Becoming a Doula: A Complete Guide to Training and Starting Your Business

July 5, 2023

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We're Maryn + Margo

We are mamas and birth workers who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are kind, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit. With 12 children and 20 years of midwifery between us, we’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and Indie Birth is our space to share it all with you.


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What the Heck is a Doula?

A doula, which translates to “a woman who serves,” is a trained and experienced woman who provides physical, emotional, spiritual and informational support to women and their families during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Doulas don’t provide medical care, but they empower and advocate for their clients by offering love, wisdom, evidence-based information and continuous presence throughout the whole childbirth journey. They play an important role in creating a positive and comfortable birthing experience by doing extensive prenatal prep, offering comfort measures, assisting with labor positioning, providing emotional support, and helping with postpartum care. Doulas can work independently or as part of a doula agency. With their dedication and compassionate care, doulas are instrumental in promoting a sense of empowerment, confidence, and fulfillment during the transformative stages of childbirth.

Benefits of Hiring a Doula

Studies have shown that having a doula can reduce the length of labor, decrease the need for pain medications, and reduce the risk of complications during childbirth. In addition to labor support, doulas can provide postpartum care, such as breastfeeding support and assistance with newborn care. They can also provide valuable information to new parents about changes to expect during the postpartum period, and support parents in their transition to parenthood.

Understanding Pregnancy, Labor and Postpartum Care

Extensively understanding pregnancy, labor and postpartum care is crucial for anyone starting a doula business. As a doula, you will be supporting families throughout their entire birthing year, and having a comprehensive knowledge of labor and postpartum care is essential for providing the best possible support.

Most doulas and doula trainings don’t focus enough on support during pregnancy. The focus is almost exclusively on the birth and postpartum time. When choosing your training, be sure that there is plenty of education and support around how to work with clients in pregnancy to support their optimal health and also to get really clear about their preferences for their birth and postpartum time.

During labor, doulas should be familiar with the various stages of labor, from early labor to active labor and transition. Understanding these stages allows doulas to anticipate the needs of clients and offer appropriate support and guidance. Additionally, knowing different pain management techniques, such as visualization, breathing exercises, massage, and position changes, can help doulas assist clients in managing the sensations during labor.

Postpartum care is another important aspect for doulas to be familiar with. This includes understanding the physical and emotional recovery that new mamas go through after childbirth. Doulas can provide guidance and support on optimum postpartum recovery, including rest, nutrition, and self-care practices.

Breastfeeding support is also a crucial skill for doulas. Understanding the basics of breastfeeding, such as proper latch techniques and common challenges, allows doulas to provide valuable support to new parents. Additionally, knowledge in newborn care, such as diapering, bathing, and soothing techniques, can help doulas support parents during the early days of their baby’s life.

By having a thorough understanding of labor and postpartum care, doulas can offer exceptional support to families during this transformative period. This knowledge allows doulas to educate, empower, and advocate for their clients, ensuring a positive and successful childbirth experience. No matter what doula training you take, please be sure that you training covers as much of what you are hoping to offer as possible so that you can hit the ground running instead of trying to tack together education from multiple places while also trying to start a business. Our Sacred Sisterhood Doula Training is SO comprehensive, and is a one stop shop for everything you need to get started as a doula.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Communication and interpersonal skills play a vital role in the success of a doula business. As a doula, it is essential to establish strong and trusting relationships with clients, and effective communication is the key to achieving this.

Having strong communication skills allows doulas to actively listen to their clients’ concerns, fears, and expectations. This active listening enables doulas to understand and meet the unique needs and desires of each client. By providing attentive and empathetic support, doulas can foster a sense of trust and establish a solid foundation for their doula-client relationship.

To actively listen to clients, doulas can employ specific techniques such as reflecting or paraphrasing what clients share, asking open-ended questions, and practicing non-judgmental listening. These techniques help doulas to gain insights into their client’s emotions and experiences, leading to more effective support.

Furthermore, the concept of providing continuous support is at the core of doula practice. Doulas are there for their clients throughout the entire pregnancy, birth, and postpartum stages. Building strong relationships through effective communication allows doulas to understand their clients’ needs at every stage and provide the necessary emotional, physical, and informational support.

In summary, communication and interpersonal skills are essential for doulas to establish and maintain strong relationships with their clients. These skills enable doulas to actively listen to their clients, meet their unique needs, and provide continuous support throughout the entire birth journey.

Developing Your Business and Marketing Plan

“By taking this course I have changed personally for the better. I have been able to view birth in such a different and more powerful way. With this course I have gained a immense amount of confidence in myself and the work that I offer to women. The doula program has helped me attract more clients as a result. They have helped me do this by equipping me with the business knowledge I need! I feel prepared and confident in having conversations with my clients about money. I’m also confident in myself and what I have to offer. I have learned so much from this program and feel like they have given me the tools to be a successful doula. This training is so much more extensive than any other doula course I looked at. Each aspect of the course touches on valuable knowledge to help me be a better doula. This course was the first one I had heard of that actually teaches you the business aspect of being a doula and I love that!! I am thankful for what I am learning in the Indie Birth Sacred Sisterhood Doula Training.” – Makayla

Establishing your own doula business can be an exciting and rewarding venture once you’ve got your training under your belt.

