You’ve just finished your training, and you know you are going to make a great doula! You have your doula bag ready to go, but now you just need to figure out how to find those clients in the first place. Lucky for you, more people are starting to offer business help on how to grow your doula business.
The best advice I’ve seen comes from business owners that think and act in a way that promotes the unique difference that all doulas are able to provide. These are companies that understand that there is room for many different kinds of doulas to take on many different kinds of clients, and Darlene MacAuley shares some of the best advice I’ve seen on this topic.
Darlene MacAuley is a former birth doula and childbirth educator, as well as having a business degree. She currently works as a strategist and coach for birth professionals. Her company, Inspired Birth Pro, focuses on business systems and marketing. We had her on our student group to answer questions about beginning your own business.
Q: “I am having a hard time getting clients. I have made flyers hung them up in many areas. I have made business cards handed them out. I contacted different agencies offering my services, and I have advertised on a few sites. I have not received any feed back. What other things could I do?”
A: You’re off to a great start. I think it might help to look at the different marketing methods in terms of the impact that each strategy has.
Each type of strategy typically has an impact of one of three types – visibility, credibility and outreach.
Visibility exposes and introduces people to your brand, credibility is what gives you “expert status” in the minds of your ideal clients, and outreach has to do with reaching out personally to your referral network and potential/current/past clients.
Every type of marketing action you take typically has 1-2 and sometimes all three types of impact.
The most powerful strategies are going to be outreach activities, followed by credibility, with visibility having the least immediate impact.
You have to implement marketing activities that have all three types of impact.
The types of actions you’ve taken so far are all visibility strategies. So now, you have to come up with ways to connect with your ideal client and let them get to experience you and build up the know-like-trust factor, which means coming up with ways to meet people in person or expose them to you so they feel like they know you, and ways that they can experience you more than once.
Here are a few links with additional information:
What if marketing was FUN (FB Live replay)
Take some time to explore different ways to connect with your BBF (Business Best Friend) and decide on ways that play to your strengths first so it will be easier to implement, then try a few and see how they work for you.
Q: My question is about establishing a business. After I finish with my training, what is next? Is it important to establish a business name prior to accepting clients? Is this an LLC? Am I able to practice without an established business?
A: You are able to operate as a “sole proprietor,” take on clients and file your business taxes on your federal personal tax return with your social security number. (I don’t know what the rules are in each state; my own doesn’t have state taxes).
If you want to operate under a business name, you’ll need to find out how to get a DBA (“Doing Business As” certificate) in your state/county and get your business registered.
It is a good idea to get an Employer Identification Number from the IRS after you get your DBA, even if you don’t plan on having employees, because your clients may want to file their receipts with their insurance company or FSA administrator, and you’ll need to have your federal id # on those receipts. You don’t want to use your own social security number.
An LLC can help protect your personal assets in case anyone wanted to file a suit against you. So that should be a consideration. In some states it might make sense to start an LLC from the get-go, so if you’re considering that route, you might look at free business counseling in your city through the SBA (the SCORE) program, or through another non-profit program for small business owners.
Nolo.com has lots of great resources for legal stuff for businesses.
Q: With regards to building a website, do you have program/platform that you recommend?
A: I think it’s going to depend on how techie you are and what your goals are for your website. A lot of doulas like and use Wix, Weebly or WordPress.com because the website builders are easy to use.
Free platforms are going to have fewer features, but if you don’t plan to blog or sell products from your website and only plan to use your site like an online brochure, a free platform like any I just mentioned may be sufficient.
The other two major platforms are SquareSpace and WordPress. People typically love or hate one or the other. Some find it easy to work in one and not the other. I honestly don’t have any experience with SquareSpace, but I know a lot of people who use and love it for their website.
If you want to have a blog, now or in the future, I use, like, and recommend WordPress.org sites, which require you purchase a domain name and subscribe with a web hosting company to house your website.
There are lots of inexpensive premium themes that look professional, and WordPress has many plugins that allow you to easily add a variety of bells and whistles on your website.
If you choose to go with one the free website builders, I believe they all have an option to purchase a domain name so you don’t have wix, or weebly, or wordpress added to your website address.
In my opinion, having your own domain name looks and feels more professional, and while there is a monthly fee, it’s relatively inexpensive.
My other suggestion is if you have someone build your website for you, make sure that you learn how to update it yourself, if for just editing text and understanding how to add/delete pages. I know of too many people who have their websites created, and then they have to wait on their designer/developer to get changes made because they don’t know how to do it. Or they don’t have access to it, and their designer drops off the face of the earth… all of that creates a big mess and a lot of stress.
Darlene MacAuley is here to help birth professionals who need that extra support with actionable business advice, digital products for birth doulas to set up their client system quickly and thoroughly, personal coaching and community support through the free Inspired Facebook Pros community on Facebook.
As a business coach for doulas looking to feel connected to their community and clients, she’s taken her education and business experience, her knack for making connections between people and resources, and her mission of supporting women in birth and rolling it all into a one-stop resource for doulas and other birth professionals to start and grow their own practices. You can find more about her resources at www.inspiredbirthpro.com.