How to start a doula business?
Updated: Apr 22
By Kristin Laffrey, business coach for women leading impact within fertility, birth, postpartum, parenting and matrescence.
Firstly, congratulations on starting, or planning to start, your doula business. Starting a doula business can be such an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling career and provide the opportunity for a profitable and successful business once you build the foundations within your business to set yourself up for long-term success.
To be able to build your business as a doula, there are some key considerations that are important to be acknowledged upfront. These are important for firstly starting your business but also if you are looking to grow sustainably and create an income and greater impact within your work as a doula.
As a doula, you have the opportunity to support women and families through one of the most transformative experiences of their lives, and help them bring their babies into the world in a positive and empowering way, either through the actual birth process or the process of adjusting and transitioning into motherhood.
Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers - strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength - Barbara Katz Rothman
Whether you are a doula supporting mothers through pregnancy, birth, postpartum or beyond, you have the ability to create lasting change not just for women you work with directly but within society as a whole, as you bring focus to support women in birthing babies and birthing themselves in the process.
But as you have probably already experienced, you may have the ideas and vision of becoming a doula right now but you are starting to question how you start to make that happen and build your business to attract and work with clients.
Below are the key steps that are important to consider if you are deciding to become a doula and start your business:
Although you aren’t legally required to gain qualifications and become certified to become a doula, there are certainly factors to consider in determining whether you want to become certified.
Key benefits for investing in a doula certification include:
Credibility: as more and more doulas start their businesses, there certainly is an element of adding to your credibility with your potential clients if you can show that you have qualifications within this space. It’s also important to note that it doesn’t have to be a contributing factor in getting clients however it is worth considering that some clients may prefer to go with a doula who has completed doula qualifications rather than not.
Professional Development: a core benefit of completing qualifications as a doula is that you develop professional skills that will enhance the quality of service you can provide to your clients as you have the knowledge and evidence-based support to understand how you can serve and support your clients during a transformative shift in their life.
Networking: an extremely valuable aspect of completing a doula certification program is that you get to connect with other professionals within the industry. This is beneficial as you grow your business to maintain strong connections and develop a network around you of other doulas who are also building their businesses too.
Once deciding to complete your qualification, undertake your own research to determine who is the best organisation that feels aligned with you and your business. There are many different organisations that offer doula certification, so do your research and find one that resonates with you.
Define Your Niche
It’s important to decide who it is you want to serve and connecting to your niche to know firstly how you can best serve them but also secondly how you can communicate with them to attract more clients and move more clients into your packages.
Given that there are many different types of doulas, it's important to define your niche so you can market yourself effectively. Do you want to work with first-time mothers or experienced mothers? Do you want to focus on home births or hospital births? Are you interested in working with a particular demographic, such as single mothers or LGBTQ+ families? Once you've defined your niche, you can tailor your services and marketing accordingly.
This is going to ensure you are positioning yourself within an industry where there are many people doing the same work but it’s also going to ensure you are attracting your dream clients which really comes down to knowing exactly who it is you want to work with and how it is you can work with them.
Working in such an intimate space, it’s important to determine who it is that you want to work with so that you can attract more of the people that feel aligned with you and your mission.
Build Your Network and Connections
Networking is one of the most underrated activities of growing a successful doula business. Building connections with other birth/postpartum professionals in your community, such as midwives, OB-GYNs, lactation consultants, and childbirth educators can support you with building referrals, which is such an effective way of setting your business up for long-term success. Attend local events and conferences, and join online doula communities with the intention of forming genuine connections and relationships.
Networking is also about positioning yourself with your industry. It’s about building and maintaining connections with others so that you become known within the space of your work.
This also creates a powerful opportunity to position yourself within the communities that already exist where your ideal clients may be based.
Create Your Packages
Once you've defined your niche and know who it is you want to serve, it's time to develop your services to create your packages. Consider the different types of services you want to offer, such as prenatal visits, postpartum planning, birth support, and postpartum care.
You can also consider offering add-on services like childbirth education, lactation support, and placenta encapsulation, which can become a key part of growing your business once you have established your core business. Think about how you can differentiate yourself from other doulas in your area and make your services stand out by speaking to the value of your support and your unique point of difference.
Some questions that can support you with clarity:
What am I most passionate about supporting mothers with?
What unique skills do I have that could support me to do this work?
What is it about me that makes me different?
Create a Website
In today's digital age, having a website is essential for any business. Your website should be visually appealing and reflective of you and your brand, it should be easy to navigate, and optimised for search engines.
Websites can be expensive to invest in and may not be the best investment for your business when you are starting (investing in qualifications and business mentoring that can support you to refine your message and unique offers is essential to have before creating or investing in a website). Your doula website should include information about your services, your certifications/qualifications, and your experience.
Consider adding a blog where you can share your expertise and establish yourself as a thought leader in the doula community.
Having qualifications and a website is important but marketing yourself and your services is essential. Because attracting clients is the key to growing your business and being able to create an impact and income. Although you can consider offering a discount when you begin offering your services so that you can build up your portfolio it’s important to recognise that price reduction is not a sustainable pricing strategy.
Using social media to create a marketing strategy that allows you to connect with your potential clients and build trust is essential. It’s not enough to just post on social media and hope you attract clients, ensure that you are clear on your marketing strategy and the messaging you are using to increase the number of clients you are attracting. As you start serving more clients you will also begin to build up referrals and word-of-mouth marketing, so ensure you are asking past clients for testimonials and asking for referrals to family and friends.
Remember that there are many factors to consider when building your doula business so that you can ensure you are setting your business up for success. It’s one thing to have qualifications but ensure you have the foundations set so that you can confidently market your services and attract client.