How to Start a Dog Walking Business – Part Two: Finding Clients
In this hub we’ll focus on the all-important first client. If you’re want to know how to become a dog walker, then this article will give you the confidence to actually take that title for yourself. Once you have your first paying customer, you’re really in business, and you can only grow from there.
If you haven’t already, check out How to Start a Dog Walking Business Part 1, which deals with the basics of starting up on your own.
Now, we’ll be looking at some of the best ways you can get yourself out there and get yourself known as a self-employed dog walker in the community. Even if you’re the best dog walker in the world, if nobody knows who you are, then how can you get a client?
It’s important you’ve laid the foundations down, such as getting your equipment, insurance, naming your business, and so on. All of this is dealt with in part one, so give it a read, and let’s jump right into finding a dog to walk!
Getting your first client
Many people say that finding your first client for any business is the most difficult part. While this may be true, once you have found your first client, you’ve jumped a huge hurdle. Not only have you validated your own business and abilities, but from there you will gain the confidence to increase your number of clients as a very important part of marketing will come into play – word of mouth. Do a fantastic job for your first client, first time, and you’ll make an unforgettable impact.
So how can we go about getting our business out there, and ultimately getting our first client? Well, there are a number of ways we can do this, all while keeping our costs low.
Friends and Family
The first and best way of getting your first client is to go directly to the people you already know. Even if they don’t own dogs, ask them to do you a small favour and see if they know anyone who may require a dog walking service – e.g. an elderly person who doesn’t have the energy to walk their dog as much as they used to, a young professional with a dog who doesn’t have enough time, and so on.
Simply asking your friends and family and telling them that you are looking for dogs to walk for your business is a fantastic start, and will usually always result in either a phone number of a referral.
Tip: This could also be a good time to bring Social Media into the picture. If you have friends and family on Facebook or Twitter, you could create a page for your business and ask them to ‘like’ it. This depends on your approach though – Social Media can require a lot of time invested, but if you have a wide network it can be absolutely brilliant for raising awareness about your business.
As you’ll mainly want to target those in your own community or town, flyers are a great way to go. Yes, people do still look at them – I myself have received many calls from people who just happened to be walking past a flyer and saw mine.
You can often place these up in shops, and you can always canvass the neighbourhood. All you’ll need to do is get your flyers printed up and walk around posting your flyers through the letterboxes of houses in your locality.
There are two things to remember with flyers and canvassing.
Number one is the design and price of the flyer. Don’t pay too much for 1000 flyers – any expense will be worth it, but don’t go mad and order high-gloss, super high quality flyers as it won’t make any difference at all. Stick to the standard measurements and quality, and you’ll be fine.
Also, keep the design simple. Have your contact name and business number clearly displayed, and make it obvious that you are a good quality, reliable dog walking business. Avoid too many words or fancy graphics, and keep it professional. If you can, display your love of dogs through your flyer, but don’t add a picture of you cuddling your pooch – it will come off as unprofessional.
The second thing to remember is that when canvassing, a good hit rate (the number of clients you may receive a phone call from) is about 1% - meaning for every 1000 flyers you post, you can expect 10 calls back. Don’t be disheartened – volume is key here, so the more you can post, the better chances of success you’ll have.
Local Notice Boards
Again, with your flyers you could also post them on local noticeboards, e.g. community notices/business boards. The older generation in particular will look at these, and these can be a very crucial part of your business, so target them!
Advertise in Local Pet Shops
What do people who go into pet shops have? That’s right: pets, and often dogs. So, you’ll of course want to leverage any local pet shops and get them to advertise your business in there.
There are two ways of going about this. The first is to directly approach them and ask if you can leave some of your flyers (or alternatively business cards) in their shop, such as on the counter or on the window. They will most likely want a few, but this will probably be relatively small and will be well worth paying out for.
The second is to establish a genuine friendship with the business owner/shop workers. This way they’ll be more inclined to help, but approach this cautiously. If you come across as manipulative this will not work – instead, think outside the box. See if they are receptive to your approaches, and suggest that in return for their recommendation, you too will recommend them to your clients. This way it’s a win-win, as everybody is looking for more clients, especially shop-based businesses. You could even suggest a link-exchange on both of your websites, where you advertise one another. Again, think outside the box.
Community meetings, such as those in town halls and village centres, can be a great way to pick up a few extra clients. Many communities hold business meetings, so don’t be afraid to go along and check them out, as you are a legitimate business! See who you can meet, get to know others, and ask if they could keep an ear out for anyone that may require a dog walking service.
Networking & Word of Mouth
Networking is simply making friends with those who may be able to help you, or who know people that may require your service. This, along with word of mouth, are perhaps the two most important marketing strategies for a dog walking business.
Now, word of mouth works so well because of one reason: people love their dogs. As such, if they’re looking for a dog walker, they’ll want to find somebody they can trust 100% - and word of mouth is always trustworthy.
How can you build word of mouth referrals? Simple. By following the steps listed above and always doing a fantastic job when you walk people’s dogs. This means always doing the following:
- Be honest
- Always show up on time, and always arrive back on time
- Never overcharge or undercharge
- Be confident and polite – never arrogant
If you follow these simple, simple tips, word of mouth will grow quickly.
What's your favorite method of getting new clients?
Well, there you go – the phone and email inbox will soon be starting to fill up. If not, don’t quit – keep trying, canvassing different areas, looking up new community meetings, and expanding your area of pet shops.
If all goes to plan you’ll have your first client – check out How to Start a Dog Walking Business Part 3 to find out how to boost your credibility, dealing with your very first clients, and tips for actually doing what your business is about – walking dogs! See you there!
P.S. Has this article helped you out and given you some ideas? I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment below – I read them all!