So, you’ve just finished your doula training - a lovely few days together with a bunch of enthusiastic women - and you leave on the last day, feeling that you’ve found your purpose in life and that you’re ready to go out there and start supporting women and making a difference.
The course has left you energised and you feel so grateful to finally be able to do something that you’ve often thought about doing as a ‘real job’ and it feels like the world is your oyster. You now believe in what you have to offer and you also have a path to follow to get your business up and running. It all felt pretty straight forward on the course and you felt confident you could do it.
But fast-forward a few months and something that you hadn’t really accounted for has happened – LIFE! Your grand plans start to shatter into pieces and it feels like you have no idea where to start. Do I build a website? Should I pay to have some marketing material printed? How do I register with Doula UK again? That’s just the practical stuff! Next, you start thinking that perhaps you don’t really know anything at all, despite all that studying and preparation (and birthing your own children). You start looking at other doula’s websites and doulaographies and start feeling that you are so under qualified - it seems like EVERYONE else is so much better than you! Suddenly, that glorious self-confidence you had in yourself and what you had to offer is nowhere to be found.
Well, I'll let you into a secret? We’ve all been there!
Did you know that it is a FACT that women, for some reason, on average feel like they have to have everything in place and know everything there is to know before they take the leap and start doing what they love doing? You might even be aware of the statistic that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. The other surprise is that the biggest reason for this is not due to the fact that we don't think we're going to be any good at the job, it’s actually because we don’t want to waste our time and energy on something that might never happen and that we don’t want to put ourselves out there if there is a likelihood that we may fail.
So, you see, it’s a vicious circle. If you don’t put yourself out there, you will not get any business so you will ‘fail’ and you will tell yourself, “I’m glad I didn’t waste time on that ‘cause it wasn’t going to work anyway”… Sadly, this could mean that the world will have lost your special skills, your caring nature and many will lose out on your support!
So what do I think might be helpful for a new doula, or in fact ALL doulas?
#1. See yourself as an entrepreneur
We are all drawn to the work of being doulas because we are caring and compassionate and we really want to help support women in their choices to have a positive birth and postnatal experience. This, in itself, becomes troublesome because we start feeling that we should be doing this for free. These ‘soft skills’ are seen as less valuable than a long string of diplomas and degrees in various subjects. What you have to offer is the unique way you are with others. It’s often hard to see these special ‘super-powers’ because they are things that you do ALL THE TIME and because you do, you think everyone else knows how to do it and therefore does it too. It’s time to step up and define yourself as an entrepreneur who is offering a service that will, potentially, change the world! If you’re doing this as a hobby, that’s a different kettle of fish - but if you want to be able to live your passion, doing a purposeful job which will give you a profit, you need to see yourself as someone running a business. Making a living through supporting women and their families are not unethical.
#2. Sit down and think about your business
Yes, you could just muddle along and do a bit here and a bit there, but it is a really good idea to get strategic. Don’t be put off by that word! It’s not a strategy about how to beat your competition; this is a strategy about where you see yourself and your business in 1 year, 3 years and even 5 years. Make a basic business plan, figure out why you do what you do and how you’re going to do it, i.e. your company’s vision and mission. Be really clear on the impact you want to have with your business and how you plan to achieve this. It might be a good idea so start by watching this very famous video with Simon Sinek so that you get an idea what it is I’m talking about. Your business plan should also include how much you want to turnover in the next year, which will show you how much you need to charge for your services and how many births and postnatal jobs you need each year to achieve that target.
#3. Focus on you and what you do
Of course, it can be helpful to see how the doula and birth world is evolving and what your colleagues are offering, however, do not compare yourself to anyone else! Stop looking at websites that make you feel that you have nothing to offer. Stop worrying about other doulas copying or adding similar services to their own offerings. I think it’s time that we started admiring each other instead, and supporting each other (I guess that’s another blog post!). You can only influence your own business and what you are doing - you cannot control what everyone else is up to. Think of things that you can add or change in your own business and focus all your energy on that!
#4. Network with other doulas and birth professionals
It can be a lonely job, being a doula, and our partners can get pretty tired of hearing us talk about births, babies and the challenges we face in our business. The frustrations you feel are most likely felt by everyone else too. It doesn’t matter if someone has been a doula for 20 years or 2 weeks - we really DO need the support of others and we should support our sister doulas in the ways we support our clients. Arrange meet-ups locally, yes YOU can arrange something, even if you’re a new doula! Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Go to the meetings that you are invited to and decide each year what your budget is going to be for attending conferences and events. Perhaps there is a local women’s business group you could join? Could you do a short 5 minute talk about what you do and what you can offer? Don’t look only at birth professionals, get out there and connect with your potential clients too.
#5. Define your ideal client when building your website
You might think that you offer your services to everyone but really knowing and understanding your ideal client is actually a vital part of running a business. However, you can't serve everyone and whatever you do, there will be some clients that potentially are a bad match. As part of your business planning, take some time to imagine yourself as your ideal client and think of what problems you can help her with, what solutions you can offer, and connect with her emotions, fears and desires within the information you show on your business profiles. It might even help if you give her a name, age, annual income, occupation and even where she lives! The more you can ‘see her’ the easier it is to write a compelling message, which will want her to connect with you.
#6. Attend study days and workshops
If you don’t invest in yourself, you will not be moving forward. As Henry Ford once said “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.” You will be 'left behind’ if you don’t keep up with your knowledge and add experiences and skills to your CV. It also shows that you’re committed to ensuring you know your stuff and take pride in being able to offer a modern and relevant service to your clients. There is no way you will ever know everything but again, make sure you budget in a few courses, even if it’s only one per year. There are also a number of free courses online that might be relevant, but it does give you a buzz to attend events where you can also connect with other doulas, entrepreneurs and business owners. Money, in all honestly, is like a river that needs to flow out to be able to flow in. If you don’t spend money and instead try to hold on to it, just like the river becoming blocked, everything becomes stagnant and stuck. The more you spend within your business, the more you’ll have coming in.
So, these are my six tips to anyone that has lost their mojo after the initial doula course! Please remember that if you don’t change anything that you are currently doing, NOTHING will change!
It’s easy to blame everything and everyone else, like your prices and your competition for not running a successful business but at the end of the day, the Pareto Principle tells us differently. The real reason why you are not seeing the results you’d like to see is 20% down to the ‘market’ and 80% down to you. Whilst this might sound a bit negative, I always find it reassuring - that means 80% is within my control!
Want to learn more and also get some help in ticking some of the items on this list off? You might be just the right person to join me and a bunch of other doulas at the BirthBliss Annual Conference themed “The Business Of Being A Doula”? The day will focus on branding (business plans, ideal client, vision/mission), marketing (websites, doulaography), and social media (twitter, facebook, instagram). It could, potentially, be a catapult for your doula business!.
Kicki Hansard is a member of Doula UK, however any opinions expressed on this blog are personal views and not necessarily the view of Doula UK.