What better way to earn some extra money than taking a walk in the woods in the fresh air, sunshine and throwing a ball to an energetic furry four-legged friend!
Dog walking services and need for dog walkers has really become one of the most in demand local services out there.Maybe right now is the best time to start a dog walking business.
There are many work all day, or elderly that sometimes struggle keeping up with the exercise needs of their animals or people feeling unwell or injured and simply can’t manage it.
Dog walkers earn roughly £10 an hour. It’s not the most amazing pay but at the same time dog walkers can take more than one dog on a walk. Take 3 or 4 dogs a time, and you could be earning £30-£40 per hour. A very decent side hustle.
Work 3 hours a day doing this with 4 dogs per walk, and over a 31 day month this adds up to an alarming £3,720!
A little more than a side hustle.
Even 2 hours in the evening taking just 3 dogs per walk and this would add up to a very nice, additional, £1,860 extra per month.
You just have to remember you are responsible for all dogs you take and need to ensure all the dogs can socialise together without incident!
What do I need to become a dog walker?
Well aside from being able to walk the hours you need to, and of course a love for dogs helps in abundance here, there are a few things just to be aware of:
Responsibility and Communication
You are fully responsible for all the dogs in your care, so you need to be as prepared as possible. Water is a must to take on your walks, as well as travel water bowls for any dog in need. Make sure you take the telephone number of all your customers just in case there is a problem whilst you are out. Taking multiple dogs for a walk is much different to taking just one – you may just want to start with two dogs, and once comfortable build up to three and so on. You need to be a good communicator to both your customers and the dogs in your care.
It’s an all-weather side hustle
You will be expected to take out your customers four legged friends during times of rain, snow and all sorts of bad weather. Make sure you have the most appropriate clothing with you – and if collecting the dogs by car make sure you have sheets in your car, otherwise car cleaning could be a regular thing!
Although qualifications and training aren’t essential, it can help. From your customer’s point of view, think how comforted they will feel knowing their beloved dog is being walked by someone who is a qualified in animal first aid and animal care. These qualifications are not overly expensive, and having them can be a good way to stand out amongst other local dog walkers in your area.
How do I advertise my dog walking services?
Within your local community there are often lots of ways of getting the word out there. A combination of marketing efforts, getting your name out there and word of mouth referrals will be your best and quickest chance of success.
Here’s a selection of the best, fastest and cheapest way of attracting customers:
Local Newspapers and Magazines
It’s amazing to think how many people still turn to the trusted local newspaper to find out the latest goings on, and to find things they need. Not everyone has or wants to use the internet. The elder generation especially, who may be more in need than most of such a service, still heavily rely on local publications.
Almost all newspapers have spaces to advertise your services. Call to enquire about advertising prices – and remember to haggle(!) as local newspapers often give first time advertisers good and reduced prices on the hope of longer-term business.
Facebook has hit the press recently, and not in the most positive way, but local community hubs are thriving on Facebook which gives you an opportunity.
Many local community pages have restrictions on promoting businesses, so read the rules first. Don’t just spam the page as this will give you all sorts of unwanted negativity.
Helpful messages and posts are the way to go. See if anyone on those local pages are looking for dog walkers – as often is the case. This gives you the perfect chance to introduce yourself.
Even simply by replying to other people’s questions and just being part of the local Facebook community pages will give you credibility and once you are known as the ‘local dog walker’ word of mouth referrals will start to work to your advantage.
If you know a lot about dogs, you could even set up a local Facebook dog lovers’ group. Not only would anyone signing up to your group be a potential customer but again the more people who know who you are, the better chance you have of those referrals.
There are often local noticeboards dotted around supermarkets, surgerys, council offices, town hall and sometimes in town squares and centres. Again, it’s surprising to see how many people still use these.
A simple card pinned with your name, telephone number and what you can offer pinned in a prominent place could see a customer or two sent your way.
Take an afternoon to look around your local town to see how many free ways you could get noticed.
Leaflet Drops and Handouts
Often with the barrage of adverts sent our way the moment we step online to stand out you could try the old-fashioned way and leaflet drop.
There are several online leaflet printing companies, and some can be quite cost effective. For example with a special promotion on Vistaprint right now you could get 250 full colour leaflets, in size A5, for just £19.96 (this excludes delivery which can be anywhere from £2.99 as long as you can wait 10 business days up to £9.99 for express delivery in 2 business days).
You can even customise one of their online templates for free, without worrying about leaflet design costs or designing the leaflet yourself.
Signup for Vistaprint’s free newsletter and they’ll keep you updated on all the newsletter only subscriber deals – these are run often!
Once you have your shiny new leaflets you could spend a couple of evenings leaflet dropping in to people’s envelopes yourself or you could visit your town centre one weekend and hand out leaflets – especially to dog walkers!
What should I be aware of offering a dog walking service?
Just remember your starting goal is to get yourself one or two regular customers. Don’t be disheartened if it takes a while to build your side hustle.
No business is built overnight but start small and grow as you go.