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How to Start a Dog Walking Business - Part One: The Basics
Looking to start a home-based dog walking business and turn your passion into an income? Becoming a self-employed dog walker is a great way to get yourself out of the rat race and into something you truly love to do, and it's a relatively simple process from start to finish. This series of guides will walk you through starting a dog walking business, getting your first client, and ultimately retiring at the top. Sound good? Let's jump right in!
People start a dog walking business for one of a few reasons. These are a great love of dogs, a need for some extra income, or those who are currently with or without an income looking to combine their passion with work.
Now, operating a dog walking business has a number or benefits, including but not limited to the following:
- Combining your passion for animals with your work
- Working with many different types of people and animals
- The ability to ‘call the shots’ – meaning you have no boss breathing down your neck and telling you what to do
- Limited office time – most of your time will be spent walking outside in nature
- Great earning potential – dog walkers often charge substantially more than the national minimum wage in many countries
- Limited expenses – save for walker’s insurance and the cost of travel to and from clients’ houses, you will have absolutely no expenses. Even marketing can be done on the cheap and mostly comes through word of mouth locally
If any of these sound great to you, then the time to get started with your dog walking business could be now! This hub will provide all you need to get a dog walking business up and running, so it provides a great income for you and/or your family for many years to come. Feel free to bookmark this page and return to it if you ever feel in need of guidance. We won’t overcomplicate things as there’s absolutely no need – running a dog business should be simple, fun, and have the potential to earn you a decent income. Get excited!
Give it a name!
First things first: you’ll need a name. The best thing to do when thinking of a name is to go for something catchy, memorable, and which ultimately isn’t taking or registered by someone else. We could write a whole book about naming your business (and many books have in fact been written about this step, but for now we’ll leave you with one crucial tip: keep it simple and don’t try to be too clever. The service you provide is more important than your name!
Do you want to start a dog walking business?
The next thing you need to do is open up a website and get a business phone. Websites can be made easily yourself using WordPress or Wix, so don’t outlay thousands of dollars on a flashy website before you’ve acquired your first client. Keep it simple, detailing the service you provide, the area you provide it in, and a way of contacting you. Be sure to grab a .com or .co.uk name (or whatever locality you're in), and don't rely on a sub-domain - this could crush your reputation instantly.
Also, feel free to add some things about yourself – namely that you are good with animals – as this will instantly create a personal bond with anyone that comes across your website. Be honest, and be personal. Dog owners love their dogs, and they want a walker they can know and trust – not a faceless company. Show the owner you’ll truly care for their dog through what you write on your site.
A business phone is an essential piece of kit. If we’re looking long-term, you won’t want people calling your private cell phone number or home number in the middle of the night, and you most certainly won’t want the number plastered all over the neighbourhood, so pick up a cheap phone and a SIM card, and you’re done! Top it up with credit as you need to.
You’ll also have to sit down and work out what prices you’re going to charge, and for whom. Now, there are a few simple ways of doing this.
The first and perhaps the best way of pricing your dog walking jobs is to look at your competitors. If there are any around you, take a look at what kind of prices they seem to be charging. Then, simple go in-between them all, the average if you like.
An important thing to note here is to NOT price your services the cheapest. This is a sure-fire way to shoot yourself in the foot early on. People who require dog walkers often aren’t looking for the cheapest, they’re looking for the best, the most trustworthy. Ensure your prices reflect this fact.
Alternatively, figure out what you think your services are worth on your own. If you know you can charge a certain price and still acquire clients, go for it. However, don’t forget to factor in your travel costs and insurance costs, along with your living rate.
For example, if you need $250 a week to pay your rent, food, bills and insurance on top, then charging 3 clients $6 per hour isn’t going to work. However, if aim to have 10 clients, each giving you one hour of work a week, you simply need to charge $25. Sit down and think about your prices properly.
Now you have your name and website set up, and your prices decided, there’re two boring things you’ll have to get done next. Once these are out of the way you won’t have to worry much about them again, so get them over and done with. These are:
Dog Walker’s Insurance
This is an absolute must. If a dog you’re walking attacks another dog or a human, you will be responsible for its actions, unfair as that may sound. The resulting claim could bankrupt you, having a major impact on your life, so you absolutely must get insurance beforehand. Don’t expect to pay too much for this, but know that every penny invested is worth it.
Depending on your country, you will need to register as a business with the relevant tax authorities. Even if you’re doing this part-time and are receiving cash in hand, it’s best to register as a business to avoid any problems in the future. Check what the rules are for where you live, and keep invoices and business receipts in a shoebox under your bed for when you need them.
Let’s recap what we’ve done so far. We’ve got a name, a website, insurance, and we’ve registered as a company. Yes, you now have your own dog walking business! Congratulations!
What you will need
Before we go out and get out first client, you’ll need some equipment. They say a man is only as good as his tools, and this applies to dog walkers too. Putting a little cash into some quality equipment will give you peace of mind.
Obviously, you’ll need a couple of good leads. Ensure they’re strong, get a variety of different sizes (small, medium and large), and vary their features. For example, a fixed-length one and an extendable one. This will ensure you can walk all types of dogs.
Ok, this one’s free. You can use Google Maps for this, but the idea is that you want to get down 3-5 really good walking routes, taking 30 minutes to 1 hour each. The more routes you come up with, the slower you’ll get tired of seeing the same scenery.
Although not an absolute must, it would be a good idea to invest in a good pair of walking shoes. Make sure they’re neutral colors – you don’t really want to turn up at a client’s house in shocking pink Nike dunks. Go for a respected brand, and if you’re feeling ambitious and/or know you’ll be varying the terrain you walk your dogs on, go for a pair of hiking boots and a good pair of walking shoes for the sidewalk.
It needs to be said - you're going to be picking up dog poop. If not you could face a fine, so every time one of your dogs poops, pick it up and carry it to a bin. Grab yourself some free plastic bags from the supermarket, or just reuse any you may have at home, as they do a great job and are cost-effective.
The last thing you’ll need is to sort out your transport. Will you be using the family car or will you be cycling? If you’re going to go for public transport, beware as this could take up a lot of hours in your day, meaning less time spent earning money. Know what you’ll have access to and when, and always be sure to work out an alternative in case of an emergency.
Now we have the basics down, and a good solid foundation, it’s time to move on to getting our first client, and ultimately making our first dollar. See you there!