In a Nutshell: Americans have turned to dogs to ease their loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the rise in popularity of canine companions creates new opportunities for dog walkers and other caretakers to expand their clientele and boost their businesses. The Barkly platform empowers those entrepreneurs to develop their skills, advertise their services, and manage their clients. And Barkly is expanding to encompass other services, including providing grooming and digital content through its blog.
Americans have sought to ease their isolation and find companionship during the COVID-19 pandemic — and that means more people bringing dogs into their homes. People are spending more time at home and socializing less with others — a void that dogs are more than happy to fill.
With so many people working from home these days, they can provide their new four-legged friends with plenty of care and attention. But when life returns to normal, people will have less time to spend with their dogs.
This situation presents an opportunity for professional dog caretakers to connect with new clients and expand their operations. For others, it is a chance to start a dog-walking gig that can potentially help them pay down debt.
In both cases, they can leverage the Barkly platform to manage their businesses. Barkly launched in 2015, and it expanded nationally in September 2019. Unlike other platforms, which treat dog walkers as independent contractors and charge a brokerage fee, Barkly empowers entrepreneurs to control their own schedules and clients.
“We flipped our business last year to a new model where the walkers set their rates and keep all their commission,” said Emily Bergquist, Content Creation Specialist at Barkly.
Barkly operates on a more equitable membership model. Dog walkers pay a flat fee of $8.50 per month if they earn $100 or more; otherwise, membership is free.
That presents a prime opportunity to earn money, pay off existing debt, and avoid accruing more. The platform is particularly well-suited to established dog walkers looking for an efficient way to manage clients while attracting more business. But it’s just as efficient for those seeking to break into the dog-walking scene.
“We hope to tap into getting the independent people, the people who don’t want to work as independent contractors,” Bergquist said. “And, of course, the people who prefer to keep all their earnings.”
A Platform Focused on Pets and Professionalism
Barkly allows dog walkers to set their rates and coverage areas, and it provides tools to advertise to potential clients in those areas. Dog walkers receive a personalized profile page to showcase their services, complete with a link to share on social media.
Customers can book services on those sites without having to visit the Barkly app or website. Dog walkers can also generate a flyer that they can email or print and post around town to attract new clients.
Barkly provides an online knowledge base to help dog walkers get their businesses up and running.
“When you’re onboarded, we have an article on how to build your business with Barkly,” Bergquist said. “It goes over all the details of where you should be posting this.”
The platform also offers free dog walker training courses that award certifications that serve as showcase credentials. Badges on the dog walker’s profile page represent completed courses.
“They can go in and educate themselves on aggressive dog handling, the harness course, things like that,” Bergquist said. “We hope that our walkers can also build their experience.”
But before dog walkers can access these resources, they must first pass Barkly’s initial screening process. New users must take a short pass/fail quiz and complete a three-point background check.
“If anything gets flagged, we have to evaluate it. And we take it on a case-by-case basis,” Bergquist said. “Having the walkers own their own business helps weed out the people who are a little bit less professional.”
Fast, Easy, and Safe Onboarding for Clients and Dogs
“We focus on the customer and the walker’s relationship,” Bergquist said. “When they book, they have a whole list of walkers. They can select any walker they want, but most customers have their favorite walker they always go to.”
Favorite walkers automatically populate a client’s lists on the app. If a walker rejects the offer or has to cancel a pre-arranged service, the client has the opportunity to notify other walkers in the area or else select their next-most-preferred walker.
“That creates a bond between the caretaker and the customer, which I think a lot of other platforms lack,” Bergquist said.
Customers can select dog walkers to interview and set up a meet and greet. That allows owners and pets to meet the potential walker, get to know one another, and decide if the arrangement is a good fit for everyone involved — humans and animals alike.
If it is, the client can book the walker’s services on the spot. Barkly is building out additional features that will make the process even easier for both parties.
“Some customers don’t want to deal with booking walks and would rather have their walkers book for them,” Bergquist said. “So we’re building a feature designed for those walkers where they can help onboard their own customers and book walks for them. It’s going to be an app designed for the walker.”
Writers and Brand Ambassadors Can Increase Earnings
Most walkers charge between $18 and $20 for a 30-minute walk, according to Bergquist. And during peak times, walkers do about five or six walks a day.
At those rates, walkers can bring in close to $40 to get exercise and spend time with dogs. Many people walk dogs as a side gig, but others do it as a full-time business. Both options offer significant earning opportunities. Bergquist said one walker earns $1,400 per week walking dogs as a side gig.
Barkly is also in the process of expanding options for earning beyond just walking dogs. New services will enhance opportunities to generate revenue and reduce existing debt without even having to leave the house — a valuable addition for those seeking to safeguard their health amid a pandemic.
One way they can accomplish that is by serving as ambassadors for associated brands like The Anxious Pet, a Moreno, California, retailer that sells pet wellness supplies. Walkers can offer the company’s products to clients and earn commissions to supplement dog-walking income.
Another way Barkly dog walkers can earn money is by writing web content for the brand’s blog. Barkly is currently onboarding existing users to produce local content for their towns and cities.
“We’re trying to explore other ways dogwalkers can earn money on our platform without actually walking dogs,” Bergquist said. “I think it’s important for our audience, when they read our blog, to get content from our walkers, not just from us. We showcase that our walkers know what they’re talking about.”
Barkly: Expanding to Meet the Needs of Walkers and Pups
Pet ownership has boomed in 2020 as more people look for comfort during challenging times. And Barkly is addressing emerging needs by expanding to other services in 2021. The platform will soon provide a venue for workers offering the full range of pet-related services, including boarding and grooming.
“When people do start getting back to work, we want to have a platform that is ready to accept everyone,” Bergquist said. “We’re hoping to capitalize on that puppy boom.”
Metamorphosis Partners acquired Barkly in 2020 and added the platform to its family of brands. One of these is Pawprint, an app that allows owners access to their pet’s medical records. Barkly will integrate with the Pawprint app, providing greater exposure for dog walkers and other service providers.
“You can pretty much track all your pet’s health information there,” Bergquist said. “But we just added a feature so you can get health guides, some interactive content, and pet services. That’s where Barkly comes in. We’re slowly integrating Barkly into our great pet care apps.”
Despite the acquisition and expansion, Barkly is still dedicated to maintaining a personal touch. That is, after all, one of its significant differentiators.
“We want you to build your own business, and we’re here to support you in whatever way you need. You’ll have all the tools on your own,” Bergquist said. “We want to push that our walkers are the best and the most professional. That’s where our platform is headed, to encompass and showcase the walkers.”