Recap: On May 17, I officially launched Allison Helps Cats. Both prior to and since my launch, there have been many milestones that have happened as part of my journey to become a cat behavior consultant. Some of those included taking courses, offering my services for free, promoting my business, applying for a scholarship, seeking legal help, and talking with others in the field. In part two of a three-part series, I’ll share more of those milestones, to wrap up 2019, and look ahead to 2020.
Start a Facebook Business Page
While seeking advice from more experienced cat behavior consultants, I learned that if I intended to advertise my services on Facebook, I needed a Facebook business page. Creating one became my eleventh milestone, and it involved a lot more work than designing a business card. I needed a cover photo, a tagline, an About page, and so much more, including a list of my services and rates. I also needed to decide what regular content to offer and strategies for drawing people to my page. I decided that, in addition to posting links to my own pet education articles, I would post links to articles by other cat experts.
Develop Working Relationships
In the spring, my networking attempts began to bear fruit. Dr. Jody Jones of Cotner Pet Care responded to my flier. She wanted to meet with me because she was looking for a cat behavior consultant to refer clients to, but first she wanted to know more about my credentials. As a follow-up to that visit, we also met with Linda Brodzik of In Relation with Dogs. The three of us spent an invigorating evening chatting about animal behavior and training. One idea that arose from our multiple get-togethers was to offer a kitten kindergarten class, which I am currently planning.
Meet with an Accountant, Register to Collect Sales Tax, and Apply for a Business Account
Questions about the financial side of running a business began to pile up, so I decided to talk to Trishia Dickenson, an accountant friend of mine. Based on our discussion, I decided to call the Nebraska Department of Revenue. They informed me that because animal behavior consultants sell products (behavior plans) they’re required to collect sales tax. My friend also recommended that I set up a business account. I used a business debit card for the first time this fall. Finally, instead of using an accountant for my finances, she suggested that I simply record monetary transactions in accounting software. This is on my list to do before the new year.
Enroll in the 2019 Online Kitten Conference
As summer rolled in, I received a surprise from a friend who I consider as a mentor in the animal welfare field. She not only alerted me to the Community Cats Podcast and the National Kitten Coalition’s joint Online Kitten Conference, but she also paid for its cost. I spent hours listening to the audio presentations on topics such as how to care for neonatal kittens, set up a kitten nursery, care for FeLV and FIV cats, accommodate cats with special needs, and socialize kittens. In the aftermath of the conference, I had the opportunity to interview four of the speakers for this blog.
Prepare for and Host an Educational Booth
In August, Pawlytics invited me to host a cat educational table at its Adoption Pawp Up event. As this would be my first table event, I pulled out all the stops. I had a banner professionally printed with the expectation that I’d have repeat tabling opportunities. Although I’d previously designed promotional flier, I decided a brochure would be more informational and so set about creating one. Not wanting to limit the print quality of my brochures, I hired local printer Aldis Augstums, who offered me low prices and a fast turnaround. I also converted five of my cat behavior articles into free handouts, which are now available as downloadable PDFs here.
Setup a Mailing List Subscription
While preparing for Adoption Pawp Up, I decided to offer attendees the option subscribing to my email list. To accomplish this, I opted to use MailChimp, which is free to use for those with low-volume subscriptions. After four months of using it to send a mishmash of announcements and news, I have finally worked out a standard template. If you’re one of my subscribers, be on the lookout for my newsletter during January 2020! (If you aren’t my business mailing list, you can subscribe here.)
Receive Inquiries and Feedback at Allison Helps Cats
From June through August, followers of Allison Helps Cats were either my friends or contacts in the local animal welfare world. By September, strangers had also started to find my page.
As the word of my business spread, I began to receive inquiries. Cat owners wanted my advice on basic problems, such as how acclimate a cat to a carrier, socialize a kitten, and introduce a cat to a dog. They also wanted help with serious issues, such as how to stop a cat from peeing outside the litter box, and how to stop multiple cats from fighting each other. One lady even asked me how to help her cat that liked to eat non-food items. Of course, as consultants (of any field) warned me, everyone seemed more than happy to accept free advice and less than happy to offer any money for my services. For that reason, I’ve built up a library of responses to typical questions so I have more time available for paying customers.
Still, it’s reassuring to see that followers are engaging with my page. Although some of my articles have been accessed by as few as 20 people, some have been accessed by as many as 400. At times, followers will comment on my posts, especially my monthly themes. Pam Hoffman, Jayne Sebby, and Megan Yank deserve some of the credit for my blog’s increasing popularity, for suggesting topics for some of my articles. While I do want to earn a living as a consultant, I’m happy to offer my blog as a free resource for cat owners.