Adding festive charm to your Pet Business this Christmas

What can you do to add some festive charm to your Pet Business this time of year?

Change your Facebook Cover Photo to a lovely Autumnal or Christmassy, snowy photo that you’ve taken. This is one of the first things people see when they visit your page so make it stand out with those lovely Autumn colours or beautiful white frosty trees.

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If you sell physical products make sure to update your website and social media with all those puuurfect gift ideas and add any special Christmas deals. You could add a pinned post to the top of your Facebook Page letting everyone know about a fab deal you have.

Create your own Christmas gift guide for Pet Owners featuring local businesses near you and either post them on your page so they can be shared or create as a blog post like this one or send out to your email list if you have one!

Come up with some small gift ideas for your customers. You don’t need to go over the top just a card and a small gesture will be so appreciated by your furry and non-furry clients.

Hold a festive themed competition on your page such as a best Christmas jumper photo competition. People LOVE to get involved in things like this and your page will be seen by so many more people wanting to take part.

Edit your website colours or add some extra sparkle just for this time of year.

Don’t forget to upload all those cute pictures of your furry customers to your social media accounts, we all love a puppy in a Christmas jumper don’t we??

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Get your tinsel out and decorate your work place or yourself! Stick some in your hair while you’re walking your doggies, you may get talking to potential customers 😉

Overall, have fun with it and get into the Christmas spirit!

Rachel x

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Remember why you started

Do you ever have one of those days (or weeks) where you think what the hell am I doing, what’s the point, why is nothing going to plan, why am I bothering?  Trust me we ALL feel like that at some point and it can be hard to get out of that state of mind when we work alone.

I have had sleepless nights, I’ve cried, I’ve ranted at my loved ones and felt so frustrated with it all and forgotten what the point was and why i was working all hours.

What I’ve learnt is to keep coming back to the point and the reason why I started my business. My goals and my aims and why I do what I do.

I wanted freedom, I wanted to be my own boss, to help people, to work with animals, and to do something I’m passionate about.  I didn’t want to work for someone else.

If you struggle with this, take some time now to jot down in just a few sentences:

• Why you started your own business
• What drives you
• Why you wanted to be your own boss
• Why you are passionate about what you do

When you’re feeling rubbish and like you’ve lost your way, come back to these sentences to remind yourself why you’re on this roller-coaster journey.  You could even print them off and put them somewhere that you’ll see them every day.

If you’re an aspiring Petpreneur and would like some support getting started join our free Facebook group!  Or click here for more info >>>

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6 Steps to finding potential customers on Instagram

Make the most of your bio section

Here’s your chance to give an overview of what you offer and what you’re about.  I’ve seen a lot of Instagram accounts that literally just say ‘Dog Walker’ which, ok, says what it is on the tin, but if you’re a customer looking for the perfect dog walker are you going to go for that person or are you going to lean towards the person who has made an effort to put a full description with something to catch their attention?  You can add your website link, phone number, email address and any other info you think they’d need to contact you easily.

Post regularly but don’t stress about it

Social media experts say you should post 1-4 times a day to grow your following.  EEK!  That’s a lot!  I personally don’t think I can cope with 4 posts every single day but I aim for at least 1 a day.  I think if you are forcing yourself to post 3-4 times EVERY day you’ll end up putting out stuff just for the sake of it which is boring and repetitive.  Just don’t leave it weeks without posting anything as potential customers may assume you are no longer in business or not working.

Look for your ideal customers

Something I did when I started my Instagram account was to search for my potential customers by looking for hashtags that they might use.  So for example there’s a country park in my area called Ferry Meadows that is hugely popular with dog owners so I searched #ferrymeadows and looked through the people who had used that hashtag.  If there was a photo of them with their dog I would ‘like’ the picture or comment on it.  I know it sounds a bit stalker-ish but honestly this got me my very FIRST customer, who is still a customer!  Now don’t put anything too spammy, be genuine, comment something like ‘aww cute dog’ rather than ‘hi need a dog walker?!’

You’re simply drawing attention to yourself rather than trying to ‘sell’ yourself to them.

