Set up a paw-some new dog walking business using this guide!

We’ll cover all the business basics you’ll need to find furry friends, handle customer payments and stay tax compliant with your new venture. Read on to find out more and how Countingup can help. 

Setting up as a sole trader with HMRC

Setting up a business means you’ll have to register with HMRC. There are a few different ways of doing this, but the easiest and fastest way is becoming a sole trader

Being a sole trader means you get to keep the profits you make and it offers you a lot of flexibility as you run your business. Registering as a sole trader will allow you to pay taxes from your new business’ profits and get access to business support, like a dedicated business bank account and small business loans. 

If you’d like more information on what other types of businesses you can register and create, find out more in our article How to Set Up Your Business: Sole Trader or Limited Company.

Choosing a business name

As a sole trader, you’re not required to choose a business name; however, it can help your business grow by having adverts with a catchy title rather than your own name.

There are some rules to follow while choosing. Primarily, you’ll need to make sure the name you’d like to use isn’t taken. Check for existing business names and trademarks using this online tool

Once you’ve found a name that you like and is available, make sure to use it consistently on any future adverts, business cards, paperwork and your application with HMRC. This can help your business appear more professional and trustworthy to customers, and to HMRC if you’re ever audited. If you want to protect your business’ name to make sure no one else uses it, you can register to protect it

Register as a sole trader by filing for self-assessment. If you want some more support and information on naming your business when registering, read our article How To Register As A Sole Trader.

Business records you’ll need to keep

Like any other business, you’ll need to keep records of your finances. Fortunately, being a sole trader means enjoying lighter paperwork, but you will need to keep records of:

  • The income and expenses of your business.
  • Records about your personal income.
  • PAYE records for anyone you employ.
  • VAT records (but only if you’re registered for VAT).
  • Grant money you may have received in 2020-2021 if you claimed through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme because of COVID-19.

You’ll be required to keep these records for at least five years after the tax year deadline. 

For example, tax returns submitted for the 2021-2022 tax year by 31st January 2023 must be kept until at least 31st January 2028.

Over the next few years, sole traders are expected to transition to digital bookkeeping. 

Even with some expenses receipts still provided on paper, finding the right digital accounting software is important. Discover how Countingup can help below.

Finding and managing customers

Finding customers as a dog walking business can be done in a few ways. 

You may already know some dog owners, so you can use word of mouth to find out who might be interested in your business. However, this method can somewhat limit your business as these connections only go so far. If you’re looking to expand your business, consider using different advertising channels.

Advertising your new business

Dog walking businesses tend to be operated locally, so you may find your advertising is most effective using in-person methods.

Flyers can be a cheap and easy way to increase awareness of your business. As you’re looking to create flyers, online services like Canva, Instaprint and Vistaprint offer professional design quality. If you want something more unique, you can either make it yourself, using software like Microsoft Publisher or Adobe InDesign, or work with a freelance graphic designer.

Flyers can be circulated via letterboxes, local notice boards, vet receptions, lamp posts around residential areas or dog parks, and more. 

Many customers expect businesses of all sizes to have a website or social media account. Being online can help customers trust your business by letting them find important information, like operating hours or how to book with you. Therefore, your new business may also benefit from advertising online and there are tools you can use to still have a local focus. Find out more in our articles How to Create a Business Website and How to Use Social Media for Business.

Other things to consider as you set up

Dog owners look for people they can trust with their pets. Therefore, as you’re setting up a business, finding ways to communicate your value, experience and expertise with dogs can be a great way to increase sales and keep clients. Consider the following additional aspects of dog walking businesses:

  • Are you following professional guidelines from reputable dog charities?
  • Do you have dedicated pet business insurance or other comprehensive policies in place? For example, public liability insurance and business car insurance.
  • Can you evidence skills in animal behaviour and welfare?
  • Can you show customers a clean criminal record?

Managing your new business with Countingup

Establishing and running a business takes commitment and effort, but saving time and stress is simple with Countingup.

Countingup is your business current account and accounting software in one app. This way, you can automate your business’ financial admin and gain complete confidence in your accounting records.

The Countingup app provides you with automated invoicing features, so billing clients is easier. And with the expense reminders and receipt capture tools, you can make sure your business always has accurate account records.

Find out more here and sign up for free today.