Become a Full-Time Dog Pro, Part 2

become a full time dog proIf you missed part 1 in this series on creating a transition plan to full-time dog pro, which summarized the four steps of a transition plan and covered how to assess the financial feasibility of your dream business, you can read Part 1 here. In this article we turn to step 2 of your plan, which involves getting yourself and your business ready for the transition.

The transition period to full-time dog pro can be both exciting and trying. It’s a great feeling to be underway in pursuit of your dog career goals, but juggling your “regular” job and life responsibilities with starting or growing your dog business can get exhausting pretty fast. The personal, work, and business assessments, adjustments, and priority-setting you’ll do here in step 2 are designed to get you through your transition as quickly as possible. We don’t want you getting stuck mid-stream!

Assess Your Job Situation
If you’re working a regular job, part of your transition to full-time dog pro will be a transition out of your current work. In some situations this will be a smooth, gradual process. For others, the change will be a bit more challenging. Here are some questions you’ll need to answer:

Can your hours be flexible? Do you have the luxury of heading into the office late or taking a long lunch to fit in a day training client, dog walk, or pet sit visit? Can you work from home all or part time to help accommodate a boarder or board & train guest? Or are you expected in the office 8-5, relegating your dog service hours to nights and weekends?

Can you exit gradually? Will you be able to reduce your work hours over time (say, reducing from 40 hours to 32, then 32 to 20, and so on), or will you have to quit your job all at once?

Obviously a job with flexible hours that allows a gradual exit will make for the easiest transition—you’ll be able to ramp down at your job as your clients and revenue ramp up. But don’t despair if your situation doesn’t allow for this kind of flexibility. Though your transition may take a bit longer and require a larger amount of juggling to build to a safe quitting point, even a despotic boss and set-in-stone hours can’t keep a dedicated dog pro from full-time dog work.

Assess Your Finances
Take a look at your financial assets: Do you have a safety net? This might come in the form of other household income that can help you transition more quickly, or savings that allow you quit that job a bit earlier.

Backup income or savings of some kind will be of particular help to anyone stuck in a full-time-or-nothing job with inflexible hours, but if that’s you and you don’t have a safety net, continue to resist despair. Double down on the rest of the steps in this article to help compensate, and have heart. Though your plan may take longer to implement, it’ll be all the sweeter when you reach the end.

Prioritize Your Activities
We find that most of our clients have a lot going on: Work, starting or running the business, family, hobbies, volunteer work, household responsibilities. Oh! And the dog! All too often the juggling act begins to break down during transition, and sadly it seems the things that matter most get caught in the tumble.

Realistically you won’t be able to handle everything once you’re in transition mode. The trick to keep this reality from becoming disastrous or guilt-ridden is to decide now, up front, what you’re going to temporarily set down in order to pursue your goals. Because if you don’t make the hard decision to let go of your volunteer work at the shelter or your crafting classes at the community center, it’ll likely be your own dog not getting walked or your personal health not being tended to. And remember: You can pick everything back up once you’re your own boss.

Prioritize Your Spending
What can you let go of in order to get what you want? Are there large or small sacrifices worth making to get out of that cubicle or away from that boss so you can spend your days with dogs? Take a hard look at your personal budget. Is there room for tightening?

Assess & Adjust Your Business
One trick to getting through your transition plan as quickly as possible is making sure your business—whether old news or brand new—is running as efficiently as possible.

Adjust your services. You’ll be able to quit your job a lot earlier if your services are maximized for your clients’ success and your revenue.

Trainers, look at shortening initial consults if you’re running over 90 minutes, and shorten those write-ups, too. Be sure you’re selling packages in order to increase revenue and better help clients meet training goals. If your work schedule allows, consider offering day training or board & train to maximize revenue and training results. Teaching classes? Switch to open enrollment, particularly for your entry level puppy and basic manners classes, to avoid losing money to cancelled or under-enrolled courses. Then offer short-run topics-based classes like 3 or 4-week courses on loose-leash walking or recall. These fill more quickly than longer intermediate or advanced classes. If you can provide specialty or niche courses, like agility or nosework or growly dog classes, that will help, too.

Dog walkers and pet sitters, remove offerings that aren’t in your or the animals’ best interests, such as shorter walks or visits that come with a small payout and leave more of your time spent in the car than with the four-leggeds.

Adjust your rates. You’ll also get to the other side of your transition more quickly if you’re making more for the services you provide. This is the best, most risk-free time to raise your rates, now while you’ve still got an outside income. And once you do, you’ll be able to save faster while you’re still working, in order to expand or build your safety net.

Adjust your policies. Good policies save money. Sometimes a lot of money. If you don’t have strong scheduling and cancellation policies that you consistently enforce, it’s time to tighten up. How to know if yours need tightening? If you find yourself asking the question, “What time is good for you?” your scheduling policy most certainly needs attention. And if your cancellation policy is some form of “XX hours notice,” it’s time to take a good look there, too.

Automate. Get as many of your systems streamlined as possible to help save precious time during your transition. Choose from the myriad software options available to dog professionals, including Dog Biz Pro for trainers, Scout and Better Walker for dog walkers, PetSitClick and Petcheck for sitters, and PocketSuite for just about any small business—just to name a few. Where applicable, automate payment for your services online as well. For example, it’s easy these days to set up payment for dog training classes on your website with programs like Dog Biz Pro.

Adjust Your Schedule
Once you enter your transition period, you’re going to be busy. It’s no easy task juggling the job, the business, and life outside of work, too. Set yourself up with a master schedule to make the juggling a bit easier and much less stressful. A master schedule helps you get through your transition plan faster, too, by ensuring a more efficient use of your time for things like marketing, which will be key to reaching your goal of being a full-time dog pro.

Are You Ready To Go Full Time?
If you’re ready to put your career where your heart is, spend some time making your assessments and adjustments and prioritizing what’s most important to you during your transition period. Then read Part 3 of this series to learn how to set up the support systems you’ll need to make it through your transition to full-time dog trainer or dog walker as fast and as easily as possible.

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