As a busy birth professional, business owner and mother, I often forget to set aside time to reflect on my life, my passion and the future direction of my business. I get wrapped up in tasks and "to-do" lists and forget to plan for and work toward my goals for the future. Goals are those achievements that we set our sights on, that will enhance our lives (and the lives of others). The goals we set and work toward feed our passions and give our lives meaning. If I haven't identified (spoken or written down) my goals, then sometimes I feel as though I am just aimlessly wading through life rather than focusing my time and energy on something that really serves a purpose. Without goals, I can easily get off course and end up not accomplishing those things that are most important to me.
At the same time, I also often neglect to set aside time to identify the goals that I have already accomplished and over time this leaves me feeling burnt out. I want to share with you some of the steps I have taken over the past year to set goals and identify accomplishments to help motivate you to set aside time to do the same for your life. It has truly made a difference for me and I hope it will benefit you as well.
This year, I started keeping track of three important or noteworthy things that I accomplished each week (though it has been so fun that I am now starting to do this daily). It has been so rewarding and motivating to see my progress each week. I also keep track of how much my business has grown each month (number of childbirth education students, new customers, social media followers, etc). It feels very fulfilling to recognize important accomplishment and milestones, such as the number of families you have worked with (and likely made a huge difference in the lives of) in your career. It is fairly easy to get into the habit of keeping track of your wins if you keep a journal nearby or jot down your wins on a calendar. There is also a great app called WinStreak that lets you keep track of your daily "wins" and YourDoulaBiz offers a great solution for keeping track of your doula clients.
Many people cringe at the words "strategic plan," but when you schedule time and break it down into smaller, reachable steps, is extremely rewarding. Just as I set aside time for dentist appointments or client visits, I need to schedule time to dream about what I want to do with my life and business, then to write down and work on my achieving my goals. It helps to break down goals into monthly and yearly milestones. I think about what I want to accomplish this year and then plan smaller goals I can accomplish each month that will lead to my yearly goals. I also have 3, 5 and 10 year goals and goals for vacations/time off too. By planning ahead, I ensure that I stay focused and only work on projects that will ultimately help me reach my goals and fit with my plans and dreams. Of course, my goals change as life requires, but the process is still useful for helping me to evaluate my life and keeping me heading in the right direction.
Whether they are small, easily accomplished goals like cleaning out a drawer or larger, more involved goals like expanding your business, we won't be as likely to accomplish them if we haven't written them down, made them a focus and given ourselves uninterrupted time to work toward them. You can use a calendar and set aside an hour or two (or more) per week to work only on your goals. I have been putting goals in Wunderlist and then listing the subtasks that I need to do to accomplish my goals. This app is very flexible and allows for multiple lists (groceries, household tasks, goals, etc) and sharing lists with others. The optional chime that dings once an item is completed is satisfying and motivating; I can't wait to check off the next task. Just don't let the app become a tool that lets you ignore goals and focus only on tasks. Every month, review your goals and set deadlines for yourself to stay focused.
It really helps to have someone else to be accountable to when working on goals. I am far less likely to slack off or postpone tasks if I know that someone else is counting on me. This year, I was blessed to find two other colleagues who formed a group with me that meets virtually every week to support each other. You can find a partner or group in your area or online. Think about what you want to work on this year (whether personal or business goals or both) and look for a friend or colleague that has similar interests. Commit to this partnership for a period of time and take it seriously. Make sure you are checking in with each other and holding each other accountable for getting things done. Set aside time to talk about progress on a weekly or monthly basis. Maybe you get together for coffee or set aside an hour on the phone to talk about nothing but your progress so far, your goals for the next check-in and your long term goals (six months, a year, etc). You will probably find that you are learning a lot from your partner or group, as well as accomplishing more than you would have on your own.
Copyright 2014 © All Rights Reserved
Plumtree Baby, LLC
Instead of making new year's resolutions we might not be able to keep, we like to spend our time wrapping up projects from this year and organizing for next year. We are sharing our tips for starting off the new year a little more organized and with a fresh excitement for helping expectant parents get ready to welcome their little ones.
1. Clean out your inbox. Make labels/folders for emails you wish to keep and delete those that you no longer need. If you haven't done this in a while you may spend a few hours getting caught up, but then you can file emails daily or weekly to stay on top of it. Make a label/folder of things for "follow-up" that you need to reply to or need further review, but don't tackle these things until your inbox sorting is done or you can easily get side-tracked.
2. Update your client records. If you have a system for keeping track of client information (such as a spreadsheet) make sure it is up to date through the end of the year. If you don't, create a method to collect and store client information. We have client forms in our curriculum and in our newly released "CBE Forms" download or you create a digital form using Google forms to send to new clients which easily stores their information.
