dogbiz Dog Walking Academy
5 Business Tips for Dog Walkers
Running a small business is hard work, even when you get to spend many of your business hours outdoors with cheerful canine companions. Understandably, most dog walkers give short shrift to the business part of owning a dog walking business. It’s the hanging-out-with-dogs part that draws most dog lovers to the profession, after all. But to run a thriving, long-term dog walking business requires giving the business the same loving attention you provide the dogs in your care.
Here are 5 key biz tips for running a successful dog walking business:
1. Charge pro rates
Want to get more clients? You probably need to charge more. Nope, that’s not a typo. Most dog walkers undercharge, worried that no one will hire them unless they’re cheap. It may seem counterintuitive, but reality is that serious dog owners want the best dog walker, not the cheapest one. Your rates are part of your marketing message, and a low rate can signal low quality—and that means being passed over by committed clients.
Another good reason to raise your rates is your own economic longevity. You’ll stay in business longer, and enjoy it more, if you’re on solid financial ground.
2. Protect your income with good policies
Poor policies are one of the most common mistakes in the dog walking industry, and a leading contributor to companies folding under financial stress. Allowing clients to use your services on a drop-in basis, and cancel at will, means streaky, unpredictable revenue.
To provide yourself a reliable income, set policies that draw the right clients to your service—clients who need regular, ongoing support. This includes requiring dogs to walk with you on a set, regular schedule. It also includes a strong cancellation or “excused absence” policy that limits the amount of days per year you go without being paid.
3. Market your services
It may not be on your list of favorite ways to spend time, but marketing your dog walking business is critical to its success. If your marketing plan consists of either a “Someday when I have time” to-do list, or maintaining your FB page or Instagram account, it’s time to step up your marketing game.
Social media marketing is a great piece of a comprehensive marketing plan, but it won’t be sufficient on its own to build your dog walking business unless you have lots of time to wait. People have to know you exist first in order to follow or like your page. Building referral sources in your community (vets, pet supply stores, dog trainers, fellow walkers, etc.) and finding creative ways to let people know you’re there (like print newsletters, trading cards, how-to-choose-a-dog-walker fliers, for example) are key aspects of a well-rounded marketing plan.
4. Be picky
If you mean to be in this for the long haul, set yourself up for daily enjoyment and success. Get picky about the clients you take—both human and canine. Don’t let your love of dogs lead you to walk dogs who get under your skin, make your day challenging, or compromise safety. It really is okay to say no—and saying no is often in the client’s and dog’s best interest, too. Also be ready to let difficult human clients go—those who take up more than their fair share of your time, energy, or patience, or who treat you with less than the professional respect you deserve as the care giver for their four-legged family member.
It can be stressful or even painful to say no to or let a client and dog go. But that momentary discomfort is far better for you and for the longevity of your business than the daily frustration and stress of walking a dog who is a poor match or dealing with a difficult client.
5. Seek a pro education
We may be moving past the days of paying the kid down the street a few dollars to walk the dog, but dog walkers are still well short of reaching professional status. In this middle ground space, it’s left to us whether to seek a professional education in dog behavior and walk management. If you’re serious about dog walking as your profession and career, set yourself apart with a solid education.
Professional education elevates your status in your community, providing a marketing edge. It signals your quality and your commitment to a professional approach to the work. And it makes your daily work with dogs easier, more enjoyable, and safer.
Running a small business will always be hard work. But there is no better way to make a living than running a thriving dog walking business. Caring for your business with the same dedication you offer the dogs is the key.
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