The economics of being a self-employed dog groomer


I have plenty of time to key in data to a spreadsheet these days, and I am trying to determine what I will owe in taxes  for 2009.  The ‘unearned income’ (what I make from rent, and selling books, the Murdock map, & stuff on consignment) is different from ‘earned’ income—& ‘earned income’ is different from wages.

I’ve earned about $200 in wages so far this year, but about $10,000 from grooming dogs, dog walking, & pet-sitting. This may seem  like real money in a small town, but my property taxes are about $620 a month.  It is not.  I have posted that I have been offered ‘jobs’, but  they are not really ‘jobs’ with ‘wages’.  They are independent contracting positions.

I recently tried yet another one, & I could tell at the interview the shop owner  was being unrealistic.  She had too many cages, but not enough dryers. She was trained by Petsmart, so didn’t see the need for more equipment, & her plan was to take 1 dog every 90 minutes per groomer.  This means if  a client runs late or doesn’t show up, you  are screwed for the day.  Not only that—they don’t check dogs before they bathe them.  No brushing, no cutting out matts, nothing. Right into the tub.

Most shops take 2—3 dogs per groomer per 3 hour period, and will call the owner when the dog is finished. True—some want them all in by 10 & have to have the dog until 4, but there is no need.

In any case, the shop owner told me she was booked 5 business days in advance, so she could give me 2 full days (6–7 dogs) a week.’

The first day I was scheduled, I came in, & I had a ‘bath’ dog (not a grooming), & the grooming dog canceled.

The next day I was scheduled to start at 11, she called me at 10 & told me ‘someone had made an error’ & booked my first dog for  10:30.  Only 2 people have access to the schedule…so  who could have made the error?  But—that was the only dog I had scheduled.  She asked me if I wanted the other groomer to groom the dog.  I told her ‘yes’.  Why should either of us not have a full day?  &  90 minutes in the car for me & $3 gas?

The next  day she had me booked, another client (kennel) asked me if I could groom 4 dogs that day.  I called  the shop owner  & asked her how many dogs I had booked.  She told me I had 1.  So, I asked her if I could leave about 2 to groom those dogs. “Well, actually, your first dog comes in at 12:30,” she told me.

Now, she wouldn’t have called me to tell me that.   She would have had me come in at 11 & hang around.

So, I told her, “NO problem!  I’ll go to the kennel first & then come in.”  She didn’t like that idea. She wanted ME available to HER so she could accommodate clients.  & why couldn’t she? She doesn’t have to pay me for time I hang around!

She wants to leave her husband & is moving stuff out of the house while he’s at work—so isn’t grooming  dogs herself the days she has me booked to…hang around.

Another shop  not far from this one wanted to hire me, but their average fee per dog is $38 (in the metro area it is $45 per dog).   On the one hand, they have bather/ brushers.  Groomers just clip.  On the other hand, at $19 per dog—even if I get 6 dogs a day (and there is no guarantee), I gross $114 a day.  That isn’t even $30,000 a year.  & they can’t raise prices now, but they haven’t kept pace with inflation.  So many groomers do not raise prices even every 2 years!  I can groom at home, average $70 a day, 2 dogs, no hassle.

The real kicker is, however, that I was considering refinancing my house.  My monthly payment—including property taxes, is $1588 per month.  I owe $87,000 , & my interest rate is 5.25%.  Current 15 year fixed rate is 4.33.    Minimum to borrow is $100.000. That would give me $13,000 to  redo the kitchen. &—get this—my  monthly payment would be $200 a month less! Problem—I don’t have a job.  I have  about $80,000 in retirement funds, about  $20,000 in liquid savings, but the world is a different place.  No job, no refinance without a co-signer.

Lots of people are going to be independent contractors now instead of employees, and they won’t be able to get mortgages.  Capitalism as we know it is going to change radically.

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