By Kim James, ICCE, LCCE, BDT(DONA)
About the Author: Kim James has run a successful birth doula business for 15 years in Seattle, Washington. Kim’s roles in the birth community include: DONA-approved birth doula trainer at the Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations, childbirth and parent educator at Parent Trust for Washington Children, DONA International Washington SPAR (State Representative) and Lamaze International membership committee member. Kim is also the owner and operator of DoulaMatch.net.
From the doula availability database, DoulaMatch.net, we have solid evidence that DONA International certified doulas consistently earn a higher fee and receive more referrals than non-certified doulas and doulas certified through other organizations.
From January 1 through May 31, 2015, 2,627 active doulas in the database received at least two or more referrals.
DONA International certified doulas commanded a 25% higher fee than non-certified doulas and a 7% higher fee than doulas certified through other organizations. DONA International certified doulas also received twice as many monthly referrals.
What’s more interesting is to look at how DONA International certified doulas compare to other doulas with the same amount of experience.
At all levels of experience, certified doulas, and DONA International certified doulas in particular, earn higher fees and attract more clients.
For new doulas, achieving a meaningful certification means you are more attractive to potential clients. When you don’t have a lot of clients under your belt, having a recognized certification demonstrates to potential clients that you have the skills necessary to be an effective doula. With certification, doulas achieve a major professional milestone that provides an edge over doulas with the same amount of experience who are not certified or are certified through lesser-known organizations.
For established doulas, experience is the great equalizer and decreases the fee and referral gaps. However, achieving and maintaining certification demonstrates your professional commitment and validates your higher fee, even when your practice is established and thriving.
Families who use a database to reach out to doulas are probably looking for mid-priced doulas with moderate experience. When faced with a lot of choices, whether or not a doula is certified seems to matter. For doulas with moderate experience of two to seven years, 59% of all referrals went to certified doulas. Of those certified doulas, 56% were certified by DONA International.
Whether you’re just starting out or firmly established, achieving and maintaining certification is a solid business decision that benefits not just families and our profession, but you as a doula business owner.