Can you be a Doula and *live* off of the income? Please share your experiences (good or bad. . . - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 02-07-2011, 11:11 AM - Thread Starter
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First of all I love birth and babies and love giving birth and having babies of my own!  I've sort of always thought of having a career in the birth place, but never got serious about it!  I just had an AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING homebirth with the most AMAZING midwife (Heya Erika Urban--- I know you post here sometimes!!!) (if anyone wants a rec from using her--- please convo me, she's was awesome!) okay my homebirth besides, I feel compelled to go into the doula field. My husband is considering becoming a stay at home daddy, and we thought it may be nice for me to start something and make enough money to support us all.  Now let's be clear each family has their level of income needs and ours aren't very much.  We figured that when we move and downsize we could very well live off of between 30-40k a year.  My hubby may also take on a small flexible part-time job and I also have an etsy store and blog I'd like to get more serious about.  Between those things I'm wondering what your experince is making a living off of being a doula.  I'd also like to mention that I'd also take on low/no income clients for a reduced fee/free as well---- I do ALSO just like births too ya know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Anyhow could you all share your experinces with this curious mama/???




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#2 of 20 Old 02-07-2011, 01:40 PM
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oooooooh I can't wait to see what people say! 

 Doula mom to Leo [7.11.10] and fiance to Jakefamilybed1.gif

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#3 of 20 Old 02-07-2011, 02:52 PM
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I have yet to meet someone who is a doula and lives off of that as a real income. At $500/birth, one would have to attend forty births in a year to bring in $20,000. And that's not personal income, it's a business income.  


You still have to account for gas driving to and from prenatal visits, paying for parking at the hospital, books that you buy, classes you take, paying for advertising, business cards, certification fees, organization memberships, childcare, flyers, etc.


Just a rough guess, but if one charged $500/birth, I would think that you could only count half of it as income. So to make $20,000, you would have to attend 80 births, do 160-240 prenatal visits and 80 postpartum visits. (Granted, this is all theoretical)  


Another way to make money and be doing birth-related work is to teach childbirth classes, which could possibly have a better return on investment. I'm in the process of getting certified but haven't broken it down financially.


It could be fun for the doulas here to have a "What's the most you've made in a year?" thread.

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#4 of 20 Old 02-07-2011, 04:46 PM
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I wouldn't be able to. I do know a woman who does though. All her kids are grown and it's just her she has to be responsible for, so her living is less than that of parents with kids at home. I forget how much she charges, but I believe it's $1,000. That includes Doula work, childbirth education and placental encapsulation. She does about 5 + births a month.

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#5 of 20 Old 02-07-2011, 08:12 PM
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I'm not a doula, an IBCLC, but I have numerous doula friends. It is their 2nd or even 3rd jobs, or there are some that are only doulas but they don't make enough to support their families by any means rather just some extra cash. 

There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.
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#6 of 20 Old 02-07-2011, 10:59 PM
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I cannot imagine that most doulas, unless they are in pretty affluent areas, could make enough to support a family. Where I live, doulas charge $400-600, and the most go-getter one has 1-3 clients/month and is branching out into other side gigs to bring in more money. She's been super-disciplined about having a business plan, networking, marketing, etc. and has been at it for three years. So, she could not be where she is if she didn't have a partner who also has a decent job.


OTOH, my friend in Davis, CA told me that it would be cheaper for her to fly me out for her birth than to hire a doula because the going rate when she inquired was $2000/birth. I said, "Say what?" I am still gobsmacked by that figure, as I could live nicely in Davis on $4K a month, even with driving expenses and such...But I don't live there anymore.


If you want to do birthwork, you can consider also doing: postpartum doula work, childbirth ed., becoming a doula trainer, becoming a lactation counselor/consultant, teaching prenatal yoga, running a cloth diaper store or diaper service in your area, doing prenatal massage or just regular massage, birth and newborn photography, website design, baby clothes or soft toys.

