(Guest post by Jen Fromal, as part of our Side Hustle Series)
I’m big on the idea of a side hustle. For me, it’s how I afford an extra trip a year, a comfy new reading chair or a big night out with my friends. Having a side gig gives me the extra income boost that I reserve for fun (and perhaps unnecessary things).
My side hustle is dog walking.
For most of the day, I’m stuck in front of my computer making my living as a freelance writer. I also spend a lot of time on my computer writing for my blog, perusing the Internet and social media sites, and talking to my friends. After a few months of being a slave to my computer, I realized that I also needed to make NON-computer time a priority in my day. I started going for walks, taking longer to grocery shop and reading more books and magazines. This was fine for a little while, but I’m the type of person that HAS to work, that LIKES to work, so I started dreaming up an ideal part-time job for myself. When browsing Craigslist for odd job ideas, I came across an ad for dog walking and knew that this was my side hustle calling.
Dog walking is a great side hustle because the clients are adorable, you get exercise, you’re helping out a caring pet owner (having a dog of my own, I know what it’s like to want the best for your pup), the hours are short and you can make around $16-$24/hour depending on your rates. You also get to be the person who walks in the door and is greeted by an excited dog who can’t wait to go for a walk a couple times a day. Instant happiness booster.
How To Get Started
You can either set out on your own by posting ads and flyers in highly trafficked areas like pet stores or joining a service like Sittercity.com. You can also find an already established pet sitting business in your town to work for. Trust is a huge deal in dog walking because a pet owner is essentially giving you a key to their home and trusting you with their pet, so having a completed background check and doing an in-person meet and greet with an owner is almost a must.
You basically need no supplies to get started, unless you want to spruce things up a bit by offering to supply your own doggy bags for walks, getting an organizer for any paperwork, a carabiner to keep keys on or a notepad to write daily “status reports” for owners to come home to. Dog and cat owners LOVE to see what you and their pet did that day, where you walked, and if Fido did a #2 or just a #1.
Even if you are setting out on your own and finding dogs to walk without joining up with an existing pet sitting company, you’ll still probably want to research the competition in your area to figure out things like your rate (typical in my area of Philadelphia is somewhere around $12-$15 for a 30-minute walk and $20-$25 for a 60-minute walk) and your service area. When picking up clients, a word to the wise is to keep your service area limited so that you aren’t wasting time driving more than a few miles between clients. More walking equals more money.
What Kind of People Make Ideal Dog Walkers?
The best dog walkers are people who, of course, love dogs and don’t mind walking them when it’s hot, cold or anything in between. You also can’t be squeamish about picking up their poop, it’s just a part of the job. An ideal dog walker is someone who can handle all types of dogs, and also knows their limits. For example, I weigh about 115 lbs. and know that if an extremely rambunctious 125 lb. German Shepherd came about as a prospective client, I might need to decline the job in order to avoid being pulled all over the neighborhood.
Another important aspect of dog walking is the ability to have a flexible schedule. Most owners want their dogs walked between the hours of 11am-2pm because this is “mid day” for dogs who have owners that work a 9-5. While this schedule works perfectly for me and my freelancing lifestyle, it may not be an option for many. If you aren’t able to do lunch hour walks, you can still get into dog walking by either finding clients with different schedules (i.e. a nurse with a nighttime shift), or offering pet sitting and dog walking services on the weekends or while owners are on vacation. After all, if you are walking a dog outside of “normal walking hours,” you can charge more!
How Much Money You’ll Make
Depending on how much you (or the company you start working with) charges for 30-minute walks, 60-minute walks and pet sitting (overnight), you can expect to make around $16-$24 an hour. I currently walk 3 dogs on most days at $20/hour, making my daily earnings about $30 on average (on Fridays I normally only walk two dogs). If you multiply that out, I can make an average of $600 a month by walking 2 or 3 dogs a day for about an hour and a half total each day.
As a dog lover and freelancer who needs some time away from the house each day, dog walking as a side hustle could not be a more perfect pairing.
Jen Fromal is a writer and traveler who blogs at The Smashed Planet about traveling, working, relationships and puppies. She appreciates sarcasm and is an excellent foosball player.
**Have a side hustle you’d like to share? Let us know :)
(Photo by Kristine Paulus)