Want to become a dog walker? Follow these steps on how to do it – Care. com

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You love dogs. Given the choice between dogs or humans, it’s dogs every time. You find joy walking them, spending time with them and caring for them.

If this is an accurate description of you, you may be considering becoming a dog walker  so you can do what you love more of the time. It may seem like a simple transition, but ask anyone who does this for a living and they’ll tell you dog walking isn’t easy. It comes with a set of challenges just like any other small business, especially as you grow. But don’t be discouraged if it proves tough at first: The longer you stick at it, the easier it gets, and you’ll soon reap the rewards of a remarkably satisfying gig.

Read on for advice on a successful start to your dog walking career.

All these things are essential to attract customers initially. Website builders such as WordPress. com, Squarespace. com and Weebly. com are good options. If you’d like to consult with a developer or freelancer to create your site, Upwork. com is a handy freelance platform.

It’s worth investing in a well-organized website that looks great and gets your message across—providing additional proof from the very outset that you’re committed to a professional approach. A clear, striking design can help you stand out and establish a memorable brand. Tap into any experience or contacts you already have in marketing and building a brand—you’ll be surprised what comes in handy as you take your first steps in the industry. Having a website and logo will also serve you well if you look to grow your business in future.

There are various ways to promote your services online. Setting up an online profile for your business on social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook is highly recommended to help clients find you and expand your own brand. Upload as much content and information as possible so pet owners know what you’re all about.

While the digital world will undoubtedly come in useful when building your brand, good old-fashioned networking and physical objects have their place in getting your business discovered. Be sure to stop off at local pet shops, veterinary practices and pet cafes and ask if you can put up posters, flyers, and company cards in their windows and on bulletin boards. Visit parks and network with dog owners. In a digital world, people really appreciate a personal touch—after all, nothing is closer to all of them than their pet.

2 . Set up a corporation or even register as a sole proprietor

The procedure for setting up a corporation for your business varies from province to province. You can also opt to set up a federal corporation rather than a provincial or territorial one if you plan on doing business in multiple provinces. Depending on where you live and where you plan on operating, you may be able to register your corporation online, or you may be required to do so through a professional agency. The structure of the corporation protects you if someone tries to sue based on something that happened in work—they can only come after what the business has, not you personally.

If you plan to remain an one-person operation, you should register as a sole manager with your province for tax purposes to make sure your self-employed business is above board and you’re paying the right amount of tax. This also allows you to record business expenses, which may have tax benefits, too. Get all the paperwork sorted out before you set up, if you can, so that you can hit the ground running.

3. Obtain dog walker insurance

If you’re an individual who is walking dogs, dog walking/pet sitting insurance can be very affordable, and it offers protection for your business. General liability insurance, which protects against third party claims, is a good idea too. You need insurance coverage if you want to do pet seated in someone else’s home, or a different kind of cover you want to have grooming as a part of your company. Work out what your business includes and find the right policy to cover it.

4. Find suitable scheduling and invoicing software

You may not think you need something like this to keep you organised at first. (How hard can it be to keep track of four customers? ) But having tools to help you stay organized can only benefit you as you develop. It also leaves a good impression with your clients. You may wish to use a variety of different equipment, or narrow it down to one specific tool with regard to small businesses. US-based software Time to Pet is designed specifically for dog-walking services, and costs $35 (around $47 Canadian) a month for solo dog walkers.

5. Crunch the numbers to determine how much you need to make

Before quitting your job to make a go of your dog strolling business full-time, you should take a hard look at the numbers to determine what you need to make a living. Get specific: How many dogs can your realistically walk a day? Make sure the numbers work out so you can support your lifestyle as you fill your day up with dogs.

When your business is still getting started, you may have to get a second job or find other sources of income. Side hustles such as advertising a room in your home on Airbnb are great ways of supplementing your earnings through dog walking from day one.

6. Get familiar with employment law

Employment law is tricky, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what might apply to you, as there may come a time when you need more hands to help juggle all the canine walking jobs.

When it’s time to hire your first employee, you’ll want to be fully aware of the costs associated with staffing, the rights of the employee and your rights. Even if it seems like a hassle for a small operation, make sure you do everything properly from day one to protect yourself and avoid getting involved in any sticky situations down the line.

7. Research other companies in your area

What does the top dog walking service in your area offer? What do they charge? Do they sell packages? Any information you can gather is helpful, even if it’s not in line with your own business plan or goals.

It’s worthwhile drawing up a spreadsheet of competitors so you can compare their rates, their details, and their different approaches at a glance. This will help you work out where to land with your own pricing—just below average but still enough to pay what you’re worth is a good rule of thumb when starting out.

8. Work hard—and work smart

Hard work is the basic ingredient in business success. When you start out, you might find yourself working harder than a person did in previous jobs, hitting the streets and doing a dozen walks a day. You should be alive to every opportunity, plus say yes as often as you can—until it’s no longer possible.

Sometimes you’ll have to say no, too, which can feel counter-intuitive to a new business owner. But some dogs simply won’t be a good match, or you don’t want to over-extend yourself. After all, the business has to be sustainable. Being selective can help you specialize: If you make a name for lunchtime walks, you may not want to provide evening services, so some of your time is your own.

9. Don’t get discouraged

With dog walking becoming a more popular profession (and service) in recent years, there will be competition, but do not let it get you down. This career has its ups and downs, and while finding clients might be tricky at the start, before long, your own hard work should start to pay off. Experts describe a snowball effect, where they end up inundated with dogs.

If you strive to make every customer a happy customer, this should turn into great word of mouth and new custom. Give your all for every client and do your best to take care of every dog and every owner—and trust that putting your heart into what you do will take your business to the next level.

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