as a doula, love for science, passion for supporting women, and heart for community and social justice, my current involvements include: Lead Pregnancy Educator at LOOM, Doula Trainer as a DTI Educator and Licensed Midwife in California.”
So, Jessica, how did you start to create a following for your doula practice?
Thinking back to my first few referrals turned paychecks as a new doula, the sources were mainly from the following: networking with other doulas, doula registries, being hungry on online posts for doulas, and strategically placed business cards. Eventually, this lead to a budding reputation for exceptional services that started the business and thus, feed me.
How do you market yourself now?
At this point, I do very little intentional marketing aside from maintain connections with other birth workers. In doula work, the conventional marketing tools that transition into sales can be helpful when put into context of this very unique industry. Think of some of the components of reproductive work—intimacy, compassion, vulnerability, connection, and competency. Allow these to translate into your marketing “techniques.”
Do you have any tips that will help me start (and continue) making money as a doula?
First and foremost, you have to charge something! This work has to transition from labor of love to a thriving business in your mindset. Move away from terms like “volunteer doula” and “doula in training.” Own your new role as a doula and practice conveying the worth of your services. Set your rates based on living wages, your lifestyle and market rate. If you feel so inclined to charge less than the market rate, then have a game plan to quickly climb up to the market range. For example, you leave your training charging $500 per birth. Then after five births you start charging $750. After 10 births, you are now charging $1000. I’m a big fan of giving myself a raise after X amount of births or addition education/expertise. The beginning of every new year is also a great time to reassess your income and goals. Trust me, every time I increase my rate, I am more consistently booked. In the end, you get to set your rate and the worth of your services. I encourage you to set a value that feels right and is a living wage.2.) CONNECT.
Networking can often feel stale, unauthentic and exhausting. Find or create a regular meet up to engage with other birth workers. Invite those you vibe with or want to connect with to coffee or lunch. During said meet up, do not only engage them to “pick their brain,” genuinely ask how you can support their endeavors, about their families, favorite food, etc.. No one wants a one-sided relationship—in partnership, friendship or business! Plan to be in touch regularly. Personally, I only refer the people who are on my mind…meaning who I’ve had recent contact with. It’s a lot of new doulas, make yourself memorable to everyone you encounter. There is only a set number of clients one doula can or want to take. We constantly have to refer out to others if we are unavailable or think it’s not a great fit. More traditionally, send emails, cards, or treats to businesses you would want a reciprocated referral relationship with. This can be your usual prenatal and postpartum related businesses. It can also be companies not directly related.3.) CONTINUE to BUILD.
Building upon your skills, knowledge, and connections builds your confidence and the confidence of clients. Invest in your practice by attending workshops, signing up for registries, or joining existing businesses as a doula. Again, once you have reached your goal, give yourself a raise. People trust the value of a well-priced product or service.
How can I become a doula?
You can reach out to DTI at email@example.com with any questions and you can also browse our training calendar to learn more! Curious about DTI’s programs? Click here to learn more about becoming a doula through the different programs we offer.