Whether you’re a seasoned pro or totally new to dog walking, I’m sure we’ve all questioned what our pricing should be. When you’re lucky enough to truly love the job you do, it can be difficult to charge for something which often feels like a privilege. BUT, dog walking IS a business and so we must don our business hats and think realistically.
If you charge too little, you end up chasing your tail, working yourself into the ground and constantly feeling like you have to take on extra clients just to make ends meet. Perhaps you prefer to keep busy and keep your prices low and accessible, or perhaps you’re burning out and your structure and pricing needs to change to allow you to enjoy your work again.
Whatever route you take, it has to work for you. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing – there is a market for many different services and price points. Find your niche and you will flourish.
So, let’s look at this together and get some much-needed clarity on setting your prices!
Step 1: Analyse the Market
Take a moment to research what other professional dog walkers in your local area are charging for similar services. This will serve as a foundation for your pricing strategy. But hold on, we must be cautious not to fall into the trap of undercharging, which can compromise the industry's ability to provide exceptional care.
Step 2: Factor in Your Costs
To determine the right price for your dog walking services, you must first calculate your costs. Consider the following expenses:
- Insurance: As professional dog walkers, having insurance is a non-negotiable. This protects both ourselves and our clients in case of any unforeseen accidents or incidents during our walks.
- Transportation: If you use your vehicle to pick up and drop off dogs, factor in fuel costs and maintenance. Ensuring your car or van is reliable and equipped to safely transport dogs is crucial for providing top quality services and minimising disruption (tell me a dog walker who hasn’t had their car/van give up the ghost at the most inconvenient time, and I’ll eat a waterproof lead).
- Dog Walking Equipment: Don’t forget to account for the cost of essential supplies such as leads, poo bags, treats, walking belt, treat pouch, suitable footwear, clothing and cleaning supplies.
- Taxes and Licenses: Remember to set aside a portion of your earnings for taxes and any required licenses or permits. Complying with legal obligations ensures a smooth and reputable operation.
Time and Effort: Time is valuable, and as dog walkers, we invest considerable effort in each walk. Calculate the time spent on each dog walk, including travel time to clients' homes. Remember that your time and dedication deserve fair compensation.
Step 3: Embrace Your Worth
As devoted dog walkers, we invest our heart and soul into caring for our canine companions. We become trusted caregivers and reliable friends to our furry charges. It's crucial to recognise our true worth and the value we bring to the lives of pet owners.
Take a moment to reflect on your experience, expertise, and passion for your services. Consider the peace of mind you offer to busy pet parents who entrust you with their beloved companions. Recognising your worth isn't about boasting; it's about setting fair prices that reflect the exceptional standard of care you provide.
Step 4: Understand Your Own Earning Requirements
Running a successful dog walking business requires financial stability. Let's crunch some numbers together: calculate your monthly expenses, including business-related costs, taxes, and personal needs.
Be realistic, it is your life and only you know what you need to earn to live comfortably – everyone’s needs are different. Think about long term stability: don’t forget to factor in savings goals, pensions, holidays, emergencies etc.
This will give you a clear picture of the minimum amount you need to take home in order to keep your business thriving and your tail wagging.
Step 5: Structuring your business
When you first start up dog walking, it is so tempting to say yes to every request that comes your way, but be warned that this can lead to an all-over the place schedule, uneven distribution of services and it can be wildly inefficient. Before taking on any work, think about how you want your days to be structured in the future, assuming you are working at capacity.
1. How much time are you willing to put into dog walking? How many hours each day, days per week?
- How much time off do you want each year? Will you work weekends, bank holidays, school holidays? It’s important to take a break and you should factor this into your planning.
3. What services will you offer? Group walks, solo walks, pop in visits? What times will these services be available? What is the maximum number of dogs you will walk at one time, remember your insurance provider is likely to have a limit, and many councils and public areas impose a maximum number of dogs per walker. Note: this is a maximum, don’t be tempted to take on more than you can safely handle.
Think about how you can utilise peak hours and position services with lower earning potential during off-peak hours, or charge a premium for off-peak services during peak hours.
How big is your service area? How will travel time impact the number of walks you can offer each day? Will you have to travel far to find suitable walk locations, and are you going to be driving through congested areas at peak traffic times?
Once you have an idea of the above 4 points, you can create your business structure and assess your maximum capacity. It may be when you start out, you accept jobs which fall slightly outside of these parameters, but be realistic in how far you can stretch yourself and be transparent with potential clients. Explain what you can and can’t accommodate and don’t be afraid to say no or suggest alternatives which fit into your long-term plans.
You should now have an idea of how many walk/visit slots you have available each day/week/month/year.
Step 6: Quality Over Competition
Although charging competitive rates is a common approach, it is not the only approach. It’s all too easy to getcaught in a cycle of undercharging, leading to a race to the bottom which undervalues the industry as a whole. Let's break free from this pattern.
Instead, let's emphasise the exceptional quality of our services and the unique value we offer. Highlight your expertise, dedication to dog welfare, and commitment to raising industry standards. Many clients will happily invest in superior care for their dogs when they witness the professionalism and love you bring to every walk.
Step 7: Educate Your Clients
If you settle on a higher price-point for your service area, this may raise questions for some pet parents, but don’t panic! It's an opportunity to educate them about how a higher price-point allows you to provide exceptional care without cutting corners or stretching yourself too thin. Explain how your experience, dedication, and ongoing commitment to learning ensure their pets receive the best care possible.
By charging a fair price, you can invest in continuous education, quality equipment and of course, the time to enhance your services further. Clients will appreciate your transparency and dedication to their pet’s well-being.
Setting prices as a professional dog walker demands thoughtful consideration of market trends, your true worth, and your financial requirements. Remember, you are a pet care pro, and you deserve to be fairly rewarded for the love and care you bring to every furry friend. Happy walking!