I’m in business to make money. Does that sound greedy to you?

It shouldn’t. We’re all in business to make money. If you’re only looking to break even, you’re probably running a charity. If your work is consistently costing you more than you’re bringing in, then what you have is a hobby, not a business.

I talk to a lot of trainers who feel a little weird about asking for payment for their services. Hey, dog training is a legit way to earn a living. There is no shame in charging a fee and expecting payment.

The issue is especially common among new trainers. When we’re starting out in this industry, we tend to take ALL the clients we can get. We’re so afraid to miss out on potential income that we’ll even entertain the tire-kickers. We spend an unfortunate amount of time responding to enquiries from folks who are generally just looking for free information and who will likely never become clients.

We feel compassion for those who say they can’t afford our services at the moment. We care about what will happen to the dog and we feel pressured, worrying that if we don’t help these people, who will?

And then there’s Imposter Syndrome, the awful feeling that you are a major fraud and that one day everyone will realize that you’re not nearly as qualified as they think you are. How could you possibly demand payment when you’re not worthy? The truth is that many of the trainers who question themselves are more than qualified and are worth every penny of their fee – which, by the way, is often lower than it should be.

It’s a wonderful thing to be able to donate time and services to those dogs and families less fortunate, but first you need to be in a position to afford to do that. You’re of no service to dogs and their families if you end up needing to quit training in order to generate income doing something else.

Grow your business. Focus your efforts on paying customers who can afford you and who recognize your value. Pay yourself first… your rent, your car, your phone, your food and gas, your continuing education (that ain’t cheap)… THEN help others.

Follow the airline safety advice and put your own oxygen mask on first before helping someone else with theirs. When you’re breathing easily thanks to steady income, you’ll be able to donate training services or advice without choking yourself straight out of business.