The thing about a service industry where you’re making appointments with clients, is that your availability needs to match your client’s. They need income to pay you, often meaning that you’ll need to make appointments outside of standard working hours.
Dog training classes are traditionally held on weeknights or weekends so that more people can attend. If you’re running group classes, it makes sense to hold one during these times.
Does that mean that all dog trainers need to slave away after hours and on weekends?
Like many dog trainer business myths, this is one that just comes with the territory. But one thing that I’ve learned is that if you have your own business, you can shape it to run the way you enjoy it. If you don’t like something about it, you can change it. Including how much work you do out of hours and which clients you accept.
If you want to accommodate every client, you’ll need to work some after hours and/or weekends. The real question is – do you really need to run your business to suit everyone and anyone that enquires?
Most dog trainers will do it this way. They’ll try to say yes to everyone that calls and book in anything they can get. Inevitably resulting in burn out – working all hours for minimal pay. This is due to fear. Fear that if they don’t take every client, they won’t be able to cover the costs as their business strategy continually needs more and more money, time and effort. As well as fear that if they raised their standards and said no to anyone, their business would start to crumble. It is a costly mistake because they’ve set up a business model that traps them in a continual cycle of grasping for new clients.
If you work like every other dog trainer, you’ll get the sames results as every other dog trainer – including the results in your personal life and your work-life balance, or lack thereof.
You may already know, I only run private lessons and online coaching. This is due to realising that the reason I want to work for myself is to shape the lifestyle that I desire. If my work still dictated my lifestyle and free time, I may as well have continued working for someone else.
While the online part of my job now affords me more time flexibility, it hasn’t always been that way. Before I started online training, I made a full time income on only private dog training lessons – three days per week, weekdays only. I limit how many days per week I will work after hours (7pm finishes at the latest) and I make only the occasional and very rare exception for a Saturday appointment for those who travel long distances to come for a consultation.
Because I set the standard of what my available hours are, most people are happy to work in with it.
Think about it – have you ever had to change YOUR schedule to see a professional that you needed to hire? It happens all the time – dentists, doctors, tradespeople, the vet clinic, specialists, after school activities for the kids – you just make it work. And as you’re also a professional that the client needs, they can make it work too – probably more often than you think.
Group Dog Training Classes – The Benefits and The Beliefs
Before I switched to private lessons only, I ran Saturday morning group classes for a few years. I admit I only started group classes in the first place because I was convinced by other trainers that it was a compulsory part of the business.
I enjoyed the group classes a lot. We had such an awesome group of clients. I say, if you enjoy group classes, run them whenever you would like to! At first, you may have more people wanting a weeknight or weekend session. Regardless, run the sessions the way you want, because it’s what YOU want. If you’re happy working weekends, that’s cool too.
If you’re not, you can run a middle of the day, week day group class if it’s what you prefer. Could everyone attend? Nope. Do you want everyone to attend? Nope. You want ideal clients. This means clients that can only attend on weekends no longer fit into the category of the ideal client for your classes. And that’s ok!
Many trainers make most of their income from group classes (they are certainly popular). When I started out, I was told that is where the money is because group classes are what the public wants. Why do they want it? Is it because of the long standing image of training a dog being in a group dog obedience class? It might be what they think they want, but is it what they really need? Some clients may be better off with private lessons or a board and train program.
If you love offering group classes, you will be the best dog training class in your town – no matter the time slot. However, if you’re showing up resenting the fact that it’s a cold Sunday morning and you’d rather be in bed, you won’t be at your best nor do your best work.
In short – offer group classes if you enjoy it. If not, don’t feel that you have to offer them. If you want to run group classes but don’t want to work every weekend, become inventive! You might be happier running a block of weekend classes, then having a few weekends off before the next block. Maybe you could offer a day time class with a twist – like a dog training group for stay at home mums, where you team up with a baby sitter to help with the kids while the mums have fun at dog school.
I did enjoy my group classes, but I no longer wanted to commit every Saturday morning to work. So I stopped the classes and focused on offering the best private lessons. That is what I’m known for and attract more of. Essentially, putting the majority of your focus into one main service can only make that service better.
The Ideal Client
Do you know who your ideal client is? If you’re booking anyone with a dog, the answer is no.
You should know the type of client you want to attract and work with. Most trainers try to book everyone, then wonder why the human end of the leash is so frustrating and difficult to work with. By attracting your ideal clients, you’ll find people that are more cooperative, enjoyable to be around and fit to your schedule.
For example, my ideal client can make a booking in the day time and has a flexible work schedule to be able to do so. I know in my mind the age range, the location, the type of dog problem and the personality type I like to work with and aim to attract.
If you haven’t heard of the concept of attracting your ideal client, you should attend my free workshop, where you can learn how to attract the type of client you love to work with and increase your income. Register here.
Do It Your Way
If you work more hours, you can fit in more clients – that is simple maths. However, more isn’t necessarily better. I prefer the quality over quantity approach.
Just because most trainers operate a certain way, it doesn’t mean you have to structure your business to follow suit. No particular type of training service or operating hours is essential for a successful business. If you’re slaving away all hours, still not feeling like you’re making enough money and always feeling exhausted, this is a sign that something needs to change. If you are fine with some after hours work that is great. But if you’re hating it and wishing you could have more weekends off, it’s up to you to change the way you operate.
It’s all part of structuring your business to provide you with your ideal work-life balance. At the end of the day, if you don’t love your business and the lifestyle it provides you, what are you gaining from being your own boss?
Let me know in the comments – do you design your training business to work for you?
Want to create the dog training business of your dreams, increase your income and get better clients? Make sure you catch the free online training – register here.