Welcome to the Professional Dog Walkers Association
PDWA Membership - New Business Start Up Information
PDWA guide to starting a dog walking business of your own. The information herein is not a rule book, but a source of information with a few helpful suggestions, hints, and ideas on the various topics which we have found to have to been generated on the way.
The content of this document is based solely upon our own dog walking experience and refers to dog walking as a particular topic. By reading this document you understand and agree that we have no liability with regards to the content and / or any work which you may decide to take on as a result of reading. Details were correct at time of writing.
Decide on your trading status. Options include Sole Trader, Partnerships, Limited Company. If you are unsure which option best suits your circumstances then speak to your local HMRC office or your accountant for advice.
Here in the UK there are two types of insurance which are compulsory - vehicle and employer's liability:
Employer's Liability insurance is compulsory in the UK - so you will need this if you employ staff or have any volunteer workers. However if it just yourself then business insurance is NOT a legal requirement but we advocate cover as it there to protect you, your clients and third parties as well as offering peace of mind to your customers that you are indeed a responsible and established business.
Basic business insurance cover will cover you for 3rd party public liability insurance; extras can include care, custody and control of your clients; lock and key cover, should you lose your clients keys and be liable for replacement of new locks etc...
Additional insurance will cover
• Accidental injury to the animals
• Employers Liability Insurance if you are employing staff
• Professional indemnity will cover your advice (e.g. dog training)
Most policies have a cap on the number of dogs that can be walked at any one time. For safety of all and control we advocate a maximum of 4 well baheved dogs walked to one person in a public area.
Transport insurance if you intend to use a vehicle. Shop around for the best possible deal.
We believe that dog walking is about giving the dog/s a safe, structured walk mixed with fun, games, plenty of exploring and bonding. Prepare yourself before you start and undertake training, as much as you can - know and understand canine body language and behaviour. There are many excellent, affordable courses available either though your local college or online.
Criminal Record Check
A criminal record check verifies that you do not have any previous convictions. This is extremely worthwhile and can offer your clients peace of mind when handing over keys to their home and pet to your care.
England / Wales – Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
Scotland – Disclosure Scotland
Northern Ireland – Access Northern Ireland
Basic disclosure starts at £25.00 and all require formal proof of identification.
A vehicle may not be essential in the early days but as your business grows it can be financially viable for you to walk several dogs together at a suitable location, the added flexibility of carrying several clients together increases turn over significantly and quickly pays for itself.
An estate car is good, or a van is ideal. If purchasing a van look for both rear and side opening doors, enabling you to reach your clients safely and easily from either side, especially if you have to park on the road at pick up/drop off, with added ventilation/air conditioning.
The vehicle can be your greatest source of advertising if it is signed with your business information.
Inform your existing vehicle insurance provider if you intend to use your car.
Business Promotion and Advertising
You need to let your potential clients know what you are doing and that they need your service - A dog owner friend, who worked full-time once said “Dog walking? I wouldn’t have known I needed one until I heard what you were doing”. Speak to everyone you know - family, friend, colleague, neighbours, they may not need dog walking help themselves, but they may well know someone who might!
Costs can vary dependent upon how and where you advertise.
Flyers / business cards in local shops / notice boards / vets / puppy classes / neighbours / local homes etc... might be sufficient for a relatively low cost. There are online businesses which can produce very low cost flyers and business cards. Always carry cards with you.
Local newspapers can be a good source of advertising but can work out very expensive if you run a campaign for several weeks. However, if budgeted for, you may find this a great method to pick up customers quickly.
Yellow Pages / Yell.com can be expensive for a large advert, but these are reliable and well known. Yellow pages come out annually but Yell.com can advertise from your specified date. There are annual fees involved. Basic entries are free of charge.
Vehicle – your car / van gets seen wherever you go, even while parked outside your house so it is essential to have signage denoting your business.
Website – Essential in this day and age. For low cost, build and and optimise yourself for the major search engines to find your business in your local area. Your website should look good, professional and come up on the first pages of search engine results. Your website should contain basic information, who you are, the services you provide, where and when etc...
Advertising a product or service online now falls within Distance Selling Regulations and compliance is necessary. Your local Trading Standards Department at your local council can help with this.
Facebook - the power of social networking is great.
Word of mouth – There is nothing better than an existing or past client recommending your services. However, you have to get one first!!
Speak to people - If you have a dog of your own, then chat to them whilst you are out walking – don’t oversell yourself but a remark here and there. Always carry a business card.
You will eventually discover the best method of advertising in your home area by trying as many different methods of advertising as possible.
Keep accurate records
One of the keys to running a successful business is to keep on top of your paperwork. From day one keep clear and accurate records of everything that happens to your business, especially financial transactions. Try to be as organised as possible and put time aside each week to keep paperwork up to date and organised.
It is a legal requirement to maintain a good standard of book keeping for Inland Revenue purposes and file for 7 years (true at time of writing, this may be subject to change – check your local IR Department).
