Starting a dog walking business requires a lot more than just a love for bones, barks, and bulldogs. You’ll need to combine your canine-loving spirit with business tactics, marketing strategies, and budget planning, too.
To help get you started, let’s outline the must-know details about starting a pet business, as well as the specifics of the dog walking industry.
The step-by-step guide to starting a dog walking business
From brand identity to budget and everything in between, there’s a lot to consider when you embark on an entrepreneurial endeavor. Follow along with these step-by-step guidelines to ensure it all goes off without a hitch.
Step 1: Research, research, research
A good idea becomes an even better one when it is well researched. Start by investigating the market in your area to find out what other businesses are doing something similar to what you have in mind. Don’t know how much dog walkers make in your neighborhood? Look it up! Find out what services they offer, what their rates are, and keep a running list while you research of things such as:
- What you like about what the competition is doing
- What you don’t like about your competitors’ strategy
- Where your pet business could potentially carve out its competitive advantage
The other piece of the investigative puzzle? Finances.
Step 2: Determine the initial costs
As you proceed with your research while creating your dog walking service, you’ll start to get a feel for how much money you’ll need to invest from the beginning before you start bringing in real revenue. Consider the basics first. What supplies will you need? What supplies do you already have? From there, you can get into the more nuanced aspects of financing your dog walking business.
You’ll need to factor in costs for things such as the following:
- Website domain name and hosting
- Website design (if outsourcing)
- Invoice tracking software
- A business phone separate from your personal phone
- Business registration fees
- Dog walking insurance
Set up a spreadsheet itemizing each anticipated expense to get an estimated total of how much you’ll need to get off the ground. From there, you can determine how viable of a plan you have and how you’ll be able to obtain additional funding, if necessary.
Step: 3 Choose a company name
Your business’s name is an important part of making connections to customers. It conveys your business’s values, your purpose, and a bit of your personality. A well-crafted name will strike a memorable chord in your audience’s mind, so they remember who to reach for when their pet needs a little extra exercise during the day.
For some, the name they’ll choose for their dog walking service has been abundantly clear from the start. For others, the process of creating an all-encompassing company name is incredibly overwhelming. If you fall into the latter category—or even if you think you’ve nailed down a name already—here are a few things to consider when choosing the right one for your new business:
- Let the creative juices flow – Brainstorm on your own, with a friend, or a business partner. Set up a list of possible names which you can later rank according to preference.
- Develop your business identity – Figure out how you’d like your target audience to perceive your business. Settle on a few essential keywords for which you’d like to appear in search results. If you plan to offer grooming and sitting services in addition to dog walking, consider a name offering a wider interpretation of your business than simply dog walking.
- Make it personal – Tie in the tentative name with your own name or with the name of the neighborhood you plan to serve. Alternatively, you could choose a title that’s evocative of something personal (e.g. a local park, a feeling sparked by a pet) for your preferred client base.
- Keep it simple – You can be creative without being confusing. When choosing a name, strive for a title that’s catchy and something your customers will be able to easily remember.
- Give it time – Don’t rush into choosing the first name that comes to mind. Write out a few ideas, pick and edit a few favorites, then run it by some friends or other small business owners. They may have a few suggestions to help bring out the best of your work or may point out a potential problem that you may not have seen before, such as a similarly named business in the neighborhood.
However, at the end of the day, there’s more to your brand than just your name. Dive deep into branding next to be sure you’re clear on what you stand for and how to put your best foot forward when it comes to engaging with your customer base.
Step 4: Build Your Brand
Your company name is only the beginning of developing your brand identity. Many small businesses may think that satisfying a consumer’s need with a good or service is enough to keep them afloat. Understanding the value of branding, however, is the next step in taking the vision of your brand to the next level.
But what is branding? Branding is the essence of your business in all the ways it presents itself to the world—it’s your logo, the format of your email newsletter, the tone of voice you use on your website content, and even the colors and fonts you choose for your business card. Branding is what makes your business its own entity in the small business community—and it’s vital for connecting with consumers.
Consider the following facts regarding branding for small businesses:
- Nearly 60 percent of consumers prefer to support businesses they are familiar with.
- Having a distinct brand color helps to increase recognition by 80 percent.
- Consumers can make a decision about how trustworthy your brand appears to be in just seven seconds.
This type of research is more than just eye-opening; when properly evaluated, it’s also an incredibly useful tool when it comes to investing time into your business’ brand strategy. Consider what values you want to uphold as a business and what language you can use to transmit those values to the public.
Think about working with a branding coach to help you come up with a logo, set your brand colors, and develop a slogan. Spend some time thinking about who you want your business to be at its core. Then, develop a strategy that not only represents this visually but is also reflected in the way you carry out your day-to-day business offerings.
Step 5: Build a Website
As a pet business owner, you need a professional website to highlight the services of your pet care business. Work with a professional web developer to design a customized website or try making one yourself with user-friendly software like WordPress or Wix. Decide on the exact services you plan to offer as a pet business owner and how much you’ll charge for each one. Showcase them in a clear and accessible space on your website to optimize the user experience and, ultimately, the number of conversions on your page.
Don’t forget to register your website name and purchase a hosting service. Shortly after doing so, be sure to claim social media handles that’ll match your company name. You may or may not choose to incorporate social media marketing into your business plan, but it’s good to get a hold of the appropriate usernames from the start in case you decide to utilize them later down the line.
While your website is under construction, start building your online presence by creating a free Business Page with Nextdoor. Use your page to list your services, rates, important business and contact information, as well as your business story and photos.
Step 6: Book Your First Client
Once you’ve laid the foundation for your dog walking business, you’ll be ready to start attracting clients and generating a buzz about your new business. Take examples from other successful businesses in the industry and try to decipher what might be working well in their approach as a professional dog walker:
- PlayTime Pet Sitters is an award-winning dog walking company in Colorado Springs. On their website, you’ll find that what might contribute to their client trust and loyalty is a clear display of customer satisfaction via testimonials and reviews.
- Consider The Petsitter of Boise in Idaho. This small dog walking business paints a clear picture of their team so customers can learn more about who, exactly, will be taking care of their beloved four-legged pet and feel good about entrusting them with such an important job.
Need a few more ideas to help book your first canine stroll? Consider these strategies to help you hit the ground running:
- Partner with a local vet who can endorse your skills
- Offer discounted dog walking to first-time clients
- Network in person and online to connect with people who are already searching for the services you offer
Take a Stroll Through the Nextdoor Neighborhood
By now, you’re well on your way to starting a fruitful dog walking business. Leverage higher success rates by claiming your free Business Page on Nextdoor. Since so much of what you do as a professional dog walker is focused on neighborhood relationships, what better place to foster them than with Nextdoor?
With your Business Page you’ll be able to:
- Share the news of your grand opening, post exclusive deals, and interact with neighbors in a hyperlocal online space.
- Encourage satisfied customers to leave a public recommendation on your profile to further build trust within your community.
- Attract interested customers who are already in your zip code by running targeted ad campaigns.
Word-of-mouth marketing, neighborhood referrals, and branding opportunities are all within paw’s reach. Claim your free Nextdoor Business Page to get started.
The Hill. The 582 million entrepreneurs in the world are not created equal. https://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-budget/323586-the-worlds-582-million-entrepreneurs-are-not-created-equal
Time to Pet. How to Start a Dog Walking Business. https://www.timetopet.com/blog/how-to-start-a-dog-walking-business#chapter-3
Fit Small Business. 19 Branding Statistics Small Businesses Need to Know. https://fitsmallbusiness.com/branding-statistics/