New subscribers to my newsletters receive a message from me asking them what they need help with most right now for their birth business. Sometimes there is already a blog post on Inspired Birth Pro that I can send with my reply, or it sparks an idea for a new blog post. Although I don't always get to personally answer questions that come in, they are valuable to me because it gives me some insight into what it is childbirth professionals need help with when it comes to their businesses.
Here is a question I received from birth doula Val Peterson of Birthday with Val:
I love being a doula!! I would have to say that the most challenging area for me with this work is the financial consistency aspect.
I have come into a much stronger comfort level when it comes to stating my fee, but I could sure use some guidance in being more organized, or a better word , systematic with financial side of things.
I used to have individuals sign my contract, and pay a retainer fee. The remainder would be due around 37 weeks of pregnancy. Now that I take more clients on, I have offered two options… either they pay half when they sign my contract, and the remainder is due at 37 weeks, or if they can afford to pay the entire fee up front, I have been offering 20% off the total fee.
Even with this system of mine, the finance part is tricky for me. Some couples say they want to use me, and then it can be real quick that they send me the payment, or sometimes dragged out….
I replied to Val and asked for some clarification on what she's doing now, and her response was:
I typically have problems collecting the payment. I do so much work with my clients, and have not come up with a consistent method of being paid. I have great couples who typically always pay me before their births…
I need some guidance for after the first meeting, and they decide to use me as their doula, getting paid!!
Asking to be paid without feeling like you're a collection agency can understandably make small business owners feel uncomfortable. Here was my response to Val:
What has always worked for me is that before their final prenatal visit, I'll email them a reminder about the meeting and say something like, "Also enclosed is your final invoice. If you would like to pay via PayPal, please let me know and I'll send you a payment request." At the prenatal visit I'll also hand them a paper copy of the invoice. It's always worked well.
Accepting credit cards can help to facilitate quicker payment. You could also use a credit card reader through PayPal or Square to collect payments in person. The downside of course would be the approximately 3-5% credit card fees, but that is just a cost of business.
People generally expect that they will receive a bill or invoice when they receive services, so having an invoicing system is an easy way to address the issue of getting paid.
One way to help you stay on top of invoicing is to create a client services checklist that you can follow after a client hires you. To make your own checklist, jot down ALL the tasks that need to happen as you're working with clients. All the emails that need to be sent, when invoices and reminders need to be created, when you need to follow up to set up appointments, creating reminders for yourself in your calendar for your appointments and prepping for them, etc. Put all those tasks in a spreadsheet, an online system like Asana, or a client relationship management system like Dubsado. The nice thing about online systems is you can set them up to remind you to do these tasks. Otherwise, you can schedule a time every week to check your client files each week to see what needs to be done and add them to your to-do list or calendar.
I'd love to hear what system works for you when it comes to getting paid. Come visit the Inspired Birth Pros Community and let's chat!