How to Set a Doula Fee

I’m seeing a lot of buzz recently from newer doulas who are wondering what to charge for services. While they’re beginning to recognize that their work in the world has value (yay!), there seems to still be a lot of mystery around where to even begin when deciding a fair price to charge. So, with that in mind, I suggest the following guideline.

1) Determine your expenses. Doulas have a fair amount of expenses incurred as with any other small business.

How much do you pay for your on-call cell phone? Divide that number by the number of clients you have (or wish to have) per month.

What do you pay for internet? (If it’s a home account shared by your business, determine the portion of your internet expense that is used for your business). Divide that by your clients per month.

How about printer ink? Books for your lending library? Figure that into your per month/per client number, too.

What do you spend per month on scrubs, “work clothes”, good work shoes, etc?

What percentage of your automobile use is for work? Figure in that much per month of your automobile insurance.

How much do you drive, or are you willing to drive, for client appointments and births? The current IRS allowance is 55 cents per mile. If, for instance, you drive 20 miles one way to a client’s home, and you offer two home visits, support in labor, and a postpartum visit, that’s 160 miles you’ve driven for one client, for an expense of $66.00

Remember to also calculate any miles you may travel to doula meetings, or birth support groups, and divide that up per client/per month.

What do you spend per year on trainings, continuing education, or resources to continue your own learning and growing? Divide that into a “per month” amount, and divide that number by your number of births per month. Don’t forget to include your costs for certification, professional organization membership dues, or liability insurance you may carry.

Remember that you may need to pay for tolls or parking at the hospital, as well.

Do you have children of your own? How much do you spend per month on child care for appointments and birthing times?

If you’re at a birth for any amount of time, you’re likely to need to pay for at least one meal, so figure that in, too.

Consider also any fees you pay to have legal documents created, such as your contract.

Include any fees you pay for business cards, advertising, or web design.

Are you paying for your own health insurance? That’s an expense for you, as well – one that is incurred by those who are self-employed. Divide that by your number of clients per month.

When you start looking at the numbers, you may be surprised to learn how much each birth is really costing you out-of-pocket!

2) Consider the value of your time.

How many hours, on average, do you spend with each client on the phone, or offering support by text or email?

How many hours do you offer in prenatal visits, including your time driving to and from these appointments?

How many hours on average do you anticipate spending with each client at her birth? (Some doulas include a specific “up to 12 hours face-to-face support” clause in their contracts, while others average out the number of hours they’ve spent at births already attended. For me, average is 16 hours, including drive time.)

Now, how much do you think is a fair hourly wage? Multiply that number by the total number of hours you’re working for your client.

Now double it. That’s right – double it, because self-employed small business owners actually pay about half of what they earn (after deducting expenses) in taxes.

Now that you’ve considered your expenses and your time, take your “expenses” number, and add it to your “fair hourly wage” number, and that’s what you should be charging, minimum, for every birth you take on.

This is not including numbers that would need to be considered for paying for backup support. It also is based on a doula taking on her full client anticipated load every month, without taking weeks off. These are expenses that would also need to be considered, if this is work you wish to do full time.

Are you charging what you’re worth?

See What’s In a Fee? and No Free Births! for more!

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3 thoughts on “How to Set a Doula Fee

  1. Nice breakdown. Really I could be charging $800-$1000 per birth based on expenses because I have a lot of travel time and a lot of hours in prenatal and post partum visits. I’m pretty low cost as far as things like phones and even my website. But moderate in continuing ed. I also only take 1-2 clients per month. But the market here won’t bear those fees. And in order for us all to get paid better everyone had to start charging a little more over the next few years. Even doulas with 30 years experience and hundreds of births are only charging $600. But I will share your post! maybe it will help.

  2. I don’t agree totally with what you include as “expenses.” For example…childcare–most employed parents of small children pay childcare, and it comes out of their salary, but you put it as an expense before salary. I really don’t consider childcare to be a business expense. I do think that a woman should consider the cost of childcare in determining if she can afford to be a doula, but I don’t think it should affect the fee. A woman without a need for paid childcare should be charging similar to a woman with a need for childcare if all other factors are even.

    I also see a problem in how you count transportation expenses because you encourages women to consider the cost of auto insurance, but then also counts the IRS mileage deduction. You can *either* calculate how much your exact gas/insurance/maintenance costs are for your car, or you can take the IRS mileage deduction, not both. I take the IRS deduction because it is simpler, and I probably come out ahead that way.

    Also, the statement about taxes taking up half of your hourly rate so you should double what you want to be making…ummm…NO. Self employed people pay about 7% extra on their taxes compared to “employees.” So I think a more reasonable thing to do is determine what you think the salary would be for this type of work if you were hired to do it, and add 7% on top of that.

    In the end, I come up with a beginning doula who thinks she is worth about $15/hr should charge somewhere between $550 to $600 to have that amount after her BUSINESS expenses are paid.

  3. Well, I did not double my number because I have spoken with my accountant and he said to keep 30% aside for taxes, so I simply added 30% to my number. After it was all said and done, I should be charging between $725 and $1000 for my services. I fall within that range but knew at some point in time, I would need to be charging $1000. My city does not allow for it yet, but soon enough! Thank you

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