Pet Sitting Business 101

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Grow your business with online reviews

Posted on March 21, 2019 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

One way to help grow your business is to ask satisfied clients to give you a review. When searching for businesses to use many people look online and read the reviews of potential businesses. They not only look for positive reviews but also how many reviews you have, they may choose a business with more positive reviews and even ignore your business if you don't have any reviews. Some sites that people use to look for reviews are Yelp, Angies List, your Google business listing and your Facebook page. You can asks clients right after the service or make up cards to leave behind with links to your business listings where they can leave a review. This is an informative article on growing your business with reviews, it is geared to boarding but can be applied to any pet service business: https://www.petboardinganddaycare.com/why-you-need-online-reviews-and-how-to-get-more-of-them/

Very cold days- when to shorten walks

Posted on January 24, 2019 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (0)

With some very cold weather this winter you have to decide how long your dog walks will be. I base this on each dog, some don't mind the cold and some do, it also depends on whether there is ice and salt on the road that can get stuck in their paws. Once it gets below 20 degrees I start to think about shortening walks, for most dogs it's around 15 degrees I will shorten the walk and spend the rest of time giving attention/playing with them in the house. When it hits single digits I just stay out long enough for them to pee and poop (although not all poop). This is for the safety of the dogs but also for us. I tend to layer on very cold days and living in the Northeast I am used to the cold but some walks have high wind and that can bite right through the layers so you want to be careful. The other key is coffee, I know all the convenience stores on my route. (Insert your preferred hot beverage if you don't like coffee).

Rebranding

Posted on January 10, 2019 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

This past year I transitioned my business model by aquiring a colleagues dog walking business and selling my vacation clients. I went from pet sitting to just dog walking and boarding. My business name, Pet Sitters Plus, did not reflect my new business model. I decided to rebrand my business and change my business name, also because people who where looking for a dog walker would more likely pick someone who specializes in dogs. I wanted to use Walk N' Dogs. The first step was to see if a name I liked was available in my state so I went on the Department of States website for NY, https://www.dos.ny.gov/corps/faq_availability.page.asp, and looked up how to search if a new name is available. All I had to do was print the form, fill it out and mail it in with $5.00. Once they said the name was availalbe then I had to file a Certificate of Amendment with $60. Make sure to fill in your old business name exactly or they will reject the request because you forgot a comma or space, yes they are that picky. They also said the computer was thinking Walk N' Dogs was too similar to Walking Dogs so they suggesting taking the apostrophy out, which I did and it was approved. The approval takes several weeks.

Here is a great resource for doing a name change and also for those who want to start an LLC, https://www.llcuniversity.com/change-ny-llc-name-certificate-of-amendment/, if you go to the home page you can pick your own state. While you are waiting for the name change to be approved start making a list of everyone that needs to know about your name change like banks, payroll company, everything online (my old email address was tied to all my user ID's). Start checking for a new domain name for your website. Unfortunately someone already took walkndogs.com so I went with walk-n-dogs.com which was available. Once you have the new domain name you need to have it attached to your website (check with the domain provider and your website company on how to do that). Keep your old domain name, depending on how much longer it is active so that it will redirtect to the new name for those clients who may forget you changed the name (make sure to email all your clients about the change). Then set up a new email address based on the domain name i.e. paul@walk-n-dogs.com. Now comes the daunting task of changing the new email everywhere online, for me as I mentioned it was my user ID so I had to change it for my pet sitting softeware, website builder, credit card processing company, online banking, paypal, Vista Print (I ordered new business cards), the Nextdoor site, the free online calendar I use for my boarding to show availability: Brolmo, and finally Facebook. Face book originally rejected my request to change the name of my page because it did not match my services but I appealed and they said that if I submit proof of the name change, which I did, they would approve it.

If you use a logo for your business part of rebranding could include getting a new logo. My old logo was a nice picture I took of a cat licking a dog sitting on a couch. Since I don't sit cats anymore I wanted a logo that fit my new business model and I went to an online company fiverr.com and hired one of their artists to design a new logo for me, it only cost $50 and came out nice. I put that on my facebook page, website and new business cards. If you go to my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/walkndogsllc/ you can view my new logo.

Working with skitish dogs

Posted on December 3, 2018 at 9:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Working with rescue dogs... A former client who's previous dog had passed contacted me recently and said they were getting a rescued puppy (9 months old). A Sato who's mother was brought to a shelter, pregnant, in Puerto Rico. The puppy was born and raised in the shelter when they got her, she was scared of everything they explained when I went over to meet their new dog. They wanted me to come twice a day.

My first visit she cowered in the back of the crate she was in, shaking. I just lay down in front of the crate talking to her until she relaxed (see first picture). Then I crawled slowly into the crate watching her body language for any signs of fear aggression. I put my hand out for her to sniff it and gave her a few pats on the head and scratched her ears. I was also supposed to feed her but had no luck so I left the food bowl in the crate with her and went to my next visit.

