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Love dogs? Want to make money spending time with your furry friends? Starting a dog walking business doesn’t have to stay a dream. Even if you think you can’t successfully launch a business, it isn’t as complicated as you might first think. We dive into everything you need to get started.
Why Starting Your Own Business is Worth It
You might have tried to start a business and failed. Or, maybe this is your first time foraying into entrepreneurship. Either way, starting your own business can be worth it because of the many benefits that come because of it.
It’s one thing to talk about how much you grow and learn as you try to manage and run your own small business. It’s another to discuss how failures both big and small can be assets too.
Why? Because you learn from them from a firsthand viewpoint. And when you start over again, you’re starting from experience, as opposed to from scratch. There’s value in that, whether you’re starting a dog walking business or want to design horseshoes for a living.
Let’s not even get started on the financial upside that starting a business, and making it a success, offers. You’re able to exercise a leadership position and be your own boss while working in a field you love (with doggos!) What could possibly be better than that?
The Investment Needed to Start A Dog Walking Business
Now, when it gets down to what it takes to get your business up and running, there are a few things to think through as you get started. First, you’re going to need to dedicate time and energy to making your business a success. There’s no doubt about that.
The good thing is, you can definitely keep your day job and start your dog walking business as a side hustle, especially if you don’t have much starting capital to begin with. From there, you’ll need to consider a few things, including:
- Filing your business paperwork for tax purposes
- Paying for pet insurance
- Investing in pet gear and equipment
- Considering how you’ll market your services
- Gauging demand for your services
- Scheduling your dog walking appointments efficiently
- Properly bookkeeping income and tracking expenses
Now, that might sound like a lot. And, in the beginning, it can be. But there are tools out there, both paid and free, that can ease the process for you. One of the hardest parts of starting and managing a business is effectively handling cash flow and record-keeping.
How much did you make for the week? Was your outstanding invoice paid? Did you ever collect that late fee? Have you paid your quarterly taxes?
If you’re in the middle of your business journey, and you’re having a hard time answering these questions, accounting software like Quickbooks can be a lifesaver. Sure, it’s an accounting tool that works great for big businesses, but it’s also built for the small business owner who needs to get a handle on their income and expenses.
6 Steps to Start A Dog Walking Business
Here are the fundamental steps you need to take to establish and run a dog walking business as successfully as possible.
#1 – Officially Establish Your Business
Officially establishing your business takes filing paperwork to establish an LLC. Establishing a limited liability company is necessary for both protection and tax purposes.
To establish an LLC, you’ll want to check out the specific procedure for the state you live in, since each is going to have a slightly different process. The general idea is the same though.
You file paperwork with your official business name with the city registrar to ensure your business name isn’t taken, you pay a registration fee, and you get approval from the city.
Establishing an LLC will also involve getting a business registration number. Come tax time, you’ll need all this paperwork on hand to comply with laws and regulations and to ensure you’re filing your taxes correctly. To search for LLC formation information in your area, it can be as easy as Googling “LLC filing” and the name of your state.
Establishing an LLC involved coming up with a business name as well. In short, you’ll want to take the time to brainstorm a name that’s memorable and reflects your business’ messaging.
If coming up with a solid business name is keeping you stuck, a free tool like Shopify’s business generator can help you find some creative ideas.
Once you’ve established your LLC as well as your business name, start registering your social media handles with your name to ensure it doesn’t get taken. You should do this even if you aren’t ready to establish a social presence. It’s a good way to think ahead and slowly start setting the pieces of your business together.
#2 – Set Up Your Quickbooks Accounting System To Collect Payments
You’re ready to collect payment for your first client. But wait, you don’t know how to actually do that. Yeah, that’s not the type of situation you want to be caught in. Especially if you’re establishing your dog walking business and building credibility.
The answer? Establish how you’ll make and receive payments beforehand. Quickbooks for small business is one of the easiest ways to manage your income. And no, you don’t have to be an accounting whiz to use it.
With Quickbooks, you can create and send invoices, easily keep track of expenses, set up reminders, track billable hours, and easily file your paperwork come tax time. You can start using its Simple Start plan for as low as $12.50 a month.
Once you pick a plan and log on to their dashboard, you can create your income and expense spreadsheet, connect your invoice systems, and enter your business information. If you ever expand your business to more than one or two employees, you can even establish a reliable payroll system through it.
One of Quickbooks’ awesome perks is that you can invoice on the go with its mobile app. Once you download it and use the card reader, you can invoice on the spot.
