Sharon Muza, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE
I have always been a believer in first, valuing yourself and second, charging what you are worth. This is also a good philosophy to have when determining your doula fees. The vast majority of doulas in North America are sole proprietors and run their own businesses as they see fit. They are their own bosses in every way. As such, the doulas get to set their fees and decide exactly what services they offer for that price. Other doulas work for an agency or a hospital program and have a bit less control over their professional doula fee and may not have the freedom to change it.
When you are your own boss, no one is sitting you down for a yearly performance review and the much hoped for salary increase. There are no automatic cost of living increases. No one gives you a bonus for a job well done. You, as the business owner, have to make these decisions yourself. Some doulas find it easy to raise their rates while others agonize over the decision, filled with uncertainty about exactly how to proceed.
If you look at the idea of raising your rates as a business decision, along the lines of other business decisions that you make on a regular basis, that takes some of the emotion out of increasing your fee. Here are five situations that you might consider worthy of a fee increase to recognize your effort, experience, and professional growth.
Certification or recertification
Becoming certified is quite the accomplishment. You have been recognized by your certifying organization as having successfully completed all of the requirements for birth or postpartum certification. Being able to add your certification credentials to your resume (and website and business cards) is something to be proud of and a great time to consider raising your rates. The same can be said for your recertification. Completing another cycle of commitment to the doula profession and keeping up with certification requirements may very well go hand in hand with a rate increase.
Hitting a milestone number of births or postpartum families served
You may consider raising your fee when you cross a milestone on the number of families you have worked with. Serving ten clients may feel like a goal to be celebrated! Working with 25 or 50 or 100 families are all important milestones that may warrant evaluating if you want to increase your rates. These milestones show that you are gaining more experience and knowledge in supporting clients in a variety of circumstances. This has value for the clients who will come next.
Acquiring a new training or skill
Have you completed additional training or added a new skill? Did you finish an advanced lactation course? Were you a birth doula who just now finished the requirements for becoming a postpartum doula as well? Have you recently started working as a childbirth educator or certified as a babywearing expert? All these additional skills are adding value to your services in your primary role. I would consider a new skill set to be a reason that a doula may consider raising their fees.
Your doula-versary is here
Have you just added another year of service to the length of time you have been working as a doula? That is something to celebrate. For a variety of reasons, some doulas do not continue to do birth or postpartum work year after year. The fact that you have completed another year in the service of expectant and new families is a valid reason to raise your fees.
Whenever you want or need to
To be honest, there have been client situations during my professional career that have truly depleted me, leaving me massively drained both emotionally and physically. Thankfully these experiences are far and few between, but when I am in a place to both reflect back as well as look to the future, I realize that one thing that makes me feel better about what I have just experienced is to raise my rates. To me, this feels like a personal acknowledgment to myself of having navigated a situation that had a large emotional and/or physical cost. It allows me to find my new “happy price” and keep going.
Raise your rates professionally
Regardless of the reason why or the timing of when you decide to raise your fees, there are some rules about how to do this in a professional manner.
- Apply this fee to future clients, but not those who have already signed a contract for your services.
- Update this information everywhere you state your fee to the public, including on your website, on your electronic or paper contracts, on any marketing materials that may be available, DoulaMatch.net or other directories that include fee information. Make sure you hit every possible spot that your fee might possibly be posted.
- Know that you always have the right to adjust or modify your fees down as you decide is appropriate for a family’s circumstances. If you want to offer a lower rate, a discount or pro bono services, you always have that choice. Just make sure that you sign a contracting clearly outlining any financial costs and expectations to your client when your arrangement deviates from your normal fee.
- Consider your ideal client. Make sure that the families you most like to work with will find your new fee fair and equitable.
- Be confident about your new rates. You may be asked why your fee has gone up. Speak confidently about your value and the services you provide. When you believe in your own worth, it is easy for others to see the value in your services as well.
Share your thoughts
You are a valuable member of the birth or postpartum team. You bring your skills and experience to every client you work with. You have every right to be compensated fairly and to increase this compensation as your experience and skillset increases. Make the decision to increase your doula fees from a place of both common sense and practicality. Consider using the guidelines here when you are contemplating a fee increase. It may help you to do so with clarity and confidence.
If you have given yourself a raise in your birth business, can you share in our comments section a bit about how you came to that decision? What factors did you consider? How did it go when you did? Are you considering raising your fee now? Share your process! We can have a rich discussion below.