Saturday, December 31, 2011

{Ottawa Doula} Reflecting on One Year

One year ago, I attended my first birth as a doula. I remember excitedly packing my bag, rushing over to my client's house, and then finding my "groove" as a support person. I remember trying to please the midwives and nurses, and trying to stay awake, despite my client's insistence that I get some rest (first lesson learned: when there is time for sleep, take it!!)

In 2011 I served over 20 clients, from all different walks of life. Some births, I have felt extremely confident, knowing I have made a positive difference. At other births, I have felt a sense of failure, both real and imagined. Not surprisingly, the failures hurt the most, and remain forefront in my mind.

There are many lessons I've learned, and some I have written about here.

What I have been reflecting the most on this past week are the struggles I have with the business side of doula work. The fact that I must have an attractive website; an interactive Facebook Page; and a number of followers on Twitter. I must be constantly "on the ball," answering emails within 24 hours, and looking/feeling my best at interviews. Despite all the stipulations in the contract I hand out to potential clients, I have, on occasion, found myself failing to meet my obligations and/or clients failing to meet their obligations. We are all human, and having something written down doesn't just "make it so."

Doula clients pay me money to serve them, and for all the benefits of paid service, it sometimes puts me in an awkward position. If my family could afford it, doula work would probably become a hobby of mine - something I might do without fees for friends, and friends of friends.

So for fellow doulas and other small business owners out there, here are some tips and tidbits I've learned along the way:

1) Surround yourself with like-minded people. Join business groups, network with fellow doulas, and find someone to mentor you. You would be surprised at how much you'll learn from others.

2) Don't get catty - small cities (like Ottawa) and niche-businesses are notorious breeding grounds for gossip and naysayers. Who cares what other people do or don't do? As long as you know your own values and try to abide by them, then the actions of others are not your concern (that said, we doulas do become concerned when someone is not representing us in the best way at our local hospitals! It kind of gives us a bad reputation)

3) The business side DOES matter. Yes, as doulas we must be emotionally supportive, creative and active listeners. But that doesn't mean we can afford to ignore the important things - answering emails on time, following up as much as possible, and being extremely clear about our limits. Transparency is best! This is my area of weakness, and one of my goals is to improve in 2012.

4) Record, record, record. It's so easy to just mosey-on along without properly documenting invoices, amounts paid/owed, and receipts. You will pay for it when tax time rolls around!

5) Have a social media plan. My friend, Lara Wellman, has some great services for folks hoping to enter the world of social media. Decide how much time you want to spend on social media, and then stick to it. Maybe you can only manage one half-hour per day - if you sit down and plan your posts/tweets for a whole month in advance, you will most likely meet you goal!

6) Try, try again. You will make mistakes - guaranteed. There will be guilt and tears. The important thing to do is pick yourself back up, and learn from the mistake. In our business, communication is key. It is miscommunication that usually leads to problems, so focus on being as clear as a bell. And practice makes perfect, of course!

To all my fellow small business owners, have a happy and fruitful 2012!

1 comment:

  1. Starting a new business is a lot of work. Sounds like you've had some wonderful moments, and learned a lot. I'm so glad I've gotten to know you this year! :)


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