Well I’ve decided to take the plunge and start my own dog walking service for the Northampton area! Maybe it would be good to give some background to explain how this came about. I’ve only been a Northampton resident since June 2015, having moved here from London. My partner Ewelina and I both love dogs and we decided to rehome a rescue Border Collie called Archie in March 2016.
I owned and managed my own travel business with tours taking place at weekends. Archie liked this arrangement as it meant he always had either Ewelina or I to look after him. I then sold the travel business in October 2016 and had to decide what to do next. As I did not want to leave Archie alone I was looking for work I could do from home. Initially the plan was to do photography and web design. So how did plans change from web design to a dog walking service?
A new dog walking service is born
As anyone with a dog will tell you, when you are out walking you often get chatting to others who are walking dogs. Usually this would be people walking their own dogs but I would also meet dog walkers from time to time. The idea of dog walking is not exactly new to me as a friend called Andrew has been doing it for many years. In chatting to these dog walkers they would give you a business card that sometimes included their website address. On further investigation it was obvious to me that most dog walking service websites were severely lacking. Hardly any of the latest web design trends were being followed. Some sites were not mobile responsive, most had poor page loading speeds, the design often looked dated and worst of all they were just not optimised for the search engines.
I reached out to a couple of dog walking companies to offer them discounted rates on a new website. For various reasons they just did not seem interested in improving their online presence. It was at this time I decided to start my own pet services business. There is a lot of competition locally and conventional wisdom says trying to rank a brand new domain in Google is hard but I love a challenge! I’m setting myself a very ambitious target of being on page 1 of Google for my main keywords within 2-3 months. I’ll update you to let you know how I get on.
Jumping in with both feet I built my website within a week. I’ve obtained my DBS certificate, have insurance with Cliverton and have applied to the council for a home boarding licence. A Citroen Berlingo Multispace arrives this coming week which I will get fitted out with secure, crash tested cages. I’ll also probably get a local signwriting company to apply some advertising to the vehicle. A visible business vehicle could be a good advert whilst I am waiting for the website to appear in Google.
Not just a dog walking service
In an effort to offer clients a full pet care service I’ve decided to offer a number of services. As well as dog walking which I expect will form the bulk of my work, I will also offer pet sitting, dog boarding and a pet transport service. I’ve even had my first enquiry for dog boarding! I’ll have to ask how they found me as I’ve not had any leaflets printed yet. Hopefully it’s a good sign that there is enough demand in the local area.
I’ve set my dog walker prices at similar levels to most of the local competition. I’ve also decided to limit myself to only 4 dogs at any one time and have also placed limits on the number of dogs for home boarding. Some people say you need a USP or unique selling proposition in business. If that’s true what would I say is my USP? It goes without saying that I love animals but I think that applies to most dog walkers, certainly the ones I’ve met. I think two main things will set me apart from the competition. Firstly photography is a passion of mine and I’m hoping the photo updates my customers will get will blow them away. I’m not the only local dog walking service to offer photo updates but I’m confident mine will be the best. I’m also optimistic that my web design and search engine optimisation skills will help me stay ahead of the competition.
Time will tell how this new dog walker career goes but I’ll update you on my progress via this blog. The blog will also be used for pet related stories in the news as well as reviews of pet related products. Google loves fresh content so a blog seems a natural way to help boost me in the rankings but hopefully some of these articles will also be helpful to other pet owners. For anyone reading this who knows me and wants to help feel free to spread the word. Liking my Facebook page, following me on Twitter or Instagram would also be a great help (we always like and follow back). Hopefully it won’t be too long before I have my first clients and some positive reviews. If you have any suggestions or advice feel free to leave a comment below. I read all comments and try to reply to them promptly. Thanks for reading!