Creating the career of your dreams is more than just being a part of the dog training profession you love. It also involves building your personal enjoyment and well-being into your daily business plan.
Whether you are planning a brand-new dog training venture or are expanding a business you’ve already poured your heart and soul into, we want to be sure you craft a career that will provide you with freedom and fulfillment. These seven must-have building blocks from the faculty team at the Victoria Stilwell Academy will help you get there with both your professional and personal well-being intact.
Build in work-life balance
It’s exciting to build your own dog training career – so exciting that your business dream can consume every waking moment of your day. Don’t get caught up in working 12-hour days for too long. You can easily lose sight of one of the reasons you blazed your own path as a dog trainer in the first place: the freedom to relax and enjoy life with your own pets, your friends, and your family.
Set goals for your ideal work-life equation now. Here are some ideas for building in balance:
- Build in specific client and non-client hours. You can set client sessions for three days a week, or only for afternoons or mornings, leaving dedicated time when you can focus on other parts of your business
- Consider a four-day work week. You can work 12-hour working days if you choose, but then unplug completely from client texts, calls, and emails during your extended days off.
- Decide what days of the week your business will be closed, plan for vacation time, and let your clients know in advance. This helps you keep (or add) your winter skiing trip or summer beach time as a relaxing part of your life.
It’s not uncommon for small business owners to feel like they need to have their finger on the pulse of every task. But is spending half your working hours on background business maintenance the reason you chose a career in dog training? Concentrate on your own superpowers – solving canine dilemmas and training dogs and their guardians – and outsource tasks that you don’t enjoy to experts who do them really well.
- If tracking day-to-day finances for your dog training business drags you down, outsource those tasks to a bookkeeper or accountant and lift the weight of numbers from your shoulders.
- Falling behind in social media marketing? Enlist a dog-business savvy social media manager or invest in a tech tool like Planoly, Hootsuite, Buffer, etc. to schedule your posts in advance. You can also join a professional online membership like Working with Dog, a “petpreneur” community that provides monthly done-for-you social media templates and monthly live coaching calls.
- Nowadays, you don’t have to be a tech wizard to build a simple website for your dog training business. But if you want a visually professional look and a seamless online buying experience for your clients, nothing beats an experienced website designer. You’ll also have an expert to tap for site updates and save yourself hours of endless tweaking.
Build in the ability to say “no”
You may think that growing your business involves saying yes to every promotion or paying opportunity that comes along, even if it means providing services you don’t really enjoy or sacrificing your “me-time.” Instead, choose targeted excellence over generalized mediocrity.
- Enjoy professional satisfaction – and profit – as the go-to expert for the specific training subjects you enjoy and excel at. Find your own special niche. Do you have a special knack for dogs with separation anxiety, love teaching puppy manners, or see a need for expert therapy dog guidance? Find your own professional niche in dog training, and then refer dog guardians with other needs to other trainers. If you’re curious, we have a step-by-step guide here.
- Say yes only to special events and promotions that are likely to reach your ideal clients or that support causes you really believe in.
- Say no to interruptions in your personal time. Turn on the “do not disturb” function for texts and shut down your work email at a set time each night.
By saying no when you need to, you’ll create a lot more space to say yes to exciting, unexpected opportunities
Plan your income
A savvy business owner manages their income instead of letting it manage them – and that’s a lot more fun than it sounds. Dog trainers aren’t just limited to one-off courses and 1:1 training sessions. You can also build recurring income opportunities to bring clients back again and again, and passive income products that, once built, require little future work or maintenance. For example:
- Offer a membership or long-term course package that guides your clients and their dogs from puppy kindergarten, to puppy manners, to canine good citizenship over the course of the year.
- Do you have additional dog skills or a groomer you can partner with? How about a once-a-month nail-trim day for past and current clients? Not only do you bring in additional revenue, you create a strong bond with clients and add monthly face-to-face opportunities to offer additional products or training services.
- Do you own or rent classroom space? Rent or sublet it to another business when it’s not in use.
- Partner with your veterinarian to offer courses for their clients. The veterinary staff can manage the marketing, scheduling, fee collection, and provide the space. You just do what you enjoy: Train!
- Build an online store of your preferred training and enrichment equipment and point new clients there when they register for a class. You can bring their purchases with you to their first lesson.
- Create a library of online courses or an eBook for skills you aren’t teaching in person.
Recurring and passive income allows you to track and count on stable income streams in addition to your training courses. Steady, planned income means a more profitable business, and more freedom and enjoyment for you!
Build in a cause
As a dog lover, your career vision probably isn’t just about making money. We’re sure you also take pride in having a real, positive impact on the well-being of our canine companions. Supporting a cause you believe in not only keeps your own morale flying high, it fosters the goodwill of clients and your community. Here are some causes dog trainers often jump into. Of course, you should follow your own passion!
- Donate a percentage of your profit to a dog rescue or other dog-centric cause.
- Dedicate a few hours each week helping to train shelter dogs so they are more adoptable, or help staff the dog behavior hotline at your local humane society.
- Hold a mini-course or webinar on teaching basic dog manners for a local youth association.
Be sure to share your cause-based work on your website and social media. You’ll grab the attention of potential clients who find even more value in your services once they are aware of the additional good work you dedicate to animals.
Build in continued learning
Professional education is another aspect of dog training that isn’t just a “one and done.” You’ll want to keep continuing education top-of-mind as you envision the future of your business. Opportunities abound!
- If you’re self-trained or learned your craft under another trainer, consider also investing in a respected and comprehensive dog training course, online or in-person. The Victoria Stilwell Academy Dog Trainer Course provides a rich, dynamic grounding in dog training and running a dog training business, so it’s a solid boost for your career.
- Keep your eyes open for conferences and workshops that will keep you at the top of your field. For example, VSA’s yearly Dog Behavior Conference is an opportunity you should mark in your calendar each spring, with its world-class roster of elite presenters.
- In addition to exposure to cutting-edge learning at conferences, jump into resources like Google Scholar for a heads-up on new studies and publications in your industry. Studies roll out regularly with new learning about how dogs think and learn, and new experts enter the field with exciting successes to share.
Here’s one of the biggest perks of continued education: You’ll get to know more people who love what you love. Continuing professional training widens your network of friends to have fun with and experts to tap for professional support.
Finally: Build in future flexibility
By addressing the personal and professional “must-haves” above, you’ll be leading your dog training business where you want it to go, rather than feeling like your career is pushing you along. You’ll have the freedom to keep things calm and steady, or you can change things up – whatever keeps that spark of joy in your career.
- Perhaps you’ll want to nurture your business at its current size and balance, and devote your extra energy to outside passions and people you value.
- Maybe you’ll be fired up to see your business grow and hire additional trainers to expand your services in the years to come.
- You could even become so inspired by a mission-based cause that you decide to make a jump into leadership within a different animal profession in the future. The reputation you create as a respected dog trainer will open lots of doors.
By building your personal well-being into your dog training career today, you can be sure you’ll have the freedom to take your business wherever you wish, tomorrow.
Looking to take the next step? The flexible-length Dog Trainer Course with the Victoria Stilwell Academy is a great place to start!