Use your hashtags

Think of relevant hashtags you could use that your potential customer might search for, including the area you cover. E.g. #londondogwalker #dogwalkersinlondon #petshoplondon

You can use up to 30 so make the most of them!

Insta Stories

Everyone loves watching short video clips, so Insta stories are amazing!  Post videos throughout your day and show everyone how much fun your furry customers are having.  You can be really creative with these, there’s loads of options now to make your stories interesting, fun and stand out.  Show YOU, your personality, so potential customers know who they are looking at.  They are more likely to contact someone who they feel a connection with or that they can SEE.  Don’t be another faceless Instagram account.

Don’t be boring

Overall don’t post just for the sake of it, be funny, interesting, informative and creative with your photos!  This is your chance to attract potential customers and show them why they should use your services or buy your products!

If you are an aspiring Petpreneur join our free Facebook Group The Petpreneur Network or click here for more info >>>

Social Media Posting Guide

A 30 day social media posting guide for Pet Business Owners.

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Picking the Perfect Pet Professional – Checklist

With more and more people setting up Pet Businesses it can be so difficult knowing who you can trust and who to pick, to not only take care of your precious pets, but also have keys and access to your home.  If you don’t know of anyone personally or through mutual friends it can be daunting knowing who to pick.  So I’ve put together a checklist and a few things for you to consider.  These points are based on my personal experience of being a Dog Walker & Pet Sitter but also having pets myself.

CHECK FACEBOOK

If you are on Facebook, this is an excellent way to check out a business.  Look at their photos, do they have lots of pictures of pets they already look after, do they have pictures of themselves with the pets?

It’s also one of the BEST places to check their reviews.  Positive 5* reviews are obviously a good sign.  As a business you cannot delete or edit any reviews left on your page (unless they are proved to the God’s of Facebook that they are false reviews). You can delete the whole review section though so if a business doesn’t have a review section at all, good or bad, then they have probably deleted it for a reason! Be wary.

Everyone has to start somewhere so if they don’t have many reviews on their page maybe they have just started, you could always ask them for a reference from a previous employer.

DOCUMENTS

Ask to see their documents.  Although technically it isn’t a legal requirement for a Dog Walker to have any insurance, it would be very silly for them not to.  Most will have Public Liability Insurance (in the UK) which should cover things like injury to your pet/other people’s pets, the public and themselves.  It isn’t expensive so I can’t think of a reason why you would not have this as a professional Dog Walker, and they should be happy to provide you with proof of this on request.  Having your own general pet insurance is not enough to cover incidents that might occur when you’re not there.

DBS checks also are not a legal requirement and many people think these are unnecessary or only needed when a person is looking after children or vulnerable people, but if someone is going to have a key to your house it may give you peace of mind knowing they don’t have any criminal convictions. You may argue that they are only valid on the day that they are printed but at least it shows a willingness by the person to try and provide you with some peace of mind.  (If you are in England a self-employed persons DBS check will usually say ‘Disclosure Scotland’ on the top if the check was requested and paid for by themselves.)

Overnight Dog Boarding at the Pet Sitters own house is slightly different as they WILL legally need to be registered with their local Council as health & safety checks and fire risk assessments etc will need to be undertaken and they should provide you with a certificate stating this.  Always go and view the house that your dog will be staying in.

FIRST AID TRAINING

IMG_0446Being Canine First Aid trained is another bonus, in my personal opinion, when choosing your perfect Pet Sitter.  A Canine First Aid course isn’t expensive, usually around £30 and is undertaken in one day, most being practical lessons with a Veterinary professional.  If they haven’t undertaken any training ask them what they would plan to do in an emergency situation or if your pet became ill.  Again not a legal requirement but may give you extra peace of mind.  (Here’s me bandaging a stuffed toy dog on a First Aid practical session haha!)