You must maintain your books for:
1. Income tax
2. National Insurance
3. VAT (if relevant)
You should maintain your books because:
1. Records your turn over / purchases
2. Highlights any overdue accounts
3. Shows profitability
4. An organised system will prove helpful when preparing your income tax / VAT return
5. You can make sensible business related decisions and planning
You can maintain your own books or employ specialist services. Standard home computer software can be adapted to create a basic book keeping log, invoicing, statements etc... We would recommend the purchase of a basic software package which can provide quote, invoice, profit / loss data, VAT and income tax information instantly for you. Employing a specialist for this is worthwhile if you are not confident in this area, but can be very expensive.
Turnover is the amount of sales you generate in a given period. Profit is the difference between your turnover and purchases you have made.
Inform Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs - Register as soon as you can after starting your business. At the latest, you should register by 5 October in your business’s second tax year.
How to register depends on your personal circumstances. Telephone your local department to discuss your personal circumstances and correct advice.
You will also be responsible for paying your own National Insurance contributions, rates can vary from year to year so visit the .gov website to check current values.
Once you become self-employed, and depending on your profit, you will pay tax each year by filling out a tax return and self-assessing how much you owe. Place money designated for income tax aside in a separate bank account from day one – then you should not find yourself struggling to meet a payment. If you calculate a general rate of 30% (to cover income tax and NI contributions) you won’t be far off your final tax bill. You will submit your tax return each financial year following your first year of trading.
Your personal tax allowance and set income tax rates apply.
Speak to your local Inland Revenue department for new business start-ups and also your Accountant for detailed and further advice.
Register for VAT
If your turnover is greater than £85,000.00 in a rolling 12 month period you will be liable to pay VAT even as a self-employed person. If you exceed this limit you must register for VAT within 30 days. You may opt to register for VAT if your turn-over is below this amount. This allows you to reclaim the VAT you have paid on your purchases (for example your van) but it also means that you must charge your customers the VAT on your sales invoices. This could increase the cost to your clients by the VAT rate, currently 20%.
You will have to register for VAT if you take over an existing business already VAT registered.
Keep your business financial affairs separate from your personal finances. As a sole trader a business bank account is not a legal requirement, a personal account suffices. However a business account looks more professional and if you have siginificant number of transactions going through your personal account your bank are within their rights to request you open a business account.
Limited companies require a specific type of business bank account.
When you open a bank account– either with your personal bank or shop around, compare charges / interest rates, local branch etc..., for both current and deposit accounts. Use your deposit account for setting aside your income tax payment and also any other charges you may incur such as insurances etc...
Some local authorities issue rules and guidelines for pet businesses within their areas.
Check with your local Environmental Health Department to see what action is required. For example, some authorities restrict the amount of dogs you may walk in a public place at any one time; regulations which govern the carriage and transport of animals; dog fouling rules for your area.
The local Dog Warden can be your friend, use them to your utmost advantage.
Rules and Regulations
Familiarise yourself with whatever rules you can and understand them.
Refer to The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) website and speak with your Local Authority – usually Trading Standards Department and Environmental Health:
Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
Dangerous Dogs Act (Amendment) 1997
The Animals Act 1971 (Amendment 2018)
Dog Control Orders
EU Regulation for transport of animals
Distance Selling Regulations
General Data Protection Regulations
Designate a practical geographical working area.
Decide what services you will offer Eg, dog walking, dog day care, small pet sitting, dog training, pet home boarding, pet taxi, pet grooming, exotic pet care, horse care, etc... and regulate your charges accordingly.
Check out your local competition.
Do not over price yourself – you may not acquire / maintain your clients.
Do not under price yourself you have your costs and wage to pay!
Do you need to charge a mileage rate.
How regular is the work, Monday-Friday or less than 4 days per week?
Charging your customers – in advance; invoice weekly; monthly.
Be specific about what payment methods are acceptable to you – cash, cheque, bank transfer, relatively low cost from a banking point of view. You may wish to provide a card payment facility, for which fees apply.
The following information may be helpful:
Client registration form – the client provides their personal details, relevant pet information, service required, rate charged etc...
Terms and Conditions – set out your terms service, invoice procedure / payment details, working days / hours and any other relevant information. Go through it in detail with your client so everyone understands their responsibilities and commitment.
Daily report – provide a diary and leave with your clients. A handy transfer of non-urgent information. Keeps your client informed of what their beloved dog has been up to that day. Nowadays, social media is perfect for an instant insight. Remember, though posting updates or texting can take up valuable time!
Upon your initial research, don’t be disheartened if there appears to be several businesses offering similar services in your area. This may mean that there is opportunity.
You could offer a new and unique service to your area.
The competition can help you determine your rates.
Developing a good relationship with one or more may prove mutually helpful e.g., by the provision of cover for one another’s holidays. You could advertise that you provide a 365 day per year service. Keep your customers informed of your plans, they may not wish their house keys transferred to a third party.
Hopefully, the information above has provided a small insight into how to set up a dog walking business and should you decide to go ahead then we wish you every success in your new venture!
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