Like launching any type of business, learning how to start a dog walking business takes a lot of planning, organization and commitment. Here are the basics for you!

So lets’ get started! How to Start a Dog Walking Business: 10 Easy Steps to Get Your Business Launched and Ready to Go!

#1. Get Clear on Your Vision

  • Do you want to start a pet sitting service? This would mean providing multiple visits per day for customers who need pet service while they are traveling or unable to be home with their pet.
  • Do you want to start a dog walking business? This would mean providing mid-day dog walks for customers who work long hours.
  • Do you want to open a dog walking business and a pet sitting business?
  • Do you want to provide house sitting services?
  • Do you want to offer pet boarding or open a dog day care?
  • Which other dog services or cat services will you provide?
  • Will you offer pet transportation?
  • Will you offer pet grooming such as nail trimming or dog baths?
  • Do you want to sell pet grooming products or pet grooming supplies?
  • Do you want to be a small dog walking business or a large dog walking business?
  • Do you want to do the actual pet sitting and dog walking or do you want to outsource those duties and focus on managing the business?
  • Do you want to hire employees or use independent contractors?This is a topic for another article, but let me VERY clear, you must put a lot of thought into this decision and set your business up correctly.
  • Will you invest in professional pet sitting software or will you use a manual system (something which I highly advise against.)
  • Will you join the associations? Pet Sitters International and/or National Association of Professional Pet Sitters?
  • Will you protect yourself with pet sitter insurance?
  • Will you be a sole proprietorship, an LLC or a Corporation? Pet Nanny started as a sole proprietorship, but we later became an LLC. This is a decision that you would want to discuss with your attorney and accountant.

There are so many things to consider when deciding on how to start your own dog walking business. It’s important to be clear on the type of business you want and to set yourself up for success from the very start!

#2. Take Action!

This seems so simple, but you would be surprised how many people I have spoken with over the years who have had fabulous ideas for starting their own businesses and then did absolutely nothing. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. My business coach calls it “a full contact sport.” You must have self-discipline, the ability to take action and the persistence to see an idea through to the end. Without action, you will not see results or achieve your goals. So if you decide that you want to start a dog walking business, then sit down and map it out! Remember as Martin Luther King said…

#3. Choose a Smart Name for Your Dog Walking Business

Tips:

Choose a name that actually conveys what you do.

Don’t involve a committee when making the final decision. Too may cooks in the kitchen will result in nothing but a vanilla type name. Only include key players and make sure that those people represent a variety of types.

Choose a name that is memorable and easy to spell.

#4. Write a Tagline:

A tagline is a short, memorable phrase that associated with your service. Try to keep it short and memorable and have it reflect your personality and promise to your customers.

Note: Don’t let my tagline confuse you, “Pet Sitters of The Main Line.” I had to choose this one because when I started my business, I made the stupid mistake of not doing #3 above. After I had realized that there were about 1 million other “Pet Nanny’s” out there, I decided to add “Pet Sitters of The Main Line” to differentiate myself from all of the others. The Main Line is my service area so this way my prospects would know where I covered.

#5. Have a Professional Logo Designed

  • If starting a dog walking business is calling to you, you need to appear professional. Have a professional logo designed that will stand the test of time.
  • You can find designers at fabulous rates on www.upwork.com, www.outsourcely.com, www.guru.com and www.fiverr.com. See below for some $5 logos that I’ve had designed. Pretty good, right?

how to start a dog walking business

#6. Have Professional Business Cards Printed

  • You will need business cards for your customers as well as to give to referral partners and to promote your business.
  • www.vistaprint.com is a great site where you can design and have your business cards printed.
  • Remember to use a professional logo and include a call to action or an incentive on the back of your card

#7. Have a Professional Website Designed in WordPress

  • I really can’t stress this one enough. Your clients are going to find you online. That’s a fact! You need a client attractive website that draws in your ideal clients and then converts them into paying customers.
  • No, a Facebook page alone is not going to cut it!
  • WordPress is great for search engine optimization, and it also gives you the ability to make updates to your site without having to rely on someone else.
  • Again, you can find designers who will design a professional site for you on www.upwork.com or www.guru.com.
  • In my opinion, a website is the best marketing dollars that you can spend on your business.