QUALIFICATIONS/TRAINING

Not all Dog Walkers will have specific training, so don’t let it put you off completely if they don’t. A lot of Dog Walkers I know don’t have ‘professional’ training purely because it is ridiculously expensive, not because they don’t want to learn, but most of these people will have A LOT of practical experience with dogs and other animals.  From owning their own, to experience in previous jobs such as kennels or rescue shelters for example.  But having said that, If you feel your pet would benefit from someone who does have training in canine behaviour or if your dog needs someone with that extra knowledge behind them, they should highlight on their website what training they have undertaken.  If not, just ask and they will tell you what qualifications they have obtained.  Again this is where Facebook reviews come in handy!

MEET THEM WITH YOUR PETS PRESENT

Most Pet Professionals will offer a free, no obligation meeting with you at your house, to meet you and your pets.  This is the perfect way for you to get a real feel for what they are like, their personality, if they will get on with your pets, if your pets will like them.  You can ask to see their documents, any questions you might have and it’s a chance for them to see where your pets food/leads etc are kept.  It’s a good sign if they are also asking you questions, for example what your pets personalities are like, what they are like on a lead, and what they are like with other dogs.

INFORMATION THEY ASK FROM YOU

It surprises me when new customers tell me that their previous Dog Walker didn’t ask them to fill out any forms.  I think this is so important.  It should include things like your phone numbers, your emergency contact details and/or numbers for another person who they can contact in an emergency if you are not available.  It should include vets details at the very least.  These forms will vary from person to person as most Pet Professionals will write their own but this should cover at least the basic information that they will need in an emergency.

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK

A really important question is how will they transport your dogs? Do they have a van? How will your dog be secured and will they be safe?  Ask if you can have a look, after all they are transporting precious cargo and should be more than happy to show you how they would insure your dog’s safety.

One thing that numerous customers have asked me is whether I have advertising on my vehicle.  If someone has PET SITTER all over the vehicle which is parked outside your house at the same time every day, it may be obvious to others that nobody is home.  Some Pet Professionals will have removable stickers which they take off their car when they are at customers houses so as not to draw attention to the fact that you’re not home.

Another question I would ask is whether your dog will be walked with other dogs and how many, and how do they ensure all of the other dogs will get along with your dog?

What experience do they have with dogs, have they worked with dogs before and why have they chosen to work with them now?

ADDED EXTRAS

Personally I love to provide my customers with updates, photos and videos of their pets which I am sure most Dog Walkers and Pet Sitters would happily do for you.  Afterall their main aim should be your pets care but also your peace of mind.

At the end of the day trust your instincts, if you’re not sure, say you’ll get back to them and maybe arrange to meet a different person so you can compare or find a better fit.

In my personal opinion the Pet Industry is not very well regulated and there are not really any legalities when setting up a Pet business so it’s down to pet owners to do their research and find the best fit for them by asking the right questions.  So I hope this checklist helps a little : )

 

MYTH – All Pet Sitters have to be registered with The National Association of Registered Pet Sitters (NARPS).  Not true – NARPS is a great resource for Dog Walkers & Pet Sitters as they provide things such as insurance cover, advice, and templates, BUT it is not a legal requirement.  So don’t be put off if someone is not signed up with them.

If you work in the Pet Industry or you’re considering it, come and join The Petpreneur Network! Head over to our Facebook Group for support, advice, free workbooks and connect with other Petpreneurs! https://www.facebook.com/groups/391514318013949/

You can also follow us on Instagram @thepetpreneurnetwork

Pet Sitting is not for sissies

Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Pet Sitting is not for sissies – I saw this comment and thought how true it was, Dog Walking and Pet Sitting is also not for clean freaks, the squeamish or people of a nervous disposition!

Only this morning I was walking a dog who did his business and then did that thing where they scrape their feet backwards as if to spread their scent. I bent down to pick it up but no, he hadn’t finished ‘spreading his scent’ and I got a face full of grass and mud and I dread to think what else! People wonder why I carry a back pack when I’m walking dogs… it’s full of wet wipes and tissues to wipe the mud and crap off my face!

