A Step-by-Step Guide to Onboarding Clients as a Birth or Postpartum Doula
By Kristin Laffrey, business coach for women leading impact in fertility, birth, postpartum, motherhood, parenting and matrescence.
One of the most important things to start thinking about as soon as you start your business as a doula is what experience do you want your clients to have when they say yes to working with you.
Most people forget this part of the process and focus just on marketing their services and attracting clients (which is so important) but it’s also important to remember that what happens AFTER they say yes is just as important.
Four reasons you want ensure you implement an onboarding process or refine the current process you have:
It sets the expectation for your client: your onboarding process is going to set the tone for working with your clients and therefore an onboarding process that is clear, simple and professional will help set clear expectations for the client about what they can expect from your time together, what is included in their services and have clarification around next steps. This can prevent any misunderstandings or miscommunications that could arise later in the relationship and ensure that you and your client are on the same page!
It builds trust with your client: The onboarding process is an opportunity to build trust with your client. It’s true what they say that first impressions matter and even though you may have established some connection and relationship with your client either through prior communication or your initial call, this is your first interaction with them as your client so make it memorable. By demonstrating that you have a structured approach to working with clients, you can reassure them that you are reliable, professional, and committed to delivering high-quality work.
It establishes communication: The onboarding process is an opportunity to establish communication between yourself and your client and sets the tone for all future interactions. This can help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that communication is clear and efficient.
From an operational perspective, it saves time and reduces errors: A clear, simple and structured onboarding process can help to streamline your workflows and reduce the risk of errors or mistakes. By having a clear process in place, you can ensure that all necessary information is collected and that tasks are completed in a consistent and efficient manner which makes the overall process of getting new clients much simpler.
When thinking about building out your process for onboarding a client, it’s important to think about “how do you want your clients to feel?” and then build out a client-centric process from there.
There are essential components to your onboarding process that you don’t want to overlook however there are options to make this experience personalised and unique to you.
Here are some key steps within the onboarding process of a new doula client that you may want to consider and map out:
Establishing initial contact: The first step is to have initial contact with your client, either through a phone call, through email, or with an in-person consultation. It is through this initial contact that you can provide information about your unique support process, the packages you offer, provide any information regarding availability (especially communicating clearly any limited availability you may have), outline your fees, and give the potential client the opportunity to ask any questions they may have. The purpose of this initial contact is create this connection and determine whether the potential client is looking to know more about your packages and how you could specifically support them.
Consultation: If the potential client is interested in moving forward and knowing more, you can schedule an in-person consultation to meet with the client and their partner or family members. During this consultation, you can discuss in more detail your unique support approach, understand what your potential client is looking for in terms of support to understand their needs and preferences and both determine whether you are a fit for one another. Remember that this is a two-way relationship and it’s important for you to determine whether this potential client is aligned with you and a good fit for you to support them so although you are supporting them in getting the information they need to make a decision, it’s important for you to also ask the questions you need to decide whether you can, and want to, take on this client also.
Contract, payment and intake forms: If the client decides to hire you as their doula, the next step is to sign a contract and request payment. The contract should outline the terms of the agreement, including the scope of services, fees, cancellation policy and process for navigating any disputes. If you haven’t spoke to a lawyer regarding your contract then it’s essential to ensure you have someone with a legal background that has provided professional advice in the preparation of your contract. Ensure that payment is received prior to commencing any services or support. It’s important to follow up if you have not seen the contract or payment come through and emphasise to your client that the sooner you have everything complete the sooner you can move forward and start setting up support.
Preparing to commence services: Once the contract is signed and payment is received, you can begin preparing for commencing support. This may include scheduling visits with your client and gathering information about your client's needs and preferences to ensure you have all the information you need.
Providing services: You can then begin providing postpartum support services to the client, which may include emotional support, practical assistance, breastfeeding support, postpartum massage, and guidance on infant care and development. You should also be available to answer questions and provide support as needed so ensure you have boundaries in place to get the most for both yourself and your client in this relationship.
Review and follow-up: Upon completing support with your client, you should follow up with your client to give them the opportunity to provide feedback and provide insight into their review of your support with them. This can help to improve your services and ensure that you are improving your services and support to enhance your clients’ experiences. It’s also important at this stage in the process to discuss options for the potential of ongoing support. This gives your client the opportunity to assess whether they require additional support and to understand what ongoing options are available to them. Rather than just assuming they will ask if they are interested, initiate the conversation with your client and whether they decide to continue or not, this gives them the opportunity to plan ahead and ensure they have a plan in place to confidently move forward.
Whether you are yet to implement an onboarding process or looking to refine your process, take the opportunity to review each step and understand what changes you can make to your process to provide the best client experience possible.
Not only does this improve client satisfaction but also increases the possibility of client retention and also referrals, so take the opportunity to review and reassess your process and set the intention to create the best client onboarding process possible for your future clients.