Networking and Other Scary Stuff we do for Business
So you’ve finished your doula training and you are now a Pre-Certified Doula. Congratulations!!! Oh, and one other thing: You are now a business owner too. Gulp.
If you were like me when I first started in the birth work field, that second part did not excite you as much as the first. In fact, that whole owning a business thing was downright scary. I remember the feeling of leaving my very first postpartum doula training so excited to get out there and support new families. But I was also completely unsure of how I was going to find my first clients. (And no, my very first postpartum doula training was not a ProDoula training. Thanks for asking.)
There are many important things you can do to get your business off the ground.
- Register with your state.
- Build a website.
- Design a logo and have business cards printed.
- Start blogging to help your website’s search engine results.
In fact, all of those things can be done behind the comfort of your computer screen. And if you’re feeling nice and comfortable with all of that, hold on because I’m about to pull that safety net out from underneath you with my next bit of advice.
You also have to get out there and start networking.
Yes. You will have to leave the safety and anonymity of your laptop and go out there and talk to real people – over the phone or face to face – in order to do this networking thing.
If that frightens you, check out my top three networking tips.
1. Pick Up The Phone for Networking!
Talking over the phone is a lost art these days. But master the art of the phone call and you’ll be ahead of everyone else. If you’re looking to get your name out there with a certain lactation consultant, chiropractor, massage therapist, nutritionist, you name it, then the best thing you can do is pick up the phone and call their office.
It might sound scary, but you can do this!
Introduce yourself to these professional colleagues, let them know you are working as a doula in their area, and invite them out for coffee. If they’re too busy, they will let you know. But for the most part, many of these solo and smaller providers are happy to chat.
And don’t forget to bring a stack of those business cards when you meet up for coffee.
2. Networking Happens Every D.A.A.Y.
For some of the larger offices you want to network with, such as OBs and pediatricians, it is not always clear who to call from the website. In these situations, it’s best to drop by and introduce yourself in person. And when you do this, remember D.A.A.Y: Donuts Are Always a Yes!
Swing by the nearest Dunkin Donuts or whatever is popular in your area and grab a dozen or a box of munchkins. Or bring cookies or bagels or coffee. Really the point is to show up with a treat in hand (and one that is not too expensive) as a way to say hello and introduce yourself to the office.
No one ever says no to donuts. In fact, they’ll probably be thrilled to see you. Let the staff know you’ve heard wonderful things about their practice and just wanted to say hello. Don’t forget to hand them a stack of your rack cards and business cards as well. And ask if they have an office manager you can get in touch with about scheduling a more formal meeting.
If you’re a newer doula, trying to gain clients, set a goal for yourself to do this every day. And if you can’t do every day, try for at least once a week. Even when things start to get busy, don’t forget the importance of networking. No matter how established or well-known you are in your community, it’s always a good idea to keep your name front and center in the offices you get the most referrals from.
3. Follow Up. Follow Up. Follow Up.
If you walk out of an OB or pediatrician’s office with a number for their office manager, then you HAVE to follow-up. Call them in a day or two and let them know you came by with treats. Tell them you would love to schedule a lunch meeting with the office to tell them more about you and your services. Or if you met for coffee with a provider, send them an email or hand-written letter thanking them for their time. No matter how brief the interaction, ALWAYS follow up.
Once you’ve built a solid relationship with these providers or offices, then it becomes easier to swing by every now and then with a new stack of cards (and more donuts, of course).
If you follow these three tips, you will be well on your way to becoming a networking pro.
And if all of this still sounds scary to you, let me leave you with one more piece of solid advice. The worst thing that could possibly happen when you put yourself out there to network with other professionals is this: They say no.
That’s it. That’s the worst possible thing. And I promise you, if someone tells you no (and there will be people that say this), you are going to be okay. You are going to smile and thank them for their time and then move on to the next person who is going to love you. Promise!
Kelly Rutan is the co-owner of Doulas of Raleigh, a full-service doula agency serving families in and around Raleigh, North Carolina. She is also a member of the ProDoula Training and Development Team.