Have you ever been on a terrible first date? The kind where it’s awkward and you no matter what you talk about, they don’t really respond much? If you haven’t, lucky you!
Why do we bring this up? Well, we like to say that the initial consultation you do with potential clients should be like a first date – but a good first date! The kind that leaves you feeling happy and at ease with the person, and looking forward to seeing them again. That’s the goal: to have your client get to know you a little, to feel comfortable talking with you, and that they can’t imagine not having you support them during pregnancy and birth.
So how do you do this?
Less is More
As doulas, we are passionate about what we do. We’ve trained, studied, and done additional professional development. We’re experts, and sometimes in our eagerness to help people, we want to share all that information. While having a wealth of information and knowledge to share is definitely something that will benefit our clients, giving all that information during the consultation isn’t appropriate for a few reasons:
They aren’t your clients yet. Most people looking to hire a doula recognize our worth and treat us as professionals. Yet sometimes there are people who are happy to interview as many doulas as they can, and glean as much information as they can, before signing a contract (if at all). As you go through the consult, you should keep this in mind. The consult is a time to give general background about yourself and how and why you got into the field; to review what your support would include; to review general questions they may have; and have them be excited about hiring you because you connect and they can already trust you. Most people interviewing doulas will hire one – the consult is your time to shine, for them to recognize that you are the best one to hire.
You don’t have enough background information on their circumstances yet. Doulas don’t give out medical advice. Ever. However we do offer information and guidance in areas of physiology such as positioning to use before labor, nutrition and common vitamins and supplements used in pregnancy, etc. We always advise our clients to check with their providers first since their providers have the clients’ full medical history and are credentialed to provide that kind of care. The consult is not the time to address these kinds of specifics for your clients.
It’s overwhelming for the potential client at this stage. The consult is not a time to make a deep dive into the stages of labor, breastfeeding basics, or other topics that really should be discussed in the prenatal appointment or childbirth education class. Remember, the consult is the time for you to show them why they should hire you. Giving too much information about pregnancy and labor during the consult can be overwhelming for the client, especially if they haven’t been through it before. It can sometimes work against you: instead of hiring you as their doula, they just got a mini-childbirth education class from you for free.
Here are some key points to remember during the consult:
- Smile. Be friendly. Be yourself, because that’s who you want them to hire.
- Keep eye contact. This can feel challenging if you’re doing a video consult, so practice with a friend if you need to get used to that format.
- Don’t answer your phone. In fact, don’t even have your phone out. Keep the ringer on silent. It’s incredibly rude to answer a text while you’re having a conversation – especially one that is essentially a job interview.
- Give the basics. Talk about your background not only in birthwork, but who you are as a person. Maybe share a hobby you like or something about your family. (This of course depends on your comfort level.) There have been many times that the main connection point between doula and client didn’t have anything to do with birth – but it got us working together!
- Set clear steps. Explain the next steps, making note of how long you will hold their due date and when you’d like to hear back from them. Be clear with your answers about scope, fees, and deadlines.
The more consults you do, the easier it gets. For those who have been in the field for years, it’s almost a script in our heads at this point! As a certified Birth Beautifully Birth Doula, be confident that you are an expert in birth knowledge and compassion, and we’re sure they’ll be hiring you right away!