Now that you’re a doula, what’s next?

You. Are. Such. An. Amazing. And. Gifted. Person.

Why? You may ask. Because you have made the decision to join a community of awesome professionals who support, educate, empower, and advocate for birthing people. You are a doula. You will be invited into the sacred space of birth – welcoming a new life that is exiting a place of creation and entering a world filled with hopes and dreams. You are a holder of space, an advocate, a resource in your community, a person of support and comfort. You are a doula.

So, now what do you do? You take the training and lessons you have learned and become an inspiration of birth in your area. Here I will share five tips to help get you started.

1. Be patient with yourself

Whether if you have been a doula for 12 minutes or 12 years, incorporating the practice of self-care is essential in your routine. Perhaps you need a monthly massage to restore your body, or maybe a daily meditation practice for your mental health. Once a week you could carve out some time to take yourself or a trusted friend to a coffee shop. Whatever your self-care practice, make time to rest and recover. Be sure when setting expectations for yourself that they are realistic. If you know you can only handle four birth clients a month, don’t over commit yourself. The thought of the additional income may look great (or even necessary!), but putting yourself first is also necessary. Being patient with yourself also means understanding you may not get as many clients right away. It will take some networking and getting yourself established as a birth professional in your community. Grace and patience is key at all stages of being a doula.

2. Be an individual – Trust You

What makes you unique? What are the individual strengths you can rely on? What do people know you best for? Whatever those qualities are – use them to your advantage when building your doula business. When teaching, supporting, or helping your clients advocate for themselves, refer back to what makes you an individual and let those great qualities shine bright. We all have our own ways of learning and we all have distinct ways of teaching. Not everyone will fit into your target market but those who do will mesh well with you and you with them. Invest time and energy into relaying your unique characteristics to clients – word will spread about the “VBAC doula” or the “reproductive justice doula”, and can be a great asset in building your business. We build a certain kind of chemistry with the families we support and believe it or not, they will trust you more if you stick to being you instead of trying to be like someone else. Remember, be you because everyone else is taken.

3. Continue to educate yourself

Continuing your education not only makes you a more valuable resource in your community but you can also charge your worth for the additional services or information you provide. For instance, many doulas go on to become a lactation consultant, teach childbirth education courses (DTI has one), or even become a midwife! There are other avenues of continuing your education to add as an additional resource to your offerings, too. Become a baby planner, a car seat technician, maternity coach, or learn more about advocacy. Think about what long term goals you would like to set for yourself and start little by little. By the way, DTI’s Born Into This Conference is great for networking, advocacy, and continuing education – plan to attend next June in Austin, TX! YES, JUNE!

4. Doulas are advocates

One thing I love about DTI is the emphasis on advocacy. Not only can you become a birth and postpartum doula at the same time, but you can also learn how to be an advocate. You can help your clients advocate and speak up for themselves in birthing situations. You help your clients realize their body, birth, and baby are their own. Your clients have the right to be informed and make decisions for their bodies and birth outcomes. Informed consent (I like saying informed choice) and refusal are important, and you can help your client realize that. Learn more about advocacy through DTI’s Slow Doula Method® Learning Lab.

5. Networking (this is a must)

With the advent of social media, networking opportunities are now everywhere – both online and in the outside world. Online, building your website and working with other companies to share your brand on their website will help build your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), an essential thing to get on the front page of Google. On social media, join all the local birth professional groups, as well as the local parent groups (e.g. play groups, community “mommy” groups, etc). When someone asks about birth, newborn care, or anything else in your wheelhouse, introduce yourself as a doula and answer the question. Put yourself out there and make connections on Instagram and Facebook just like you would in person. Set aside time for this during work hours. Create conversations with folks who may be able to support you, send you referrals or that you can learn with and from! Community is important and one way to build community online is through intentional and strategic networking.

Word of the mouth is still the best marketing tool. Outside of social media, it is a good idea for you to network with other birth professionals and even other businesses who serve birthing families. Don’t be shy! Send them a handwritten note. Pick up the phone and introduce yourself. Go by and meet them face to face. Ask if you can place business cards in their office or welcome packets. If you have a blog, do a write up on their business and what they offer for expecting people. Do a giveaway with a few businesses in your area worth a few hundred dollars combined. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself – chances are they are looking for ways to partner with local businesses, too. A little leg work up front can have great benefits in the short and long term.

So, now that you have become a doula, what steps are you going to take next? Hopefully at least two of these! Chanté Perryman is a doula, maternity coach, childbirth educator and birth advocate at Baby Dreams Maternity Concierge. She specializes in encouraging and supporting families during their pregnancies, births and postpartum transition. She believes in birth choice along with respectful care and evidence based education.

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