One of the things I’ve learned is the need to have a spare pair of shoes and socks in my car. Not only for the changeable and untrustworthy weather here in the UK but also foIMG_8307r those instances where a dog decides to use your leg as a tree… the problem is if they decide to do this half way round your walk you still have to walk for half an hour back to the house with soggy feet. Again those wet wipes are needed! I’m sure they don’t do it on purpose but there was the time Prince the Frenchie walked round the other side of a fence and decided to aim through the gap and onto my leg! I had to admire the accuracy of his aiming skills though.

I once looked after a cat whose owner informed me (after they had left for their holiday) that the cat was on antibiotics and needed to be given his medicine by squirting it into his mouth. This immediately filled me with dread knowing what this cat was like…he was not going to take this willingly. I googled the easiest methods which involved oven gloves, a large towel and eye shields, this did not help settle my nerves. So I ended up asking the owners how they give it to him. They suggested holding him by the scruff of the neck, prizing his mouth open, and quickly placing the syringe in his mouth and squirting the medicine in. Again this did not sound like it was going to go to plan. Can you imagine an angry cat that doesn’t like being held, having his jaw held open by a stranger and liquid squirting in, nope, it wasn’t going to happen. Needless to say after many attempts I mixed it into his food instead….

One of the things I do before meeting a new customer and their pet for the first time is ask their name and their breed. I don’t discriminate against or turn down any dog breed but just ask purely out of interest and future reference. There was one occasion where I was arranging to meet a new customer and her dog whose name was something very pretty and girly (we’ll go with Poppy) and I later realised I hadn’t asked what kind of dog it was. Oh well I’ll find out when I get there I thought, imagining a spaniel or something like that. I arrive and follow the lady into the kitchen to discover ‘Poppy’ is the biggest Doberman I have ever seen, who was the other side of a stair gate standing on two feet and was the same size as me! The lady then informed me Poppy doesn’t know any commands in English as they speak Polish and that they will be getting a new extendable lead as Poppy had snapped the last one again! I have to say I was a little anxious about this but to be fair she was a lovely dog…and I learnt some Polish.

If you work in the Pet Industry or you’re considering it, come and join The Petpreneur Network! Head over to our Facebook Group for support, advice, free workbooks and connect with other Petpreneurs! https://www.facebook.com/groups/391514318013949/

You can also follow us on Instagram @thepetpreneurnetwork
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What’s your real job??

You’re a dog walker? Oh ok…but what’s your real job though? Is a question I have been asked many times. Or something similar like ‘oh so this is your ONLY job?’ followed by a shocked expression when I say yes.

It’s usually old ladies who I get talking to whilst I’m out walking dogs that will say ‘aww well at least it gives you something to do’ as if I’m on school holidays or can’t get a ‘proper’ job. I just smile usually but very tempted to say thanks for the compliment but I’m 32!

Oh and how could I forget the time someone misheard me and thought I’d said I was a duck walker haha! I did wonder why she looked so surprised, but she just politely said ‘oh I see’, later realising I had said dog not duck.

Dog walking and pet sitting businesses seem to be booming at the moment but only a few years ago when I first started it was something that not many people had heard of as an actual career option or even knew it existed at all! (I must be making it look too easy).

I think a lot of people can’t believe that you can actually make decent money from it, or enough to live on anyway. I always say to people just think how many pets there are in the area I cover alone, how many people are out at work all day every day. That’s a lot of pets needing walks and feeding! I don’t want to give away how much I earn exactly but let’s just say I am earning more than I did when I was working for the City Council, whether that says I’m doing well or that The Council don’t pay very well is debateable….

If you’re willing to work early mornings, late nights, weekends, bank holidays, and everything in between then you can make a very decent living from dog walking and pet sitting. For example, most people charge around £10 for an hours walk, and say you walk on average 5 dogs a day Monday to Friday, add on visits to cats and other pets, any weekend jobs… you do the maths.

I would say it’s not really a part time job, you need to be available at the last minute sometimes, early mornings, late nights and obviously lunch times are very popular.

