ForPaws Blog

What a Year - Part 4, My Biggest Mistake

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My Biggest Mistake

My first year in business as a dog walker and trainerI’m sure you’re thinking there can’t be any more!  Well yes there’s one!  My biggest mistake for me, was paying out a small fortune to do my dog grooming course and spending my last 2 years of full time employment with very little holiday because I’d used it all up on that course!  I’m sure you can understand why that was a mistake, given that less than 2 months after starting my business full time I withdrew my dog grooming service, and within 5 months I’d withdrawn my cat grooming service! 

Way back, when I realised that I wanted to work with pets, I had decided on grooming because I thought it would be an easy way in - a 4 week course and I could start grooming, with dog walking on the side to bring in steady income.  I’d had a quick look into dog training and behaviour, but thought you would need a degree to get started and I had neither the funds, nor the time for a degree.  Oh hindsight is a wonderful thing!  The reality was that it took me 2 years from deciding to change careers to when I actually did it, if I had started a degree I’d have been at least half way through by then and if I’d chosen the right one for me I could have already been practicing as a trainer and offering some behavioural services outside of my normal job to ease the transition to running my own business.  There are some excellent organisations that allow you to study for behavioural degrees (or degree equivalent qualifications) outside of a normal 9-5 week that would have been perfect for me if I’d just done some digging.  Also if I’d really thought about it, I’m not an artistic or ‘crafty’ person at all – so why I thought I would be any good at grooming a dog to look pretty, I don’t know! (This said I'm constantly tempted to get a fox terrier like the chap in this picture just so I can groom him every 6-8 weeks! I really loved doing the schnauzer cut!)

So my biggest bit of advice to anyone considering a career change into pet care, take the time to research, think and investigate.  Don’t be put off because one possible route to you becoming something doesn’t suit you and assume that it will be the same everywhere, look at others!  Ask around, ask people who are doing what you want to do for work experience and advice - be prepared to travel, it’s never a good idea to ask people who will be your direct competition!  Don’t settle on an option just because it’s the most convenient, you will regret it if your heart actually lies elsewhere and once you are working for yourself and have zero free time, you will wish you’d spent your prep time much more effectively.

All this said, if I hadn’t have done the grooming course, I may not have had the courage to start up dog walking as a full time business – which I absolutely love, or to have then found the dog training courses that I did, which have given me the opportunity to do more things that I love!  So it may have been a big and quite costly mistake, but a lot of good came of it.

The Future

Well this year has already been tough – I can’t believe we are a quarter of the way through already!  The weather has been quite draining so I am hoping for sunshine soon!  But my classes have been going well (only 1 class has been cancelled due to weather this year, which is quite impressive!) and I’ve absolutely loved watching my first batch of dogs and owners improve from class to class. 

I have lots planned for this year.  I have signed up to COAPE to start studying a behavioural diploma in September, I can’t wait!  I’m shortly going to be looking to take on some people to help me expand the ForPaws business and to give me a little more time to focus on building the dog training side, which is really exciting! 

One aspect of the first year that surprised me, was just how much I love running my own business.  It’s really hard work, I’m often working until late at night on admin, blogs, plans, finances, advertising etc, but it is fascinating work and I love it.  I used to think of myself as quite unambitious, but it turns out I just wasn’t interested in the work I was doing, now I love it so much I have to force myself to take a break occasionally!

If you are thinking of going into pet care as a career I’d say research, sort your finances and budget, plan for it and go for it!  I can honestly say that I love my job now, can you?

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