Get Rich Walking Dogs in 9 Easy Steps

By Mikey Rox on 18 November 2014 0 comments

Pressed for cash? Have feet? Then you, my ambulatory friend, should read about how to set up a thriving dog-walking business in nine simple steps. (See also: Earn Extra Income With These 15 Creative Side Gigs)

1. Take a Training Class and Get Certified

It's always a good idea — if you don't know what you're doing — to start with the basics, and in the case of dog walking that's taking a training class that offers certain certifications. I know what you're thinking — "but, Mikey, I walk my dog all the time. I know what I'm doing." Good try, but the reality is your dog is not every dog, and you need to be prepared for emergency situations so you don't accidentally kill somebody's pet. That's a bad day at work, dude.

When you've decided to get serious, check out Dogtec's Dog Walking Academy, an intensive four-day workshop leading to professional dog-walking certification. Dates and locations vary, but the academy is held all over the United States

2. Brand Your Business

Like the title above says, this post is about how to get rich walking dogs — not how to make chump change. Which means that if you want to turn this new endeavor into a bonafide business, you need to brand it. Choose a clever, perhaps even cute name for your dog-walking business; legally register it; and hire someone to create a logo and website for you, if you don't know how to do it yourself.

These steps — which should be followed in that order, by the way; you don't want to create a logo for a business name that's already taken — will help you get started and begin to establish a presence in your market.

3. Design a Flyer Advertising Your Services

When you're up and running, you'll need to market your services. You'll do this online, of course (which I'll discuss in the next steps), but traditional, paper advertising is also a valuable way to get the word out. Entrepreneur Kyle Boureston started a dog-walking business in posh Orange County, CA, and he says the flyer is the foundation of starting your business. Here are his personal tips:

1. Tell Them About You

Most dog owners love their pet almost as much as they love their own family. Since you take their dog on an unsupervised walk around the neighborhood, there's a good amount of trust involved. Owners will want to know a little bit about you before they give away their dog. Be sure to include:

  • Your name
     
  • Your history with pets
     
  • What street you live on — you don't need to give an exact address but saying that you live on a street that they're familiar with will make them a lot more comfortable.
     
  • A little about you. For example, "I love running, cooking, and Sunday football."

2. Include a Photo of You and a Happy Dog

This is the most important part of your flyer. In the ideal photo, you would:

  • Be crouched next to an obediently seated dog. This shows that you have experience with dogs and would keep the dog safe when you walk together.
     
  • Have a big smile on your face. A picture is worth a thousand words, so smile. This is one of the easiest ways you can look friendly, normal, and, most importantly, not sketchy or creepy.
     
  • Have your hand placed gently on the dogs back. Like I said above, dog owners truly love their pets. They want their dog to be with someone who also loves dogs, and this simple hand placement will subconsciously tell the owner that their pet is in good, loving hands.

4. Distribute Your Ads in Your Neighborhood

Old-fashioned hoofin' it around town is the best way to distribute your professional flyers by placing them in the mailboxes of people in the vicinity you want to serve. Put on a good pair of shoes and carve out a few hours to do the legwork it will require to let your neighbors know you're in business. It's not only good exercise in anticipation of your first four-legged client, but you never know who you'll meet along the way by being out there in person as the face of your new business.

5. List Your Service on Craigslist and Similar Sites

In addition to traditional advertising, you also should advertise on sites like Craigslist and similar portals that are popular with people hiring folks to do non-traditional jobs. I also would recommend joining Nextdoor, a website that specifically caters to your neighborhood; it's a great way to get to know your neighbors and promote your service. Use social media to build brand awareness by posting blogs, using Facebook and Twitter to make business shout-outs, and definitely engage Instagram so you can post all the aww-worthy photos of the dogs with which you'll spend the day.

6. Sign Up for Doggie-Specific Websites

Just like there are sites solely dedicated to connecting parents with responsible, vetted care providers who will watch their kids, there also are sites that will connect you to pet owners looking for a walker or sitter. Care.com has a pet component to it, but there are also dog-specific sites like DogVacay and Rover that you can use as resources. I'm personally listed on the latter two sites, by the way. I just discovered them a few weeks ago, and I thought it would be a cool way to have a play date with my own dog, Jaxon, while making a little extra money.

7. Take Excellent Care of the Your Clients' Pets

Any new business can pick up clients in the beginning, but the real test is keeping them. How do you do that? By being the best darn dog walker this side of wherever you live.

As a small business owner myself, I know the importance of executing my job at the highest-level possible along with impeccable customer service. Think about it — how many times have you personally boycotted a business because someone at the establishment was rude to you? Sucks, doesn't it? Don't be that person. As a dog walker, you have a huge responsibility to take care of your clients' best friends, go above and beyond the call of duty (or is that doody?), and return their pets safe and happy. That's your JOB. If you're not doing that, why are you in business? The answer to that question is this: You won't be for long.

8. Send Updates to Your Clients on a Regular Basis

Because you're taking care of something so precious to your clients, it's a good idea to send them updates on how their dog is doing in your care. While you're sending pics or video that will bring smiles to their faces, it'll also remind them that you're an active walker who's taking great care of their pet — and it shows.

9. Ask for Referrals From Your Clients

You can't get rich with an venture if you don't continue to drive business. In this industry, because it's very localized, it's important to make connections by networking and also asking for referrals from clients with whom you have a great rapport. They may have a friend or colleague in need of your services, and if you're the kind of dog walker I've detailed in this post, your clients will be more than happy to spread the word about you. Proceed with caution, however. You really need to gauge the situation well and know how to read people. If you're not particularly close with your client, it may not be the best idea to ask for a referral outright; perhaps leaving a few business cards is better method in that case. Don't hound anybody either. You should ask your clients to refer you one time and one time only. If they want to spread the word they will; if they don't, they don't. Nothing you can do about that — that's business.

Did you build a successful dog-walking business? Do you have any tips for us? Please share in comments!

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