This is a guest blog post from Lindsay Stordahl of ThatMutt.com.
New dog walkers often make two mistakes:
- They wait too long before advertising their dog walking business. (Like, until the day before they’re ready to start!)
- They expect clients right away and give up when they don’t receive calls.
You have to do the opposite.
Start advertising your dog walking business now, weeks before you’re ready to take clients. That way you’ll potentially have some lined up!
Finding clients usually takes a few months, so don’t expect calls and emails immediately. Give it some time.
Here are five ideas for getting your first dog walking clients.
1. Begin dropping off dog walking fliers 6 weeks in advance.
I don’t mean you hang one flier at a vet’s office.
I mean you make a list of 40 pet-related businesses in your coverage area and take a day or two to drive around handing these out and introducing yourself.
Visit places like veterinarians, grooming shops, pet-supplies stores, dog training facilities, dog parks, humane societies, other animal shelters and spay/neuter clinics.
If there aren’t 40 pet businesses, then start going to other places like grocery stores, coffee shops, libraries, hospitals and churches. Ask friends if they’d be willing to hang a flier in their breakrooms. Think hospitals, schools, tech companies, etc.
Repeat this once a month for three or four months. Make sure to include your phone number and email and mention they can call or text.
2. Network with established dog walkers and pet sitters.
This one seems very hard for new dog walkers because they’re intimidated or they think the existing businesses will feel “threatened.” This is generally not the case.
Send a brief email to one of the other dog walkers or pet sitters in town and invite her out for coffee. Explain that you’re interested in new clients and would appreciate if she could recommend you when she’s busy, unavailable or if the client is not a good fit.
I’ve been on both sides of this (the new dog walker in town and the established dog walker) and it’s always been a positive experience.
It’s good to network with others in your business! You’ll find that each dog walker offers slightly different services anyway, so some clients will be a better fit for you and some will be a better fit for someone else.
3. Attend local dog events in your community.
You should be attending all the local dog-related events you can find. Things like humane society fundraisers, dog costume contests, dog agility events or whatever it might be.
For some events, it’s best to sign up as an official vendor and have a booth/table. For others, it’s best if you can provide some coupons (like buy one dog walk, get one free) for goodie bags. You could also provide gift certificates for silent auctions or as raffle items.
4. Create a Yelp profile for your business.
A Yelp profile for your business is helpful because Yelp listings tend to show up in local searches when people are looking up nearby dog walkers or pet sitters on their phones. It only takes a few minutes to set up a profile, and it’s free. Make sure to list your phone number, website and email. Include a few photos of you and some dogs, and ask friends to write reviews if you’ve ever cared for their pets.
5. Invest in your website.
Your website doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it should be very easy to navigate on desktop and mobile.
A couple things should be extremely easy to find:
- Your coverage area. List the main city and state so people know they have the right “Springfield” or the right “Bloomington” and also list specific suburbs or neighborhoods you cover.
- Your rates and services.
- How to contact you.
- That you’re insured.
I recommend you charge something similar to the established dog walkers in your town. Not much less and not much more. Then increase your rates in 6 months or a year.
Do all of these things and you’ll be well on your way to getting your first dog walking clients!