This article is part of the Side Hustle Stories.
Today I’m excited to share the story of two women freelancers, Lindsay Stordahl and Renee Lindsay.
Lindsay and Renee both get paid to walk dogs. If you’re a pet lover and you’ve been looking for a way to turn your passion into cash, then this article could be exactly what you need.
I’ve asked Lindsay and Renee to share everything you need to know to get started as a dog walker right away.
These two ladies also provide a nice contrast as freelancers because one of them walks dogs in the San Francisco Bay Area (one of the most expensive cities in the United States) and the other in Fargo, North Dakota (one of the more affordable cities in the United States).
Interview with dog walker Renee Lindsay
This interview is 22 minutes long and we cover a range of topics on the day–to–day life of dog walkers. Here is a link to Renee’s dog walking business.
(Right click on the link and choose “Save As” or “Save Link As”)
Dog walking tips from Lindsay Stordahl
I asked Lindsay to share some insights about earning money as a dog walker. Here is what she had to say in her own words…
How much Lindsay gets paid
I charge $25 per hour, and that hour can include walking, running or just hanging out with the dog. It is an extra $5 for each additional dog.
What is a typical day like as a dog walker?
Offering a combination of dog walking, dog running and pet sitting keeps my schedule plenty full. I typically walk and run dogs during normal business hours and then offer pet sitting as I have the time.
For extra business, you could consider boarding dogs in your home. Depending on where you live, your city may require you to purchase a boarding license if you will have more than two or three dogs in your home at one time.
The great thing about owning a dog walking business is you really have the freedom to set your own hours. Want Fridays and weekends off? Then don’t offer dog walking on those days.
I truly love my job because I get to be outside all the time working with animals. The dogs think I’m the greatest person who ever lived simply because I take them running. It’s nice to work in an environment where my customers are that thrilled just to see my face! It definitely beats my old lifestyle of sitting in an office all day.
If you’ve been thinking about dog walking as a career, I suggest you begin by offering dog walking part time and see where it leads you. Gotta love a job where you can take your dog to work!
How you can get started this week
If someone wants to get started as a full–time dog walker, it’s important to focus on four areas.
It’s important to have a web site with all your services and prices laid out. It doesn’t have to be complex.
I bought a domain name through GoDaddy and then used a free WordPress template, but I know several dog walkers who have used a free web site builder through Yahoo and that works just fine.
I’ve found that advertising through Craigslist is the most effective advertising other than word of mouth. Don’t waste your time handing out flyers or buying an ad in the newspaper. Just do a simple Craigslist ad every 14 days or so.
Do not post more often than every two weeks and do not post the exact same ad every time or you will be flagged as spam and banned from Craigslist. My Craigslist ads are extremely simple and look something like this:
“Fargo dog walking, dog running and pet sitting available.”
My ads are literally one sentence with one of the words linking back to my site. I don’t worry about contact info or prices or anything. The purpose of Craigslist is to get people to my web site.
3. Business cards
Flyers and brochures are not necessary, but it is effective to have some business cards to hand out to people who are willing to promote you.
Don’t worry about getting too fancy at this point. If you want, you can have a professional design your cards for you. I just print mine out at Kinkos.
4. Networking in your dog community
I can’t stress this enough — get involved with your dog community. Word of mouth is the best way to gain customers. If you are everywhere, people will talk about you, and they will see how passionate you are about dogs.
Volunteer with your local animal shelters and rescues by walking dogs for them for free at least once per week. Ask them to put a link on their web site. Help them out with fundraisers and adoption events and so on.
Get out there and introduce yourself to all the owners of dog-related businesses in town. Ask them if they would hand out your business cards to their customers. In exchange, show sincere interest in what these businesses offer and genuinely promote them.
Keep in touch by using their services, leaving comments on their Facebook pages or recommending them to others. Some examples of businesses could be grooming shops, dog food stores, dog daycares or training centers.
Attend every dog-related event in your area and have business cards on hand. Attend kennel club dog shows. Visit the dog park often. Take part in any kind of humane society fundraiser.
So, once you have customers, what do you do?
I typically set up a meet and greet with each potential customer at his or her house. This gives me a chance to meet the dog, and it gives the customer a chance to ask me any questions and give me a copy of the key.
From there, we work out a schedule that works with both of us. Most people have me walk their dogs twice a week, but some request every day and some request once a week.
The initial meeting allows me to determine what each individual dog’s needs are. Some dogs just require a quick bathroom break in the middle of the day while others need an hour of running to prevent boredom.
For pet sitting, I also set up an initial meet and greet the first time someone uses my services. For pet sitting, I usually visit the dog three times per day, but I will visit as many times as needed since I charge per visit based on time.
I am always flexible and open to ideas because every dog has different needs. Sometimes I take dogs to the dog park. Sometimes we just hang out on the couch and watch TV. Sometimes I take them running or biking — it all depends on what the owner requests. I also offer pet sitting for cats and ferrets.
Looking for more?
If you’re looking for even more tips on earning more money as a freelancer, then join Passive Panda’s free newsletter. You’ll immediately get access to our 7–part Freelancing 101 series — it’s filled with tips for freelancers!