I think it is beginning to be seen as a ‘real’ job and certainly a worthwhile one. On days where I think I’m not really doing anything spectacular I remind myself that the owners of the pets I see can go to work with peace of mind, safe in the knowledge that their pet is not home alone all day, that even my half an hour or hour visit is giving them exercise both physically and mentally. That their cats are not shut in a cage in an unfamiliar environment for 2 weeks or that elderly or less able customers can keep their pet at home with them even if they aren’t physically able to walk them themselves.

To me it certainly counts as a REAL job.

If you work in the Pet Industry or you’re considering it, come and join The Petpreneur Network! Head over to our Facebook Group for support, advice, free workbooks and connect with other Petpreneurs! https://www.facebook.com/groups/391514318013949/

You can also follow us on Instagram @thepetpreneurnetwork

8 Misconceptions about being a Dog Walker and Pet Sitter

Before I start I just want to make it clear I’m not moaning about what I do, I absolutely love it despite the ‘down sides’. I feel at the moment there are a lot of people starting up pet sitting and dog walking businesses not realising what it really entails and soon give up once they find out. Maybe this post will help those in 2 minds about it.

1. You are your own boss you can work whatever hours you like and take as much holiday as you want right?!

 

Wrong! Well technically correct but anyone who wants to be a successful dog walker needs to be flexible and above all reliable. Who is going to pay someone to walk their dogs while they’re at work every day if you are constantly taking days off? Your customers can’t always get home from work at short notice and they will need to find another dog walker to cover your days off. Obviously you have a right to time off and actually in my first year my customers were TELLING me to go on holiday ha ha but I don’t like to take days off if I can help it. I do now try to work a 6 day week rather than a 7 day week.

2. The owners are more trouble than the pets

 

Maybe I’ve just been lucky but all of my customers are as lovely as their pets! I’d even say some are now friends. That’s not to say I haven’t had some strange requests, I draw the line at bringing in washing and folding it away neatly, I am not a house keeper….

3. Picking up dog poo on a walk is the worst part of the job

 

I’m afraid it’s not! If you are squeamish this is not the career choice for you. You’re now asking yourself what could possibly be worse?! Believe me walking in to a house greeted by a suspicious smell to find a dog or cat has had diarrhoea and/or puked everywhere (usually on carpet) is far worse. People say to me ‘yeah but you’re not a cleaner’. But I am there to look after the wellbeing of the pet and I wouldn’t want them to be getting it all over them and treading it round the house so I do clean up as best as I can. To be fair this doesn’t happen very often.

4. Surely it’s just a lunch time job

 

While 11am-2pm is a very popular and busy time for a dog walker, not everyone works 9-5. Many of my customers work different shifts which can mean the middle of the day for them is anything from 3pm to 8pm. Some of my customers are elderly so can’t walk their dogs very far, so don’t necessarily need the dog walked at a specific time. Then there’s my feline friends, usually when their owners are on holiday I feed and let them in and out mornings and evenings so I can sometimes leave my house at 7am and get back late evening, it’s so varied every day. I’ve even done jobs at 10pm at night.

5. It must be lovely in the summer

 

It’s certainly nice to be outside rather than in an office when the suns out but walking in the sun and heat for hours usually ends in me being a sweaty mess, make up dripping down my face, sunburnt and dying of thirst (drinking lots of water is an issue when you’re doing hour long walks back to back!) Plus if it’s very hot it’s not always safe to walk the dogs for too long so you end up playing with them inside instead. Which leads me onto….

6. Winter must be the worst

 

I actually prefer the winter just because it’s easier to keep warm when power walking, wrapped up in a scarf, gloves and hat. I suppose the only downside is the mud and dirt so my car is constantly covered in muddy shoe prints. I do have fun trying to wipe muddy doggy feet though, who would have thought so many dogs don’t like being towel dried!? It usually ends in Dog 1 Towel 0.