3. Organize your business's financial records. Tax time is going to be upon us soon and it is important to have your business finances in order. Record and file receipts for business expenses, client payments, professional development fees and other financial items by the month. Depending on your business size, a simple spreadsheet may work for recording these transactions or you may wish to use Quickbooks or another financial software. File paperwork in folders or use a binder with tabs for each month or category or use a digital filing system to reduce your pile of paperwork.
4. Update your calendar. Spend some time entering important dates (birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, reminders, etc) so you won't miss anything in the new year. Electronic calendars offer the benefit of being able to set reminders for important dates/tasks and eliminate the need to manually enter reoccurring events such as birthdays and anniversaries each year.
5. Make updates to your website and marketing materials. Be sure you have your current contact information (phone number and email), certifications and services listed on your website and marketing materials. Update your class schedule or doula availability for the new year. Our blog "Suggestions for Your Birth Business Website" offers additional ideas for a great website that will help you grow your business.
6. Evaluate your classes and make changes as needed. Look back over students' course evaluation forms and identify any areas in your curriculum that could use an update. Remove any content that you don't have time for or is outdated. Look for fresh ways to teach concepts or update one or two visual aids. To avoid a rush or shipping delay around the holidays, purchase the resources that you will use in the first few months of the year now.
7. Review your client statistics. How many expectant mothers did you work with? How many babies did you help bring into this world? Remembering these details will help encourage and motivate you. It also helps you slow down and remember why you are in this line of work in the first place. These families are forever changed because of your help.
8. Set goals for next year. Maybe you want to grow your business by 10%, work with five additional families, or you are planning to add a new service to your business. Write down your goals for the year, identify how you are going to achieve those goals (more marketing, ask for referrals from former clients, upcoming training, etc), budget for the expenses to reach these goals (advertising expenses, training fees, etc) and identify how much time you can set aside each month to work on your goals. Then, break down your goals into manageable steps with monthly or quarterly deadlines (that you add to your calendar) so that you stay on task without being overwhelmed.
Don't let our list overwhelm you. Each of these suggestions should be done one at a time and it may take you a few hours or more to complete each one. Do one each day or one each week until you are satisfied.
We want to hear from you about your biggest challenges with your business and welcome your suggestions for how you manage these topics or any products/resources we can provide to make it easier for you. Happy New Year!
Copyright 2013 © All Rights Reserved
Plumtree Baby, LLC
Many expectant parents browse the Internet in their search for childbirth classes or birth-related services. Fortunately, the many website-building tools available make it easy for childbirth educators, doulas and other birth professionals to build their own website and provide instant information to potential clients. However, a poorly designed or incomplete site may hurt your chances of attracting clients. Often, basic information is omitted from websites that could make the difference in helping you generate more business. Here are some tips that we have learned along the way.
1. Include a brief summary of what you offer on your home page. Make it easy for prospective clients to understand your basic services immediately and provide links to additional information on other pages (like an “about me” page, “class description” page or “class schedule” page).
2. Describe (briefly) what makes you or your services unique. When writing this section, think about your personality, your experience and your passion. Be honest about your experience and specific about what you offer, how much it costs and why prospective clients should choose your services over others. You don’t have to go into great detail (such as sharing your 10 page birth story), but you should include information that you are comfortable making public, which can help prospective clients get to know you better.
3. Put the geographical area you serve and your contact information in multiple places on your site. The omission of location is common on many of the websites we have seen, which makes it difficult for prospective clients to know if you are nearby. It is very important for you to provide a quick, convenient and easily accessible way for clients to contact you. You don’t need to put your home address and phone number, but do include the region you serve, have a “contact me” form or set up an email address just for your business that you check regularly.
4. Be prompt in returning phone call and emails concerning your services. Though this isn’t a website design issue, we have found that there are many birth professionals (us included on occasion) who get busy and end up waiting days or even a week or more to get back to prospective clients who contact them. In the meantime, most prospective clients will have continued their search and may have moved on. It can sometimes help to draft a standard email response for general inquiries that you can send out quickly. It also helps to keep track of clients using an app, spreadsheet or notepad, so you can be sure no one has slipped through the cracks.
5. Your design matters. Be sure your formatting is consistent; use the same font and font color throughout the body (main text) of your site. Make sure your font is not too large or too small. Use font colors that are easy to read with your background. Avoid fonts that are too ornamental and may be difficult to read.
6. Proof-read regularly! It is easy for errors to occur when you type, but it can give the wrong impression. Pay special attention to the accuracy of important content like the start dates of classes, course fees, your email address or phone number. Be sure to update this information on a regular basis as well. A class date from 2011 or a disconnected phone number will surely affect your business.
With a little planning you can easily create an amazing website that will make it easier to market yourself, help you attract clients, and be easy to maintain and update.
