Starting a new business can be one of the most exciting endeavors of your life, but it can also be very daunting, especially when you start adding up how much it will cost. Thankfully, starting a pet sitting and dog walking business can be done very affordably, and I am going to walk you through all of the start-up costs.
Business Registration and Licensing
The very first thing you will be spending money on is registering your business as an LLC. This will vary depending on what state you are in. The most expensive state to register as an LLC is Massachusetts at around $500, and the cheapest state is Montana at only $35. It is $125 where I am in Florida. Something to keep in mind with this is that you will have to pay a reinstatement fee every year, but that is typically a bit less than the original filing fee. You could technically operate as a DBA instead of an LLC, but I really don’t recommend that because you aren’t legally protected as a business if you are a DBA. You will also want to see if you are required to get a county or city license on top of registering as an LLC with the state. Most places do require this, but not everywhere, and the fee typically isn’t much. It’s about $100 where I am. I have a whole video going over this on my channel, so go check that out if you want to know more.
Business Bank Account
After you register as an LLC, you will want to set up a business bank account. A lot of the larger national banks will charge you to set up the account or charge you monthly maintenance fees if you don’t hit certain minimums, so I recommend checking with your local banks and credit unions to avoid those costs. Most smaller local banks want and need to work with other local businesses, so they make the banking process a bit easier and cheaper to win us over from those big institutions.
While we’re talking about bank accounts, I would recommend you also go ahead and get set up with QuickBooks. QuickBooks will make all of your bookkeeping a lot easier and will save you a lot of heartache come tax time and it only costs $15/mth.
Pet Business Insurance
The next thing you will need to do after you have your bank account set up is to get insurance. Anything can happen at any time when you are going into strangers’ homes and working with animals, and mistakes are going to be more likely when you are new, so I highly encourage you to get insurance before you take on any clients. The cost of your insurance will vary depending on which provider you go with and what kind of coverage you get. The main thing to look for here is that the insurance covers the 3 C’s, so anything under your Care, Custody, and Control. I always say it’s better to have more insurance than you need rather than not enough. Just like everything else, the cost for insurance has gone up a good bit over the last couple years, and most decent insurance policies are going to start at at least $300 per year. I always think it’s better to overestimate your costs and have money left over, rather than underestimate them and run out of money, so I would go ahead and estimate $500 per year. And keep in mind that most will make you pay the entire premium up front rather than paying monthly.
Now that you’re a legal business and you have a bank account and insurance, next you will want to get some branding done. I’m talking about a logo, a color scheme, brand fonts, and some icons and elements. I believe it is really important to present ourselves with a professional and cohesive look. If a potential client goes to your Instagram and sees lots of bright pinks and greens and square block fonts, and then they go to your website and they see pastel colors and rounded fonts, they will be confused – and confused consumers don’t buy. You could do a lot of this yourself via Canva, or get it done cheaply on Fiverr, but I would recommend springing for some professionally made branding as soon as you can afford it, ideally within the first year. If you do this yourself or via Fiverr, you could keep it under $200, but professionally done branding will run you $1,000 or more depending on who you go with.
After you get your branding made, then you can make your website. If you want to show up as a true professional, a website is nonnegotiable in today’s world. When I started my business ten years ago, you could get away without having a website, but that’s just not the case anymore. Again, this is something that is going to vary a lot depending on the route you take. To start with, you will need to purchase a domain, which is usually around $12/yr, and then if you want to build the site yourself via one of the plug and play builders, you’ll be looking at around $20/mth for Wix or Squarespace. Just like the branding, I would highly encourage you to get a professionally built site as soon as you can afford it. As pet sitters and dog walkers, our websites act as our virtual storefronts, and having one that looks great and functions the way we want it to can go a long way with making sure you show up in search results and win over potential clients. I personally use Barketing Solutions for both of my websites, and you can get a custom built site from them for around $1,000. If you are going to build your first site yourself, keep in mind that for SEO purposes, you at least need a Home page, About page, Services Page, Service Area Page, and a Contact page.