Doula, WOHM, wife to a super-fun papa, mama to the Monkey ('07), and his little brother, the Sea Monkey ('09).
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#7 of 20 Old 02-08-2011, 07:10 PM
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I know several doulas in the NYC area who have primary income from their doula business. That being said there are a lot of women having babies here since it's a metro area and the going rate for an experienced doula here is between $1300 and $1800 per birth.

So if you do 3-4 a month you are good to go.

I do not know if it would be possible in small towns where you get one or two clients a month and get paid less....

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#8 of 20 Old 02-09-2011, 08:40 AM
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Hi Samantha!!! :)


It could be possible *IF* you combine it with other skills.


Like one of the PPs mentioned, you have to basically cut your pay in half and that is what you will really make for the year as the rest will go to expenses. Expenses will be things like: gas, wear and tear on your car, cell phone, back-up fees, parking, meals while away from home, equipment, continuing education, childcare, space rental for visits or more costs for your vehicle running to homes, self-employment taxes, etc. Consider as well what health insurance may run you if you now need to provide that as a self-employed person rather than getting it through an employer of you or your spouse. So, take what you need to be your take-home pay for a year and double it and that is what you will need to gross. So, in your situation you will need to gross roughly 60,000-80,000 to net that 30-40k.


If you were to develop your business to also offer services such as placenta encapsulation, childbirth education, lactation appointments, and/or postpartum doula work then you might be able to swing it. It will just take some time to develop and grow, but it is a good life regardless of income :)

Erika, mama to three beautiful kids (plus one gestating), and wife to one fantastic man.

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#9 of 20 Old 02-09-2011, 09:16 PM
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Honestly nope I couldn't live off of what I make.  I think in my busiest year I made $20,000, but that was doing doula work (birth and postpartum) and teaching in a hospital and privately and doing some massage as well (I am also a massage therapist).  Realistically I make more like $10,000 a year (last year I did 13 births).  My absolutely busiest year I did 18 births in one year.  


I think it is important to remember that you can't pack in a ton of clients if you want to be available to them all.  Your reputation will not withstand it if you end up missing births!

Michelle married to my highschool sweetheart and mom to: DD '88, DS '90, DD '91, DD '94, DD '97, DD '98, DD '01, DD '08, and DS'09

(Non-profit Organization Director and Program Coordinator / Doula / Educator / Massage Therapist)

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#10 of 20 Old 02-10-2011, 01:14 PM
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Having been a doula for over 3 years now, I can say you would likely have to take a huge number of clients to even begin to make ends meet.  I don't even know that many midwives who are totally able to live off their income and they charge WAY more that doulas do.  If you became a childbirth educator, doula, post-partum doula and lactation educator all those together MIGHT bring it all together, but I would hate to see what would happen to the quality of care.  I have heard of people making a doula group that covers clients much like doctors do - you just get whoever happens to be on shift...and they are able to take a lot more clients that way.  BUT, I would still not be willing to do that myself because I personally do a huge amount of prenatal prep with my clients and losing that would really not be my ideal.  Best of luck as you find your niche in the childbirth world.  I imagine you'll find just the right ballance but it may take you some trial and error.  :)

Wife to Mark, Momma to Matt & Bryan : Joe & Jonathan - Labor Doula
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#11 of 20 Old 02-11-2011, 08:56 AM
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You would have to have several clients per month and that would require a back up doula. I've met moms who had contacted other doulas who take on several and tell them there is a good chance they would get the backup doula. Many moms wouild prefer to avoid that situation and would rather establish a relationship with the one most likely to attend them. It would make you no different than a group practice of midwives or doctors. Being on call means you won't know when you'll go, when you'll return or when you can sleep again. You could combine classes, placenta encap., pp doula services though to help. I've been a doula since 1995 and have a cleaning business (I do all the work). All my house jobs know that my doula world comes first. It works out great actually. My own schedule that I can make up for really good supplemental income. Just something to consider!


