You’ve done your training and are now a certified doula. You’ve got the business basics set, and you’re ready to support clients.
But where are the clients?
When first starting out, many doulas run into this issue: they’re eager and ready to take on clients, but can’t quite find any. It takes time to build an independent doula business, so one way to start getting clients (and experience) right away is to work as an independent contractor (IC) through a doula agency.
There are lots of advantages to being an IC, including:
- Set your own schedule. Give the agency your availability. You can take on as many or as few as your schedule allows.
- Don’t worry about marketing. The agency is responsible for all the business overhead, including marketing, advertising, back office system management, creation of contracts and other materials, etc. As an IC, you use what the agency provides for client forms, and reap the benefits of the agency’s foundation including their website, reputation in the community, etc.
- Peers for when you need backup and support. Especially for new doulas, this can make a huge difference! Learn how a doula business is run, learn from other doula’s expertise, learn about your local birth community environment from people who are in it. Get to know other doulas and create relationships so you can have reliable backup doulas (and you can be a backup doula for others too).
Doula agencies have likely put years of work and resources into making their business known. Because of this investment, every IC pays a referral fee to the agency for each client who hires them through the agency. This varies, but is usually somewhere around 20-35% of the total birth package fee. It’s a great relationship for both the agency and the IC, as it enables them both to grow their businesses.
Not only for new doulas
Working through an agency is not only for new doulas. For various reasons, many doulas choose to continue working with agencies even after establishing their own businesses. Reasons for this could include all the benefits mentioned above; to fill gaps in their schedule of clients; to bolster their experience; to increase their number of clients; to not have to do any back-end work; to continue growing and maintaining relationships with other doulas and birth workers. Whatever the reason, working with an agency can be beneficial for new and seasoned doulas.
There are a few possible reasons you might see working with an agency as something you don’t want to do. For example, the referral fees. Taking a portion of the birth package fee right off the top and handing it to the agency might turn some people off from the idea, but when you think about all that you are receiving for that fee (the agency’s reputation, all the foundational business systems already in place, the marketing, and of course a client handed right to you) it is worth it. Another possible con could be if your business/birth philosophies clash with those of a particular agency. Being asked to do things out of scope or against your personal values could mean that a certain agency might not be a great fit for you, no matter how many clients they direct your way. As an individual and business owner, you have to set those standards for yourself and your business, and then work with people and agencies you respect.
All-in-all, working as an independent contractor through an agency can help you gain experience, establish professional (and sometimes personal) relationships, and bring in income. Contact Birth Beautifully about our Doula Mentoring program to learn more about what agencies are looking for in independent contractors, or how to start your own agency.