7. It’s just walking what’s so difficult about that?

 

I think some people do have an image in their mind of you having lovely leisurely walks in the sunshine, birds tweeting, butterflies and waggy tails. The reality is I can have lovely walks like this, and then I go to my next job and get head butted by a Staffy….. I have to say some of my dogs are a dream to walk, they walk at a good speed, have a quick sniff, don’t pull on the lead, not bothered by food laying around and get on with other dogs. But many dogs can be challenging, nervous or aggressive towards other dogs. Some will pull like crazy, lunge towards other dogs, or you may have to avoid other dogs altogether. Some will suddenly take off like Mo Farrah when they see a squirrel, cat or just something they like the look of. This doesn’t always mean an unpleasant walk but does mean you have to be on full alert at all times, plus sore arms, back and shoulders are a daily struggle.

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8. You must have loads of pets at home

 

Truth is I would if I could but I actually don’t have any. People are surprised by this but with my partner out at work all day and me being out at all hours, possibly from 7am until late evening, it wouldn’t be fair to have pets at home while I’m out looking after other peoples buddies. I would have to hire another pet sitter and dog walker for my own pets!

Don’t let this put you off if you love the idea of being a dog walker and pet sitter, there are lots and lots of pros, lovely and funny times and you’ll get really attached to all your buddies 🙂

If you work in the Pet Industry or you’re considering it, come and join The Petpreneur Network! Head over to our Facebook Group for support, advice, free workbooks and connect with other Petpreneurs! https://www.facebook.com/groups/391514318013949/

You can also follow us on Instagram @thepetpreneurnetwork

The day I was mistaken for a blind person…

Today started with an early visit to some of my feline friends so I was up at 7.30am getting ready for my first job. No Saturday morning lay in for me! After the 30 minute visit I made my way to a village on the outskirts of Peterborough to meet some new customers and their 3 dogs. They’re going on holiday soon and so the dogs are being looked after by a relative who isn’t able to walk them during the day. This seems to be a popular option for dog owners these days rather than kennels, nice for the dogs to be in their own home. The dogs seemed to approve of me and we arranged to have a walk together nearer the time so that they are used to me before their owners go on holiday.

Next stop was a 1 hour walk with Obi the Doberman Cross. She was sporting her new harness which has a thick black strap with the words ‘Sports Dog’ on the side. It was a sunny day so had my sunglasses on. We passed a lady sitting on a wall who started to say something to me, looked at me, looked at Obi and then said “Oh I’m so sorry she’s working.” I walked a few more steps thinking ‘did she just… urr…what did she say??’ Yes I actually just got mistaken for a blind person and Obi actually just got mistaken for my guide dog…. Little did this lady know that Obi would make the world’s worst guide dog and would happily drag me in front of a moving car just for a dropped crumb or chip! Could not stop chuckling to myself all the way back to Obi’s house.

I had some lunch and at 12.30 I went out again to do a 1 hour walk with 2 dogs who I see every now and again when their owner is out for the day or unable to get home from work. It’s always comical walking 2 dogs at the same time on lead, you usually end up with the leads wrapped around your legs as if they’re trying to take you down. Luckily today was a nice day as leads wrapped round you, wind and rain, hair in your face and trying to pick up dog poo is like an ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ challenge!

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A 15 minute drive to my next customer, another 1 hour dog walk. I see this lovely girl, a Greyhound Cross, occasionally when her owners are out for the day at the weekend although this time was because her human had a broken ankle and so was unable to walk her. She was eager to go for a walk and have a sniff around.

Then back home again after stopping off to get petrol and dropping off a door key to a customer whose cats I had been feeding and its 3.30pm, legs are aching after 3 hours of walking!

Back out the house again at 5.45 to do an hour’s dog walk in the most beautiful little village. One thing that’s been great about becoming a dog walker is discovering hidden gems that I may never have come across. This village is one of them, it even has its own red telephone box which has been turned into a book swap! So cute.

After an hour of power walking I settled my buddy in, fed her and checked on the horses that live in the field next door and it was time for my last visit to 2 dogs who needed feeding and lots of cuddles. They are such little characters and HAVE to be fussed at the same time or they get jealous so luckily I have 2 hands! I stayed a little bit longer than the 30 minutes as they are just too cute and kept giving me ‘the eyes’.

Finally got home at 8.30pm and made dinner. Up again early tomorrow!