These Dog Walkers Are Making $100,000 a Year
If you like spending time with pooches, pandemic puppies are a gold mine. Plus, tips from pet biz expert Rich Mintzer on how to market your dog walking business.
Time to monetize your puppy love.
The New York Times reports that a growing breed of high-end dog walkers in New York City are pulling in six figures thanks to a combo of pandemic puppies and a return to work.
Bethany Lane, 35, founded her dog-care business Whistle & Wag in 2014 as a way to make rent and pay off loans after she pursued a public health career. And now, that side hustle is the tail wagging her financial growth.
Charging upwards of $35 per walk, Lane has paid off her loans, hired additional dog walkers, and even bought a vacation home. While she didn't get specific, she informed the Times that her business was comfortably in six figures.
"If I would have told my younger self I can make a living caring for dogs," Lane told the Times, "I never would have believed it."
The ASPCA reports that more than 23 million American households got a dog or cat during the pandemic. That's a lot of new family members that need tending to.
If you're thinking about taking part in the furry gold rush, Rich Mintzer, author of Start Your Own Pet Business, offers some tips for growing your dream pet-based business. Like many service businesses, success relies on having a large stable of customers, he says.
1. Use word of mouth
The most common way you will find customers is by word-of-mouth, he says. Start spreading the word through your family and friends, as well as neighbors, the folks in your yoga or Zumba class, co-workers — anyone. These are people who know and trust you, so the barrier to entry is low. If they are happy with your services, be sure to let them know that you'd appreciate them sharing your contact info with other pet owners in their lives.
Related: Dive deeper with Start Your Own Pet Business on sale now
2. Go where the dogs are
For pet-sitters whose clients are mostly dog owners, print up a simple flier on your computer, run off copies, and head to the nearby park or dog park where you typically see a lot of people walking their canines. You'll find people are often friendly while walking their dogs, so ask their name (the dog's that is) and strike up a conversation, then give them your flier or at least a business card, he suggests.
Remember to have your email, phone number, website, and perhaps your Facebook or Instagram page listed on your flier and business card. If you want to approach the same audience online, join local pet groups' social media pages and become a regular commenter. You can build trust and name recognition if you are part of the community.
3. Create a simple website for your pet business
You must have a website and social media presence, but you don't need to go overboard, he says. Potential customers often prefer to check out your website to see all the details about your business before picking up the phone and talking to you in person.
Plus, a well-designed website can spur customers to call and line you up for their next out-of-town trip. Your website should, of course, include any and all information about what your pet-sitting service provides, why your services are so great, and other useful information that will pull them in. You should include contact information, links to your social media accounts, and a brief bio about you, with an emphasis on dependability. And don't forget the photos—people love cute photos of pets.
4. Post your services on social media
Even if you don't engage often, you should have an Instagram and/or Facebook presence, Mintzer says. Instagram is photo-oriented, and what are better photos to post than pet photos? Facebook puts you in touch with tons of people, many of whom are pet owners. And local social media boards like Nextdoor are another opportunity to touch base with customers in your area—and those are the customers you're looking to reach.
Look for local social media pages that focus on your neighborhood. Many towns, counties, and communities feature such local social media sites. Don't just advertise and promote; start conversations about pets, answer people's questions, post some cool facts, and be part of the discussion. That's how social media works. Let people know you're out there and have them contact you rather than being pushy.
5. Put a sign on your vehicle
The value of having a magnetic sign on the door of your vehicle is great—with pet-sitting, you do a lot of driving around and lots of people will see your ad. But one consideration is insurance, he says. The difference between having a personal automobile insurance policy and being required to purchase a commercial policy may be as simple as whether there is signage on the vehicle, so talk to your insurer about that first.
6. Join associations
Membership in local associations — a chamber of commerce, a pet-sitter's organization, a veterinary-related group — not only provides you with some great ideas but also customers. Bring a stack of business cards to chamber meetings, and don't leave until you've handed out most of them, he says.
Remember, pets are part of more than half of all American households, so don't assume someone is not a potential customer or a potential referral just because their business isn't pet related. If they don't have pets themselves, their relatives, friends, acquaintances, and employees do!