Have you done your research?

Have you done your research?
I didn’t really know what I was doing when I started my business journey, I just knew what my reason for starting was and what my end goal was.
I did however do a lot of research which has definitely helped me to carve out my business and make things clearer in my mind.
If you’re just starting out I would highly recommend you do the following, or if you’ve already started these points are good to go back over:
1. Look at other similar businesses in your local area, what are they offering, what do they charge, if you’re a dog walker/pet sitter which areas do they cover? This will enable you to come up with your pricing structure so that you’re not charging too much or too little.
2. Is there a gap in the market, something missing from all these other businesses that you could offer? You don’t want to just copy or go with what everyone else is doing because you’ll just blend in which is the one thing you do not want to do. Having a unique product or service is going to make you really appealing to customers!
3. Who is your ideal customer? Where would they be so that you can catch their attention, where would they go to look for your product or service? Knowing this is SO essential, if you don’t know who you are advertising to how can you know where or how to advertise?
4. How are the logistics of your business going to work? For example If a potential customer asks you a question about how your service works can you answer straight away? Have a think about how you will transport people’s pets, will you collect them or will the customer bring them to you, will they be expected to drop keys to you or will you pick them up each time, what will you do if someone cancels…
Its really important to be clear on these points so that you’re not just completely winging it and hoping for the best, and it will really help you to get some of the essentials clear in your mind.
IMG_3350
Advertisements

Social Media – are you missing the point?

IMG_3024

Are you missing the point of social media?

I don’t know about you but so many times I’ve posted some complete random crap on my business pages just for the sake of something to post, just because I thought oh no I haven’t posted anything today!!

Sometimes I have honestly felt so stressed trying to think of a photo or something I could post just so that I could relax in the knowledge that I’d posted SOMETHING!

I was listening way too much to the social media ‘experts’ saying you have to post 6 times a day to grow your following, get likes etc etc but I will take my hat off to anyone who can post that much every day on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter without going mad!!

For certain businesses or people wanting to grow their brand  on a huge scale I get why you would need to post a lot of content about your life and random stuff but for local Pet Businesses is it really necessary?

But then I read this fact that’s made me rethink everything….

The whole purpose in having Social Media (for your business) such as Facebook Pages and Instagram Accounts is to attract and drive traffic and paying customers to purchase your products or services.

It’s that simple.

It’s not about getting the most likes or gaining 100 new followers a day.  You can post a photo of a tree and get 100 likes but if those people aren’t going to be future customers or if people who like trees aren’t your ideal clients what’s the point??

So why stress about posting any old photo if then it has nothing to do with my business and therefore not attracting my ideal customers!?

I once had a hugely famous NFL player accidentally tag my business (Tom Brady!) he has millions of followers and so many people said to me oh my gosh you must have so many extra customers now!!!  Well no not really!  I’m a local UK dog walker so American NFL fans aren’t really my target audience haha! I did gain some likes and it was pretty cool but still my point is if it doesn’t attract your target audience and your ideal customers it makes no difference to your business!

So the point I’m trying to make is don’t stress if you miss a day, only post meaningful posts that have a purpose to them, post things that will attract your target audience and future PAYING customers, and don’t waste time posting things for the sake of posting 🙂

If you are interested in creating a Dog Walking & Pet Sitting Business come and join me over in my FREE Facebook Group for support, advice and inspiration! Or check out my online course! Find out more….

THEIR emergency is not YOUR emergency

THEIR emergency Is not YOUR emergency

I wish someone had shared this wisdom with me in the early days of my business.

You’ve probably all experienced those last minute ‘urgent’ requests.  Or if you haven’t yet, expect them at some point!

The amount of times a customer has tried to guilt trip me, make it sound like they have no other option, make me feel like it’s my problem, my fault, I’m a terrible person if I don’t bend over backwards for them at the last minute, their pet will suffer if I don’t squeeze them in, gone out of my way big time because I actually felt bad that they ‘had no other option’. When really there was no emergency, they were just unorganised, forgot or bargaining on the fact I was extremely flexible and would go above and beyond (a pushover!)

I always say one of the main things you have to be in the Pet Industry is flexible, it’s the nature of the job BUT there is a fine line between flexibility and being a door mat! A fine line between reliable and always available.

Truth is there is ALWAYS another option, their pet is not your responsibility unless you have already agreed to look after them. They will always be able to find another option and if they can’t TOUGH they’ll have to cancel their plans. You may love their pet to bits but it’s not fair to put pressure on you at short notice.

