dogbiz Dog Walking Academy
Making the Transition to Full-Time Dog Walker
Dreaming about making your full-time living as a dog walker but can’t see how to leave behind your regular paycheck to run a dog business full time? Wondering how to reach the point where you can quit your job, put your current career in your rearview mirror, and say good-bye forever to your boss?
We’ve been helping dog lovers make this leap since 2003, and we’ve identified three key ingredients to a successful transition. Master these and you’re likely to find yourself in the enviable position of making your living working with dogs.
1. Transition mindset
No amount of planning or strategy will get you to full-time dog pro if you don’t believe it can happen. Pursuing a big dream is both exciting and scary. Making the decision to leave a steady job or quit a career you’ve invested time, energy, and money into takes some guts. Choosing to strike out on your own as a small business owner is a bold choice. No matter who you are, there will be moments of doubt, pangs of fear, and days where you feel dispirited. Without a strong transition mindset, it can be easy to quit or to tell yourself that now isn’t the right time.
Dog pros who make it through their transitions are those with fierce determination and desire. They don’t necessarily have more dog talent or business skill than others. They go through all the same feelings of doubt and fear. They get tired. But their desire keeps them in the game. They push through the doubt. They push through the fear. They dust themselves off after setbacks. They allow themselves to believe that it really is possible to get where they mean to go.
And it really is possible. There are dog walkers all over the globe working full-time in their walking businesses. They all started from scratch. They all began with excitement and anxiety. They all cultivated a transition mindset to put their excitement to work and their anxiety to rest (or at least to keep it from getting in their way).
Cultivation is an important word. You don’t have to be born with a naturally bold or confident mindset. You can create it by stoking your desire, visualizing your life as a dog walker, developing personal mantras to battle tough moments, and taking small step after small step to build momentum and belief that carries you forward.
2. A transition plan
You need a transition plan to apply your transition mindset to. No amount of belief will get you to full-time dog walker without a plan, particularly if part of your challenge is replacing your current income. Here are a few of the most critical pieces of a strong transition plan:
Budgeting and feasibility. You must know what you need your business to make, and then assess whether the business you have in mind can safely be expected to do that.
Prep work. This includes personal prep, which for some may involve tightening the budget. It almost always includes prioritization. You’re probably already plenty busy. Implementing a transition plan will add a lot to your plate, including starting and/or growing your business. A successful transition requires streamlining in order to protect the things that matter most to you (for example, time with friends, family, and your own dogs), and time to take good care of yourself to maintain your energy. Without this step it’s easy to burnout before reaching your goal.
You’ll also have prep work for your business. Decisions like how you package and provide your services, what you charge for them, and the policies you set all have a tremendous impact on the revenue your business is capable of, and how effective you are for your clients. Getting these things right significantly increases your chances of a successful transition.
Milestones. How do you know when to reduce your cubicle time or quit your job altogether? How can you tell when your business can be safely relied upon to pay your bills? Your milestones will tell you. These are carefully crafted “When… then…” statements that indicate when it’s safe to take a step in your action plan. Every transition plan’s milestones will be different, as they depend on the parameters of your personal situation. But one thing is the same for everyone: Without them, it’s all too easy to either jump too soon, putting yourself at financial risk, or move more slowly than needed, risking burnout before achieving your goal.
Marketing. How do you reach your milestones? How do you get your business generating enough revenue to allow you to reduce your hours or give your boss notice? That’s the role of a strong marketing plan. To move through your transition plan you must grow your business. To do that, you need clients. To get clients, you must learn to market your business.
3. Transition support
Transitions are equal parts exciting, scary, and exhausting. You’re essentially working two jobs—your regular one and building your business. Plus all the other things you do—running your household, caring for family, exercising your dog… Let’s just say it’s a lot. Dog pros who build a support system before jumping into a transition are far more likely to find themselves working with dogs full time at the end. If you tend to adopt a stoic, “I can manage” attitude, this is one time to fight that inclination.
Support plans are as personalized as transition plans. Yours might include personal support with household responsibilities, child or dog care, errands, mealtimes, etc. (via paid professionals or the helping hands of friends, family, and neighbors). You might choose to hire help for your part-time business to free yourself up to serve more clients or work on your marketing, or to take on clients while still at your job. If you’re not entrepreneurial by nature or lack business experience, you might benefit from professional support through online business classes, or the guidance of a personal business coach. Whatever elements you choose for your support plan, putting one in place will greatly increase your chances of a successful transition.
Tired of daydreaming from the sidelines? Ready to make your living working full-time in your own dog walking business? Start cultivating your transition mindset, working on your transition plan, and lining up your support. There is no better way to make a living than walking dogs, as any professional dog walker will tell you. They’re all out there doing it, and you can, too.
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