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How to start Walking and Vacation Pet Visits business to make money for individuals want to quit their jobs and start their careers as an entrepreneur are as follows:
Description of Job
• Help pet owners care for their significant others when they can’t be there
themselves.
• Take dogs for exercise and bathroom breaks.
• Provide a bit of human companionship for lonely pets.
• Maintain fresh food and water for indoor pets.
• Change litter boxes and clean up pet “accidents.”
The Need
Three out of ten households include a pet—with cats slightly outnumbering
dogs—and those that do greatly benefit from the companionship and fun provided
by their animals. Yet most of us lead increasingly complex lives, and we
can’t always be there to take proper care of our pet’s needs.
Dogs must be taken for walks several times a day. Cats need fresh food and
water and someone to play with for a while, even if they don’t want to admit to
needing a human around the house. Goldfish, birds, hamsters—and other critters
that qualify as pets—need a bit of help on a regular basis.
The job of a pet service provider is to help keep furry, scaly, or feathery
friends healthy and happy when their owners are unable to be there.
Here are some ways this job can be set up:
• You come to a client’s home or apartment on a regularly scheduled basis to
attend to the pet. This sort of arrangement might be for someone who has a
full-time job outside the home or someone who is going away on an
extended trip.
Owners or a caretaker may be there to let you into the house, or they
may make other arrangements whereby you can gain access. What does
that mean? They might give you a key, leave a key in a hidden location, or
give you the combination to a lock or alarm system.
• You could arrange to be on call for a client and respond as needed. For
example, someone might call you to say that he or she is going to have to
work late tonight, or has been called out of town unexpectedly. You have
previously agreed to be available within whatever reasonable advance
notice time you have set.
Challenges
You have to be able to get along with animals. In our experience, some people
make animals feel quite secure, and others set off growls and hisses from the
most docile puppies and kittens. You know which type you are.
You have to be flexible and dependable. Your clients and their pets are going
to rely on you; one missed appointment may cost you a client.
You have to demonstrate your trustworthiness. If you are given the keys to
someone’s house, that person can’t accuse you of breaking in; however, if something
goes missing, you will automatically become a prime suspect.
Make certain you understand the ground rules; if you’re going into the refrigerator
for Fido’s food, that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to make your own dinner.
It means you’re not entitled to use the swimming pool or the big-screen TV
unless the owner specifically agrees to that.
Agree to a price list for services and a billing schedule. If possible, obtain an
advance payment that covers the first week’s or month’s services, and always bill
in advance. As a businessperson, it is preferable for you to owe money or services
to your client than to sweat out receipt of payment after you’ve done your job (or
the pet has done his).
Know the Territory
Research, understand, and obey all local ordinances that affect your business.
Many areas have pooper-scooper laws that require dog owners and their representatives
to clean up after their animals. There may be regulations against walking
multiple dogs as a pack, and there are usually laws against excessive barking.
Consult with your insurance broker to make certain you have proper coverage
to protect you from liability claims. Are you covered if a dog you are walking
bites someone? Does your auto insurance protect you if you are driving to a
client to conduct business?
Maintain a locked cabinet or safe for customers’ keys. Avoid putting names
or addresses on the keys in case they are lost or stolen; use the pet’s name or a
code that makes sense to you, and store your clients’ names and addresses in a
separate, secure location.
Ask your clients to advise friends and neighbors that they have employed you
and given you permission to enter their house.
Make an appointment to meet with prospective clients before you make your
first solo visit. Meet the pets and spend some time with them to make sure you
are comfortable with each other.
Make certain you understand the animal’s feeding schedule and allowable
treats. The owner should always provide the food. Ask for the name and phone
number of the animal’s veterinarian, and obtain written permission from the
owner to call for medical help if you feel it is needed. If the animal is receiving
medication, make sure you understand the schedule and any special instructions.
For dog-walking services, determine if this animal plays well with others.
Some pet service providers walk several dogs at the same time, which allows for
a bit of socialization and maximizes your profit. But it may not be possible if the
dog will not cooperate or is much larger or more aggressive than the others in
your pack. Some dog owners may prefer that their dog socialize with others,
while others may not want their pet exposed to diseases.
How to Get Started
Add any special circumstances, services, and concerns to your business plan.
Determine the going rate for these services in your area. Among the ways to do
this: Ask friends if they have ever engaged someone for this sort of job and the
price they paid. You could also ask what they think such services are worth. Call
the local animal shelter or veterinarian and ask whether they know of others
doing this sort of work; they may even offer suggestions on the price of services
they don’t perform.
Draw up a simple agreement that lays out the services you propose to provide,
the responsibilities you are willing to accept and those for which you do not
accept liability, a price schedule, and the terms for payment. This may not fully
stand up in court, but at least you will have something in writing that covers any
verbal agreement you make with a client.
Start spreading the news. Put up posters and flyers on apartment building
bulletin boards, in supermarkets, and near parks and other areas where owners
exercise their pets. Ask your friends and neighbors. Ask animal shelters or veterinarians
to put a notice in their waiting room. Some pet stores will also allow
you to put up a small poster. Purchase a small ad in a neighborhood newspaper;
the best place to buy an ad is in a publication that has similar ads.
Up-front Expenses
The principal expenses are for advertising and promotion.
How Much to Charge
Rates vary by location, with higher prices in major metropolitan areas, although
you should also factor in your costs if you need to drive a great distance to meet
a pet in a rural setting. A typical price for a 15-minute quick check on a pet or a
short walk ranges from $10 to $15; a 30-minute walk is generally priced from
$15 to $20, and a full hour of exercise is priced from about $20 to $30 in most
areas.
If you intend to walk packs of dogs as a standard service, you may want to
list a higher price for solo walks.
Some pet service providers give volume discounts; for example, they might
offer a 10 to 20 percent reduction for a prepaid punch card that entitles the pet
owner to 15 visits. Other providers offer lower rates for visits more than once
per day.
You might also offer a bonus if customers refer new business to you, especially
if the clients live nearby, which will save you time and money.
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