Starting a pet sitting or dog walking business has exploded in popularity in recent years. However, most businesses fail quickly or never grow beyond a handful of clients. Although a pet sitting business is more simple to set up and get running than most other businesses, it is still a business. And, if you want to be successful you have to treat it as a business. This means you need to get it started correctly.
We’ve compiled a basic checklist of the things you will need to start a pet sitting or dog walking business. This list consists of the bare minimum you need to establish a serious pet business that has a chance at succeeding.
1) A Name for Your Pet Sitting Business
This is probably obvious. However, you also want to make sure that you put some thought into naming your business. It is going to be the first impression of your business to all future potential clients. There are thousands of dog and pet businesses that have “tails,” “paws,” or “wags” in their name. These may sound cute, but people have seen these names countless times and, by using such a name, you might be missing an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Also, there are endless numbers of pet businesses called “Sally’s Pet Care,” or whatever the owner’s first name is. Don’t go with the first name that pop’s into your head. It may help to try thinking of a business name that you would hire.
2) Business License and Insurance
In most places, you need to get a business license to legally operate. It isn’t a huge expense, but it isn’t free either. Most pet businesses are either sole propietorships or limited liability companies (LLCs). The primary difference is that having an LLC separates your business assets from your personal assets, so your personal assets are protected in the case of any legal issues. Also, you should definitely get pet sitting insurance. This will cover you for a whole variety of potential liability issues. It’s recommended that every pet sitting business be insured before starting services. Even if you are going to be the only employee, you should get it. If you’re planning on hiring contractors or employees, then it is a must.
3) A Business Plan for Your Pet Sitting Business
The term “business plan” might sound intimidating, but it’s basically just what your business is going to do and how it’s going to do it. A very basic business plan for a pet sitting business needs to include:
- What services you are going to provide. For example, 15 and 30 minute dog walks, 15 and 30 minute pet sitting visits, pet transportation, etc. Be thorough and specific. Know exactly what services you will be providing. If you’re confused, then your potential clients will be too, and they’ll go with someone else.
- What prices you are going to charge. You need to define how much you will be charging for each service you provide. Research other companies in your area to find out what the typical range is.
- What areas you are going to serve. Pick a service area that is small enough so that you’re not spending half your time driving, but big enough to get enough clients. This is highly dependent on where you live and what the population density is.
- What days and times you are going to provide services. Are you willing to work every day? All hours of the day and night? If not, decide when you are willing to work.
- Any equipment you will need. Typical, basic equipment used by most pet businesses include: notebooks, pens, poop bags, key rings, etc. You don’t need much equipment to start a pet sitting business, but make sure you have what you do need.
- How you will receive payments. If you have a bank account, you can already accept checks. Many companies also offer clients the option of paying by PayPal, credit card, or other methods. There is usually a fee associated with other methods of payment, so decide whether the convenience is worth the cost.
4) Ways for People to Contact You
Again, this is probably obvious. You need a phone and email. Also, many clients prefer to use texting for schedule changes or updates. You most likely already have a smart phone, so your communication needs are probably already met. If you don’t have one, get one. It will make running a business much easier. In regards to email, we would suggest using an email address from your business website’s domain name as opposed to a free email service like Gmail. For example, email@example.com versus firstname.lastname@example.org. It is much more professional and gives a much better impression to clients. This brings us to:
5) A Website for Your Pet Sitting Business
It’s amazing how many pet sitting businesses, and other small businesses, still do not have a website. It is going to be extremely difficult to market yourself adequately and obtain clients without having a website. Today, most people use the internet to find local services and businesses, and they find business that have a website to be more credible. If you do not have a website, you are automatically cutting yourself off from many of your potential clients.
Your website is also your main marketing tool and the best way to promote and grow your business. Read our article “Your Website is Your Primary Marketing Tool for Your Pet Business” for more information on how to use your website as a tool for marketing.
You don’t need anything too fancy. However, unless you are a professional web designer, you should hire someone who is. A bad website can be worse than no website. You should go for an organized, clean-looking, simple website. At a minimum it should list your services, your prices, what makes your company special, and a way for people to contact you. A professional logo, color scheme, and layout can instantly set you apart from the competition.
6) A Scheduling System and Accounting System
You will need some tool or method for scheduling visits, as well as keeping track of finances. There are many different pet sitting software packages that will do all of this for you. Most charge a monthly fee. Of course, when you’re just starting out, you can probably do fine using an Excel Spreadsheet to organize and keep track of client schedules, payments received, and expenses. Just make sure you have some consistent and organized way to track and record everything you need to. Make sure you keep it up to date. Set a regular time for scheduling and bookkeeping.
7) Contracts and Forms for your Pet Sitting Business
You will need at least a few basic forms for your business, including:
- A client contract. You will need a basic contract that you and your clients sign before services start. It should define what services are being provided, when those services are being performed, as well any terms and conditions that are applicable. There are a variety of sample pet sitting business contracts available from different sites on the internet. You should look at several of these examples and do research to ensure that the terms are applicable to the laws of where you live. Or, many people are more comfortable consulting an attorney. It isn’t free, but you know your bases will be covered.
- A client/pet profile form. You will need some kind of form for to fill out which includes client information (name, contact info, address, etc.) and pet information (type of pet, name, age, walk routine, special needs, etc.). You can also find example profile forms on various websites. Make sure your profile form is thorough. It’s better to have information that you don’t need, than need information that you don’t have.
- A vet release form. You should have clients sign a veterinarian release form. This allows you to take their pet to the vet if there is an emergency while they are under your care. Make sure that you have their vet information. This is often good to include in the pet profile.
8) A Way to Advertise your Pet Sitting Business
If you don’t advertise your business, nobody will know you exist. There are many ways to advertise and market your pet sitting business. However, in the beginning, your budget will probably be small, so you should probably start out simple. It will take time to build a client base and income, so overspending on advertising from the start probably isn’t the best idea. Affordable and effective ways to advertise when you’re starting out include things like neighborhood newsletters and newspapers, local bulletin boards (Whether online or in real life), door hangars, and leaving business cards at other local businesses. Make sure all advertisements include your phone number, email, and website so potential clients can easily contact you.
Finally, before you can be an actual business, you will need clients. Hopefully, if you’ve done everything listed above, you’re now set up to provide professional pet services to all the new clients finding your business. And, that you’ll be able to successfully grow your business because you started it off the right way.