#8. Join PSI & NAPPS

Pet Sitters International (PSI) and The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) are the two big pet sitting associations. They both provide great member benefits, but most important is that you will be listed on their Pet Sitter Finders. Many client prospects will first go to their sites and then type in their zip code to find pet sitters in their area. While you are building your website ranking, this is going to be a great way to have clients find you.

#9. Register Your Business on Google Places, Yelp, and Bing

Have you met Siri? Siri is a voice recognition app.  She’ll write your emails, check the weather and update your calendar. She’ll also locate businesses and services for your potential customers. Siri will forever change the way traditional web searches happen. When someone asks Siri to “find a local pet sitter,” the answer will be based on your current location, not on whether you are at the top of Google. You need to optimize your listings on Google Places, Yelp, and Yahoo.

#10. Get Pet Sitter Insurance!!!

Do yourself a favor and get yourself a liability insurance policy. The rates are extremely reasonable and it is absolutely worth the peace of mind that you will receive. You never know what could happen, and it’s best to be prepared. If you join PSI or NAPPS, they offer member discounts. Woohoo! I use Business Insurers of The Carolinas, and I have used them from the start, but there are many different companies to choose from. You can also try Pet Sitter Associates, LLC.

 

Advice from the Experts:

Bella Vasta, Mike Linville, and Joshua Carey are pet industry experts and were kind enough to share their words of wisdom to those getting ready to launch their own pet sitting business. These experts are smart cookies, my friends, so listen and learn from them! They know what they’re talking about.

Bella Vasta Founder &
Owner of Jump Consulting says,

“My best advice would be KNOW YOUR NUMBERS!  I cap locked that for a reason. Without it, your ship will sink. Running a business has a lot of factors. None of which are floatable unless you’re generating enough revenue to fund your business & personal goals. Often times new pet sitters look around to see what others are charging and then try to DYI all their operations. This will never be a sustainable plan. It is important to dig deep to discover your own goals and then create your business pricing strategy to support that.”

 

 

My best advice for new biz owners is to KNOW YOUR #'s! #JumpConsulting Click To Tweet

Mike Linville | Founder &
Owner of Black Dog Marketing says,

“Be proactive in your business growth. Don’t sit around and wait for referrals, get out the there and ACTIVELY market your business. Create lead generation funnels and don’t be afraid to pay for traffic. If you do, this you will beat 99% of your competition that doesn’t have the courage to do so.”

 

 

 

My best advice for new biz owners is to be proactive and actively market your biz. #BlackDogMarketing Click To Tweet

Joshua Cary | Founder &
Owner of PetSittingOlogy says,

“”Your best calling card today is not made of paper. It’s made of digital assets. Make sure to set aside time or resources from the start to create an effective website that perfectly represents you and your business.”

 

 

 

 

My best advice for new biz owners is to create an effective website that perfectly represents you and your business. #PetSittingOlogy Click To Tweet

YOUR HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT: Get started! These are the 10 basic steps to get you moving on starting a dog walking business. I’ll teach you the rest later. Now go! I believe in you.

Hey there, Newbie Pet Sitter! Are you feeling stuck or overwhelmed with starting your pet sitting business? Fret no longer, my friend. I’ve got ya covered!

I think it’s an excellent idea to have a killer introductory offer for your pet sitting services to attract new clients to your business and for you to run promotions to your client list. This is not the discounting I’m referring to. In this post when I refer to “discounting,” I’m speaking of discounting for the hagglers and bargain shoppers.

Selling Yourself Short

When people haggle with you and you decide to lower your price, you inadvertently dilute your service’s value, and worst yet, the type of people that haggle with you are not the people you even want on your client roster. Hagglers are the people who will not give you referrals because they want to monopolize your schedule and keep you their convenient little secret. They are the kind of clients who will eat up your time and patience with a long list of requests that in the long run will become unreasonable. And, these are the people who will bog you down and eat up your valuable time for little value in the long run and burn out your stock of happy thoughts.

The Solution to Hagglers

Since hagglers are not the kind of people you would want on your client list, here is my suggestion; When speaking with them about the pricing of your pet sitting services, emphasize the value of your service and politely tell them that your prices are set with no room for negotiation. Next, tell them they are more than welcome to call you in the future if the are in need of top-notch professional pet care. Finally, send them on their merry way with a friendly, “best of luck!”