Good luck to you!




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#12 of 20 Old 02-16-2011, 06:08 PM
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I know someone who does support her family on birthwork (she's a doula). She charges $800 per birth. She does do other things here and there, the occasional class, some life coaching. I can't speak to how she does it, but it is sort of my dream so I will share my plan.


For starters, I'm not going to just do birth doula work, but also post partum, and teach classes. Or at least that's my dream. My husband and I just put an offer on a house, a very small house, that we plan on paying off asap. Once we own our house outright (and sell the other house we own...long long story there), then we are free to "do our own thing". But there will be sacrifices. For one, it's a small house on a small plot of land, no big rambling ranch house and farm for us. It's probably just under 1200 square foot and we have four children. We also homeschool. We don't have cable, rarely go out to eat or to shows, don't do a lot of outside activities or lessons for our kids, buy clothes from the thrift store or consignment shops, drive used and paid for cars (in fact I try to walk/bike when I can and combine trips to save gas money... but that's hard to do in the winter in Michigan!), and we don't eat pricey food (not even organic food right now as we don't have the money for it). Also, my husband will hopefully be able to do some freelance work to help make ends meet. Right now we own a home in another state and rent a home here and I've not really started attending births or teaching classes yet. My husband has a good job, but things are t-i-g-h-t. We are looking to buy however as we can find a cheap house that's been forclosed on in the next town over and believe it or not owning 2 homes will be cheaper for us than owning the house in another state and renting. We are looking into renting our out of state home come spring/summer.


So, yeah, it can be done. With sacrifices, but it can be done. Really anything you want to do, you can. Just figure out a way and make the needed sacrifices.


So I say, save and plan and go for it!

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#13 of 20 Old 02-16-2011, 07:57 PM
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I think you can, *if* you couple it with other things, and *if* you work hard and steady at it for a very long time. Like a decade or more -- because that way you finally have so much good will toward you and literally 100s of women telling all their friends to hire you. But the thing is -- I think you need solid regular money and a stable environment *yourself* to be a good doula, otherwise, it just won't work long-term. You have to have a stable environment (aka a semblance of dependable income) to be stable for your clients. This is what I have learned, personally, after a year of making doula work my top priority.


I know one doula who makes it off her doula work --but not *just* her doula work. She's been doing this decades, also trained as a midwife, also teaches an amazing CBE class that fills well every month, also teaches at a hospital and she also does professional baby/family.birth photo shoots. So that is alot of "other" stuff. People love her and she charges around 1500.00 per birth, but even her -- she only gets about half that on average, if you include all the pro bono work she does, the people that ask for a reduced rate, etc., and also the people that end up not making good on their payment plans. She gets on average probably four clients a month-- definitely more than any other doula I know. And obviously, she works like it is going outta style, and is *rarely* not on call.


Maybe if you lived super simply you could do JUST doula work -- however, there is a fine line between living simply and being straight up poor. Also from what I have observed -- to attract high income clients generally requires a certain look that takes a bit of $$ in the first place to maintain. But maybe if you lived somewhere where the rate is 2 grand per client you could do it. But then again ...I bet if a doula is charging 2 grand per birth the local cost of living must be crazy high.

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#14 of 20 Old 02-19-2011, 02:09 PM
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I suppose the answer to that really depends on one's lifestyle.  Here in the SF Bay Area, I know a few doulas who make a living wage as full time doulas, but that certainly is not the norm.  The only way to do it is price high and/or take on many clients.  Being a doula is not a lucrative career by any means.  Most either supplement with CBE, LC/LE, or another flexible job, or have partners who add to the household income.  With two children to support, were it not for my husband's income, I personally could not manage financially as solely a doula.  I would have to take on more clients than I am comfortable carrying or price myself in a range that is well out of reach for most people.  My preferences is to take no more than 2 clients a month, so that I don't routinely risk having to call in my back-up, and remain affordable to the majority.

