Getting Dog Walking Clients So That You Can Start Earning Money
Let’s cut to the bottom line and the bottom line is about money. You are starting your own dog walking business, or pet sitting business so that you can make money. And you need clients to do that. Yes, I know, you love dogs and cats and animals in general. But it’s all about the money when you are walking dogs or going to pet visits in extreme heat or cold, or heavy rain and snow.
I’m going to cover the methods I used when I first started and the methods that I use now 10 years later. The last big topic I will also cover is scheduling the initial meet-and-greet with the clients and their pets. I am not a salesman, so I won’t be covering sales techniques to “close the deal”. If you have the qualities of a salesperson then it should be easy. I’ve had over 300 clients so I must be doing something right.
Business name and Logo
Now is the time to choose a business name and to create a logo. You will need them for the techniques I will cover in this article. Definitely nail down your name first, the logo can come a little later.
Keep it simple. Don’t try to be cute or clever. I chose “Fairmount Pet Service” because the neighborhood I live in is Fairmount, and I added “Pet Service” because I offer pet sitting and boarding in addition to dog walking. Also, the phrase “pet service” has a decent amount of search volume.
Posting flyers around my neighborhood is how I got my first two clients. I had Fairmount Pet Service large and at the top. Below that, I added the services I offer and the rates for 15-minute visits. I added some graphics of a dog and cat if I recall. Just do something similar.
Try Canva to design your flyer, logo and business cards. It is a free graphic design site and they have templates for all those and much more. Add your business name and make it large so people start to see it around the neighborhood. And add your logo as well if you have one. When you are done with the design, download it as a pdf file so that you print out copies. Make sure you add the little tear-off parts with either your email address or web address.
Staple or tape them on poles at corners or where people walk their dogs. Make sure they are about eye level. Also, try putting them up on Friday nights or on the weekend, I’ve had mine taken down, most likely by competing walkers. But since most walkers are not walking on the weekend, you’ll be sure to have them up all weekend.
You can also put business cards on bulletin boards at grocery stores, coffee shops, and anywhere else you can find. You can also try pet stores but I’m sure they are always being asked by walkers to leave their cards. I get my business cards from jakprints. My last order was for 1000 cards and the cost was $52.
If you are the outgoing type, you can also start talking to dog owners while you are out and about. Tell them you are starting a business and ask if you can give them a business card. Don’t be pushy. Ask them to give the cards to anyone they know who own a pet.
Another easy method to get clients is to post on all your social media accounts. Let all your connections know so that they can share your post. Someone you know may know pet owners in your area. And don’t do what I did and use your personal accounts for your business.
You can get more than one Gmail account for Google+. The same goes for Pinterest and you can also get a business account with them. Facebook has the option to create a separate business account as well. I did not have personal accounts for Twitter and LinkedIn so I just created accounts for my business. Just look into every social media site and set up an account specifically for your business. Then share the links to those accounts on your personal accounts. Ask all your connections to Like and Share.
The next method is creating business accounts on sites that allow business listings. I mention some of the sites in the last article about researching your competition so take a look at that article. You may or may not get business from these sites, but it’s really about creating backlinks for your site and having an online presence.
It took me months to find sites where I could submit my listing and create all the accounts. There are other sites where I created accounts but the sites do not exist anymore. And now there are a lot more where I need to get listed. I found two excellent articles that list sites that allow you to submit your business details. Some are free, some make you pay to be listed. The article with the 57 sites also list them in descending order of Domain Authority:
Forums and Q & A Sites
Join the best forums in your niche and become active in them. Do not push your business or add your website link on every post or reply or you may get banned (I’m banned from a pet forum – oops). Some forums allow you to add your link as part of your signature so that each time you reply to a post you link is added.
Quora, Reddit, and Yahoo Answers are also places where you can reply to questions and add your site link with your replies. And a website link is best, not your Facebook link. Reply to any post or question where you believe that you have something valuable to add. Also, both forums and the Q&A sites will give you ideas about blog posts to write, as well as help you get more knowledgeable about all things pet related.
You should definitely look into creating a WordPress website. It’s far better than Wix or Squarespace, but it is harder than either of them to learn in the beginning. Take the time up front and do it right. I have a lot of YouTube videos on using WordPress in my playlist. Contact me and I can give you links to what I believe are the best videos and channels to watch.