Bargain Shoppers

Bargain shoppers are a different breed from hagglers. They are the people who will call you and every other pet sitting business in a 15-mile radius trying to find the cheapest deal. Is this really the type of client that you want? Your answer should be a resounding “no!!!!!!!” You are not a pack of batteries or a flashlight. You are a service that offers unbelievable value, and you should be compensated accordingly.

The Solution to Bargain Shoppers

Don’t waste your time waiting for a callback or giving them an offer they can’t resist. These people are, again, not your kind peeps. These people are short term clientele and will not help in the growth of your business.

Final Thoughts on Discounting Your Pet Sitting Services

Your client list should include people who understand the value you offer, who happily pay you for your outstanding pet sitting services, who leave you and your staff generous tips and kind words of thanks, and who will refer other people to your wonderful pet sitting business.

Your Homework Assignment:

Write a “No Haggler Script,” so you know exactly what you’ll say (or type in an email) the next time you are confronted with the question of discounting your pet sitting services.

Hey there, Newbie Pet Sitter! Are you feeling stuck or overwhelmed with starting your pet sitting business? Fret no longer, my friend. I’ve got ya covered!

After almost 15 years in the pet sitting industry, I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be the 10 must know tips for pet sitters.

10 Must Know Tips for Pet Sitters

#1. Love What You Do

The quickest path to cash is clients, so when you’re first starting out it’s going to be YOU doing all of the pet sitting, dog walking and house sitting. This means your mornings, afternoons, evenings and nights are going to be booked. This hectic schedule can wear on even the most devoted pet lover, so be sure that you truly love this profession before you jump in.

Love for pets is not enough to grow a successful pet sitting business. A lot more goes into it. I didn’t understand this when I started Pet Nanny-Pet Sitters of The Main Line in 2001. I didn’t understand business, marketing or management. This lack of knowledge and understanding caused me to run around ragged, making a very moderate income for many years.

TIP: Love the pets, but love the business too. Invest in a basic business course so that you can start with a solid foundation.

#2. Build a Positive Mindset

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” -Napoleon Hill

Mindset is everything in business. You have to believe that you can do it and have unwavering faith that success will happen to you.

Early on in my career, I got very down on myself and started to second guess many of my decisions, which resulted in a downward spiral and almost ended my career in the pet sitting industry. I lost faith in myself, which is the worst possible thing that could happen. It wasn’t until my mentor introduced me to the power of mindset that I witnessed an enormous shift in my business and my life.

TIP: Commit to your vision of your company and your life and act with unwavering faith.

RESOURCE: The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.

#3. Become a Guru of Problem Solving

One thing I learned about myself when I started my pet sitting business is that I am an amazing problem solver. It’s most definitely one of my gifts and thank goodness for that because I’ve had some doozies of problems to deal with over the years.

Problems happen all of the time in this industry. When a problem arises, you need to be able to logically analyze the problem and then QUICKLY take action to solve it. Those who are profoundly affected by problems and are unable to act swiftly should think twice before becoming a pet sitter.

TIP: The best advice for becoming a great problem solver is to put yourself in the shoes of your customers and your staff. If you were in their situation, how would you like for it to be handled? How would you like to be treated? And always go above and beyond to make an unhappy customer happy again.

#4. Quickly Learn From Your Mistakes

Mistakes in business are inevitable. The key is to learn from them and not to make them again.

How may times did I know in my gut that a pet sitter on my staff was not a good fit for my business, but I ignored the feeling for fear of upsetting a client about a switch in sitters? Countless times and it ALWAYS came back to bite me. The lesson here is, I wasn’t learning!

Perhaps you made a hiring mistake. Take action and remove that person as soon as possible, because the damage they can do in the long run far outweighs the benefit of keeping them on staff.

TIP: This advice applies to all mistakes. Quickly learn from your mistakes so you can grow as a business owner and as an overall person.

RESOURCE: Here is my earlier post on How to Turn Mistakes Into Success.

