As some of you know I have been debating how to reinvent myself since I retired from horse racing. I have decided to give dog walking/pet sitting a try. My angle is I offer basic obedience at no extra charge, mainly to make my job easier but also to set myself apart from others that offer dog walking as well. So any bright ideas on how to get the word out cheaply? I have business cards and started a facebook page. Thanks!
Absolutely. My sister worked at a vet's office. Every time they had a client come in and ask about pet sitting/walking, my name was given to them. I had over 25 clients call me the first year. I was just doing it because I was a poor college studuent, but I think I made something like $6000 that year!
Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)
I am not in your area or I would ask for a stack of your cards. But what I do is similar to you. I bake dog treats and I market them at Farmers Markets and the like. I have a stack of dog walkers, dog trainers and people in the pet profession that I respect and who's philosophies I agree with. So try that. Check out your local Farmer's Markets/doggie boutiques/pet chains and put up fliers/cards, etc.
And tell all your friends to spread the word. Maybe send them an email with details of your business so they can easily forward it. Update the facebook page every day, or try to. If you really make a huge push on the word of mouth it really pays off. I decided to a year ago when I think I had 3 vacancies. I'm over full now, and am turning people away, all due to that "marketing" push a year ago.
Another great thing (if you can afford it) is do something nice for the people that refer others to you. I do a lot of farm/pet/house sitting and while I can't afford right now (broke college student!) to give them free sitting, I do write them a lovely thank you card with some homemade dog/horse treats as a symbol of my gratitude. It's something so small, but I've been told it means a lot to my clients
To be loved by a horse should fill us with awe, for we hath not deserved it.
I've discovered a ton of businesses on Yelp. So anytime you petsit (or even to start with, ask friends who you've maybe petsat for) ask them to please leave you a recommendation on Yelp.
Flyers at vets/local pet stores are great too. Facebook is a good resource, but maybe also see if you can find a cheap server to host an actual website (or there used to be ones that would do it for free) since some people are turned off by the whole Facebook thing.
So many great tips, thanks. I have my application for insurance all filled out, just waiting to get some clients before sending it in. I applied for a part time job with a dog walking/pet sitting service today and basically got yelled at for trying to steal their clients. I trained horses for myself and for other farms and never had a problem, I guess dog walkers are bigger back stabbers than horse trainers?! She asked why I wanted to work for her when I had my own business and I said I was just starting out and needed some income while I built up a clientele. I guess she took that to mean that I needed income until I could steal enough of her clients. UGH.
You might offer farm animal pet sitting as well. Finding a knowledgeable horse person that you can trust to recognize a problem like colic/laminitus, and do turnout/feed is really difficult at times. Especially if someone had a horse that needed to be wrapped or something.
Post at feed stores/tack shops. Maybe even at Physical rehab places/ assisted living that offers temp rehab stays...someone that has horses but got hurt, and is going to rehab, would value it as would someone with dogs . I'd also let the rehab people know you do it, and give the receptionists your fliers. (Even people there that have small pets could use you). Same thing for orthopedic offices/cardiologists, etc).
Word of mouth works great but a few things:
1. if you aren't available most likely you will lost that client.
2. With gas the way it is- you need to take that into consideration- with gas and time, I don't care for pets more than 3-4 miles from my house.
3. I work for a service- they don't care that I have my own clients. The service has its own PITA.
4. Reliability and availability determines your income, not your love of animals.
5. You do have to meet and deal with people- all my own clients are super cool. Some of the people who I work with for the service are assholes. Some are really nice, but a lot treat you like shit.
6. Some of the pets you watch are really bad. Again, my own jobs are nice pets, some of the ones through the service are awful. I have actually been injured by dogs (shoulder from one that pulled).
Your busiest times are weekends and holidays, generally morining and evening.
That was actually one of my biggest worries when I decided to give it a try as I didn't want to be locked into a 24/7 365 day per year business again but I didn't want to have to hire an employee. So I hooked up with another dog walker who has two people who fill in for her as needed. So technically I have three people who can cover for me but who have their own insurance.
It took me a while to figure out why the woman was yelling at me for a conflict on interest as stealing her clients never occurred to me. There would have to be something she could make me sign that said I had to pay $5000 or whatever if I worked for any of her clients directly. It's not rocket science.