Developing a business plan is a super crucial step in starting a successful doula business. A well-crafted business plan serves as a roadmap, guiding your business towards achieving its goals. It helps you clarify your business goals, define your mission statement, identify your target market, establish a pricing structure, outline your marketing strategies, and make financial projections.

Guess what? We made this absolute GOLD MINE of a resource for you called Doula Business Mastery: A 10 Week Roadmap. You can get it for free by following the link.

When developing your business plan, start by clearly articulating your business goals. What do you hope to achieve with your doula business? Your goals will shape the direction of your business and allow you to measure your success.

Next, create a mission statement that reflects the values and purpose of your doula practice. Think of this as you “why” statement. This statement will guide your decision-making and convey your unique selling proposition to potential clients. Your business plan should also include how you will differentiate yourself from competitors and provide exceptional care to your clients.

Conduct a thorough analysis of your target market to understand who your ideal clients are and how to reach them. Consider factors such as demographics and the needs and expectations of your potential clients.

Establish a pricing structure that is fair, aligns with market rates and allows you to have enough money to live your best life! Consider your expenses, including training programs, marketing materials, and overhead costs, to ensure you are setting prices that are sustainable for your business. We recommend using YNAB for business budgeting, and for personal use, too.

Make financial projections to estimate your revenue and expenses. This helps you analyze the financial viability of your business and plan for financial management effectively.

Once your business plan is in place, it’s time to establish your business legally. This may include registering your business name, considering the best legal structure for your business, such as a PMA or an LLC (or both). Taking these steps ensures that you have the legal protections and structure in place for your doula business.

Finally, it’s important to develop a solid marketing plan. A well-thought-out plan serves as a roadmap for your doula business, outlining your goals, target market, marketing strategies, and financial management. Develop a marketing strategy that includes both online and offline efforts to reach your target market. Utilize marketing channels such as social media, websites, and online directories to promote your services and attract clients. Creating valuable content and marketing materials, and teaching high value classes in your community can set you apart.

By developing a well-crafted business plan, you create a solid foundation for your doula business, increasing your chances of success in the competitive doula profession.

Identifying Your Target Market and Ideal Clients

Identifying your target market and ideal clients is a crucial step in building a successful doula business. By understanding the specific needs, preferences, and desires of your ideal clients, you can tailor your services and marketing efforts to effectively reach and attract them.

Start by considering the demographics of your target market. Are you primarily serving expectant mothers in a certain age range, geographic location, or socioeconomic background? Only mamas planning a specific type of birth? Understanding their demographics can help you develop marketing messages and strategies that resonate with them.

Think about the specific needs and preferences of your ideal clients. Are they seeking a natural birth experience, or are they open to interventions? Do they have specific cultural or religious practices that they want to incorporate into their birth plan? By taking these factors into account, you can position yourself as a doula who understands and can support their unique birth goals.

To find your target market, explore online directories that cater to expectant parents or join local community networks related to pregnancy and childbirth. Ask yourself “where do these target customers hang out? where do they shop, socialize, spend time, get their entertainment, connection and community?”. Connect with other birth professionals, such as childbirth educators and postpartum doulas, who can refer clients to you.

By understanding your target market and ideal clients, and implementing a comprehensive marketing strategy, you can attract the right clients and build a thriving doula business.

Creating Marketing Materials

Creating marketing materials for your doula business is essential for reaching potential clients and communicating your services effectively. These materials serve as a tangible representation of your brand image and can leave a lasting impression on potential clients. Examples of effective marketing materials for a doula business include brochures, flyers, and business cards. BUT – word of warning – peppering your town with business cards is not going to get you a booming doula business. We see this mistake all the time. More important than business cards or trifolds is effectively marketing events, classes, meet and greets or any other in person events you feel inspired to offer.

When designing your marketing materials, it is important to ensure they reflect your brand image. Use colors, fonts, and images that align with the feel you want to cultivate for your brand and create a cohesive look and feel. Hands down the best solution for making these materials (and also graphics for online marketing) is Canva. Including testimonials and success stories from previous clients can also help build credibility and trust with potential clients.

Key elements to include in your marketing materials are your contact information, services offered, and a clear call to action. Your contact information should be prominently displayed, making it easy for potential clients to reach out to you. Clearly outline the services you provide and how they benefit your clients. Lastly, include a call to action that encourages potential clients to take the next step, such as scheduling a consultation or contacting you for more information.

By creating well-designed marketing materials that effectively communicate your services and brand image, you can attract and engage potential clients!

