Research & Refine your Business Idea
It’s exciting to think of starting your own business, especially if it’s one based on something you love. Like dogs!
If you’re willing to take your passion to a new level and aren’t afraid of hard work, a dog walking business may be the right path for you.
You’ll likely begin your dog walking business with one person—you. As it grows, you may decide to add more dog walkers and focus on more of the business end. The things you need to keep in mind are that you’ll be your own boss, but you’ll also need to be client-driven. Your pet owners will likely need you day and night and on weekends.
One of the best things will be working with dogs. If you’re an animal person, getting to spend a good part of your work day with four-legged friends. You’ll be on your feet and not sitting in front of a computer 40 hours a week.
Creating your Business Website
It’s important to have a website to promote your business. You need an easy way for people to find you and at their convenience. That’s exactly what a website does. It offers convenience and an incredibly far reach. It also gives you credibility. When people look you up online, they should be able to easily find your business. It’s the best advertising you can have, and it costs you nothing more than what you’re already paying just to have your website already.
With your own website, you can offer information about you and your services, and a way to book and purchase your services online.
Setting up a website isn’t as hard as it may sound, in fact, many hosting providers have tailored their service around small businesses who may not be tech savvy. We suggest going with BlueHost to host your website, they’re service is simple and easy to use/setup and they’re currently offering 60% off hosting, including free domain registration.
Additionally, creating a blog on your website is also a great way to attract organic traffic and expand your business. Check out our full guide on the best and easiest way to setup a WordPress blog here.
Marketing Your Business
If you’ve decided to start a dog walking business, you may already have some clients in mind. But you’ll still have to market your business. Fortunately, one of the best ways dog walkers can market themselves is absolutely free – word-of-mouth (in person or online). With this in mind, online reviews are very helpful. Create a Yelp profile for your business as well as a Facebook page and a page on your own website where you can post positive testimonials.
Another thing you can do on your website is to start a blog (make sure you post regularly, like every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Having fresh content on your site is an important part of your marketing plan. Make posts on your blog then send the links out on your social media platforms. The posts shouldn’t be mainly about your business but about helpful information for your clients and potential clients. Make sure you have a presence on several platforms. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube should be good fits for your type of business.
Networking with people in your chosen field is also a great way to get ahead and stay in the know. Get to know influencers in your line of work and related areas (animal experts, pet sitters, veterinarians, fellow dog walkers, and more). Offer them opportunities to guest blog on your site, interview them, ask them for tips, etc. The more you learn, the more you know. And the more people will look to you as an expert, too!
As for paid advertising, look into Facebook Ads. They are affordable and highly targetable. You can manage your own personal campaign not only by cost but by location, audience (age, gender, interests, etc.), and schedule. Using these ads, you can test the waters in different areas as a reasonable cost.
Also consider email advertising, website ads, and pay-per-click advertising. If writing and designing ads are not your thing, consider freelancer websites like Upwork.com to find freelance writers and artists who know these areas well.
Don’t forget the “old-school” ways of passing out business cards and posting fliers in appropriate places, such as libraries, cafes, and other small businesses.
Setting Goals and KPI’s
Now it’s time to set your business goals. Perhaps you are still working a full-time job and dog walking on the side. Do the math on how much you need to make per month in order to quit your day job and focus solely on your dog walking business. Maybe your long-term goal is to be able to hire an employee or two within the next year. Again, do the math and work toward that financial goal accordingly. Other goals can include ways to streamline your business, improve your website, start a podcast or YouTube channel, and find more people to network with.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are important to keep in mind to find areas of improvements for your business. KPIs are “critical (key) indicators of progress toward an intended result.”
A KPI shows evidence that you are progressing toward a goal. It is measurable, comparable, and shows efficiency or effectiveness. Examples include increasing the number of dogs you walk per week from five to 10; increasing the response rate from your Facebook Ads, email newsletters, or fliers; or discovering which is more effective and work spending time on – your business cards on the noticeboard at a locally owned pet shop versus a similar noticeboard at the local dog park.
Plan your Finances
The first thing to do once you’ve decided you’re starting your own dog walking business is to make a realistic list of your expenses per month. Then, once you’ve established that it’s a viable endeavor, go to the bank and open an account solely for your business.
Your expenses must encompass everything you need, so you’ll need to do a little research regarding the laws affecting small businesses like yours in your area (city, state, country).
Here’s a list of things you’ll need or may need:
Adopt an Entrepreneurial Mindset
Owning your own business should be a constant process of learning, growing, and optimizing in all areas you deal with, from customers to product. You have to be willing to take action, meet challenges head-on, and recover quickly when you get knocked down. An entrepreneur can identify opportunities – even where some people only see problems.
If you want to learn more about this mindset, check out some books (Unleashing the Entrepreneurial Powers, Starting A Business: The 15 Rules For A Successful Business) and podcasts on the topic.
Other things to consider when starting your dog walking business
It’s important to understand the legal requirements of starting your own dog walking business. For a start, you’ll need to figure out the structure of your business. This article about legal and other issues regarding starting a dog walking business is a good start.
Since you’ll be working for yourself, you’ll need to keep track of your earnings for tax purposes. Make sure you find out the regulations for your particular location (state and federal) and type of business.
Accounting & Bookkeeping:
Unless you have the knowledge, experience, and skills involved, you may want to hire an accountant or bookkeeper. Upwork.com and other freelancing sites are great resources for finding people to help you no matter where in the world you are.
If you decide to do it on your own, you can use accounting software like Xero. This business tool, for example, gives you access to your business files on your desktop or through the mobile app. It also includes other features like online invoicing, reconciling, inventory management, purchase orders, invoice generation, payroll, and more.
When your dog walking business grows to more than you care to handle on your own, you may decide to hire employees. There are a number of things to keep in mind. How much, how, and when you’ll pay them. A helpful site with information on hiring and managing employees is the U.S. Small Business Administration.