I first started my pet care business out of a desire to combine two of my dreams: working with animals and building a career where I could be my own boss. A few years in, it became obvious that I needed a more specific dream. I still loved being self-employed and working with animals and their people, but the 12-14 hour days seven days every week left me exhausted and ready to call it quits. In the end, I completely revolutionized my business and created one of the largest pet care companies in Marin and Sonoma counties (working only three days a week) before I sold it a few years ago.
In the process of building my own pet care company and helping coaching clients build pet businesses of their own, I have learned many important lessons about the best way to start and run a business. Here are five steps you can use as you turn your dream of working with pets into a career you love:
Step 1: Gain experience with part-time pet care first.
Even if you plan to operate a business with relatively low overhead, I recommend you start building your client base while you still have a steady income elsewhere. Or if you are interested in running your own business but not sure if pet care is the way to go, working for another pet care company may be a good option for a few months (but make sure to let the business owner know that’s your intention before you’re hired). Gaining part-time experience before jumping into your own business will not only give you some breathing room financially, it will also let you figure out if you want to pursue the line of work full time.
Step 2: Figure out what your dream looks like in detail.
Once you’ve got some experience under your belt and are committed to starting your own pet business, be specific about what you want. Make a list of what your ideal career looks like … including any aspects you want to avoid. Are there any pets or services you have experience with or are looking forward to offering clients? What about specific animals, locations, or duties you want to avoid? Refine your list until you have a clear idea of what you will offer your clients that will help your business stand out. Some pet care professionals opt for very specific niches — cat sitting is an area of pet sitting often overlooked, for example — while others decide to market themselves as the most experienced or most reliable. Finding a specific niche for your business will help the right clients find your business. Whatever your unique offering will be, identify it now.
Step 3: Ditch negative beliefs that are holding you back.
In my early days as a new business owner, there were two negative beliefs that kept me from soaring: Making money is hard and I can’t have both time and money.
In the process of revamping my business and life, I needed to replace those negative beliefs with a positive mindset to help propel me toward my goals.
You may have your own disempowering beliefs that are undermining your efforts by keeping you from believing you really can have the career of your dreams. Write a set of your own affirmations to replace your negative beliefs and incorporate those affirmations into your life every day. I posted my affirmations next to my computer, on my bathroom mirror, and in my car so I would see them (and say them) as I responded to emails, got ready for the day, and went between client appointments. Even the career of your dreams will have disappointing or exhausting days, but cultivating a positive mindset will help you focus on the powerful message behind your dreams instead of getting sucked into a cycle of negativity.
Step 4: Step through your fear and fully commit.
Sometimes, we are so afraid of failing that we refuse to go “all in” in an effort to protect ourselves from failure. After you’ve done the necessary preparation and know you want to move forward and create a pet business, commit to it completely. If you wait for the day when you have no fear, you will be waiting forever. Starting a business requires courage, and courage is only earned through stepping through the fear. Instead of waiting for my fear to go away, or simply ignoring my fears, I have learned to acknowledge the fear and move forward anyway. It can take bravery to take that leap and fully commit to your dream, but if it’s your dream, it’s worth it!
Step 5: Build a life that allows you time to rest.
Starting and building a service-based pet business requires large amounts of energy and passion, sometimes at the expense of your health and relationships. The key to a lasting career that continues to add positivity to your life is to allow yourself rest in between periods of growth and development.
Set office hours for yourself for returning calls, building the business, and dealing with administrative tasks. With the exception of emergencies, resist the urge to answer calls/emails or do paperwork outside of those hours. Even when your business is a one-person show, regular time away from the business will be good for you and your business.
When you’re not working, commit to allowing your mind and soul space to breathe. Disconnecting from screens and going to bed on time, budgeting money and time for nutritious meals, and getting yourself out the door for exercise can be difficult adjustments at first. The payoff in energy and health will be worth the effort. I have often found that I work better and my business is more profitable after a vacation, so my vacations end up paying for themselves.
Kristin Morrison helps humans create successful pet businesses. She is the founder of Six-Figure Pet Business Academy and Six-Figure Pet Sitting Academy, which provides pet business coaching and startup and hiring tools including the Business Start Up Kit for Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers and The Employee Handbook for Pet Business Owners. She is the host of the Prosperous Pet Business podcast, is a nationally-recognized conference speaker, and the author of five books: 30 Days to Start and Grow Your Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Business, The Hiring Handbook for Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers, Six-Figure Pet Sitting, Prosperous Pet Business, and Six-Figure Pet Business. Visit her website at SixFigurePetBusinessAcademy.com.
Main article photo by: Photo courtesy Kristin Morrison