MYTH BUSTERS AGENCY STYLE: Top Seven Myths About Working With An Agency

Q: Agencies are taking away wages from you/skimming off the top-

A: You are in charge of your pay. If an agency can’t pay what you want, you just don’t work for them. Simple as that. Just as your time is valuable, and you get to decide the hourly rate you will work for, agency owners' time is also valuable and they get to decide the hourly rate or salary they get paid. They often have staff that they pay as well, and the $ that they choose to charge to clients vs what they can pay contractors is based on their individual overhead (which includes many things you may not be aware of, and it can get expensive!) and pay to the staff.

The client pays the difference in both cases.

Placement: If you are working with a placement agency, you set the rate, but the agency still makes a percentage. In a placement agency, they match and the Doula/NCS takes over. The percentage charged is usually lower at a placement agency than it is with an agency that contracts out the work.

Contract: In a contractor setting the agency is doing a LOT more work behind the scenes. They are advertising, dealing with the initial client call, educating the client on what a postpartum care provider can offer, setting up the contract and plan with the client and they often help to arrange schedules, cover shifts, invoice, and act as a go-between for both Doulas and clients, providing services to both sides. 

Q: Agencies can’t provide you with consistent work-

A: Sometimes, a new agency absolutely cannot provide you with consistent work, while more established agencies can, but this goes both ways.

If you have a very specific schedule, times, or areas you work in, that does not fit in with the inquiries agencies receive, then they will not be able to offer that work to you. Also, because you get to choose which contracts you take, if you are already booked when contracts come in, or do not consistently follow job posts when you are already on a contract, the agency cannot keep your schedule filled.

Whether you are working on your own or with an agency it is very common to have short gaps in contracts simply because due dates may not line up exactly. It is not the agency’s job to make sure every person on the roster is working the exact number of hours they want to work. It is up to the Doula/NCS to fill their schedule with all possible contracts from as many sources as possible.

This is a fast-moving industry. Often, clients are looking to secure coverage within a week of reaching out to an agency, and the people who have availability, respond to requests quickly, and get interviews on the calendar first will often get the clients first.


Responding to posts weeks or even days after they are posted may be too late. The clients have often already chosen their provider.

Q: Agencies only want to work with experienced people-

A: While it is possible that some agencies may only choose to work with those with lots of experience, I personally find that more often than not, it is newer Doulas/NCSs who choose to work with agencies so that they can get experience. As they move on in their careers, build their own networks and begin to get private clients, they use the agency less and less for contracts, eventually choosing not to renew.

In a placement agency setting, this can look much different. Clients are often the ones deciding the amount of experience they want their provider to have.

The agency then helps to guide their expectations based on the rate the client is willing to pay, but ultimately, an agency can either refuse to find a placement for a family with a budget or let the clients know that someone with that much experience will want to be paid more, still putting it out there to see who responds. Families also may have specific requirements even if it is in the contractor setting.

Q: Agencies have a ton of unnecessary paperwork-

A: Agencies know what is important to the families they support, what is required by state and federal law, what they need to know for their own records, and how to keep track of things for taxes.

Anything they ask for should be standard information that you should already have as a business owner or be prepared to give to a family for employment purposes.

Paperwork processing and tracking are a huge part of what the agency does and why they deserve to be paid for their work. Their livelihoods and reputations are on the line, and they get to decide what they require. If you don’t like it, don’t work with them.

Q: Agencies place their “preferred or favorite” providers first instead of everyone standing a fair chance at the jobs-

A: This can be true sometimes. See Q 2 & 3. From the outside looking in, it may sometimes feel like favoritism, but there are many factors involved.

While I do everything I can to make sure everyone has a fair shot at contracts coming in, no matter how much I like you, I can’t pass along your info if you haven’t responded to the job in a timely manner, have little availability, or do not have the qualifications the client is requesting. Sometimes, we do reach out directly to providers that we know are available and will be a perfect fit for a variety of reasons.

That being said, if the “favorites” are really the favorites, then there are going to be times when those favorites are already booked, so making sure to keep your training up to date and respond to opportunities quickly and with clarity will soon move YOU to the “favorites” list.

Q: Agencies expect lots of unpaid time, meetings, training, communication, etc.

A: Some agencies do request this kind of thing.  It is super important that you know what the laws are in your state regarding how you are paid.

For example, employees must be paid for required meetings. Contractors get to decide what they do, and what they want to be paid for the work.

Make sure you have reasonable expectations. If the agency is expecting you to respond to a job inquiry or do a virtual interview with a potential client, that is reasonable and unpaid, if it was a private client you’d have to interview with them as well. 

If they are requiring you to take a specific training they provide but expect you to pay for the training, or attend unpaid, or are giving you a lot of grief for not attending social events without pay, they could be breaking labor laws.

Q: The Agency will cover it, No big deal-

A: Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to hear the thought: “If I work for an agency and take contracts that are planned out in advance, I can bail on that contract and take on private clients, or a different job if I get a better offer”

This is not true! Agencies aren’t like every other business. They have a finite number of candidates to send into jobs and cannot just pull someone in “off-the-street” to fill in if you decide to bail on a job you have already agreed to. This kind of behavior is unethical and likely means the agency will never work with you again. If you are growing your own business, burning bridges you don’t need to burn is never wise. 

Also, people talk in this industry.  Even if the agency does not say a word, the family that got left in the lurch may, and your fellow NCS and Doulas who had to scramble to cover the client certainly might.
Soon you will find no one wants to work with you and then you are really stuck.

Be a professional. Don’t take on jobs at a lower rate because you’re stressed about money. If you do, accept the consequences of those actions, and work the contract you agreed to. It’s happened to most of us at one time or another, but you show your professionalism by honoring your commitments and fulfilling contracts rather than dropping them for higher rates later.

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