The one thing I discovered when I decided to leave my full time job for doula work was that financially, being a doula is not enough. Being a doula requires being on call for weeks, the ability to respond to a families call at any hour of the day. Birth work is highly variable in nature. You can be at a birth for 4 hours and for 40 hours – making a livable wage as a birth doula can be a big challenge.
Even if we were to fully book our schedules, taking 2-3 births per month, or about 1 birth per 10 to 14 days. When all is said and done, that can amount to little more than a part-time income. For some that may be exactly what they want, for me I needed to find a way to maximize my income.
In order to do that, I had to be more than just a birth doula. In order to increase the chance of creating income, I diversified. The bottom line: to earn more money, you must offer more products or services.
This had offered me many benefits. It allowed me to take on less births, to create more of a structured schedule for myself. It also had me offering products and services that complimented my work as a doula. As a result it brought in more doula business. Clients would come to ask for one service (birth doula) and I had the opportunity to sell them on other products (placenta encapsulation, Childbirth Education Classes, or counselling). It also worked in reverse.
Diversifying however is more than just adding services or products to your website and business. It requires the same amount of hard work and hustle it takes become a great doula. Simply adding things to your preexisting business does not guarantee a cash flow. To get business growth through diversification you do not do more of the same; you do something different. You expand in new directions.
Before you begin to diversify here are some steps to consider:
Meet Taylor. A Doula Canada student and world traveller. She took a moment to answer some questions for us about her volunteer experience with St. Bryce Mission in Costa Rica.
What drove you to wanting to be a volunteer doula overseas?
I feel confident in my knowledge and ability to work as a doula for the common Canadian mother. But I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do more and be more. Working with this significantly marginalized, secluded, indigenous population of Costa Rica was attractive to me because the need for support was so high. I think I have grown in my skill set and my knowledge substantially!
Where did you go? What were your responsibilities?
I worked and lived at the Casa San Francisco located in the small town of Turrialba, Costa Rica. Casa San Francisco is a maternity Centre run by a missionary organizations called St Bryce. The centre works exclusively with the indigenous Cabecar women pre and post-natally. These native women live a very secluded lifestyle in the mountains and cloud forests. The hospital by law requires them to birth in a public hospital for their own safety. Before this centre existed when labour began the women would hike down the mountains for sometimes days to get to the hospitals. Many moms and babies wouldn't survive the harsh conditions if their travels. Other mothers would survive the trip to the hospital and would be sent away for not being dilated enough. Forcing them to wait on the streets until they could be accepted. This centre was built to give the moms a place to live at 8+ months and postpartum. They have reduced the mortality of the Indigenous babies by 40% in 5 short years.
My responsibilities included everything from cooking, cleaning, prenatal education, labour & birth Doula support, lactation education/support and any other gaps I could fill at the time. I took an extra initiative to help design and implement a laboring room out of a vacant space in the centre. Further, I developed better living conditions for volunteers and helped build an orientation package for doulas to come in the future. Therefore making their entrance to the centre more comfortable and smooth. I implemented positive activities for the mothers and younger children to participate in. Some of these included therapeutic art activities and self-care workshops. Because the centre had just opened and I was the first doula at the organization for a long period of time. My feedback and ideas were put into place with respect from others within the organization. I felt like I truly made a difference.
What did you find the most difficult?
Being completely immersed not only in Costa Rican culture, but a very secluded indigenous culture was hard to say in the least. The first week i felt complete culture shock. I'm a very high maintenance person, and I wanted to challenge myself....and i was. It was difficult to get used to the cold showers, simple food, traditions, values and most significantly, the languages. I found myself frustrated often at first with the language barrier. And even once I began to better understand and communicate with Spanish. The barrier with the Cabecar's was still immense. Their language is so unique. The woman in the Cabecar culture are soft spoken and of few words. But I persisted to support them and make myself comfortable. By the time I felt fully accepted and comfortable in the culture it was time to leave. I'll be back...but for longer than 3 weeks next time!
Interested in sharing your thoughts on the Doula Canada page?