A love of dogs and the outdoors can take you far as a dog walker, but before you reach for your leashes and comfortable shoes, there are a few things you must do to set up your dog walker business. Read on to learn whether dog walking is a viable path for you, what steps you need to take to start your business and how you can stand out.
Why Start a Dog Walker Business?
Dog walking is a service-oriented enterprise that provides professional dog walking services to pet owners. If you step into this role, you can expect to regularly exercise and take dogs out for potty breaks when their pet parents cannot do so. If you’re thinking about starting your own dog walking business, you’ll want to consider whether the following rings true for you:
- You love dogs. It should probably go without saying, but as a dog walker, you’ll spend a lot of time around dogs, so loving being in the company of dogs is an absolute must.
- You want more activity in your life. As a dog walker, your primary responsibility is exercising clients’ pets. If you’re over working in an office or simply want a reason to get out more, dog walking could provide you with a solution.
- You want to set your own schedule. Unlike a typical nine-to-five, you have more flexibility as a dog walker. You can start later in the day or only work a few hours daily. Regardless of what path you choose, you get to set your business hours.
- You want to build relationships. Not only will you create bonds with your new furry friends, but you will also build lasting connections with their owners. This can lead to loyal and repeat clients.
- You want low startup costs. Some businesses require a lot of investment up-front, but a dog walking business generally comes with lower startup costs. You might need to apply for a business license and even gather a few supplies, such as treats, but otherwise, you won’t need to spend as much money to start.
How to Start a Dog Walking Business in 8 Steps
Before you start looking for clients, you need to get yourself organized so you can efficiently run your business. Follow the steps below to embark on your entrepreneurial journey:
- Determine if there’s a demand: While dog walkers are necessary everywhere, you need to find out whether you can jump into this business successfully. If there are too many dog walkers in your area, it might mean that you cannot be competitive. If there are not enough, then you can easily swoop in and fill a need.
- Write a business plan: If you are sure you are in a good position to start your business, then it’s time to write a business plan. It should include an executive summary, whether you need to seek funding, a summary of the market, what services you’re offering (i.e. will you stick solely to walking dogs or will you throw in additional services like pet sitting?), the business structure, and financial projections. Together, all this information will steer you in the right direction and help you keep your business in order.
- Establish your business: From sole proprietorship to a limited liability company, there are several types of legal structures you can pick from as a business owner. Read into each type of business entity and determine which one works best for you. For example, as a sole proprietor, you might not have to apply for a business permit and you can make all the decisions yourself. However, you have less legal and financial protection, meaning your personal assets are at risk, and you might have a harder time raising funds. With an LLC, your business is a separate entity from you, and you can give your company more credibility. On the downside, it is more costly than other structures and there’s more paperwork.
- Get the proper liability insurance: Unexpected things happen, so to protect yourself and your business, it’s important to get insurance. Contact a legal professional to learn what kind of business insurance you should obtain and why.
- Complete any training courses: You might not need a dog walking license where you live, but something like pet first aid training can help you do your job more effectively and provide peace of mind for pet owners.
- Set up a business bank account: As a business owner, one of the most important things you can do is set up a separate business bank account so you can easily track expenses, which will set you up for a more easygoing process come tax season. Your future self will thank you for being so proactive.
- Buy any necessary equipment: If you need to buy leashes, treats or poop bags, now’s the time to get it done. That way when you start booking clients, you are ready to hit the ground running.
- Create a marketing plan: Whether you decide to put up fliers around your neighborhood, hand out business cards to potential customers or use social media to target your community, you need to have a plan in place to start marketing your business. You might be able to rely on word-of-mouth marketing once you have built trust with your clients, but at the beginning, expect to put in some work.
How to Make Your Dog Walking Business Stand Out
To make your business stand out, you want to build an unforgettable experience for your human and furry clients. Here are a few ways you can achieve that as a professional dog walker:
- Make it easy to book services and onboard clients. People lead busy lives with lots of day-to-day decision-making, so take it upon yourself to make this step easier. Noodle can help in this area. With a single link, your potential clients can easily book you for one or several sessions at a time. They will see a list of times and days that you are available, so you and your clients do not have to go back and forth to set up walking sessions, which makes for a smooth onboarding process.
- Offer different types of payment options. Give your clients different payment options. Noodle, for example, lets customers pay with a credit card or debit card, as well as Apple Pay and Google Pay. To take it a step further, Noodle also allows customers to easily sign up for a one-time or recurring payment, depending on what service they choose.
- Use social media to your advantage. Building an online presence can help you stand out, especially if you’re able to use Tik Tok, Instagram or Twitter to show how well you perform your job.
- Let possible clients know that you’re good at what you do. Positive reviews can help make your business. That’s why Noodle automatically collects reviews. After you have provided a service, Noodle will prompt your clients to give their honest opinions.
- Create a personalized experience. Leaving your customers messages, including photos, after you walk their dog can go a long way in helping you build positive relationships. With Noodle, you can access all customer information in your dashboard so that you can follow up on previous comments and keep a history of all your interactions.
Ready to spend a lot of QT with pups? Sign up for a free Noodle account to accept payments, schedule walking sessions and create a personalized experience.