The Business of Birthing: The Write Way to More Clients
by Sheri Menelli and Adriane Smith

[Editor's note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today Issue 79, Spring 2006.]

Are you frustrated by mainstream articles about pregnancy and birth, or even nursing? I am. So many seem to normalize c-sections, promote medicated birth and marginalize breastfeeding—who is writing these articles anyway?

You Are the Expert

The answer might surprise you. As an expert in the childbirth community, I'm often contacted by journalists who are researching birth-related stories. In my experience, the majority of these journalists—the people who write for the major pregnancy and baby-related magazines—are nice, single women who have never had children. Their job is to highlight something interesting. They're hungry for something to sensationalize, and lately, that means writing about the fabulous elective c-section.

Believe it or not, this is actually good news for you and your business. It's a golden opportunity to step up, make a difference and even find a few clients while you're at it!

Isn't it time for the birthing community to speak up and to circulate better material? Shouldn't we be writing the articles? As birthing professionals, we are perfectly positioned to influence the way the media portrays birth in America and to be educating women everywhere. What's stopping us?

Everyone Can Write…Get Published!

Think you can't write? Me too. But that didn't stop me.

I usually write enough to express the general ideas—then I send it off to my freelance editor for a little help. (Okay, maybe a lot of help.) You can do the same. Editors and ghost writers will work with you to improve your articles, and their fees are usually well worth the finished piece. (Don't expect the editors at newspapers or magazines to help you. They usually expect to receive high-quality work.)

When you get past the intimidation of "being a writer," you'll see that story ideas are all around you. For example, HypnoBirthing educator Kim Wildner (author of Mother's Intention: How Belief Shapes Birth) had a client with low amniotic fluid. She compiled a lot of information to educate the mom on this condition, and she organized it in a way that wouldn't scare the expectant woman. With an introductory paragraph, this would make an ideal article for a major birth magazine. Submitting it would certainly be worth her time: many magazines would pay $200–500 for such an article. Not a bad way to supplement your income!

Even if the publication doesn't pay, your efforts will. Writing articles is a time-tested way to boost business. By supplying content to magazines, newspapers and newsletters, you are positioning yourself as an expert. This increases not only your visibility but also your credibility—and your client base. Increased credibility translates to increased fees; people will expect to pay more for your services. When people see that your words were published, they assume you must be the best. For example, if you had your choice between Ina May Gaskin as your midwife and another midwife you had never heard of, who would you pick? Ina May, in a heartbeat! If you have heard her speak or read her books, you feel that you already know her.

As a birthing professional, you are ideally positioned to get in touch with the media and serve as a local expert. Because you are a trained professional, you know what women want and need to be reading. You know about the trends in birthing, the latest developments and the juiciest stories. You have a wealth of knowledge! This is quite an advantage over the average journalist.

How and What to Write

Before you write the article, put together a letter to the editors of your target publications. Called a "query letter," this brief, one-page letter details the main points of your article but does not include the entire piece. If they want to publish your article, they will respond with instructions and/or a contract. That's when you go ahead and write the entire article. Articles should generally be 500–1000 words—a couple pages—but each publication has specific "Writer's Guidelines" to follow.

If you're still thinking, "But, I'm not a writer…," I'm going to make it easy for you. Follow these points, and you're off to a running start:

Create a catchy headline. "Top Five…" and "The Best…" are easy headlines that editors love. The shocking reasons women are choosing natural birth. The top five secrets that doulas know about birth. You can even get creative or sensational—"Five lessons in breastfeeding I learned from my cat" or "Four dirty little secrets about elective c-sections" or even "Orgasmic Birth: The best kept secret."

  • Write in your area of expertise.
  • Get quotes from one or two other experts.
  • Real-life anecdotes are extremely popular, as long as they support the story.
  • Find and document statistics whenever possible.

If you're nervous, start small. Local newspapers and magazines are always hungry for material and many will accept submissions from unpublished authors. (Major magazines may ask for samples of past work.) Or, try the Internet. Hundreds of Web sites and e-zines will want your articles. You may want to approach local weekly newspapers about writing a column; they often run columns by local professionals.

Don't be intimidated. Writers are simply people with something to say! Birth professionals in this modern age need to speak up now.

Sheri Menelli is a childbirth educator, author of Journey Into Motherhood: Inspirational Stories of Natural Birth and the executive director of The Birthing Business Institute. Visit birthingbusiness.com to receive the Birthing Business Tips newsletter and a schedule of upcoming classes.

Adriane Smith helps authors, business coaches, and consultants turn great ideas into powerful messages. As a freelance writer and editor, she has contributed to hundreds of publications, Web sites and marketing campaigns. Adriane lives in San Diego and can be reached at adrianesmith@cox.net.


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