Now I would 100% say go above and beyond for your customers but not to your own detriment, sanity or cost. I think you’ll get a sense of which customers are genuine, who you are happy to accommodate and which are consistently making requests at the last minute or making you feel like it’s your responsibility.

As an example I once received a message from someone who I had never met, asking me to walk her dog the NEXT day.  She wasn’t interested in meeting me first or introducing me to the dog, she had to go to work and didn’t ‘have time’ to look for someone else.  As if trying to make it my issue and my problem that i needed to sort out for her.  Sorry not my problem!

Again…. THEIR EMERGENCY IS NOT YOUR EMERGENCY. And probably ISN’T actually an emergency at all.

Another example was a lady who’s cats I was looking after, she’d gone off to get married somewhere about 7 hours drive away, and she forgot her WEDDING DRESS!!! I mean REALLY 😳 anyway she pretty much demanded I package up her dress, take it to the post office and told me to do this by midday….. i advised that I was fully booked and couldn’t make an extra visit to her house (an hours round trip) by that time. It would have meant I was extremely late for all my other jobs. Funnily enough she had a friend who had a key to her house who did it instead she just didn’t want to trouble her friend!!

Do not be treated like a member of staff, you are your own boss and you shouldn’t be made to feel ‘grateful’ for their custom if they are not going to respect you.

Remember, what did they do before they found you? They made other arrangements!

As long as you’re polite, not rude (even if you want to be!!) and explain that you’re so sorry you’re not able to fit them in at such short notice or do that favour etc, they have no right to be annoyed, you have a life and family commitments too, and if they are annoyed then let them go, there are plenty more customers who will respect you as a business owner.

If you give in to them once they will keep taking the piss.  End of! Stand your ground, you don’t need their custom that much!

I know some of you are shouting “but I do need their custom!” Trust me you will soon fill their slot with a customer who is a much better fit.

You’ll find these type of customers are few and far between, I’m lucky that 99% of my customers are amazing, respectful and lovely 💗

Has anyone else experienced these kind of last minute pushy customers?

******If you are looking to start a dog walking or pet sitting business come and join my free Facebook group for help, advice, tips from experts and more, or take my online course!*******Find out more….

 

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
Continue reading

Shadow – A dog’s point of view

Its nearly lunch time she’ll be here soon.  If I just wait here at the bottom of the stairs at the usual time I’ll see her coming to the door.  I need to check that everything smells the same, where is she?? Oh hang on is that the door…. She’s here! Yippeeee, must control my excitement, must control my excitement, must control.… nope I can’t I’m gonna have to lick her face.

Right harness on, lead on, I’m ready! Open the door, open the door, open the door….. woo hoo walk time!  Ahhh all the smells, hang on I’m sure that bush smells different today, who’s been here??  I’m gonna have to wee on that.  Oops missed the bush.  Well if you will stand in the way lady!  Come on let’s go!

La la la oh what was that??  Squirrel!  MUST GET SQUIRREL.  I know I can’t climb trees lady but I can stare at it for 5 minutes can’t I?  Maybe it will come down?  Oh she wants to keep moving, maybe she wants to check the smells too, ok squirrel I’ll come back for you later.

shadow

So many smells so little time, come on lady hurry we need to get to the bridge.

Finally we’re at the top….aaah look at that view I can see for miles, it is beautiful.  Hang on she’s taking photos of me again she thinks I haven’t noticed.  Let me just give her my best pose in case these photos go on the internet like the last ones.  My mum always tells me I’m beautiful, I reckon I could model for doggy Vogue.

shadow2

Oh my gosh there’s another human coming towards us, she looks nice, I wonder if she’d like a hug, I think she would.  Hey lady, want a hug? Yeah ya do! Yes managed to lick her face too, I think she liked it cos she’s smiling, or is that laughing? Same thing.  Why’s my walking buddy apologising, who wouldn’t want a hug from me?!

Dum de dum…Oh what do we have here…another dog on my patch…don’t think so mate. WOOF! That told him….

Looks like we’re turning back home now, we can’t have been an hour already!  I am a bit peckish though.  Right back home, I’m gonna pull out the puppy dog eyes so she feels sorry for me and stays a bit longer.  She won’t be able to resist.  Harness off, paws dried aaaaand zoomies!!  Ok enough of that I’m worn out now.

I think she’s going now she’s putting her back-pack back on and talking in that strange soppy high pitched voice.  There she goes again telling me how beautiful I am and looking forward to seeing me tomorrow.  I’ve always been a ladies man.  Yawn I’m pooped, think I’ll finish my lunch and have a snooze. Same time tomorrow lady!