#5. Create a Splendid Customer Experience

We are in the pet sitting industry, but we are also in the customer service industry. We need to WOW our customers so that they use us time and time again and refer us all over town.

When I first started, I had a 1-page website. My prospects were lucky if they heard back from me within 24 hours. I didn’t have an onboarding experience or process. I had generic forms I bought from PSI. I would do the pet sitting and never solicit feedback. Eeeeeeek! I really don’t like thinking about those days.

“Companies focus on acquisition more than customer retention, even though it can cost 7x more to acquire new customers.” – Get Satisfaction, Social Studies Company

The goal of your onboarding experience is to make your new customers experience truly exceptional so that they become raving fans of your business.

TIP: Design a customer experience starting with your website, moving to the first phone call, to their onboarding experience, to the actual service and then with your follow-up. How can you really WOW your customers?

RESOURCE: Here is the video blog and article on Stay in Touch Marketing. This strategy will create loyal and repeat buyers.

#6. Analyze Your Competition and then BE DIFFERENT!

Analyzing your competition is important. Know what they offer and how much they’re charging. What events are they hosting? How is their website? Do they have an introductory offer? These are all excellent things to know, but the magic will start to happen when you do M.O.R.E.! When I first started out, I did what I thought you were supposed to do which was to do exactly what everyone else was doing. I offered the exact same services and the same exact price point. Honestly, I didn’t put much thought into my business at all. It wasn’t until five years into my pet sitting journey that I learned about “standing out from the crowd.” Being different made all the difference in the world. TIP: Create a list of Unique Selling Propositions and showcase them in all of your marketing. Make it crystal clear to your prospects about what makes your pet sitting business the only logical choice in your market. RESOURCE: Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

#7. Make Technology Your Friend

In the day and age we live in, you need to embrace technology or fall to the business wayside. Technology can transform your business. People are online. It’s a fact. That is how they find EVERYTHING from hairdressers to plumbers to pet sitters! You need a website! It is an absolute MUST! There are also so many fantastic tools out there that can help you grow and manage your business. There’s even a ton of pet sitter specific software programs. Pick one and use it. You can’t afford not to. In the end, it is going to save you time and money. When I was a newer business, I thought to myself, “I can’t afford one of those programs,” so I get it when I hear that excuse, but let me be clear… There is a cost to doing business. A website and pet sitting software are needed expenses of the company. Here is a short list of other ways you can use technology in your pet sitting business:

  • Technology can save and protect sensitive information and data.
  • Technology will make your business visible and help you compete.
  • Technology can create automated marketing processes, so you’re bringing in new clients while you sleep.
  • Technology allows for you to work remotely.
  • Technology allows for you to provide real-time customer service.
  • Technology enables you to collaborate with team members using video.
  • Technology makes possible for you to stay connected with prospects, mobile consumers, and customers.
  • Technology can speed up and streamline your payroll and taxes.Technology will increase your productivity.

TIP: In the end, technology makes it easier for customers to do business with you. Don’t let fear of the unknown or fear of losing “real-touch” with your customers, stop you from using technology because it will actually allow for you to expand on your relationships with them.

#8. Hire a Small Business Accountant

As small business owners, we’re always looking for ways to cut costs, but I would think again before deciding to do your books on your own. Hire a small business accountant and be completely present with what is going on financially with your pet sitting business. I turned a blind eye to the money portion of my company for entirely too long, and I paid the price. I wasn’t prepared at tax time. I was audited. I had no clue how much profit I was making. I had no idea how I should be managing or saving my money. As soon as I hired an accountant and bookkeeper/payroll company, my business changed drastically for the better.

TIP: Here is an article on 21 Ways an Accountant Can Help a Small Business Owner. I suggest you read it and seriously consider hiring a reputable accountant.

RESOURCE: Profit First: A Simple System to Transform Any Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz.

#9. Build a Team to Skyrocket Your Growth

Hiring is scary. I get it. I was petrified to make my first hire, but it was something I had to do if I wanted to grow my pet sitting business. Hiring is another piece of the pet sitting success puzzle that I waited entirely too long to implement in my business. There are only so many pet sitting visits one person can make in a single day. As a single person operation, you have put a ceiling on what is possible for your income. When you expand your team, you can service many more clients, and you can then focus on marketing and systematizing your business, all of which will equal BIG growth in your business.

