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How to Get Hired After Becoming a Doula

by | May 8, 2024

You’ve attended a doula training workshop, now you’re wondering how to get hired after becoming a doula? There are many ways to be proactive and get practical experience as a doula to not only apply what you’ve learned but also possibly fulfill your certification requirements.

For certification, most doula certifying organizations require that you work with a certain number of families after you’ve attended a training workshop. At DONA International, you need to attend three births for birth doula certification and care for three families for postpartum doula certification. Attending births or providing postpartum support as a newly trained doula helps you gain hands-on experience and builds your confidence. 

How hard is it to make money as a doula?

Some new doulas don’t feel comfortable charging for their first few clients and I get how that might feel a bit intimidating for some. Consider the time, energy and value you’re bringing to your families though and know that these things are worth something in return. I also like to think of money in terms of energy and with a business–  I give you my services or products (my energy) and in return you give me money (client’s energy.) Exchange is important and doula work is not sustainable long term without this exchange. Plus, most of us need to make a living. 

If you’re comfortable charging for your first clients, start out on the low end of the going rate in your community (talk to the doulas in your community about what the range is) and then increase your fees as you gain more experience. 

How do I find doula clients?

Here are some ideas to help you get started finding paying clients: 

  • Launch your practice! There are many benefits to being certified, but don’t wait until you’re certified to begin offering your services in your community. (Remember—working with a few families is usually one of the requirements for certification.) A comprehensive training should include how to start your doula practice, but if you need help, consider a class like our Business of Being a Doula class at SCI. 
  • Get the essential systems in place before you launch: the framework of your practice (how many visits you provide, what your fees are, etc.); *build a simple website (your calling card); make up new client forms; get a bookkeeping system prepared; and create and publish social media pages. 
  • Network with birth professionals in your community. Focus on childbirth educators, midwives, prenatal bodyworkers, and other doulas. This can easily be done on social media. Keep in mind– professionals can’t refer to you if they don’t know about you. Also established doulas are often looking for available doulas to refer to when they have to turn clients away. When you’re just beginning, taking on the overflow from busy doulas can be a great way to get your practice off the ground. 
  • Back up other doulas in your community. Established doulas often need backup doulas to care for their clients when they’re unable to. This is a great way to gain experience and possibly receive some mentoring from the established doula. (Be sure to have clear conversations about what you will be paid in advance and get it in writing—emails are considered legal documents.) 
  • Join a doula collective in your community. Collectives usually have an annual paid membership for you to have your personal profile posted on their website for families to see. 
  • Put your profile on Doula Match. Doulamatch.net is a website developed to help expectant parents find available doulas quickly. They currently only list doulas in the U.S. and Canada. 
  • Join a doula agency, such as Sierra Doula Services, our agency at Sierra Childbirth Institute. Agencies are often owned by experienced doulas and sometimes provide mentoring. The agency handles the business and marketing end of the business, while the doula provides services to families. Generally, doulas are paid a percentage of the fees that families pay to the agency– anywhere from 60-85% is common. The doulas are typically independent contractors. 
  • Find an experienced doula to mentor and coach you. Mentors and coaches often provide support, guidance, and feedback as you attend births and work with clients. I offer Doula Coaching Services for individualized mentoring.
  • Find a group mentoring program. These are often offered online over weeks or months. Group programs provide small group mentoring from experienced doulas and sometimes provide continuing education. You will also likely receive guidance and support from the cohorts in your group—peer support has a lot of value. We also provide a group mentoring program at SCI—contact us if you’d like to know the next dates it will be open for applications. 
  • Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to promote any business. Carry business cards with you and tell people about what you do, i.e., the person who cuts your hair or does your nails. Tell them how excited you are about opening your practice and ask if they would be willing to give your card to any pregnant customers. Everyone has pregnant customers from time to time!
  • Go to outreach events—Meet the Doulas events and Birth & Family Expos. These can be great ways to gain exposure and enroll new clients. 

If you’re not comfortable charging for your first few clients, consider these possibilities: 

  • Look for volunteer opportunities to provide doula support. Many hospitals and birth centers now have volunteer doula programs to provide doula care to the families birthing at their facility. Volunteering as a doula will not only help you gain practical experience but will build relationships with healthcare providers and help you get established in your community. Please know though that attending births as a volunteer may not fulfill the requirements needed for certification, so you may not be able to use those births when applying. Also, most programs require a commitment—some as long as two years. 
  • Offer your doula services to friends and family. This will provide the opportunity to gain experience with people you know and help you build your confidence and reputation as a doula. 
  • Contact local low-cost pregnancy clinics and offer to help the new mothers they care for.
  • See if your local health department has programs that focus on under-resourced populations and offer your services to them. 
  • Visit your local homeless shelters and see if anyone there is pregnant who you might be able to offer your support to.
  • Talk with local midwives and OB’s about single parents who are unsupported who might benefit from your support. 
  • Connect with local adoption agencies and surrogacy centers and offer your support to their birthing mothers. 
  • Contact any agency in your area who support vulnerable populations and ask if you can provide a short presentation on doulas, or perhaps a talk on comfort measures or other in-scope topics. This education will be valuable to anyone who is pregnant, whether they want you to be their doula or not. Also, the experience for you will help you find out what you don’t know (so you know how to further your own education) and will build your confidence.

“Courage is being afraid but doing it anyway.” ~ Brene Brown

New doulas sometimes feel insecure attending births or working with families postpartum if they have never been to a birth before or have never had a baby themselves. Please know though that pregnant and postpartum families aren’t looking for pregnancy and birth experts or postpartum experts—they already have that with their doctor or midwife. They’re looking for someone they feel comfortable with and like. Getting hired is more about the connection than the experience you have as a doula or whether you’ve had children yourself

Most important– think in terms of teamwork with your doula practice. Birth professionals need one another to get established and thrive in their practice. Without peer connection and supporting one another, doula work is not sustainable. Be sure to network and stay connected in your community! 

* Our website partner, for Doulas, offers a 10% off discount for new doulas launching their business.