As a new doula, I felt like I was fumbling around trying to get all the clients to grow my new business because I was going to change the world! That optimism is still there 5 years later, but with a bit more pragmatism thrown in for good measure and good reasons. My early mistakes were mostly about boundaries, and the learning curve felt steep to me. These are the 3 biggest mistakes that I made as a new doula, that I absolutely do not do anymore.
- Take all the clients that come my way. Not every person that wants to hire you is a good fit for you as a doula. Ignoring red flags in early conversations is NOT a good way to do business. Putting yourself in situations where you will be uncomfortable, for whatever reason, is not helpful for anyone. Know your limits, and know that it is o.k. to say no to a potential client just because your gut tells you something is off. You don’t even have to have a reason.
- Push my friends to let me be their doula. This one was really hard for me, partly because I really wanted to help my friends and partly because I wanted to grow my business. Just because you are friends with someone, does NOT mean that they are your target market or ideal client. Being friends with someone also does not guarantee that they even WANT a doula at their birth! Pushing a friend to let them have you at their birth if they are unsure is a sure fire way to alienate a friend. Yes, let your friends know that you are a doula and chances are you are already shouting it from the rooftops so they know what you do. Let your friends come to you if they want you to be their doula, otherwise my advice would be to leave them alone. Aren’t they already getting enough unsolicited advice?
- Not charge enough. Setting my fee was a challenge for me personally, and I wasn’t completely sure where to start. All the what if’s got in my way at first and I wasn’t really thinking about all the expenses that went into doing my job. On top of covering expenses, I needed to make some money for my time, experience, education, etc. I personally LOVED the 100% Doula course that Alice Turner put together about how to confidently set your doula fee, and I learned so much even though I had been practicing for a few years before I took the course. I now make sure I’m accounting for all the expenses that can come up and always feel fairly compensated for my time and simultaneously not like I am just in it for the money. I honestly have never met any doulas that are just in it for the money, but charging too little is a great way to lead to burnout for you as a doula and for the entire doula community where you live (if there is one).
I have learned so much on my doula journey, and making sure I have healthy boundaries in my professional life is probably the BIGGEST lesson I have learned. Knowing my own limits and making sure I stick to them is what helps keep my job sustainable, and believe me when I write that I have learned that the hard way many times over at this point.
If you want to learn more about the class I talked about in #3 above, click here to find several business courses that might help you on your doula journey!
What is one thing you would like to change in your doula practice that would help you not only stand out in the crowd but protect your own boundaries at the same time? How has your doula practice changed because of hard won lessons?