I recently switched to a sliding-scale payment structure for all of my work offered here, from in-person birth doula services and virtual doula services to doula mentoring and copywriting (abortion doula and miscarriage doula services have always been and always will be by donation).So why sliding scale doula services?
After getting a few questions (and, admittedly, some blank looks!), I’m realizing that maybe this structure is a little confusing. So, I thought I would write a blog post to explain how and why I came to this decision for myself as a doula, a businessperson, and a human who believes in access and justice.
I’ve been practicing as a doula for over eight years, so I’ve charged all sorts of prices and had pricing structure ranging from flat fees to tiered pricing. There was nothing wrong with the “traditional” approach to pricing—you know, where I say “my services cost $800” and you say “Cool!” or “Nope”—at least, there was nothing wrong with it on my end.
But of course, my services were not accessible to many people in my community, especially as I gained more experience and expertise in this realm and my prices went up. The more I truly take the tenets of birth and reproductive justice into my life, the more I realize that economic justice is a key piece of visioning a world where everyone can access the knowledge and tools they need to have the reproductive experiences that feel right for them. So for me, moving towards making my offerings more accessible is an act of economic justice.
According to Alexis J Cunningfolk, whose detailed blog post on this subject has inspired many a socially-conscious business owner, “The sliding scale represents the idea that financial resources, including income, are not and should not be the only determining factor in whether or not someone can access services/care/etc.” I wholeheartedly agree with this!
Increasingly, I began to see offerings like classes and webinars offered on a sliding scale in the birth and health communities. I appreciated being able to choose a price that felt right for my situation and budget, while still honoring the labor and effort of the person/people making the offering. So, inspired by these many people and by Cunningfolk, I decided to move to a sliding scale model.
So how does it actually work?
I set a price range for a specific service that feels fair to me. For example, for doula mentoring services, it’s currently $40-65 per session. Let’s say Corinna, a new doula, decides she wants to book an “Ask Me Anything” session with me and can pay $55 a session. She contacts me, lets me know she’d like to work together and can pay $55, and we go from there. For services that require contracts, it will be the same and the contract will reflect the chosen price.
Do clients have to justify why they choose the price they choose?
I do not question people’s choice of price within the range. There is no proof of income, no paperwork, nothing like that. Just as I trust people to know their own bodies and make their own reproductive choices, I trust them to pay me fairly.
But will this be sustainable for you?
I’ve set the price at the bottom end of the scale as the lowest price at which I feel comfortable doing my work. The highest end of the scale is the “true price” of the service. I trust that the breakdown of clients will even out so that all in all, I’m compensated appropriately.
Isn’t it sort of awkward?
So far, kind of! I am hoping that will pass as I and my clients get more comfortable with it. There may also be people who do not feel comfortable “naming their own price” as it were, and who choose to work with a different doula. I’m ok with that! If you’re the right fit to be my client, you’ll find your way to me, and vice versa.
I may not keep this pricing structure forever, either. At some point, it may feel better for both me and my clients to return to a traditional price structure or try something else. I’m totally open to that!
But for now, I’m excited to see how this will serve both myself and my community.
To read more about my sliding scale and other payment options, click here. If you have questions about this or anything else, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.