So you want to be a doula. A Savvy one at that. I'd like to offer you 5 tips to help you be taken seriously as a business owner:
- Make the decision and say to yourself "I own a doula business". Does it feel different to say that as opposed to "I am a doula." As doulas, we are nurturing, caring, creative and passionate about birth. We hold energetic space for a woman. We use our intuition often. It's a boldly feminine role. On the other hand, running a business is more masculine in nature. It must have its own structure and operate within bigger structures (as in state and federal government structures). We operate the business according to systems we put in place for ourselves, we put ourselves in the public eye through marketing and advertising efforts, and we hold our clients within a framework of expectations. Being a business owner takes recognizing not only who you are as a doula, but acknowledging the fact that you own and must manage the day-to-day tasks of a small business. Both sides of the coin must be balanced.
- Create a plan for your practice. Business planning helps you to set goals, find out about your competition, determine what your clients want and see what money-making potential your business has in store for you. If you are the sole owner of your business and you are not planning to go into business with others or need outside funding, you don't necessarily need to create a full-fledged formal business plan. Here is a post to help you get your business plan started.
- Maintain a professional presence. You don't need to wear a suit when meeting with other professionals and clients, but you should dress professionally. Communicate via email without shouting (typing in all caps), the use of slang, emoticons or acronyms (ie: LOL, IMHO, etc) and by all means, use your spell check. Be on time for your appointments and have an agenda to follow for your interviews, prenatals, and postpartum visits.
- Get some business cards. Even before you get your website up and create your social media channels, order some business cards. Business cards help to communicate who you are, what you do, and how to reach you. It's much more professional than giving someone the same information scrawled onto a napkin, right? Business cards can range from free to fancy. I'd discourage the use of cards printed on perforated business card stock because the perforations are visible and don't look very good. A variety of cards can be created inexpensively on VistaPrint using their free templates, or you can upload or create your own card using your logo and branding. Once you get your branding in place and decide on a logo, you can update your business cards and add brochures to the mix. Another online business card printer to check out is MOO.
- Create and have your clients sign a contract. Whether you charge for your services or not, you need to have a contract. Contracts help you define your policies and the boundaries you choose to work within and helps you to communicate those with your clients. It is also advisable to have an attorney look over your contract. If cost is an issue for you, see if there is an attorney referral hotline and ask if there are any attorneys who offer pro bono services. Some SBA offices may also be able to refer you to resources for reasonable or free legal services.
Be proud of yourself. You are a doula. You own a doula business. There are many other factors that make a business owner and a business, but the five tips I've given you will help you be perceived as a professional and will help you to increase your confidence as you move forward and become established. And as you get going, you might want to be aware of 5 common myths that trip up new doulas.