Of course, a website can’t be your own marketing tool, so you will need to use that branding to design some flyers, business cards, and shirts. I design everything myself on Canva, and then I order most things on Vistaprint. You could also order branded tennis balls, pens, a magnet for your car, and a lot of other things, but I think flyers and shirts are a good place to start. 100 flyers on Vistaprint will run you around $20, and a shirt will run you about the same. So I’d say all in on these items you’ll be looking at around $100 to get started. I would also encourage you to look into running some PPC ads on Google, but those aren’t necessary and that’s a whole conversation in and of itself. Go watch my marketing video on my channel for some more ideas on marketing supplies!
I would also highly encourage you to set up a separate business phone line. If you put your personal phone number on everything, it will be impossible to create boundaries between yourself and your business, not to mention it is just less professional. You can get a free business line through Google Voice, or I use Grasshopper which is around $40 per month. You should really set this up before you order those flyers and business cards so you can have the correct phone number on everything.
Now that you have your website up and are waiting on your marketing supplies to be delivered, you will want to educate yourself so you can actually take the best care of your clients. Education starts with pet CPR and first aid training, which you can do online via PetProHero for $50, and then you should look at FetchFind and the FearFree certification. FetchFind does a great job at teaching you all of the basics, and FearFree will really help you protect the emotional well-being of the pets you are caring for. FetchFind is going to run you around $30/mth, and FearFree is $229. Something else to look into while we’re talking about education is memberships to professional memberships like Pet Sitters International or National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. They’re both around $150 and have a lot of great resources for educating yourself and networking with other professionals. I’ve been a member of both organizations for years, and you can actually save $15 off your first year of PSI if you use code Doug15 when you sign up. Now, none of these things besides the pet first aid and CPR training are required, but they can really help you stand out as a true professional, and being a PSI or NAPPS member can get you discounts on your insurance and other things, so definitely something you should consider.
Pet Sitting Software
Next, you have to have a way to keep all of your client notes and information organized, and you need a way for them to easily submit scheduling requests and payments. You also need to prove to your clients that you were there the correct amount of time and walked the right path. This is where Time to Pet comes in! Time to Pet does all of this and a lot more, and I am not joking when I say I would not be able to manage my business over 1,000 regular clients and 35 employees without Time to Pet. I used several other softwares before finding Time to Pet, and none of them even hold a candle to Time to Pet. And luckily this isn’t a huge investment, especially if you sign up using my link! TTP is usually $45/mth, but you can get 50% off your first 4 months if you sign up with my special link.
Pet Sitter Supplies
Now that you’ve done all of this, you just need to get a few supplies and then you’ll finally be ready to go walk some dogs! At a minimum, you will need good walking shoes, a 4 foot dual handled leash, a Freedom harness in every size, and of course you will need healthy high value dog treats, and a LOT of poo bags, and I mean a lot. You will also want to get a good rain jacket for those rainy days, and I’d recommend you get a pet first aid kit, a clicker, and some pet corrector. And of course, you will need reliable transportation, and you’ll need a newer smartphone to take good photos and communicate with your clients, but I’m assuming most of you already have a car and a phone so I’m not going to include those with your start-up costs. The shoes and leashes and all of this will likely run you between $100-$300 depending on what you buy, so let’s call it $200.
Total Cost to Start a Pet Sitting Business
That means that if we stick to the bare minimum and do as much as we can on our own, our start-up cost for a pet sitting and dog walking business in 2024 will be around $1,400. Or if we get the professionally made branding and website and get all of the education and such that I mentioned, we will be looking at around $3,700. You can see here that the start-up costs for a pet sitting and dog walking business really aren’t bad at all!
If you would like help starting your business, be sure to Subscribe to the Doug the Dog Guy YouTube channel, and sign up for my email newsletter l as well. I have a backlog of over two years of videos there with new videos coming out every week. And when you’re ready, you can head to my website to schedule a private coaching call with me or enroll in the Pawsitive Hiring Course.
Watch my video covering all of the start-up costs for pet sitting and dog walking businesses: