Become a Full-Time Dog Pro, Part 1

become a full time dog proDreaming about working full-time in your own dog training or dog walking business, but can’t imagine how to make the leap? You need a transition plan. Whether you’re working full-time in another career, or spinning the hamster wheel balancing a part-time hobby business alongside your “real” job, a well-designed transition plan lays out a clear, step-by-step path to running your dog business full-time.

And in case you’re wondering whether it’s really possible to go full time, the answer is yes. It really is possible. We know, because we’ve been helping dog professionals do just that since 2003. So if you’re serious about working with dogs for a living, read on!

Creating a Transition Plan to Full Time Dog Pro
Your transition plan needs four steps:

  1. Determine feasibility. Can you make ends meet with the services you’re looking to provide? And what does it mean to meet ends? We focus on this step here in Part.
  1. Assess, prioritize, adjust. Before you enter a transition, you have to know where you stand. (It’s hard to make a plan to get somewhere without knowing where the starting line is!) So in Part 2 of this series, we outline how to assess your starting point, and then look at ways to set yourself up for success by prioritizing all the things you juggle and making sure your business is optimized to serve you and your clients.
  2. Line up support. You’re much more likely to get to the other side of your transition plan if you don’t head in alone. In Part 3 we look at some simple and creative ways to line up the support you need.
  3. Set milestones and marketing plans. How do you know you’ve arrived? How do you decide when to quit your job or scale back? Your milestones, set ahead of time for personal comfort and financial safety, will tell you. And marketing will help you reach those milestones as fast as possible. So in Part 4 we look at how to set milestones and choose creative marketing approaches to hit them.

Let’s start with Step 1:

What Is Feasibility?
Technically put, feasibility is a comparison of revenue to expenses. Simply put, is your business set up to make what you need?

To answer that question, you have to know what you need. If you’re not sure, it’s time for some personal budgeting. Ick, we know, but it’s not as awful as it sounds. Make a list of your household expenses. These would include rent or mortgage payment (include property taxes if you own your home), utilities, insurance (including medical), transportation, food, pets, children, and personal expenses (entertainment, grooming, clothing, and the like). Don’t forget big picture items like taxes and savings.

Estimating Revenue
When we create transition plans for dogbiz business consulting clients, we’re always careful to estimate revenue conservatively. We want any miscalculations to come out in your favor, so rather than basing your numbers on a full calendar year, assume 10 months of active work time. This will help accommodate holidays, your own vacation time (yes, dog pros can—and should—take vacations), and the unexpected.

To calculate your revenue, first decide on your capacity. When your business is running on all cylinders, how many clients can you handle sustainably? How many private training clients per week? How many classes can you teach, and with how many students max per class? What number of dogs can comfortably and safely play on your daycare floor or vacation with you in your boarding facility? How many dog walks can you take, or pet sits can you make?

Next, multiply that number by your rates to give you a weekly revenue. Multiply this number by 4 for the month and your resulting monthly number by 10 for the year. The number you get will be a simple estimate of your maximum gross revenue, or what you’ll make if your dance card is full. Divide this by 12 for your average monthly gross intake.

Because we want to be conservative about revenue, you’ve got a few more calculations to make: Multiply your gross monthly number by 75% and 50% to give you safer numbers to work with. These numbers will help show you what level of capacity you need to reach to cover your needs.

Estimating Expenses
To help protect against unwelcome surprises we estimate expenses liberally. To get a sense of your expenses, determine costs in three categories:

General expenses. Include any vehicle costs, communication fees (phone, internet, etc.), office supplies, training or care supplies, staffing costs if you have them, and marketing.

Professional expenses. Your professional membership and certification fees go here, as does your budget for ongoing professional development like courses, conferences, seminars, web seminars, books, and DVDs. Also include liability insurance and professional support such as accounting and business consulting.

Facility expenses. If you’re bricks-and-mortar based, you’ll have rent or mortgage to contend with, as well as utilities and repairs.

If you’re just getting started, don’t forget start-up costs. Though these won’t factor into your monthly feasibility figures, you need to consider initial education costs, marketing (logo and website), and if applicable, facility setup and build-out or improvements.

What The Numbers Say
Just a little more math and we can see where you sit. Simply subtract your monthly expenses number from your monthly gross revenue number to get your net monthly revenue, or what’s left for you. How does that number look? Is it enough to cover your personal needs?

Don’t panic or become discouraged if the answer is no. Very often an adjustment or two can work wonders. Are there additional services you might add? Or changes you can make to the service you’re planning or already offer that would increase revenue? Most dog pros set their rates too low—do you have room to raise revenue through a rate increase? We look in at these sorts of adjustments in Part 2 of this series.

Are You Ready To Go Full Time?
If you’re ready to put your career where your heart is, it’s time to build your transition plan. Start by setting aside some time to run your numbers, and then read Part 2 of this series. The dogs are waiting for you!

Find out more about Starting Your R+ Dog Training Business with our services and toolkits.