4 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Dog Walking Business
#1 Don’t Worry About What Competitors are Doing
I made the mistake of trying to blend in with all the other dog walkers in my area. I offered the same services and charged a similar rate. Years later I realized the blunder, and I changed my business model slightly. I also raised my prices, and that’s when my business started booming.
Instead of worrying what the competition is doing, create a service that is different so potential clients have a reason to hire you— they want that unique service only you offer. And when setting rates, don’t just look at your competition and price the same or lower, a common practice by new walkers. Instead, look at your numbers and figure out how much you need to charge.
#2 Your Car Will Never be the Same Again
I started doing pack walks with a Honda CRV, but as my clientele grew I knew I needed a larger vehicle, so I traded the CRV for a brand new Honda Element. Ahh, new car smell! But then as my business blew up, I had to transport up to 6 dogs at a time (up to 18 dogs per day) in the Element— dogs that were wet and muddy from hiking in the rain, dogs that, with a casual shake of the head splattered drool everywhere, and one dog that chewed through the rear seat belts while I was driving. Even though I was constantly cleaning, the Element always smelled strongly of dogs. Human passengers would jump at the chance to ride in anyone else’s car. In hindsight I wouldn’t buy a new car for a dog walking vehicle again (in fact when I hit 200,000 miles on that Element, I bought a used one that came with some dog chew marks and scratches in it already).
#3 How to Estimate Taxes Correctly
At the end of my first year of dog walking I filed my tax return and was shocked at the amount of taxes I owed! It wiped out all my savings. I quickly learned to set estimated tax money aside in a separate account each month and the value of a good CPA, who can better estimate how much tax you should be paying.
#4 If It’s Not Working, Stop It!
Like most dog walkers, when I started out I spread the word about my service by going to all the local dog businesses to introduce myself and leave business cards. I HATED doing it— some places of course said no, and I felt horribly awkward. But I thought it was necessary so I forced myself to do it. And I kept going back to refill the cards, which did disappear but didn’t actually get me any clients. Same went for flyers— I posted them wherever there were billboards in the areas I serviced. But all of this effort got me zero return, other than a couple phone calls from price shoppers. My time and effort would have been better spent on other marketing tactics, but I kept doing this for a couple years! If what you’re doing for marketing isn’t working after several months, it’s ok to stop doing it. Your time will be better spent on marketing efforts that are getting results.