“Wow, if you have 4 clients a month and you ask that fee, you can get super rich easily.” Ha, I wish! Please leave out the easy part first, oh and then drop the rich part as well. I never thought to become a doula because it would make me rich. Nor do I think my fees are high enough to make a living out of just serving 3-4 clients a month. I will explain my thoughts to you and tell you what is in a doula (package) fee.
Let’s start with entrepreneurship, running your own business cost money. Start-up cost in The Netherlands are luckily quite low and the thing I use most during a birth are my hands. That’s easy and free! But there are some things I bring to a birth that I invested in, as you can read in my blog about the items I take to a birth.
I work mainly at my clients homes, so they can be in the privacy of their own house, where they are most comfortable. And I don’t need to hire the location where the birth takes place of course. All the other work I do mainly from home, but every now and then I go to a coffee shop to have a (work) lunch with colleagues, meet clients or just work from a different space than home because I like it. Still manageable.
But as an entrepreneur there are costs that can add up quickly. You need a website, someone to host it and build it. You need a logo, flyers, business cards, keep these all up to date. And maybe you want to do some Facebook advertisement every now and then. Then there are insurance fees and of course taxes, both VAT as well as income tax. And I feel some kind of hatred towards the Belastingdienst, as they take half of the package fee from me. It doesn’t feel fair. But okay, that’s what happens when you live in a country like ours with a good social welfare system, right?
I love lifelong learning and have a sort of unquenchable need to feed myself with new information. So I invest in courses, workshops and trainings to learn new skills that all my clients can benefit from during their birth, of when I support them before or after birth. You name it, I have done it; reiki, Thai postpartum massage, business trainings, Neuro linguistic programming (NLP), Yoga Nidra, first aid for babies and children, pain management, belly binding, breath work, orthomolecular nutrition for pregnant women and so on and so on. It’s not hard for me to reach the amount of hours of extra training to keep my registration at the Dutch Doula association. But yes, this costs money of course.
Alright so that’s the investment in myself and in my business, that my clients benefit from ‘indirectly’. There are of course also direct contact hours. Whether it is a private childbirth class, a package for support during labor or a package for postnatal doula support that you book, there will be a certain amount of hours that I work with you 1-on-1. I go to all my appointments by bike, but sometimes it takes me an hour to get to and from my clients place. All extra time. And I always prepare meetings and most of the time there is some work to do afterwards. Sending hand-outs by email or writing a birth plan, this takes time as well.
The amount of hours that we have personal contact differ and depends on the service or package you booked with me. But with all my packages you get a bit of discount if you book more hours with me, since that gives me a more secured income.
After all, having your own business brings a risk as well. One month I have 4 birth doula clients, 1 postnatal client and I teach at 2 childbirth classes. But then the other month it is just 1 birth doula client and 3 childbirth classes. I never know how much I will earn and in the past years my income from my doula business fluctuated frequently.
24/7 on call
In order for me to really be there for a client at the time labor starts, I need to take good care of myself. That’s why I make sure to go to bed in time. That I am fit both physically as mentally (with 15 years of yoga experience I think I can check that box). I rarely drink alcohol and I sometimes (last minute) cancel parties or dinner dates, because a client might go into labor. I always have my phone on me. It’s the last thing I check before I go to bed and the first thing in the morning again. I have to plan a weekend out of town or a day at the sauna ahead. And sometimes I have to work with (and pay) a back-up doula because there is a super important appointment that cannot be missed, or because I am feeling sick.
There are a lot more weeks in the year that I am on call than not. So being on call for a client 24/7, for a period of 4 to 5 weeks for every client, means this is my life.
It might seem as a huge sacrifice. Luckily this work is my passion and I absolutely love doing this. A lot of doula’s quit their business after 1-2 years because it puts such a big strain on them personally, on their family or their relationship with their partner or friends. I get that. This work is not just a hobby to me. I could not be fully devoted to my clients if I would not love it.
Continuous birth support
For the birth doula support package, a big part of the amount of hours and time I invest will be during the birth. Although many would love to, a midwife, doctor or nurse won’t be able to hold your hand and support you all the time during birth. In fact, in most hospitals and midwifery practices in Amsterdam it’s busy. This means your care provider will be there for just a couple of hours maximum to support you in most of the cases. This is okay, since they are still perfectly able to do their job in this amount of time, although it might feel limited to you. But their (main) job is to keep you and the baby safe. To provide medical care.
As a doula I don’t do anything that is related to the medical part of labor. I am there to support you mentally and physically, in all the hours that your birth will take. From beginning till end and even a couple of hours after, no matter how long the journey is. The average amount of hours I stay at a birth is 16-17 hours. So far the shortest was 3 hours, but on the other hand the longest has been 3 days on and off, with 28 hours in a row. You just never know how a birth will evolve. But this is one of the reasons why I only offer package deals for birth doula support and don’t work with an hourly rate.
So regardless of the time a birth takes, I will be there. Because I have seen what a big, big difference it makes if a woman feels fully supported and safe to birth her baby. The outcomes of this research are no surprise to me. I know that a doula can have a positive impact on the birth outcome. That’s why I will never leave someone’s side. All the other appointments I have will be cancelled the minute I get ‘the’ call. They are out of my calendar and my head. I am fully there, 100%, for you. Because with this fee, I am able to devote this time to you.
To sum up
My time is valuable to me, as your time will be valuable to you as well. Do the words ‘rich’ and ‘easy money making’ still cross your mind, now that you know what is in my fee?