Any business bills and recurring payments can be set to set-it-and-forget-it mode. You set it up once, then let it run in the background as it automatically reflects your balance in your books.
#3 – Invest In Pet Insurance
Though it might not cross your mind at first, investing in pet insurance is a necessary step that shouldn’t be overlooked. In business, just as many things can go wrong as can go right. Investing in pet insurance adds a shield of financial protection to you in case things go south.
Insurance is the type of thing you’d rather have and not need than need and not have. What if your dog gets hurt by things out of your control? What if the dog you’re walking hurts another dog? What if they damage someone else’s property?
These are all scenarios that can become all too real in the snap of a finger. Thankfully, there’s plenty of pet insurance options out there at different price ranges, so take the time to shop around to see what fits your business needs best. Here are a few worth checking out:
- Kennel Pro – General liability dog walking insurance options
- Pet Care Insurance – Dog walker insurance starting at $139 a year
- Thimble – Dog walker insurance by the hour, day, or month
You can get dog walking insurance by the hour, monthly, or even by the day. So there’s plenty of flexibility as far as plans are concerned.
For instance, with Pet Care Insurance you can walk away with an insurance plan in a matter of minutes that offers general liability coverage up to seven figures. It can cost as low as $139 a year. They cover general liability, business personal property, animal bailee, and they allow you to add insured team members for an additional small fee.
#4 – Gather Your Dog Equipment
If you’re walking dogs, you’re going to need equipment. Taking the time to invest in quality leashes, watering bowls, waste bags, and walking gear helps you get prepared for walking different types of dogs in different environments easily.
Consider that you might want to offer complementary services with your dog walking business. Do you also bathe dogs for an additional fee? Take them to the dog park to play catch? Bring toys for them to play with?
Here’s where you’ll want to take stock of what you have on hand, and think about how much you want to invest in dog equipment. The more prepared you are before your first dog appointment, the more confident you can be that things will work out.
#5 – Market Your Services And Tell Your Friends And Family
Hands down, one of the best ways to market any kind of pet-related business is by word-of-mouth. Why? Customers trust a friend’s recommendation for pet care more than they ever would an ad.
To get word-of-mouth working for you though, you need to establish credibility by winning your first few customers. This is where you’ll want to tell your family and friends about your new venture!
Be direct about letting them know you’re establishing a dog walking business, and that you’d like them to know in case they’d like to sign up or know of a friend that might be in need of your services. Once you establish credibility with the people closest to you, land a few first gigs, and do a stellar job, customers won’t be able to help but talk about you to other people.
Landing your first few dog walking sessions might take some hustle. So be smart about spreading the word, making friends in the canine space, and establishing trust. One of the best ways to establish trust is to grow your social accounts and have a website you can direct dog owners to. This way, they know you mean business and can be trusted.
#6 – Improve Your Business Systems
At this point, you’ve at least had a handful of clients. Once you start getting repeat business and you start adjusting to a regular inflow of customers, it’s a great time to think about how you can refine your business systems.
Even if you’re a small business of one or two, adjusting and improving your systems can be a great way to:
- Potentially cut expenses
- Save time
- Lessen business stress
- Make time for more clients
- Expand into hiring (if you plan to)
How can you go about doing this? One of the first things you’ll want to do is take stock of your repetitive tasks. What are things you do on a constant basis that can be automated?
To add, what free tools can you use that you aren’t taking advantage of? For instance, instead of using a paper calendar to pen your appointments, take advantage of Google Calendar’s free automation tool.
Are you posting on social media and trying to grow your local reach? A tool like Later lets you schedule social media content throughout the month for free. If you don’t take the time to periodically refine how you run your business, as big or small as it might be, you risk running into avoidable problems, and worse, bleeding out income on unnecessary expenses.
Starting a dog business, when done right, can be a lucrative and fun venture. Though it’s not without its ups and downs as well as its challenges. Still, in the world of business, there’s always something new to learn. So, as we eggsperts like to say around here, we never stop learning.
If you found this helpful, you’ll enjoy checking out our other definitive guides. For instance, our guide on how to create your first website walks you through the right way to establish an online home for your business. This infographic teaches you all you need to know about getting your first 1,000 followers on Instagram (a great way to market your local business).
Thinking about a better way to build your dog walking brand? This guide walks you through everything you need to know to establish the right foundation. If you found this guide helpful, be sure to bookmark it to revisit later.