On my second visit I repeated the same slow process trying to earn her trust. The food was still in the bowl so I pulled some out eventually and held it in front of her and after a bit she started to eat of my hand, progress. Near the end of my visit I was able to get the leash on her and pull her out and took her out in the front yard for a few minutes, she did not pee but some progress.

On the second day I repeated the same slow process and got her out for longer periods of time and on the second visit she peed outside, success. The next week she started to wag her tail when I showed up. I started taking her on the street first one house down then to the end of their street, several houses. Today we rounded the corner and did half a loop, until she spotted several dogs being walked, got nervous and turned around and wanted to go back home.

It's a slow process with some rescue dogs, patience is the key, go at their pace and always watch their body language for cues to their mood. The goal is to slowly earn their trust never rush them. The puppy now wags her tail frequently, leans in to be pet and come right out of her crate when I clip the leash on. Tomorrow I will work on getting around the whole loop and getting her more comfortable when seeing other dogs.

Holidays

Posted on October 30, 2018 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

The holidays are coming up. Are you available to work on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve/Day, New Years Eve/Day? Do you charge extra if you do work the holidays? Make sure to have a well defined policy and rates regarding the holidays. Many pet sitters charge extra per visit or some charge a flat holiday rate like $15 for the whole day, even if it's just one cat visit. The goal is to have a set policy that clients can understand. It is helpful to do a bulk email to all your clients well before holidays to determine their needs as you may book up fast and only have a set amount of time slots available, depending on the number of employees you have.

Social Media

Posted on October 19, 2018 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Social media, like facebook, can be a useful tool. It can be used to build your client base and keep them loyal, in addition to posting cute or humorous pet pictures/memes you can also post useful information on pet safety/health issues, product recalls, etc. It can also be used for inexpensive advertising, facebook allows you to "boost" a post for $20 that can reach thousands of people in your area. I also use it to advertise help wanted when I am searching for a new employee.

Some people try to engage people on their social media page by posting surveys or having discussions on different topics related to pets. The goal is make you look like a trusted expert in your field.

Testimonials

Posted on September 10, 2018 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Potential clients who do online searches will look to see if there are any reviews of your business. They want to see if people where happy with your services before they contact you and may only contact businesses that have reviews. Many check sites like Yelp or your Google listing. You should ask your clients if they can write a testimonial/review on Yelp and/or your Google listing page, especially those who really liked your service. Clients can even write reviews on your facebook page. I invite potential clients to go to my facebook page, from my website's home page, to see more reviews. I do ask clients permission to post testimonials on my website but the ones on Yelp or your Google listing will carry more weight.

Website

Posted on August 21, 2018 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (0)

When thinking up ideas for marketing you need to put yourself in your potential clients heads, how do they look for a pet sitter? Today more people are doing online searchers for any type of business. Therefore it is most important that you have a website. This is one area where I would not go cheap or free, yes you can get a free website through most website companies but it is not your own domain name. A domain name is the name of your business like petsittersplusny.com (I added the ny because petsittersplus.com was taken and I live in NY), they cost about $14.99 per year with many giving you a discount for the first year. 

There are many inexpensive website development companies with templet, drag and drop which is easy to use. You want to list in your website your service area, what services you provide and your rates. The most important thing is to have contact information. Some websites allow you to design your own form, I set one up for new clients to get their contact information, dates they need service, names and basic info on pets, etc.

Once you have a good website then you need to do SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to ensure your website is ranked high in google searches. This is the most important step. If your website does not show up on page one of an online search then potential clients won't find you. You can do SEO yourself or pay someone to do it for you.

End of summer marketing

Posted on August 3, 2018 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Summer can be very busy for some and then taper off in the fall. Especially for dog walking. One marketing tip to help build your daily walks is to target people with school age kids and teachers. Teachers have the summer off so don't need daily walks until they go back to work in September. Some people let their kids walk the dog durring the summer but would need assistance when the kids go back to school. In the middle of August start your advertising campaign based on that knowledge. "Who will walk your dog(s) when your kids go back to school next month? Pet Sitters Plus walks dogs year round, insured, bonded...". Plant the seed before they realize they have a need.

Type of leash

Posted on July 19, 2018 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

You want to be careful of the type of leash used on the dog you walk. Everyone has their preference leash vs harness but some dogs need a specific type because of their behavior or in this case breed. Sophie the greyhound has a very small head and if you pull on the leash to get her to move the collar comes right off. Fortunately Sophie was very chill and just stood their looking at me. If that was not the reaction I would have suggested to the owners they get a harness or a gentle lead. You never know if a dog will bolt if it sees a squirrel or something else makes it curious. If you feel the leash/harness being used is not appropriate or risky don't be afraid to say something to the owner. They may appreciate your expertise.



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