Updated: Nov 10, 2022
I have a lot to say here, so I'm not gonna make this super fancy. Let's cut to the chase, eh?
Here are the top 10 mistakes (in my opinion and not in this particular order) that are often made by Doulas with little experience.
Not holding their doula training accountable: So many new doulas finish their doula training and have some of the most basic questions that should've been answered in their training. If you leave your training feeling lost about where to start, you need to go back to your training organization and let them know that you need support. If you're required to serve clients in order to become certified, you should at least leave your training knowing how to facilitate a consultation and prenatal visit.
Not hiring a mentor: This goes hand in hand with mistake number 1. You WILL have some questions after training. Even with good training. Hiring a mentor can help you navigate the finer details of life as a new Doula. I'll be making a separate post or podcast episode on finding a mentor. (Psssst....inquire within. I have mentorship slots open and they're on sale for $200 off during 11/2022)
3. Not hiring a backup: We are not magicians. We cannot always be available. Life happens. Not having a backup in place for your clients is doing them a huge disservice. If you don't make it to their birth, yes you can refund them. However, you can't give them back their birth experience. Network with local doulas. It's likely they could use backup too.
4. Thinking there's one right way to be a Doula: Every Doula has different standards. Some like to have personal relationships with clients. Attending baby showers and birthdays. Some like to keep it strictly professional. Some only attend homebirths. Some require their clients to take childbirth classes. Doula in the way that aligns with you. There will be clients who desire you for who you are and what you offer. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.
5. Treating people like clients before they pay: Unless you're offering free services, stop treating people like they're clients before they've paid and signed your contract. Many Doulas get used this way. They'll respond to texts and calls for advice. Spend time doing research etc just to be ghosted without pay. Don't set yourself up.
6. Having no or a limited contract: Contracts are the foundation of your business. If you don't have a contract or don't have a solid one, you're asking for trouble. A mentor (or even a lawyer) is a helpful way to ensure that you have a contract that doesn't miss anything important. And every client needs to sign. No exceptions. Even family or friends.
7. Not charging appropriately: I use the term appropriately very loosely. What's appropriate for one may not be appropriate for another. Decide what's appropriate for you. If you want to work for free because you feel called, fine. If you want to charge high end, that's fine (so long as your service quality reflects your cost). Don't know what to charge? Know that you need to make a living wage. Let's say the average living wage is roughly $30/hr and you put in roughly 30hours during the contract period with your client, that's $900. Honestly, I feel no Doula should be charging less than that unless they want to.
8. Doing too much: So many Doulas want to take all of the trainings under the sun so that they feel competent. Slow down and learn to perfect your new skills first. Continuing education is really important but save those for the more important skills. Stop taking trainings just to take them if they aren't your calling. Every Doula doesn't need to be an herbalist, for example. Chill.
9. Arriving at births too early: It's easy to get excited and head over to your client the minute things are happening, but this leads to Doula burnout. Long hours at births are no fun. Especially when you realize that you could've waited. Learn how to navigate a good time to be with your clients. As a general rule of thumb, when the client needs to have their partner call me because they can no longer manage a phone call themselves, it's time to go. Of course, this varies from one client to the next. Some will have high anxiety or will be a single parent and may need you as early as possible. Most births, however, don't require your presence immediately.
10. Relying on family and friends to be your first clients: A lot of Doulas finish training and start thinking that their pregnant friends and family members will automatically want their services. The lie detector test determined that was a lie. LOL!!! Honestly, many of your friends and family members won't want to create a professional relationship with you. It feels weird. They also would rather just slide in your dm for free advice. You' the plug now. The pregnancy plug. Better set those boundaries early.
Feel free to comment your thoughts below or share some mistakes you've seen made. Don't forget to share.