TIP: Embrace the fear and do it!

RESOURCE: Here is an informative video and article on when you should hire your first pet sitter. 

#10. Find a Mentor

If you’ve heard me say it once, you’ve heard me say it a thousand times… You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Seek out guidance from others who have the results in their business that you wish to have with your own business. A mentor can be a professional business coach or someone who may not do it professionally but has had great success with their business. I waited way too long to invest in a coach. My mentors have changed not only my business for the better but my entire life.

The people who changed my life…

Fabienne and Derek Fredrickson of Client Attraction

 

TIP: When you start your search for a mentor, look for someone that you connect with and who speaks your language. I’ve had incredible experiences with my mentors, but I once made a very poor decision and hired an absolute JERK! I won’t bore you with the details of that story. The point of me telling you is that I knew in my gut that the guy was a slimy, know-it-all, but I allowed him to manipulate me. Listen to yourself! It will never steer you the wrong way.

Hey there, Newbie Pet Sitter! Are you feeling stuck or overwhelmed with starting your pet sitting business? Fret no longer, my friend. I’ve got ya covered!

You asked, so here you go…

A comprehensive list of all the pet sitting tools, apps and software programs that I personally use to manage my business.

Computer: Apple-Desktop, Mac Air, iPhone, iPad,
Calendar: iCal
Web Browser: Safari
Pet Sitting Software: Bluewave Professional Pet Sitter
Email Marketing: Infusionsoft
Stay in Touch Marketing: Send Out Cards
Connect Infusionsoft & Send Out Cards: Fix Your Funnel
Outsourcing: UpWork & Fiverr
Operations Manual: Sweet Process
Screen Recording Software: Techsmith (Jing & SnagIt)
Project Management: Asana
Team Communication: Skype
Files/Documents: Dropbox
Forms: Jotform
Social Media Management: Meet Edgar
Website: WordPress– Woo Themes: Canvas 
Website Hosting: GoDaddy
Website Security: SiteLock
Grammar and Spell Check: Ginger Software or Grammarly
Landing Pages: LeadPages
Image Creation: Canva
Mind Mapping: MindMeister
Video Hosting: YouTubeVimeo
Job Postings: Care.com & Craigslist
Trackable Links: Bitly

Hey there, Newbie Pet Sitter! Are you feeling stuck or overwhelmed with starting your pet sitting business? Fret no longer, my friend. I’ve got ya covered!

In this day and age, there is so much information available to us, it is easy to get stuck in information overload or overwhelm. In this week’s video, I’ll tell you about a simple method I use to organize my projects and tasks. It’s been a lifesaver for me, and I hope it helps you!

Here’s an example of a Mind Map:

This image was created using a paid tool called MindMeister. You most certainly do not have to use something as fancy as this. A free tool you can use is Canva or a pen and paper works just as well!

Your Homework Assignment: Get all of those ideas out of your head and onto paper in an organized fashion so you can create a plan of action!

Hey there, Newbie Pet Sitter! Are you feeling stuck or overwhelmed with starting your pet sitting business? Fret no longer, my friend. I’ve got ya covered!

Today’s video blog may seem like complete common sense, but after a recent experience of mine, when I couldn’t contact someone who I really wanted to hire it got me thinking… “is everything working on my websites?” I hadn’t tested my links, contact forms or web forms in eons and strangely enough, sometimes these super-important pieces of our websites stop working. I have no idea why or how, but it happens! It’s time to take an audit of your pet sitting website to make sure that the path from your customer prospects to you is clear and easy to navigate.

Pet Sitting Website Functionality Audit

#1. Test Contact and Subscribe Forms

If your lead capture forms aren’t working correctly you could be missing valuable leads, who could turn into customers, who could turn into revenue. This is very important! Test each and every form as if you were your customer prospect.

#2. Click on Your Social Media Profiles

Click on each of your social media icons to make sure they are pointed to the most current URL’s. Also, be sure to add any social media accounts that you may have started to use. For example, if you created an Instagram account, you will want to add that to your pet sitting website.

