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Did you mark your calendar?

I’ve just realized that over two weeks ago my husband and I had planned to mark out our travel calendar for the year; but we haven’t actually found the time to sit down and compare.  Google calendar to the rescue – all travel plans are put in there so I can see what he knows about already.

So I wanted to discuss calendars again and be sure you took the time to map out your year.  Do you know what conferences you want to attend and when?  If you do not know what is available, check the conferences page at the Birthing Naturally website – it should be updated over the weekend. Do you know what training programs you intend to participate in?  Do you know when your childbirth classes are going to be held? Do you know how many doula clients you will take each month?

I know when you are just starting out it can be intimidating to plan a schedule before you have people signed up for the class. What if no one calls? Do you want to keep your options open to start the class a few weeks later?  Well, think about it from the clients perspective.  What do you think when you call to inquire about a class and the teacher says, “No one else in interested right now.  Maybe I could find more people and we could start next month?”  Not exactly building your confidence in this teacher.

So how do you plan for classes when you don’t know who will call or when?  Make sure your classes are as evenly spaced as possible based on the number of weeks you teach.  Teaching a six week course?  Maybe you have a class that starts each month (which overlaps with the previous class for one or two weeks). Do you teach an eight week course?  Maybe you start a new class every six weeks.  Teach a one day intensive?  Maybe you plan one each month.  I always gave families the opportunity to join a class up to week two if they needed it.

How do you handle the “one family signed up” classes? To start, they do not need to know they are the first or only family to sign up for any class – it gives the impression that no one else is interested in your classes so they must not be worth it.  Instead, let them know the other families who were interested couldn’t make this class time work and give them the option to do the class privately (perhaps with fewer classes), or to sign up for the next class.

Do you change your planned class meeting time if someone cannot make it?  My rule was always no. But I had other teachers in my area who taught on other nights. Changing days seemed disrespectful to the other teachers, and the families who had agreed to meet on the scheduled day. If there are no other options, you can offer to provide private education for the family.

Rule of thumb, when someone calls or checks your website they need to be able to quickly and easily find out when your next class is being held (and where).  They need this information to decide if your classes will work or if they should continue looking at other options. Honestly, if you do not or cannot give them this information they are going to go look at other options anyway. Besides, if they really want to be in your class they will do whatever they can to make it work.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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