By Veronica Boutelle of PPG corporate partner, dogbiz
If your dream is to work with dogs for a living but you’re still toiling full time outside the dog industry, or juggling a part-time business alongside your “real” job, you need a transition plan: A plan to get you from where you are now to working full-time in your own dog training or dog walking business. Here’s what should go into yours:
- Determine feasibility.
Feasibility is a comparison of revenue to expenses. Is your business set up to make what you need? If you don’t know what you need to cover your personal living expenses, figure that number first. Next, estimate the revenue and expenses for your business, then subtract the latter from the former to make sure your numbers add up.
- Assess, prioritize, adjust.
Before you enter your transition, know where you stand. It’s hard to make a plan to get somewhere without knowing where the starting line is! For example, do you have a job you’ll be able to exit gradually, or will you eventually have to give notice and go from full time to no time? Does your job afford flexible hours allowing you to work with clients during the day, or will your dog work be confined to nights and weekends? There are no right or wrong answers; you just need to know what you’re working with.
Next, set your business up for success. This includes adjusting your services, rates, and policies—especially if the numbers didn’t add up in your favor in step 1. The services you offer, how you package them, and what you charge for them will have a huge effect on how much your business makes (and how well you serve clients and their dogs, too).
Get ready on the non-work side, too, by making necessary adjustments to your personal budget and how you prioritize your time. Transitions are busy times. Decide up front what you’re going to temporarily set down in order to pursue your goals. If you don’t make the hard decision to let go of volunteer work at the shelter or crafting classes at the community center, it’ll end up being your own dog not getting walked or your health not being tended to.
- Line up support.
In transition you’ll be adding starting and/or growing a business to all the things already on your plate. No matter how much of a do-it-yourselfer you are, or how uncomfortable you feel asking for help, if you’re serious about making it to full-time dog pro, don’t skip this step.
Line up support on the personal side, whether that’s help with household chores, child or dog care, or running errands. You can hire help or ask your network—family, friends, neighbors, fellow parents, etc.—to chip in.
If the business side of dogs isn’t your strong suit, look at options for help on the professional side, too, like business classes for dog pros or working with a business coach to set up or adjust your business and guide you more quickly through the transition process.
- Set milestones and marketing plans.
Your milestones will tell you when it’s time to cut back your hours at the office or give your boss notice, for example. They are action markers. Without them, most dog pros wait too long to move, burning out before reaching the finish line. Others jump too soon, putting themselves in financial peril. Carefully set milestones help you step through your transition plan safely and with confidence.
Milestones generally pertain to how many clients you’re maintaining, and how much money you’re bringing in. To get those clients and that revenue you’ll have to learn to market your business well. Your transition plan must include marketing projects chosen for your situation—your clientele, your services, and your personal skill sets and comfort zones.
Ready to turn your passion for dogs into your living?
You absolutely can. I know, because with these four steps my team and I have spent 15 years helping dog pros from diverse backgrounds do just that—we’ve guided successful transitions by teachers, lawyers, CPAs, baristas, construction workers, social workers, doctors, nurses, marketing execs, retail workers, computer programmers, and on and on. It really is possible. All you need is desire, belief, and a good transition plan.
If you’re serious about life as a full-time dog pro, I challenge you to stop daydreaming and start planning. There is no better way to make a living than with the dogs—and the ones in your community need you!
About the Author
Veronica Boutelle co-founded dogbiz (formerly dogtec) and is the author of How To Run A Dog Business: Putting Your Career Where Your Heart Is. She’s a sought-after conference speaker and writes a regular business column for PPG’s BARKS from the Guild. Learn more about how dogbiz helps R+ dog pros succeed, including personalized business coaching and dogbiz University classes like Transition Planning for Dog Trainers and Dog Walkers, at www.dogbizsuccess.com.