When you start to design your site, just copy your competition. But the basics apply to all sites: Homepage, Services, About, Contact, etc. I will be writing a post specifically on using WordPress to create a dog walking & pet sitting site. Look for that in the future as I will be commenting on some horrible pet site designs, though my site isn’t the greatest either. It’s just that I’ve looked at over 40 or so sites and some are REALLY bad.
Creating pages is super easy once you learn the basics of WordPress. And then there are posts. Posting articles related to pets can really help you appear as an expert assuming you write quality posts. Plus well-written posts can rank high on Google searches which will help your site overall.
I mentioned above about not worrying about a logo right away, but you should create one if you have a website. You can try to create one yourself or search online for logo making sites. I currently don’t have one. I did but then I did a total redesign of my site using my WordPress theme. I have clients at this time so I’m not too worried about it. I’m concentrating on writing articles. I’ll get to the logo on a slow day.
You’ll also need photos and graphics for various pages on your site, for your blog posts, and for social media sites. Take photos of every pet that your friends and family have. Pinterest has Rich Pins which have your website on them and are linked to your posts or pages. Google Business also has a feature where you can create posts, though short ones. You have to get your business name and links to your site and profile on as many sites as possible.
Meeting Prospective Clients
So stay positive and you’ll get people contacting you, most likely through emails. Reply that you have availability and ask when would be a good time for you to come to their place for an initial meeting. Just be yourself and go from there. Here are some tips that I always do:
- Bring dog treats in case the dog is the shy type. Ask first if it would be okay. Some dogs, like mine, can only have grain-free treats so buy those kinds.
- Focus on the dog, or cat if it’s a pet sitting client. Let the conversation flow in the direction of what they want exactly.
- Ask some important questions that make you sound like you know EXACTLY what you are doing:
- “Does your dog have any health issues?
- “Is he aggressive towards other dogs?”
- Does she pull?”
- “Where do you keep the leash?”
You want to warm up to the dog AND the client. It will instill confidence in them if you ask about issues with the dog. A good final question is something like “Is there anything else I should know?” Assuming you think you can do what they want, give them a time range when the walk or visit will be. Also, ask them if they would like a text after the first walk to let them know how it went.
Now I mentioned about not closing like a salesperson, but don’t just say bye and leave. Say something like, “When do you need the first visit?” and end with “Okay, sounds great. I’ll just need the keys.” That kind of puts them on the spot and they’ll feel a little obligated to give you the keys, assuming they like you. Sometimes prospective clients are meeting a lot of walkers and you are just one of them. That happens and I don’t like it. I believe that is why some companies charge $10 for an initial meet-and-greet but advertise “First walk free!”
Then there is leaving notes after your walks or visits. I leave my business cards after every visit. On the back of each card, I have a few fields that I check off: #1___, #2___ (they should be self-explanatory), Treats, Food, Water, and Notes. I check off each one that applies. Clients love it! You may want to consider doing the same.
The Methods I Use These Days
I don’t use flyers anymore or leave my business cards anywhere. Currently, I am looking at 50+ sites to submit my business, but that’s a one-time thing. Hopefully, that helps my site rank higher in searches. Blog posts! Now obviously I’m doing a lot of that. I create rich pins for all of my posts and submit them on Pinterest. I used to be active in the forums and Q&A sites but I stopped years ago. Now I’m getting back into that for the purpose of my blog, not so much for clients.
I also use Google Adwords though I’m not sure if I actually get clients thru my ads. It’s kind of confusing, so at this point I can’t help with Adwords. And that leads into a big mistake I made (and still make) is to ask all clients how they found out about you. That way you’ll find out which methods are working and which need improvements.
Stay positive and motivated!
Get your name out there. Talk to people. Post online everywhere! Here’s something you might not like to hear. I got my first 2 clients within a month of putting up flyers. It took another nine months to get my next 2 clients. That’s mainly because I didn’t have sources like this post.
Hopefully, I explained everything well enough and that I’ve been clear. Feel free to contact me or add a comment below if you have any questions. I’m more than happy to help! Also, check out part 4 in the series where I’ll cover walking and sitting tips and getting reviews, testimonials, and references.