Making The Leap

I’d always worked in admin, it was something I fell into when I was 18 and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or what career path I wanted to go down. It will do for now I thought. 11 years later and with the prospect of turning 30 and still not feeling like I was where I wanted to be, I decided I needed to make some changes. I’d thought about the idea of starting a dog walking and pet sitting business many times over the years, even came up with a name and logo at one stage but always ended up telling myself I couldn’t do it or it would be too difficult and many other excuses. It did seem a risk going from a guaranteed monthly income to being self-employed but it was always in the back of my mind and having had such special bonds with my own dogs I knew I wanted to work with them in some way.

I can’t remember exactly what that final push was. Maybe it was being told that I had to start recording my every move, including how long I stopped to talk to a colleague and how long I was in the toilet for, seriously?! Or having to come up with 3 things I wanted to achieve in my admin role for a personal development review with my manager. I couldn’t think of 1 let alone 3! My heart really wasn’t in it. I looked at all the research I had done into starting my own business and daydreamed of what it would be like to be my own boss as well as working with animals all day. I looked out the window from my office one day with its scenic view of the car park opposite and thought do you know what I’m going to go for it!

After a lot more research and planning I came up with a business plan and that was it, I’d made up my mind, no going back, it was going to happen. When I started telling people my plans I was mostly met with surprise as I had kept my plans so quiet but also a lot of positivity and wishes of good luck. There were of course a few negative comments, “Ooo do you think that’s a bit risky?”, “Are you sure?”, “What if it doesn’t work?”, “Who’s going to pay someone to walk their dog?” This only served to make me want to go for it even more.

My last day in the office was a strange one, I was excited to start my new career but also sad to be leaving the team I had worked with for the last 4 or so years. They weren’t just colleagues but friends and we had so many laughs and good times in between the seriousness, sadness and stress of a Children’s Social Care department. Although when I walked out those doors for the last time I did feel a sense of relief and freedom!

rocky2

A week or so later I had my first walk with one of my first customers, a handsome black Labrador called Rocky, such a lovely natured boy and a real character. I soon came to realise he had a talent for finding the biggest stick and not letting go of it for the whole 1 hour walk, and sometimes this big stick was more like a small tree! He also seemed to enjoy whacking me on the back of the legs with it! From then on I knew I was going to love my new 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/ or take my online course! Find out more!

You can also follow us on Instagram @thepetpreneurnetwork

My first blog post

So here goes my very first blog post!

It was my first day back today after 10 days off over Christmas and New Year and boy did my legs get a shock! My arms and shoulders too for that matter! After not much physical exercise and eating my weight in chocolate over the festive period I was not prepared for that first cold and energetic power walk of 2017. I’m starting to think I should do warm up exercises in the mornings as I definitely felt like I’d had a full body workout after an hour of brisk walking along with my arms being pulled in every direction trying to stop Obi the Doberman cross from grabbing the loaf of bread somebody had kindly left on the path, I’m assuming for the birds. Obi can sniff out a dropped slice of pizza, half eaten sandwich and random edible objects from a mile away. She could be a police sniffer dog if there were ever a crime involving a cheesecake that is…


Like Obi I was greeted by my other buddies throughout the day with excitable barking, wagging tails and licks to the face. I like to think their greetings are because they’ve missed me as much as I’ve missed them but It’s probably more to do with me being ‘the one that takes us for long walkies and then gives us a treat!’

One of my 1 hour walks was with a beautiful Labrador who is just bursting with energy and so I decided I would put her on an extendable lead so she could have more room to have a wander around and a little run. Unfortunately for me I didn’t anticipate that she was going to start sprinting like Usain Bolt! With me still attached to the other end of the lead you can use your imagination as to what happened next, ouch!  Most of my customers like me to keep their dogs on lead so I seem to have something inside me that says ‘DON’T LET GO!’

My last walk today (now with muddy jeans) was with Jack, I walk him once a week through The Cinnamon Trust which is a charity that I signed up with last year. It’s an amazing charity that helps elderly and terminally ill people and their pets, finding volunteers to walk or foster pets if the owners are not able to themselves. Very rewarding and something which I’d love to write about in more detail in the future.

When I got home I have to say I was pretty tired and my calves were aching, probably from trying to stop myself face planting the mud earlier! Still, I’m looking forward to whatever the day has to bring tomorrow 🙂

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