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What's in a Phone Number?

As a pet-sitter you will have to provide a means for current and potential customers to easily get in touch. As we move into an ever increasing technological era with more and more communication being done online, there still are a very high percentage of people who prefer to use the phone. Several years ago, most people only had one phone number as their landline at home, but today there are a plethora of options available. Below we discuss some of the options available:  

Landline

Most of us still have landlines, as generally you need to have a landline in order to receive a broadband internet connection. When you give your landline number out, local people will instantly recognise the area code so they know you work within the local vicinity. However, it can be expensive to divert your landline to a mobile phone as you will be paying the cost from the landline to the mobile.  

Mobile

Whether it is a personal mobile, or a dedicated business mobile, it is probably the easiest way to get in touch with someone today. Not only do they provide an instant address book for all your clients, it means that you can receive calls easily on the go (abiding by traffic regulations) to ensure you don't miss any calls from potential clients.  

0800 Freephone

Freephone numbers have been around for a long time and over the years their use has started to decline. Whilst 0800 remains free of charge to most people who phone from a landline, there is a cost for people phoning from mobiles. This can in fact put people off from phoning a Freephone number as given a choice between a landline and a Freephone number, a lot of people would choose the landline number first. There is a monthly/annual service charge associated with having an 0800 number.  

0845 Non Geographic

0845 numbers are classified as non-geographic as they are not associated with any particular region with the UK. Anybody can easily purchase an 0845 number and setup the calls to be sent to their landline or mobile. Typically this type of phone number is used by large national organisations who have many locations and phoning their 0845 number puts your call through to a call centre. Some small businesses also use 0845 numbers for a variety of reasons. The main thing to think about is what kind of phone number would you phone if you were given a choice of a landline or an 0845 number.  

Skype Number

Quite a new concept but it is very popular. For a nominal fee (around £10 for 3 months) you can rent a local landline phone number and it will be connected to your Skype account. So you can advertise your Skype phone number and when your customers phone it, they will be ringing your Skype account. You can install the Skype App on most smartphones, and the phone call will come through to the mobile. With this there are no additional divert or call charges and the customer just pays the normal fee for dialing a landline number. The only limitation with this service is that it runs on WiFi or 3G, so if you are not in a WiFi or 3G area then there will be no service.   Whatever phone you use for your business, make sure it works for you. Keep an eye on what other local businesses are doing by how they advertise their phone number. Also put yourself in the potential customer's shoes what number would they trust more to phone when looking for a new pet sitter.

Case Study: From Belfast to Cardiff

This month we talked to Rebecca and Wayne who run Walk N' Roll. Originally based in Belfast they moved to Cardiff and are now full time pet-sitters. Read more below:  

What made you decide to leave your full time jobs to go into pet sitting?

It simply felt right. We had both followed an academic route, qualified as teachers and subsequently embarked on training careers. Whilst our careers offered us many opportunities and taught us invaluable skills, we reached a point where they no longer fulfilled us. We had all the trappings, the lovely apartment, two cars, a holiday once a year but it wasn't right for us. I had been working for an enterprise agency delivering business training to school children and it came to the point where I needed to practice what I was preaching. We are both animal lovers and dreamed of spending our days working with them. So the business knowledge and animal passion married together led to the obvious conclusion of setting up our own animal focused business. When setting up any business you have to expect a significant dip in earnings, to start, but considering how we now spend our days, we both feel our standard of living has actually improved!

Did you have any previous experience of pet sitting?

Most of our experience came from caring for our own pet, Dita, a Jack Russell Terrier we rescued from the local animal shelter. We also cared for family pets while growing up. As animal owners ourselves, we have not only learned the necessary skills for animal care, but also developed that all important empathy. We know it can be worrying to let someone you don't initially know come into your home and look after your beloved pet. Understanding this helps us to put our clients at ease. Through our membership with NarpsUK, we are learning more every day about the business side of things. It's wonderful to have the opportunity to network with people in the same industry.  

What prompted the move from Belfast to Cardiff?

The million dollar question, to which we don't have an exact answer. Whilst Belfast is an exciting and vibrant city, we had both lived there since being students and felt we needed new pastures to explore. We enjoyed a great weekend in Cardiff, appreciated its proximity to London, and so decided to research it as an option. We took a trip over to explore all the areas and fell in love with Roath. Two years on and we are still in love!.  

