When I hear people asking how to make extra money or see lists of side jobs, I usually encounter dog walking on that list. It sounds easy and fun taking a dog on a walk but this type of busines takes commitment and an understanding of dogs that not everyone understands. I am not writing this blog post to discourage women who want to start a dog walking business, it,s more to share some points to make it go well for you, the potential clients, and most importantly the dogs.
Be ready and open to learn
Describing yourself as a dog lover is great, but that does not mean you are completely knowledgable about them. I say this because when I have conducted interviews for dog walkers to work for me, that mostly has not meant they understand how dogs think and what to do with each one. The past experiences, whether good or bad with our dog or others can make us not realize we should approach things differently. For example, your dog may love when you put a collar or harness on them but maybe a dog you take as a dog client is fearful and does not like being touched or your approach has to be slow. It is a big reality check to understand that your dog(s) are not like other dogs and putting the same expectations and actions on other dogs is not a good thing to do and could hurt you or the dog. Therefore, apprenticing with a local dog trainer that uses positive reinforcement could help, as well as taking some courses online or webinars like ones the Association of Professional Dog Trainers offer.
There are a lot more ways to get a dog education online, locally, as well as books too. Hopefully, you do not feel overwhelmed and make small steps to learn more about dogs. Moreover, you will be able to give the best service when you are educated and confident in working with dogs because knowledge is power for your business.
Know your schedule and set boundaries in the beginning
I made the mistake in the beginning of my business by saying yes to everyone and not always checking my availability and if it was compatible with clients. It lead to stress, burnout, and feelings of resentment and being unappreciated. Keeping a calendar whether it is on your phone, or old school, like a paper one will remind you of what is booked and allow you to not overbook and have a life outside of this business. Do not be afraid to say no as this will remind your clients to plan ahead better. This helps not only you, but their dog as well. It might not seem natural to write down as well as tell your clients you availability and limitations, but if you do not follow what works for you then this business will overrun your life.
This picture of two cute dogs is a perfect example of how your love for dogs and having a business can make you overlook your needs and put client’s and their dogs ahead of yours.
Communication between clients and dogs is essential
While walking dogs is your part of your job, you also need to have great communication with clients. If you notice a dog is limping, one who has diarrhea, or anything out of the ordinary, it is your responsibility to tell the dog owner. When everyone is on the same page it helps to handle problems in a quickly and in an effective manner.
Payment system setup is essential-you are a business not a hobby
Sometimes starting to offer dog walking may be for extra money or by accident (not really) but if you want it to be a full income, setting up ways to get paid, as well as having payment policies will minimize those whom sometimes will give you the run around. Do you want to do check, cash, credit card, or PayPal as payment methods? Definitely do your research as well as know if you can actually manage them too. The last thing you need is not getting payments because it is not easy for your clients to pay you, or for you to invoice and have a good system to record them.
I myself use Quickbooks as well as an app called Lucky Bitch to enter payments on my cellphone or laptop when I receive them from my clients. It gives you a clearer picture of the income you are actually making, rather than just estimating with no records what you are making.
Insurance and liability to cover things
When I started my dog walking business I was also doing pet sitting. I can talk more about that in another blog post. I joined a Pet Sitters Organization (PSI- Pet Sitters International) and they had a recommendation for insurance. I have been using that one ever since. I added on liability when I wanted to add an employee to my business. Thinking about how to keep you and your business safe and covered if unexpected things come up in your business is essential. Fortunately, I have never had to make an insurance claim in almost ten years of having my business. Therefore, the insurance gives me the confidence and security to know that if something happens that I have a way to fix it. Also, if you have employees going in the house then you want coverage for them, yourself, and your business.
If you have more questions on how to start this type of business then let’s set up a time to chat. http://bit.ly/wellmanpupscalls I want you to avoid the mistakes I made and enjoy this fun and rewarding business.
The link again to set up a call with me is http://bit.ly/wellmanpupscalls I look forward to speaking with you.