Copyright 2012 © All Rights Reserved
At one point or another everyone is at risk of burnout. Those that work in a high stress or high demand job are at highest risk and let’s face it: birth professionals fall into that category. Birth is unpredictable, highly emotional and can be long and complicated. It is normal for birth professionals to have periods of time when they question the work they do, the value of their services or feel like they are stretched too thin. For some, a different path or line of work is a better choice, but for many, burnout can be minimized or avoided with some of the following adjustments.
A network of support - You will feel so much better if you can vent, talk about a difficult experience or get advice from other birth professionals. A little venting goes a long way. Be sure to listen when your fellow colleagues need that support as well, and share your positive stories too!
A more equal exchange of value - A long, difficult birth that you do for free or only profit a small amount after expenses is not an equal exchange of energy/value. Would it feel more equal if your profit was $650 after expenses? Would earning more (or bartering for more services) help balance out the tremendous amount of time, energy and heart that you put into your job?
Time to process, let go of or heal from a difficult situation - Sometime a birth professional needs to take some time away from birth to heal, soul search or even seek counseling. You will likely return to the services you offer with a better attitude and perspective. For some this may only be a week or two; for others it may be months or years.
Only bite off what you can chew - It is important to recognize your limits and say “no” occasionally. Yes, it would be ideal if every woman who wants a doula could have one at no or low cost, but it is not possible for you to be the one to do it all, nor is it going to benefit the women who hire you if you are burnt out, exhausted or disillusioned. Decide on the number of birth per month that work best for your situation (maybe 4 per month or maybe one every 2 or 3 months) and then stick with your limit. And be sure that there is an even exchange of value for most of the births that you take on.
Manage your time efficiently - When possible, carve out a few days per week (or an hour or two per day) that is strictly for your birth services and then use the rest of your time for your other responsibilities (spouse, children, other work, etc.). It is hard enough to be on call for births 24/7, but you don't need to constantly deal with tasks that could be limited to more suitable hours. Schedule prenatals, postpartum follow-ups, or phone calls for this time. Only return clients emails during this time. Your clients won’t mind if you email them recommendations for pediatricians in the morning instead of at 11 pm when they send you their request. Setting up time management boundaries will have you feeling less stretched and more focused on your family or other responsibilities (rather than constantly feeling like you “work, work, work”).
Resources at your fingertips - Make and keep an updated list of resources for common topics you encounter with clients and a list of contact information for professionals you recommend. Plumtree Baby has online resources with links to our references (and additional resources will be included in our soon to be released curriculum). Having resources at your fingertips will save you a lot of time searching for the same information over and over again.
Stay organized - There are some easy ways to manage client information and paperwork. YourDoulaBiz.com offers a online tool for client management, or you can use other electronic resources to track clients, accept payments, view birth plans, etc. Spend time updating your records each week during your designated work hours.
We hope this post helps you realize you are not alone, this happens to everyone at some point or another. You can avoid future burn out or get through it if you are in the thick of it now, and become an even better birth professional.
Copyright 2012 © All Rights Reserved
Plumtree Baby, LLC
Whether you are a new birth professional or just going through a dry spell, it never hurts to evaluate your marketing strategies and try something new to attract clients. There are many ways to reach expectant couples, but here are a few tips we have learned over the years:
1. Word of mouth. One of your best advertising resources is your current friends, students and clients. Encourage them to tell others about you, and give each of your clients a stack of your business cards and/or brochures to give to their expectant friends.
2. Network with care providers and other birth professionals. It will serve your business well to deliberately reach out to area care providers and other birth professionals, and earn their respect as a peer. This may take some time, but if a local doctor or midwife begins to see a noticeable difference between your prepared clients and those who are unprepared, you may soon have that provider sending you referrals. Other birth professionals can send clients your way if they are too busy, in another part of town or taking time off.
3. Be an amazing doula. Your client is always your first priority, but as best you can, take advantage of opportunities to talk with and get to know your clients care providers. Introduce yourself, be respectful, and show them what an asset you are to the birth team.
4. Be easy to find. List yourself on national directories, local networking sites or make your own web site (an easy thing to do with many of the free hosting sites). Be sure to keep your current schedule posted and be prompt about replying to phone calls or emails. After you have established a relationship with one or more local providers, ask if you can leave fliers, brochures and/or business cards at their offices for patients. You can try to do this before establishing a trusting relationship, but some providers may not be willing to refer to someone they don’t know. Try to balance what you know (does this provider encourage their patients to use a doula?) to determine the most appropriate method and timing for approaching him or her.
5. Think local. Place posters, fliers and other marketing media in the local public places where pregnant women may happen upon them: fitness centers, grocery stores, libraries, community centers, day cares, or even restaurants.
What other marketing strategies have worked for you?
Copyright 2012 © All Rights Reserved
Plumtree Baby, LLC