By Kevin M
Friday Income & Cash Flow ForumThis is a weekly open forum dedicated to increasing income, cash flow and customer base, for anybody who needs to increase business or supplement a paycheck. Salaried employees, homemakers, small business owners, commissioned sales people, entrepreneurs, retirees—this is FOR you, and we’d like to hear FROM you. What works in one household or business may not work in another, but then again it might. Or it might be modified and adapted to different situations.
Dog Walking and Pet Sitting
This recommendation will require you to leave your house, but typically you’ll need to go no farther than your immediate neighborhood since it’s a service you would provide to a very local clientele.
There are full time businesses devoted to dog walking and pet sitting, so you know there’s a market for it immediately. All you need to do is to tap into it, and you’ll have a built-in advantage just by being local. Remember that for a lot of people, their pets have a status as family members; to some people they’re the emotional equivalent of children. It isn’t a job they want to turn over to a stranger, so by being known and in the neighborhood, you may not have to work too hard to find clients. Once you establish clients in your own neighborhood, you can work on referrals to find more in other neighborhoods.
Pretty much all you need to do this job is a love of animals, a gentle nature, a pooper-scooper and an open schedule to accommodate your client’s needs. Much of the job is walking dogs, since many people with demanding jobs will need someone to let their pets out late in the afternoon, enabling them to come home later. This will provide a regular income and some light exercise to boot.
For extra income, you can also offer pet sitting for people who are away from home. This can be more demanding as it will typically require several visits per day, including walks, watering and feeding, but you can also charge more. If you really want to take it to the level of a full time business, you can consider adding pet grooming to list of services. This is more involved however, and will require special equipment, a small inventory (of shampoo), and some training, which you can probably get through a part time job with a local pet groomer.
Many people do this casually, but if you do it more regularly, you may want to look into what ever insurance coverage that might be available for this business. You will be entering homes when the owners are away and caring for their pets, so some type of coverage would be advisable. Also, look to see if you local community requires a business license, which you can usually obtain by completing an application and submitting a small fee.
Marketing your service
How do you market your service to start? Word of mouth is a good way to begin, but you can also get more formal if you like. If your neighborhood has a monthly or quarterly newsletter, this would be a logical and inexpensive place to advertise. In Mining For Gold In Neighborhood Newsletters I covered this form of marketing in some detail, so I’ll refer you to that post rather than discuss it here.
Don’t ignore apartment complexes either! Apartments have large populations of singles who often have pets but who also work late or hang out with friends after work on many nights, leaving their dogs and cats unattended—that’s a built-in market.
In a complex my wife and I lived in, there was a woman, a long time resident, who made a substantial part time income just walking dogs and pet sitting in that single complex of 224 units. Few people knew her name, but if you said “the dog lady”, everyone in the complex knew who you were talking about, her service was that popular.
How much should you charge? The answer depends on your local market. Call some pet services in your area to find out what the going rate is, and set your fees a little lower to start. A price break is a nice advantage when you’re trying to attract new clients. Over time, you can adjust according to the volume of business you have.
A truly casual business
This is a casual business and you can it take as slow or as far as you have time and motivation to do so. You can keep just a few clients for some extra pocket money, or steadily expand your market to turn it into something more. With no inventory to carry, no storefront to maintain, and no heavy advertising necessary, this really is a cash and carry business.
Of course, since there will be a limit to the number of pets you can handle in any given day—and service them properly—don’t expect big money out of it either. To make it into a substantial income would require either the ability to leverage the business to a larger enterprise by hiring employees, or perhaps by tapping into a high income market by offering specialized services. You’ll need to do a considerable amount of research and market studies before attempting to go to that level, but if you don’t envision taking it that far, it can be just the supplement you need for your household budget or retirement, and one you can do without having to commute to an office.
If you’re a salaried worker, retiree or a homemaker, what are you doing to find new sources of income? If you’re a business owner, or in some capacity responsible for bringing business in the door, what is it you’re doing to attract customers and cash flow in this economy? What ideas have you heard about or know others to be doing? What’s working, what’s not?