Me - Historian, doula, lactivist, crafty chick, wife, and very, very busy mama

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#15 of 20 Old 02-20-2011, 06:23 AM
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I don't think you could do it either unless you live in a big urban area.  Besides all the good points brought up here, I find it literally confusing to have so many clients.  I am very organized and I attended 35 births last year and taught 3 five week Lamaze series to another 18 couples, and taught four private in home classes.  You begin to forget who you told what and find yourself saying "Did I tell this story already?".  And I had some aswesome births that I did for free or reduced rates  .4 clients a month was the most I want....if you add all the prenatals (I do two) and the postpartum visits (I do two) it gets very busy. Usually if you are doing this many you are also traveling quite a bit.  I live in the Atlanta area and the most a doula charges here is $700.  I obviously need to move back to my homestate of CA.  :)

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#16 of 20 Old 02-28-2011, 01:00 AM
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I made a lot more than I expected to last year, but, even with classes, placenta encapsulation, photography and belly art clients rounding out my income, after expenses I don't think it would be a livable wage. That and I ended up taking up to 5 births in a month (most of the time it was only 3), and the schedule was insanely hectic. By some miracle, I managed to never miss a birth, but I did end up going to three back to back without ever going home in between at one point. If that's what it takes to make a living that way, I think I'll stick to a couple of births a month and just consider it a labor of love.

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#17 of 20 Old 03-03-2011, 12:48 PM
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I agree with @MidwifeErika. You would have to create a birth business and get creative and savvy about it.


Attending births would be ONE of the services you would offer and because you design the rest of your biz you create the freedom to be able to attend births.


It will take a real business plan, strategy, smart use of marketing tools, but you can do it!

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#18 of 20 Old 03-27-2014, 03:53 PM
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I agree. If you build a birth business, and include services such as education, consulting for birth planning and nutrition planning, you can make a substantial living. Also, as with any independent business, you can hire someone else to work with you.


Many people I know that are doulas also sell retail products, such as essential oils, baby wraps, nursing helpers, etc.


Absolutely, you can make a living, but you need to approach it like a business and not just a hobby. 


Look at how to become a doula for information on the steps. Also, more career information can be found at doula salary.


Being a doula is wonderful thing, and you can run your business how you see fit. It can be something very simple, and something that you do for fun, or it can be lucrative, and still provide a great blessing to your heart and emotions. Good luck!

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#19 of 20 Old 03-02-2015, 03:09 PM
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You can make a living as a doula!

Even birth workers have to understand where their business comes from. Today's business starts on the web. The twenty-somethings out there will hardly give you a second look if you don't have a web presence. It is what constitutes business validity for them. There are a few people out there like Gena Kirby and that are helping today's doula with their business needs. Check them out
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#20 of 20 Old 12-09-2016, 07:44 PM
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interview with a doula

It's possible, but like anything, it depends on circumstances, how much you put into it, and what you are looking for. For example, if you live in a metropolitan area, you are more likely to be able to get a larger client base. Prices also tend to be higher in cities than in rural areas. Both of these things are pretty important if you're looking to make this a full time career. This is also much more do-able if you don't have to worry about paying for (or finding) last-minute childcare. Having a lot of clients can be stressful, but it can also help to have a sort of doula "collective" so that if an emergency happens and you can't make it, you have a back-up doula to step in for you.

Being a full-time doula is a full-time job. It's also emotionally draining, has weird hours, and can take a toll on your social life (for example, if you're the flaky friend who always cancels on social gatherings last minute). It's also totally do-able! If this is your dream, you can make it happen. Yes, there are going to be overhead costs, but it's pretty low compared to any other traditional home-based business.

My husband interviewed a doula (Domino Kirke) from Carriage House Birth in New York City, and it was a great in-depth conversation. If any of you are really considering jumping into being a doula, I recommend listening to the interview here:
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