#3. Complete The Pet Sitting Website Functionality Audit above

Set a recurring calendar date for your functionality audit, and use this as a checklist to look at your website functionality. It’s likely 15-20 minutes of your time and it can save you all kinds of headaches.

#4. Click all Menu Items and Internal Links

If one of your pages or posts has a changed URL from the last update you did, did it update the navigation/menu properly? Also, be sure to check all of your text links and graphical icons to make sure they are working and directing properly.

#5. Click on Your Videos

Make sure that your videos are playing correctly. If not, then update the code from the 3rd Party (i.e. YouTube, Vimeo etc.)

#6. Double Check Your Core Information

Have you changed your services, pricing or policies? If so, make sure all of that core information is updated on your pet sitting website.

#7. Update Testimonials and FAQ’s

These items are not meant to be static. They should be continuously updated on your site to keep it fresh and timely.

Discover 12 Pet Sitting website must-haves to create a client attractive site.

This week’s advice for pet sitters answers the question of how to get the respect you deserve from your pet sitting clients.

If you want to be treated like a professional business owner, it’s vital that you present yourself as a professional business owner.

If you want to be treated like a professional business owner, it's vital that you present yourself as a professional business owner. Click To Tweet

Ask yourself, “what are my prospects first impression of me and my business?” If the answer is something like “hobbyist,” it may be time to spruce up your image.

My First Piece of Advice: Your Website

Have a professional website created or have your website professionally redesigned. In this day and age, you can have a beautiful website created for as little as $300. This is a cost of doing business and an important one. In most cases your website is the first impression a client prospect will have of you and your business. Your website is creating a pre-frame for how your clients will do business with you down the road. Right from the start, you want to create a pre-frame of being a professional, well-structured and thought out business.

Note: If you need help with finding a cost effective web team let me know. I can help you with that.

My Second Piece of Advice: Policies & Procedures

You must have Policies and Procedures that your clients can initial or sign before you start providing service for them. This document or webpage is an easy and organized way for you to let your clients know how you do business and what they can expect from working with your company,

Tip: You can use JotForm to easily create online forms that you can then embed directly on your website. JotForm also provides the functionality to have your clients sign or initial the forms.

Here is a blog post I wrote that includes everything you need to create your own Policies & Procedures.

Your Homework Assignment:

  1. If you do not already have one, have a professional website designed. This will be the best money you will ever spend on your business.
  2. Create your own Policies & Procedures for your business.

Howdy, Pet Lover! Are you struggling with attracting new clients to your pet sitting business? Would you like to have a consistent pipeline of new clients coming to your business? Well, wait no longer, my friend.

The life of a pet sitter is busy, busy, busy, so it can be very difficult to find time to sit down, focus and WORK. If you do happen to find the time to work on your business, it is nearly impossible these days to work without interruption. This is not a good recipe for success.

Did you know that on average… It will take you 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task that has been interrupted? Click To Tweet

Being interrupted also has a psychological cost. It causes stress and frustration due to the feelings of not being able to keep up. It also increases feelings of perceived effort. In short, distractions make your work much more difficult than it needs to be!

Another problem, when you’re continuously interrupted while working, you are not able to establish deep cognitive thinking and there is no way to get into a flow.

My advice to you today is to get in the habit of carving out time in your day to work on business building and marketing activities and start working without interruption.

First, understand that you must do the work to see results.

There is no easy fix. If you want to create a successful business, you must DO THE WORK. It’s not going to magically happen. Information does not create transformation. You actually have to implement what you learn.

Second, I want you to schedule your marketing/ “client attraction” time.

Put it on your calendar. You are much more likely to actually do it if you schedule it.

Third, shut it down!

This means you must turn off:

  • Your phone
  • Your email
  • Skype
  • Instant messaging
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram

For those of you that get easily distracted working in your homes, I suggest heading to the local library. This single change in my routine has boosted my weekly productivity ten fold!

Your Homework Assignment:

  1. Get it on the calendar! I want you to schedule your marketing time.
  2. Shut it down! While you’re working I want you to cut out all of the distractions.

Let me know how these productivity tips worked for you!

Hey there, Newbie Pet Sitter! Are you feeling stuck or overwhelmed with starting your pet sitting business? Fret no longer, my friend. I’ve got ya covered!