Years ago when I was first training as a doula, some very large, well-known certifying organizations encouraged us to take clients for free. We were told to “get experience” by taking on clients and not getting paid. Hours and hours of prenatal appointments, calls, emails, and labors and births – all for no or miniscule pay. 

 Can you imagine any other profession in which people are encouraged to give away their time and talent for nothing? Do you know any teachers, lawyers, carpenters, computer programmers, writers, car mechanics, retail store employees, landscapers, doctors, or nurses who work for no pay at all? Obviously I’m not referring to volunteering, which is a wonderful thing if your business is established and successful and thriving. (We’ll talk more about that in another piece.) 

Then there are people who push for working for reduced fees. If your established and successful and thriving business is able to do this for one or two or however many clients on a yearly basis, that’s wonderful! If your business is not established and successful and thriving and you reduce your fees or give services for nothing, your business won’t ever grow and become successful. You have to treat this as a business, which means charging a living wage for your services in your area. 

Sometimes doulas and other birth workers have a hard time with this. Because we are so passionate about supporting pregnancy and birth and empowering our clients, some of us have been told to feel bad for charging our worth. In our compassion and kindness, we should just “support women and their families” for free because we want to help change the birth world, we want to make a difference for people, we want to affect change in our communities. If we truly want these things, we need to see and live our profession as just that – a profession – so that we are viewed as professionals by clients and colleagues alike. 

When we offer our services for free or at extremely reduced rates, our businesses can’t grow and thrive. It also causes so much exhaustion and frustration for us personally and often for our families. We miss out on time with them and become physically and emotionally weary from giving and giving without compensation. Most of us don’t enter this field because of financial motivation, but it can definitely be a source of financial support for ourselves and our families if we treat it as such

Offering services for free also undercuts other doulas in our field who are trying to help elevate the profession and support themselves and their families. In the past decade or so we have seen a change in how doulas are viewed. Many people now understand that our work requires training and continuing development, paying taxes, expenditures for marketing and supplies, and all the same things most businesses deal with. There is more work to do, but when we keep treating our work as business, not a hobby, we not only help our individual situations but also the broader birth worker profession, and most definitely our clients. 

What are some ways you are working to make your business successful? If you aren’t sure how to calculate a living wage for your area, get in touch with our Doula Mentoring Program. Birth Beautifully is passionate about helping doulas grow and thrive, and we want to help you!  

Read our related blog: Your Business is Not a Hobby

Christine Herrera

Christine Herrera

Christine Herrera helps people become amazing birth professionals.