Doula Income Series – Which Path is for You?

We’re launching a two-week series on Doula Income. It’s a common question from doula students, how much can I earn in this line of work? There are several factors that can play a role in your earning potential, and we wanted to dig deep and provide a closer look at each one.


Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing blog posts, videos, and social media charts to help you better understand your finances as a doula.


We started off by thinking about the three main career paths for someone starting out as a doula. They are:

  • Working at an agency as an employee
  • Working at an agency as a contractor
  • Working as an independent doula


Long term there are other options, like launching your own doula agency, expanding into other lines of birth work, and much more! But for the purpose of this series, we are focused on the three paths above. For our methodology, we reached out to one doula from each path and had them provide information on their income, hourly wage, pension contributions…etc. Using this information, we’re able to compare the pros and cons of each path. Keep in mind that this is only a sample of three different doulas. In the future, we’d love to complete similar surveys with a larger set of doulas!


All financial figures shown are in Canadian dollars (CAD$) and based on Ontario, Canada resident tax information.


Hourly Wage


This is the FIRST question we receive from students, what can I expect to make per hour? When looking at each of the three paths, there can sometimes be a dramatic difference in hour wage, from $24.50 for an employee doula all the way up to $40 an hour for someone working independent. Typically, the hourly rate will be higher in THEORY when working on your own, but it’s important to remember that you’ll also be deducting ALL of your admin and marketing expenses to really get to the ACTUAL hourly wage.  As an employee you likely will earn what ‘appears’ as less per hour, but with more consistent shifts/clients and almost no expenses other than gas.


 First Choice of Clients  


We wanted to know if doulas were able to pick and chose clients or manage their availability. Meaning did they have a lot of options with regards to selecting their schedule, location of clients…etc. Depending on how you look at it there can be a lot of control over this process in any of the roles but consider that as an employee you could be sent specific clients and may need to take what is sent to you. In other cases you may have first choice of which clients you want (which was the case in this survey). As a contractor you will typically be offered whatever is available but you may get offered that alongside may other contractors. How the agency owner chooses which doula to award a client to can vary. You may simply get “whatever is left available”. As an independent doula of course you can pick and choose when and how you want to work. The challenge for many is that they don’t ALWAYS have clients that fill their schedule perfectly. In this scenario we often see the “feast or famine” scenario where doulas work their butts off or they have no clients for a window. Any of the scenarios above can be either wonderful or dreadful based on your preferences and needs.


Average Hours Worked Per Month  


Of course the amount of money per hour is only part of the equation for your finances. We also wanted to look at the number of hours worked in a typical month. Here we see that agency employees and contractors may work significantly more than an independent doula. Ranging from as little as 40 hours a month for an independent doula, up to 160 hours for an agency employee. This shows the trade off that doulas are sometimes faced with, earning more per hour when working on their own, but not having the same access to regular inquiries and clients. Again, this was not a survey of a significant number of doulas. We took a sampling of people who offered to help us with this project. In this case the independent doula had some things going on in their lives that reduced the number of hours worked. We decided to include it because we see this as representative of someone who’s been a doula for a couple of years. When we work on our own it’s easy to work less as we don’t answer to anyone but the clients we have taken on. We tend to see people who work in the other two categories as working QUITE a bit more because they are part of a TEAM.


Paid Vacation  


This is one that is often overlooked by doulas when starting out! Paid vacation is a regular part of many more traditional jobs and it’s something you need consider when moving into birth work. Here we see that for contractors and independent doulas, there is no access to paid vacation. While the agency employee earned $1408 last year in paid vacation pay. Depending on your lifestyle or financial goals, this may or may not be a large factor for you. But it’s something to keep in mind when planning your future. When you work in the contractor or independent categories you STILL NEED VACATION. So you may want to set aside some money in a separate account so you can draw from it when you take that much needed vacation time. This of course would reduce any of the calculations you may make on your TRUE hourly wage.


Statutory Holidays  

Another aspect of doula work that sometimes falls under the radar is statutory holidays. Agencies who employ doulas are required to pay their employees for statutory holidays throughout the year. Statutory holidays in Ontario are paid at 1/20th of the hours worked in the past 4 weeks. So an employee who works 40 hours per week would get paid 8 hours of statutory pay ((40*4)/20). Looking at our survey results, we see the agency employee earned $1453, while it was of course zero for both the contractor and independent doula.


Check back in the coming days as we’ll be continuing our Doula Income Series. Next up is things like sales and marketing costs, average fee for birth, pension contributions, and more! How are you feeling after seeing this data? Has it made you lean one way or another when it comes to selecting your personal doula path?

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