How to Start a Dog Walking Business – the Ultimate Guide! Part 7
The last article covered 14 marketing ideas for dog walking businesses. While you wait for your business cards to arrive, why don’t you create documents you will need for your business.
Step 7: Create business forms and boost your professionalism
You may be thinking, do I really need to create dog walking business forms for my dog walking service? If you are just walking your family dog for free, you may not need any document. But once you start charging people for your service, having proper forms do 2 important things:
1. You will have a paper trail of your service, invoices, and agreements, in case your client disagrees with what you are charging, how many days you walked their dogs etc.
2. Proper documents will make you look more professional, and your potential customers will have more trust in you.
The documents are really to protect your business as well as your clients. And if you are not comfortable creating these documents from scratch on your own, don’t worry. I will try to provide as much resources here as possible. If you have got no patience at all, then skip down to the last part of this article :)
What documents do I need?
You must include the following in every single document you create:
Your company name
Logo if you have one
Your phone number & email address
I have seen many documents created by various businesses which didn’t include the above information. The above information not only makes the document look professional and legitimate but also makes your clients remember you. In this sense, logos are great, because they are quite visual and stand out amongst all the texts on documents.
If you haven’t create a logo for your business already, check out step 6 of the Ultimate Guide that talks about easy logo makers online.
It may seem like a lot of work, but I highly recommend creating an invoice for each one of your client and printing out one for your client and another one for your record. And put a paid stamp or even write “paid” on the invoice, once it’s been paid. This makes the collection process easier. See financial spreadsheet below which can accompany these invoices.
Invoices don’t need to be complex. In fact, simpler the better, so it is crystal clear what is charged and how much is charged. Here are some free invoice templates:
Invoice (Timeless design) from Microsoft Office for Word 2013 – You can find tons of invoice templates on this website.
Invoice – Professional (Cool) from Google Docs – Nice and clean design. I don’t know why this template is 2 pages long. I recommend making it just 1 page, since the second page is pretty much blank. If you use Google Docs, you can find lots of templates here.
Google Docs works just like Microsoft Word, except that it is completely free, and all you need is a Google (or Gmail) account.
There are free invoice generators online that let you just type in your company name, address, client information etc then just print, but I don’t recommend these, because there is very limited room for customization.
If your client wants a copy of the invoice electronically, it’s best if you convert the document into PDF so that no one can make any changes to the document. You can easily download a free PDF writer such as Cute PDF Writer. It’s super easy to use, just click “print” when you are ready, and pick Cute PDF Writer as your printer.
Do I write a contract? But I’m no lawyer!
No need to sweat. A contract just shows what you and your client agree on regarding your services. Basically it tells your client what you will do and won’t do. Here is a great free resource with a contract template.
Dog Walking Contract by Free Legal Document
Make sure you read this carefully, re-word as needed, and understand what is in there. Since this cannot be copied and pasted, you will have to type it yourself.
Pet information sheet
Here is another great free resource.
Pet information sheet by Free Legal Document
I would recommend adding the owner’s information, including name, address, phone number, cell phone number, emergency contact, complete with a picture of the dog. The owner information is very important, in case of emergency. Also, the pet information sheet will be useful when you meet the dog and the owner for the first time, and collect all information you need. Your client will feel at peace knowing that you are writing these important things down about their family member that you will be taking care of. Also, if you have employees, they will know what the dog looks like and what he needs before they meet him.
Dog walk report card
To take your professionalism a notch higher, have a dog walk report ready. After each walk, you can fill this report to record how long the dog walked, whether he had a potty break, whether treats were given etc. This should be easy and simple for you to fill, so you can get this done in 10-15 seconds. But getting these little slips of notes from dog walkers is quite reassuring for your clients. It is like a report card from school, and dog owners appreciate hearing that their dogs behaved well with their dog walkers. Here are some samples.
Report Card on Tess’s Paw Print
Doggie Report Card by Wags Walkers
Eww…I don’t like tracking money. I totally sympathize with you! But keeping a good record of your money is vital to running a small business. It really doesn’t have to be complicated. The best way to keep track of your finance is to use a spreadsheet. Here is a great how-to on how to create a finance spreadsheet for small businesses.
Spreadsheet for Small Business 101: Expenses
This is actually very similar to what I use for my business except that this one uses a fancy drop-down list. The tutorial is using Google Docs, which is free. It gives nice tips on keeping your finance records as well.
This is where you can record individual invoice number in the details column. This way you can keep track of payments and outstanding invoices.
If you are lazy or just don’t have time for all this….
No, I’m not judging you! I know, learning is great, but sometimes it can be quite daunting to learn how much work is lying ahead of you. If time is money, and you’ve simply got no time or patience to create these documents, I recommend having a look at Six-Figure Pet Sitting Academy by Kristin Morrison. She is a successful entrepreneur that is now coaching people to become a successful pet business owners. Her Business Start-Up Kit for Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers contain pretty much all the documents I discussed in this article plus Kristin’s tips and tools for starting up your own business. Sure, it doesn’t come for free, but for those of you who want to save time now, this may be a good investment. You can buy each document individually, or as a package which saves you quite a bit.
Hope this article was useful! You are almost there to successfully launch your own business. Some of these steps can be time consuming and not so fun, but preparation before launch goes a long way. Good luck!
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Image credit: Garrette on Flickr