What's been the hardest moment?

Waiting for the phone to ring! We had the website good to go, our clothing branded and our bags packed but that didn't mean anyone knew about us. We were also working part-time and that was quite difficult; we had to juggle initial bookings around shifts in our respective jobs. Then came the decision to make the leap into the role full-time. We paced ourselves with me leaving work first and growing the business until it reached the stage where Wayne needed to come on-board as well. We have worked really hard and are now thrilled to both be working full-time with Walk N' Roll.  

How did you build up a new client base in Cardiff?

Slowly but surely. Using all the usual suspects: website, flyer drops, Facebook, twitter, posters in local shops and networking in local parks. Each offered their own leads. Initially the website proved the most successful way of gaining new business but we rebranded all our work clothing adding DOG WALKER across the back in bold writing. This has helped us gain a lot of local business; people walk right up and ask for a business card.  

What is your unique selling point for your business?

A client recently summarised it for us in saying that we offer a bespoke service. We are the only two people in the business: Walk n' Roll is not a franchise. We come out, personally, and meet prospective clients and their pets, taking lots of notes on their pets and the service they need. We pick our dogs up on foot and do not use a van. We limit ourselves to three dogs each thus ensuring excellent supervision and engagement. If we can we will keep the dog out for longer than booked, meeting up with each other to offer the dogs an opportunity to play and socialise with each other. At times, one hour walks become 2 or 2½ hours with no extra charge to the client. We would rather be out with dogs than inside.  

Where do you see yourselves in pet sitting in 5 years time?

We have plans to expand the range of services we offer. Our big goal is to buy a property here and offer home boarding and doggie day care. We would also like to train in complimentary services such as grooming and animal massage.

A Week in the Life of a Pet Sitter

Ever wanted to find out what it is like to be a pet sitter?

This month we spoke to Derek Chambers from London who runs Finchley Dog Walker.

www.finchleydogwalker.co.uk

Derek took a diary of what he got up to and has kindly shared it with us.

 

 

Day 1 – Sunday

07:00  Up and dressed, Quick egg on toast for breakfast. A fairly easy day today

08:30  Picked up Kiki for her morning walk over Avenue House. Fed and watered the cats whilst the owners are away

10:00  Back home and time to get ready for Ice Skating with the scouts and St Georges Day

17:00  Pick up kiki for her second walk of the day, Fed and watered cats

 

Day 2 – Monday

06:00  Alarm goes off, press the snooze

06:15  Up and dressed

06:30  Picked up Kiki for her morning walk over Avenue House.  Fed and watered the cats whilst the owners are away

08:00  Back home in time for Kas to be dropped off

08:10  Kas is dropped off and together with Missy and Roxy we go to the Glebelands

09:30  Back home for a quick bowl of porridge

10:00  Pick up Sam the 6 month old Jack Russell for his morning walk.  Off we go to Dollis Brook

11:00  Drop off Sam back home

11:30  Pick up Barny the Tibetan for his first walk of the day and go over the Whetstone Stray

12:05  Barny returned home and given his midday snack

12:30  Pick up Hector a very shy 2 year old rescue Greyhound that so far we have not managed to get him out past the driveway due to the traffic but slow progress is being made with the help of Kevin from Barnet Training School

13:20  Back home for lunch

14:30  Pick up Barny for his second walk of the day

15:10  Return Barney home

16:03  Take a phone call from a gentleman that found me on the internet and wants to walk his Pharaoh hound.  Arrange to meet him on Wednesday at 18:00

17:00  Pick up Kiki for her evening walk and feed the cats

19:00  off out to do some climbing for scouts

 

Day 3 – Tuesday

06:00  Alarm goes off, press the snooze

06:15  Up and dressed

06:32  Picked up Kiki for her morning walk over Avenue House. Fed and watered the cats whilst the owners are away

07:58  Back home in time for Kas to be dropped off

08:15  Kas is dropped off and together with Missy and Roxy we go to the Glebelands

09:30  Back home for a quick bowl of porridge

10:00  Pick up Sam the 6 month old Jack Russell for his morning walk. Off we go to Dollis Brook

11:00  Drop off Sam back home

11:30  Pick up Barny the Tibetan for his first walk of the day and go over the Whetstone Stray

12:05  Barny returned home and given his midday snack

12:40  Pick up Morrisey the 18 month old Lab also pick up Poppy and Frieda and walk them over Highgate Woods

