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Pivoting Your Doula Business for Successful Virtual Connection

Daphne Thompson | April 1, 2020

We are currently living through an unprecedented moment in time where human connection, the very thing that drives so many of us,  cannot safely be practiced in-person. For doulas, this presents a unique challenge, as so much of your training has revolved around touch, in-the-room support, and face-to-face communication. While the current state of the world may feel personally and professionally daunting, Mama Glow’s March 27 webinar, Connecting with your clients & community during COVID-19with Latham Thomas and The Riveter’s Maxie McCoy reassured us that it can instead be harnessed as an opportunity to hone the digital components of our businesses.

So much of what birth workers do is “village-centric,” so what is being asked in this current climate is already ingrained in the fibers of your being.  It’s true that current hospital policies may prevent doulas from being present in the room for their  births, for the sake of your clients as well as yourself, thinking of that not as a defeat, but as a push to get creative and find ways to bring our clients and communities together. That means creating messaging around advocacy, protecting the birth unit/village, and what it looks like to sustain our community support in a setting where a birthing person may have to birth alone, or with a partner who is not versed in protective measures. It means educating partners and birthing people in ways that will enable them to serve in the room as a doula would. It means reformatting your services so that they can still reach your clients across a digital platform. It means creating moments with consistency that serve your community’s needs as we navigate this global experience together.

Latham encourages us all to “meet this moment with possibility, with ingenuity, and with skill sets that let us work from where were are so we can continue to make money and continue to be financially independent and astute,” emphasizing that you must maintain value over what you have to offer. The skills, tools, and knowledge that you have don’t just become free because of the current state of things. Pick what’s going to be free to build community, letting it be a sales funnel to the services that you should be paid for. Decide to protect the value of your work. There is a way to show up with a give and also retain your value and keep the economy in tact for your body of work – you will be needed when this has passed.

And even if digital marketing and social media platforms are outside of your comfort zone, taking the time to learn them is a worthwhile investment in your business. Maxie McCoy reminds us that “we’re having to pivot to a functionality – but it’s not a pivot that, when this is all over, will be for naught. That’s why it’s exciting. It forces us to do the work we’ve been saying we were going to do.” If you’ve been waiting for the right time to launch your website – now’s that time. If you’ve been meaning to connect with doula sisters whose service offerings can complement your own – find them, because they’re out there looking for you too. If you’ve been wondering how to develop a deeper network of people who will take interest in your work, trust what you have to say, and ultimately turn to you for hire – what better moment than this, when the internet allows us to make connections the world over?

The digital development of your business need not be approached with a perfectionist attitude. Maxie says  that our community will trust us when we are anchored in reality, while still operating from a place of possibility and hope. Use the free and low cost tools that are available, don’t be afraid of asking your network for help in advice, and stay grounded in knowing that what you have to offer is good enough: ”

That being said, the rest of this article is dedicated to tried-and-true resources that we’ve found useful, which we hope can help you use this time to strengthen your business’s online presence and support your work not only now, but for every step forward.

BRANDING & DESIGN TEMPLATES

Eye-catching visuals and easy-to-navigate design are two must-haves when developing your digital brand and connecting with your audience; with the right tools, you can have a well-branded and beautiful online business at little-to-no cost. Here are some templates and resources we love using for email and social media marketing:

  • Leaveli – If you are looking to hire a design agency, Leaveli‘s services include Instagram feed and story design, flyers and presentation, website design, and newsletter design, to give your business a custom and consistent branded image across digital mediums.
  • Creative Market – Creative Market has curated design resources from a host of independent creators, which can be purchased for your own personal use.
  • Canva – The Canva app is a free and easy resource for designing high-quality, branded marketing materials for social media, and can be navigated entirely on your smart phone. It includes a number of aesthetically-pleasing templates for posters, flyers, logos, Instagram posts and stories, business cards, and more.
  • MojoMojo is a phone app that helps you edit videos for you Instagram stories using their collection on animated templates.

WEB HOSTING + TEMPLATES

A website serves as a landing place for potential clients, and the most useful “catch all” for offering your menu of services, testimonials and referrals, contact information, FAQs, and anything else you’d like them to know about you and your work. Creating and designing your own website is easier than you may think, with the affordable guidance of platforms such as these:

  • Leadpages – Want to make sure your site ranks with SEO? Want to easily create digital content that’s engineered by expert marketers to turn clicks into customers? Leadpages helps you grow your business through quality leads, a DIY website and increase your income with high-converting sales pages, built-in checkouts, and secure online payments powered by Stripe.
  • Squarespace- A leader in award winning website design, Squarespace allows you to manage your domain and use one of their elegant templates to bring your business to life.
  • WIX 
  • WordPress – If you’re interested in starting a blog to share your experiences and opinions on topics relevant to your brand, WordPress is a straight-forward platform for writing and publishing original work. (Fun fact: this article and all of our website’s articles were written on WordPress!

DESIGN SUPPORT

If designing your website, branding, or other marketing materials feels like an overwhelming task to take on alone, there are freelancers out there with skills in copywriting, graphic design, coding, and more to help you build your business digital. Here are two sites that can help you connect with freelancers across a broad range of services:

  • 99 Designs
  • Fiverr 

DIGITAL COMMUNICATION TOOLS

Maxie McCoy recommends that you choose 2 tools for reaching and communicating with your community. One of those tools should be a platform that you can use for events and scheduled meetings, such as the following:

  • Zoom – While Zoom offers a handful of paid packages for businesses and schools looking for a way to host video meetings, they also have an excellent free option with features including unlimited 1-on-1 meetings, hosted group meetings for up to 40 minutes (with up to 100 participants), and online support.
  •  SkypeSkype is the most universally-recognized video chat platform, and an easy, no-frills way to maintain (virtual) face-to-face communication with your clients during sessions.
  • WherebyWhereby is an app for hosting video conference and screen-sharing meetings on your phone. You need an account to create a meeting, but anyone with the meeting ID can join. Whereby has the nicest-looking design and branding of the most popular video conference platforms.
  • Instagram & Facebook Live – To grow your social media community, the live features on Instagram and Facebook live are a great way to connect with your followers on a consistent basis.
  • AnchorAnchor is a free platform, owned by Spotify, for creating and operating your own podcast.

COMMUNITY TOOLS

In addition to having a platform where you can schedule events and meetings with both your clients and your community, in order to deliver content and maintain consistent, programmed interactions, McCoy also suggests you introduce a second tool that is community-building, where everyone can continue the conversation and maintain momentum.

  • SlackSlack is the most popular instant-messaging platform for businesses, to share materials, answer questions in real time, and keep the entire team on the same page across conversations.
  • Mighty – If you are looking to consolidate your entire network into one online place, Mighty is a website-builder that both connects members and schedules events and courses for everyone to enjoy.

ORGANIZATION TOOLS

When running a reputable, successful business, good organization skills are a must-have, and staying organized is easy so long as you’re committed to using and maintaining the right resources:

  • Google Docs/Sheets/etc. – If you have a Gmail account (it’s free to make one), you have access to Google’s Doc, Sheet, Slide, Contact, and Calendar features, all of which can be shared via email with other collaborators.
  • TypeformsTypeforms makes it fun to engage with your community with forms and surveys that are conversational in nature (which, in return, gets you more/better data with which to build and shape your business).
  • CalendlyCalendly streamlines online appointment scheduling, so that planned meetings don’t get lost under a pile of emails and forgotten about.

PAYMENT – BILLING

To ensure that you will be paid for your work, it is your responsibility to have your payment and billing methods in place before you’ve been hired. It’s easier than ever to send and receive payments online, so find the tools that work best for you, and make sure that you communicate your payment methods and policies to your clients from the get-go. Here are some popular resources to support your billing needs:

  • PayPal
  • Square 
  • Venmo
  • Stripe
  • Quickbooks

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