Turning Your Pet Hobby Into a Business

Woman working at laptop with Beagle on lap
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Do you have an animal related hobby that could potentially grow into a full-time career option? Many of us have dreamed of turning our favorite hobby into a full-fledged business venture, but making this transition is not always as easy as it seems. Here are some considerations for those hoping to make this major career move.

Shift Your Focus From a Hobby Mindset to a Business Mindset

Remember that your hobby is now a business, and as such you have to run it day in and day out. You must now be responsible for all sorts of business-related duties. This means you must ensure that you are keeping track of expenses, filing all receipts, recording all sales, and handling a wide variety of administrative tasks. You may have let this sort of recordkeeping slide when you were a hobbyist, but the IRS and other agencies will not allow you to do that going forward. You will also be responsible for other aspects of running the business including customer service, advertising, and storefront (or web page) design.

Realize That It Will Take Time to Build Sales

Be sure to set realistic goals for sales and customer acquisition, especially in the early months. It can take some time to build a client list through advertising and positive referrals. If you concentrate on providing exceptional service during the early months your business will gain momentum.

Be Realistic With Profit Expectations

Don’t overestimate the potential profitability of the new venture. There are many overhead costs associated with starting a business: the business license, insurance, retail space rental or purchase, website development, hiring employees or contractors, purchasing supplies or equipment, and the list of expenses goes on from there. It may take some time to get the business into the black, but with some persistence, you should be able to get there over time. 

Establish Competitive Rates

Be sure you are charging a competitive rate that is in line with other service providers in your geographic area. An easy way to determine this is to call around for quotes or to shop in a competitor’s retail or web location. You don’t want to be overpriced or underpriced for the local market. If it is a web-based business, check with major competitors in your specific niche market (i.e. gourmet pet food businesses should compare prices with other gourmet vendors, not big box pet suppliers).

Consider Starting on a Part-time Basis

Consider opening the business on a part-time basis at first (testing the waters with the new business venture) while hanging on to your full-time position. For example, aspiring dog groomers or pet photographers might begin by seeing clients on evenings and weekends. Those producing pet products might attempt to sell them in small quantities to see if there is enough demand to justify a stand-alone business.

Offer Several Related Services or Products

Consider supplementing your primary line of business (such as pet photography) with other income producers, such as teaching photography classes, selling camera equipment, or offering products that are personalized with the pet’s name and image. A pet bakery business could offer pet parties, custom pet “birthday cakes,” bake-at-home mixes, and regular lines of pet food. It usually is beneficial to include a few sideline offerings to boost earnings.

Work for Someone Else First

If you are not ready to open your own business, consider making a career change and working full time for an established company that deals in the area you were interested in as a hobbyist. A pet sitter, for example, might work for a reputable agency in the area to get a feel for the business while having the security of being on the employer’s payroll. Working for another business can help you to gain valuable hands-on experience while observing their practices and methods.