Why is it that so many of us get the heebie-jeebies when talking about money? You’ve got a gentle, loving heart, absolutely. But you also need to be paid fairly for your work in order to keep the world benefiting from your talents. All too often, I hear from birth workers who easily bend their financial boundaries and then end up feeling resentful. That’s not cool! It doesn’t feel very good to resent your clients.
Are you one of those folks who cringe a little (or a lot) when it comes time to discuss financial details? Here are six tips to reduce the squirm factor when you’re talking about money:
1. Put it in writing. Many people find it easier to type their fee than to say it out loud. This is one of several great reasons to list your fees on your website. But even if you decide against listing prices online, you can always put your fee in an e-mail to your potential client ahead of the interview. If the inquiry comes in by phone, ask the prospect for her e-mail address so you can follow up with a few details before you meet. Some doulas even e-mail their contract to potential clients before the interview, which will give them a peek at not only your fee but also the nitty gritty details of your business boundaries. If you’ve made your fee known ahead of the interview, it should be a non-issue by the time you meet.
2. Tell them you charge a million dollars. I picked up this tip from one of my favorite business gurus, Marie Forleo. Can you see yourself saying this? OK, well hold on. So maybe you shouldn’t actually tell your potential clients that you charge a million dollars, but Marie recommends that you practice in front of a mirror or with family and friends. “Hi! My name is Natalie, and my fantastic postpartum doula services cost a million dollars.” Or how about, “Hi, I’m Amy. I’d love to have you join us for class, the cost is a million dollars per couple.” It makes me giggle to say that out loud! But if you say it enough times, it should become easier and easier to say something completely reasonable like, “Hi! I’m Natalie. I’d love to work with you! My basic package for postpartum doula services starts at $1,000.”
3. Practice saying no with grace and empathy. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had pretty good boundaries around money, but over the years I’ve rarely been asked for a discount. But when it does happen, there’s still some awkwardness, even after all these years. The strategy that’s worked well for me in the past is to pause for a minute (or a few hours, if responding to an e-mail) and let myself sit with the discomfort and yes, even feelings of guilt. Then I simply say something like this: “No, I’m so sorry, I really empathize with your situation but I can’t discount my fee.” That’s it. No justification, no long outpouring about how my work helps to pay my bills and feed my family. Just “No, I’m so sorry.” If I know of other options in my community that might help them (such as a less experienced doula in my agency who’s charging a lower fee), I’ll point them in that direction. Sometimes I also offer some suggestions for raising the money (we offer gift certificates for family and friends, for example, which make a great shower gift). If I get a discount request in person, I try to channel kindness and empathy in my expression and my gestures – not in a manipulative way, but because I really do feel empathy and kindness toward them! So how about the practice part? You can ask your friends, a family member or a birth buddy to ask you for a discount. Then let them know how sorry you are that you’re not able to help. Repeat as many times as needed until this comes more naturally.
4. Consider a way to support those truly in need. I want you to be financially rewarded for your work, and I would also love all women to have access to a doula! Those desires don’t have to be mutually exclusive. If talking about money is squirm-inducing for you, it might make sense to offer some options for truly low-income families. Is there a nonprofit organization in your community to which you can refer these women? (Hopefully that nonprofit pays their doulas, stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on that topic.) Have you reached a financially stable level where you can offer a limited number of reduced-fee births for income-qualified families each year? Many successful professionals offer some pro-bono work each year, and if your heart is called in this direction there’s nothing wrong with doing that for truly under-resourced women. Can you hold a fundraiser to help finance classes or postpartum doula services for families that need them? How about a box on your contract that allows full-fee families to choose to donate to a fund for under-resourced women? One midwife I know charges an extra $50 to every client, designated to a fund for just this purpose. A fee like this could be optional or built-in. If you have some options to offer income-qualified families, some doulas find that it becomes easier to hold good boundaries for others who have the resources to afford your fee.
5. Offer a range. If you have some hesitation around a set fee, you might consider offering a fee range. Some doulas work on a sliding scale based on the client’s income. Others give a range for their service value and allow the client to decide the final amount that they pay. So for example, if you think a fair, moderate value for birth doula services in your community would be $800, you might offer clients a range of $800 – $1,200. Doulas who take this approach often collect the second half of the fee after the birth, so that the client can gauge the final payment on the value they felt they received. It might help you feel more comfortable talking about fees to offer this kind of range. Just make sure that your low-end fee will leave you feeling valued and adequately compensated for your time and energy.
6. Think about all the people you enjoy paying. Money is not bad or dirty, it’s the common exchange in our culture. There are all kinds of things that I enjoy buying! For example, I really love paying my web guru Sarah from The Website Doula, because she offers expertise and perspective that I don’t have and her guidance helps me achieve my goals. And I am always delighted to give my money to my local farmers Trent and Ruthie, who grow the most beautiful chemical-free kale and candy carrots, and who introduced me to the wonders of sunchokes and baby ginger. It feels good to pay them! Who do you love paying? Channel that feeling when you’re talking about your fees. You are bringing something of incredible value into the lives of women and families, and chances are great that they’re going to feel really fantastic about giving you money!
What do you think? Did these tips resonate for you? What has helped you squirm less when talking about money? Or maybe you never squirmed at all! Tell us about it in the comments section. And e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book your very own business coaching session.