13:50  Back home for lunch

14:30  Pick up Barny for his second walk of the day

15:10  Return Barney home

16:03  Off to meet Sue from Tip Top Dog School with regards to sharing links on the website and possibly working together

17:20  After a successful meeting with Sue and links swapped on website and business cards swapped etc. set off to pick up Kiki for her evening walk and feed the cats

20:30  Leave Kiki and set off home – an extra long day

 

Day 4 – Wednesday

06:00  Alarm goes off, press the snooze

06:05  Up and dressed

06:27  Picked up Kiki for her morning walk over Avenue House.  Fed and watered the cats whilst the owners are away

07:55  Back home in time for Kas to be dropped off

08:07  Kas is dropped off and together with Missy and Roxy we go to the Glebelands

08:11  Sams owners text to see if I can make it 10:30 instead of 10am.  I said I could just about accommodate the time change

09:30  Back home for breakfast

10:25  Pick up Sam the 6 month old Jack Russell for his morning walk.  Off we go to Dollis Brook

11:31  Drop off Sam back home

12:02  Pick up Barny the Tibetan for his first walk of the day and go over the Whetstone Stray

12:35  Barny returned home and given his midday snack

13:00  Pick up Morrisey the 18 month old Lab also pick up Poppy and Frieda and walk them over Highgate Woods

13:50  Back home for lunch

14:30  Pick up Barny for his second walk of the day

15:10  Return Barney home

16:03  ‘Pick up Kiki for her second walk

18:00  Meeting with new client with regards to walking Taxi the Pharaoh Hound (the ones who found my website on bing).

All being well we will be walking him Wednesday and Friday from next week

 

Day 5 – Thursday

06:30  Up slightly late this morning, hurriedly get dressed etc.

07:01  Picked up Kiki for her morning walk over Avenue House.  Fed and watered the cats whilst the owners are away

08:10  Back home.  Kas’s owner is waiting for me – off with Kassy Missy and Roxy we go to the Glebelands

09:30  Grab a porridge on the go and leave to get Oscar

10:00  Pick up Oscar a reactive Boxer for his walk.  Discuss the Yellow Dog scheme  with the owner as I have just become a  member.

11:31  Drop off oscar  back home

12:02  Pick up Barny the Tibetan for his first walk  of the day and go over the Whetstone Stray

12:35  Barny returned home and given his  midday snack

13:00  Pick up Morrisey the 18 month old Lab   also pick up Poppy and Frieda and walk   them over Highgate Woods

13:50  Pick Betty a 4 year old staff up

14:30  Pick up Barny for his second walk of the day

15:10  Return Barney home

16:03  ‘Pick up Kiki for her second walk

18:00  off out to run scouts

22:00  Back home for the day

Growing Your Pet Sitting Business - Part 5/5

Make a Not-to-Do List

Most people have the aptly named “To Do” lists, but have you ever created a “Not to Do List”? The principle is if what you’re doing isn’t moving you forward, then it’s holding you back.

This list is something you should create and place in a prominent place that you can view every day. So what types of things could you have in your “Not to do List” – see some examples below:

  • During Working hours – do not watch television
  • Don’t think about how much money your competitors are making
  • Forget about clients who have cancelled your services
  • Remember work-life balance

The things you put on this list will help you focus on the value adding activities for your business and beyond. Remember to review it regularly.

Growing Your Pet Sitting Business - Part 4/5

Be Quirky

One of the best forms of marketing is word of mouth and this can also be one of the cheapest methods of growing your business. Word of Mouth is when someone mentions a product, service or event to their family or friends that is worthy of discussion.  For example if you went to your local supermarket to buy some milk, it is unlikely to be worthy of discussion to your friends or family unless something extraordinary happened.

The same applies to running your own pet sitting business. Take a step back and ask yourself how do you compare to your competitors. You may have similar prices, similar services and offer a similar catchment area, but what makes you stand out. What persuades someone looking for a pet sitter in your area to pick you.

Something that can work in your favour is your unique selling point – your quirk. Quirks are sometimes unexpected, usually free or very cheap to employ, and will result in some word of mouth discussion. For example in some gyms, there are personal trainers who will give their clients a free personal training session on their birthday, but they won’t tell them in advance.

Find a quirk that matches your own personality and makes it very personal to your service.

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