In all honesty everything I have ever done other than word of mouth has been less then successful. Some of what I have done would be:
- Phone book ad
- Ad in a parenting magazine
- Ad in a magazine that went to ob offices
- Holding open houses
- Holding informational sessions
- Direct mailings
- Posting information at stores
- Car magnet
- Advertising online (not my own website, but on paid sites)
Now, what has worked is word of mouth - staying in contact with satisfied clients (I used to send a letter after each birth and knit a baby blanket for each client with a custom tag on it saying "Made especially for you by your doula", and then would send a birth story on the first birthday). Those two things worked really well for me because when they were expecting again or when their friends were expecting then they still knew I was doing doula work.
One other thing that I used to do when I was first starting but it took a long time to get clients from was every six months I would send letters introducing (or reintroducing) myself to the ob's and family practice doctors in the area that did births. Like I said it took a long time (probably 1 1/2-2 yrs before I saw a return on this). I had one ob tell me that since doulas come and go so quickly he never would refer since when he did the doula was most likely not doing the work anymore. By me sending him letters every six months he knew I was still working. I actually had a few hand out my business cards that way. I know of at least one who after a good amount of time put my cards in his waiting area (this was only after we worked together and there was a good outcome).
At this time I am not looking for clients anymore so not actively seeking anyone out. Might take a client here or there if they work with my schedule, but for me I am focusing mostly on nursing school.
Btw - the above advertising was for doula work. I never got anywhere with childbirth education so I gave in and now work for a hospital system. I have a great boss who is understanding and open to what I want to teach and as long as I get in the stuff they deem as necessary I can teach my stuff too.