Sunday, May 2, 2010

How do/did you look for a doula?

Graduation is quickly approaching - my master's thesis is completed, my classes are thisclose to finished, and soon, I'll be a real, live Master of Public Health (a master! doesn't that sound great?) Time to look for a job, right?

Well, timing is creating a bit of a wrinkle for me. While I'll have my MPH in May, the exam to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) doesn't happen until July. And then it's another wait for the results. I'd like to be able to use that credential in my job search. So I'm hesitant to get desperate and commit to some job, any job, right away. All my job ponderings are another post for another day, but for now I'll say that I'm willing and able to hold out for a couple of months at least before committing to something full-time, long-term, in hopes that what I eventually commit to is up my alley (perinatal issues).

That of course does not mean that I won't be working; instead it means that I need to find more short-term and/or part-time work (a situation with which I am depressingly familiar, but yet again another post for another day). Right now, I'm lining up work to teach a prenatal breastfeeding class, possibly continue doing research assistant work for the department, and looking for more ways to bridge the gap - including trying to work as a private doula again.

I have some real blocks about looking for private doula work (did I mention something about other posts for other days?) but I'm trying to move past them and push myself to do some real marketing. I have an extremely basic website up. I have built a nice little group of local references from families I've worked with as a volunteer. I am getting networked with one of the local CBEs. But every time I sit down to make a flyer or brochure, I get stuck. I think "Will anyone really read this? Am I spending a lot of money at Kinko's and time putting these up, for nothing? Do I need to do more targeted marketing? Where, and how can I not look pushy and obnoxious doing this?" (did I mention something about blocks?)

So I am asking you - maybe you used a doula, or are looking for one now. How did you find that person? What were other ways you used to look for one? What ways did you trust the most? Was there anything you really liked, or that really turned you off?

I may be the only doula in the world who has been to close to 50 births and has never learned how to self-market! But, here I am, and I will appreciate it so much if you have an idea or experience you'd be willing to share.


Morvay Réka said...

Hi Rebecca,

I'm also a doula with a private practice, a Masters degree, and aiming to take the IBCLC exam.

I would say that your initial hunch is correct, fliers are not the way to go. They cost a lot of money, and aren't really cost effective. A much better use of your time is networking, teaching classes, or offering some kind of service for free that will be a "hook" for potential clients. Where can you meet pregnant moms? You work in a hospital as a lactation consultant trainee, right? Perhaps you can offer "drop-in" hours when anyone can just show up and ask you questions. Or maybe you can start a pregnancy support group. Or a VBAC support group. Anything that hasn't been done in your area that will get you a "following."

And work on your website, although since you have this blog, this blog probably gets a lot more traffic because you have really interesting content on it, and it carries your personal voice. Link the blog to your website and vice versa, so you take advantage of the traffic the blog gets to funnel them toward your services. And get listed, wherever you are, so that if someone types in "doula in whereveryouare" your site comes up high in Google.

That's been my experience. People either hear about me through word of mouth, or they find me on the internet.

Good luck!

TifosiGirl said...

I'm 27 weeks pregnant and while I tried to find doulas by word of mouth, no-one I knew used doulas. I also posted on forums but got no responses. Eventually I found my doula by searching on the internet.

San Diego has a birth resource network ( and I found several that I emailed and eventually interviewd from them. I did cross-check with, too.

Good luck and I'm really enjoying your blog! I shared your post about "trying" for an unmedicated birth with my Bradley Method class and my doula last week... they all LOVED your thinking. Thanks again!

Emily, Anthro Doula said...

Hi! You're clearly much more experience than I am, but I will share what I've experienced so far...

I have gotten every single one of my clients so far through word of mouth, except one. She googled doulas in her area, found my craigslist ad, and went to my website.

Whether through my boyfriend giving my card to his pregnant classmate, my client in a Bradley class giving my name to another workshop participant, or being referred twice by an area doula who has me on a referral list for when she is too busy!

So I agree with the previous commenter - networking is where its at! And have a website, my clients have all loved it.

Best of luck I'm excited to follow along :)

Kate said...

As a pregnant person, if I were looking for a doula (I would be if I was having a hospital birth!), I'd look online.

You need a website that includes your service area, what hospitals/centers you have attended births at, and the services you provide. IMO a website is the single best marketing tool you can engage.

I'd want to see how you can help me postpartum as well, if you do light housekeeping/cooking/holding the baby while I try to nap, or help me with PPD, or help me with breastfeeding issues, etc.

I'd also want to see prices. There are lots of different opinions on that, but for me, I'm more likely to contact you if I can see a ballpark for how much you charge.

Hope that helps, and good luck!

Sheridan said...

Website is key. Fliers are pointless I think. Craigslist is a good way to go. Joining a doula group is great.

I also teach Hypnobabies classes and frankly I get all my doula clients from my students.

Nathaniel said...

I use and enjoy your blog so very much and ironically, I am transitioning out of an almost ten year private practice flourishing doula practice into public health community doula coordination. I offer workshops called 'Build a More Abundant Doula Practice' that I would like to offer to you for free as a way of honoring your work and your path. Sat Nam. You bring value to this world. Call me and we will coordinate.

Nicole said...

Congrats on your MPH. I'm currently in an MPH program myself. I found our birth doula through word of mouth. I am still connected to a breastfeeding support group run by the local birth center, so I just posted a question to those moms and got some good leads. I agree that a comprehensive website with services, prices, experience, recommendations, resources, etc. is a great way to market yourself. I also find local services through business cards posted to the local coffee shop's bulletin board. Business cards are cheap and portable.

Karen said...

Here, here - no fliers. Too much trouble, too much money. I get all my clients either by referral from past clients (of which you have many!) or from other doulas in the network who can't take a birth, or they find my website, or the doula network website on the internet.
Business cards are key. I send thank you letters to practitioners (OBs/midwives) after I have been at a birth with them. It is really just a very simple handwritten note, reminding them of the birth at which we worked together, saying I'm looking for clients and handing off 6-7 business cards.
These also come in handy when I chat with people at the park or library - and also can be used in lieu of fliers if you decide to take to the pavement and hand them out at yoga studios, massage therapy offices and other spots you might find expectant women.
Congratulations on your degree!!