Building a Solid Foundation for Your Practice

Building a solid foundation for your doula practice is essential for long-term success in the doula profession. It is important to invest time/money/energy in personal growth and professional development to continuously improve your skills and knowledge. This includes attending workshops, trainings, and conferences to stay up-to-date with the latest practices, childbirth education, and whatever additional skills you want to add to make your offerings stand out. For example, I often take courses or read books that I then incorporate bits of into my work to make it truly my own eclectic mix of support – most recently courses in shamanic journeying, meditation, energy work, ancestor work, etc.

In addition, self-awareness is key in providing exceptional care to your clients. Recognizing your triggers, managing your emotions, and maintaining respectful communication with clients are vital elements of a successful doula-client relationship. That is why we include this important inner work in our Sacred Sisterhood Doula Training. A doula who knows all the tricks, but is a hot mess in her own life is probably not going to be the most effective or inspiring leader. Find what you love to do and practice what you preach – journaling, art therapy, meditation, dance, communication skills, and any other forms of self discovery are on the table. Women will look to you for leadership in their own self care and self-actualization work in the birthing year, so show up as your best self and with some great recommendations beyond the basic vanilla doula stuff.

By investing in personal growth and practicing self-awareness, you will be well on your way to building a solid foundation for your doula practice. This strong foundation will not only attract potential clients but also ensure long-term success and satisfaction in your doula profession.

Assessing Your Personal Assets to Support Full-Time Work as a Doula

Assessing your personal assets is an essential step in determining your readiness to embark on full-time work as a doula. Considering factors such as financial stability, time availability, and emotional support can help create a solid foundation for your doula business.

Financial stability is crucial when starting any business venture. Evaluate your current financial situation and determine if you have sufficient savings or other sources of income to support yourself during the initial stages of building your doula business. Being financially prepared can alleviate stress and allow you to focus on providing exceptional care to your clients. Margo on our team also happens to be a money and budget coach, and has lots of great resources for this over on her website.

Time availability is another critical aspect to consider. Reflect on your current commitments and obligations to determine if you can allocate sufficient time to your doula business. Being a doula often involves being on call for clients, attending prenatal visits, assisting during labor, and providing postpartum care. Ensure you have enough flexibility in your schedule to meet these demands. If you are wondering about how having kids (and not having kids!) might impact your work as a doula, check out this podcast episode all about doing birth before, during and after having babies.

Additionally, maintaining emotional support is vital for a doula. Balancing the emotional needs of your clients with your own well-being requires self-care and a strong support system. Assess whether you have access to emotional support from friends, family, or professional networks to sustain you throughout your journey as a doula.

By assessing your personal assets, including financial stability, time availability, and emotional support, you can set realistic expectations and create a solid foundation for your doula business. This will ultimately contribute to your success as a doula entrepreneur.

Choosing the Right Training Program

Choosing the right training program is essential for anyone aspiring to become a successful doula. When it comes to doula training programs, it’s important to choose a program that is comprehensive, offers ongoing support, is longer than a weekend, and includes business training.

At the Sacred Sisterhood Doula Training, we understand the importance of a comprehensive training program. Our program covers everything from childbirth education to postpartum care, providing doulas with a solid foundation of knowledge and skills. With ongoing support, doulas can feel confident in their abilities and have someone to turn to for guidance and advice.

Certification with one of the big box doula trainings is not the key to success as a doula. While some may argue that certification with a specific company is important for credibility, we believe (and have seen!) that the quality of your training and the support you provide to your clients are what truly matter. Our program focuses on equipping doulas with the necessary skills and knowledge to provide exceptional care to their clients, well beyond what is being taught in the weekend trainings that some of the bigger name programs offer. In fact, we have many doulas come retrain with us after begin disappointed in their training and feel unequipped to actually get their business off the ground.

In summary, choosing the right training program is crucial for anyone looking to become a doula. Look for comprehensive options that provide ongoing support and include business training. Remember, certification is not the be-all and end-all. Focus on the quality of your training and the support you can provide to your clients. Choose a program like the Sacred Sisterhood Doula Training to enhance your expertise and perhaps even transform your own life like so many of our students have experienced.

“I had my eye on Indie Birth but had already committed to another doula program. The course was monotonous and it felt like a huge disservice to myself to not to be learning from the women who inspired me so much. I made the switch to Indie Birth’s Doula Training and it was like things in my life started to finally click into place. I worked through a lot of underlying birth trauma and broke down a lot of societal conditioning and like that, I began being invited into these sacred birth spaces. I was connected with many amazing women in my community who also learned from indie birth or aspired to. Now I am sought out as a doula by autonomous and aligned women. I will always recommend Indie Births Doula Training over any other, for its ability to break the mold and stand radically in our autonomy and the wonderful community I have built from it. Much love to my Indie Birth sisters & Maryn, Margo, and the other wise women who I had the honor to learn from.” – Taylor

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Meet the duo behind Indie Birth

We are mamas and midwives who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are radical, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit to help move us all towards a new more beautiful world. With 12 children and over two decades of midwifery between us, we’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and Indie Birth is our space to share it all with you.

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