Would You Pick Up Dog Poop for Cash? How to Become a Professional Pooper-Scooper
I’ve never forgotten this comic I once read in the newspaper: A man walks outside to find his dog, Fang, talking with another dog, Mitzi. "Hello. I'm Fang's master," says the man, to which Mitzi replies, "His what?" Fang looks at Mitzi and says, "He's the guy who picks up my poop."
If you already pick up your own dog’s poop, or if you don't own a dog but want an easy way to make some money, you could actually get paid to pick up dog poop.
A pooper-scooper can make $40 to $45 per hour if he works with an average of four clients per hour, says Matthew Osborn, former professional pooper-scooper and author of The Professional Pooper-Scooper.
Interested? Here’s what you’ll need to know to break into the poop-scooping business.
Getting Started as a Pooper-Scooper
Aspiring pooper-scoopers can take several paths.
If you want to ease into this line of work to see how it suits you, you can test it out without much risk. You just need a vehicle to get you to your clients' homes, a pooper-scooper tool and some plastic poop bags. When you get your first client, it's typical to charge $45 per month for a once-a-week visit, according to Tim Stone of the Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists.
But there are other factors that help you set your rates. If a client wants you to visit twice a week, has multiple dogs or other variables that make the job tougher than average, you should adjust your price accordingly. You can also charge by the visit instead of charging by the month. Just make sure you show up when you say you will, or you won't last long in this business.
Plenty of Demand
"There are at least a couple hundred scoopers in the U.S., and there is still room for additional services in lots of cities," says Osborn.
If you decide to get serious and establish your own business, you could make well over $50,000 or $60,000 a year once you gather a few hundred weekly clients and several employees to help you manage the workload (translation: pick up the poop).
Consider a Franchise
Another option is to buy one of many franchise opportunities. Pet Butler, Doody Calls and Poop 911 are three possibilities. You typically need to be approved to be able to buy a franchise, and you need to have some access to funds. At Pet Butler, for example, the franchise cost is $15,000 or $38,950 if you want to include a service vehicle, and franchises take a cut of your earnings.
But franchises provide training based on a proven business model. They also take care of marketing and typically offer a support team.
"In order for someone to grow a business to the point where they can have employees out doing the work, they need to have systems in place," explained Jerrod Sessler, CEO of Pet Butler. "That can be extremely costly and time-consuming for a small owner, and in most cases, just isn't possible."
Legalities and Paperwork
If you don't have $15,000 to buy a franchise, you’re still in luck. You can start this business on your own with a little legwork.
Go to the U.S. Small Business Administration to determine which licenses and permits you might need to start this kind of business. Once you start billing more than a few people per month, think about getting yourself an automated system. Square is one place to check out for online invoicing and appointment scheduling. Wave offers another option for billing clients and being paid, and it allows you to accept credit cards from your smartphone.
When you get ready to market your business, don't make the mistake of thinking only affluent customers will be interested. That's what Osborn initially thought, but he found that to be untrue. Customers from all economic levels paid for this service; most of Osborn’s clients were middle-class families.
Emphasize the benefits of your services: convenience, a clean yard, no stinky poop bin, even preventing family arguments regarding who should have picked up the dog poop!
Are There Job Requirements?
Although there are no formal skills you need to be a pooper-scooper, you do need to understand a little about dog psychology to protect yourself.
If you run into a growling dog in a yard with its hair up, its tail up but not wagging, its ears back and its lips pulled over its teeth, the dog is not ready to play. Back out of the backyard slowly, and then quickly arrange with your client to keep the dog inside before you come over again.
Your Turn: Would you work as a pooper-scooper?
Laura Agadoni has a background in credit union marketing. Her articles appear in various financial publications such as The Houston Chronicle’s small business section, The Motley Fool, Yahoo! Finance, San Francisco Gate’s real estate section, Zacks, Arizona Central’s small business section and InsuranceQuote.com. Follow her on Twitter @LauraAgadoni.