How Much Should I Charge?

Ask The Grooming Tutor

By Michell Evans

Many people have written to ask this question in various forms and I get asked over and over again when I teach educational seminars.  It takes a lot of time to answer this question.

It requires an in–depth conversation about your business and personal finances.

The most common mistake groomers make is to charge what the competition is charging instead of determining what they need to charge based on their own budget. The first step to knowing what you need to charge is to know what you need to earn. Or better yet, WISH to earn.

There are all kinds of groomers with all kinds of different beliefs about what constitutes wealth. Some enjoy more free time and less money. While others will work long hours to accomplish their lofty financial goals. During one’s career they may have periods of both. Some might work extra to save for a special event or large life purchase like buying a car or a house, while others might clip coupons and skip Starbucks so they can groom one less dog per day.

There are salons in many different financial demographics with many different skill levels and specialties. Your budget needs to be realistic based on these things. But I would urge you to dare to imagine that whatever you desire is possible.

One of the things I hear groomers say at trade show seminars is, “My customers won’t pay that much.” In this industry education equals price increase! Every certificate, every dog show ribbon, every grooming competition trophy equals a higher quality, therefore, higher priced service! Also improving the appearance of the staff and the salon can usher in a price increase. Some new uniforms and a paint job can really help the customers understand the increase.

If you are an owner, you need to create two monthly personal budgets plus a monthly business budget with your desired personal income reflected in your monthly business budget. Developing a monthly is the simplest for most. Include all the necessary expenses; start with the basics, rent/mortgage, insurances, utilities, groceries, auto expenses, and pets, of course. Include any anticipated impending expenses. For example, if you know that you will need a new car in a year or two be sure to include savings and/or payment for that. Include retirement savings and investments as well as paid–time–off and general savings.

Retirement often gets overlooked in a budget. If you are a middle–aged groomer and you do not have much saved for retirement, whatever you can manage to save per month now is what you will have to live on per month as a retiree. Think about that. Assuming you have virtually nothing saved already and you are 45 years old, plan to retire at 65, and plan to live to be 85, whatever you save/invest for the next 20 years is what you will have to live on for the 20 years past retirement. And we all hope to live past 100! Most will have some Social Security, if you can call it that, and Medicare, but not enough for a very fulfilling life.

Paid–time–off must be included in your budget. Four weeks of paid–time–off per year (1.67 days per month) is a minimum amount of time for an owner to expect. This does not need to be taken all at once. Doctor’s appointments for yourself or your family, jury duty, vacations and common colds are all reasons that those 20 days of paid–time–off will be needed.

It is important that you are saving money simultaneously to paying off debt. The feeling of urgency to pay off debt fast is always hard to resist but it is best to be saving while paying off debt. Too many groomers are reactive with their finances which can force them into high interest credit cards and loans. They are simply spending their profits on the next big bill that comes along, plus interest. It is imperative that you get ahead and build a safety–net–savings. Also, don’t hesitate to talk to creditors about payment plans so you can budget and make long term plans.

Now expand your monthly practical budget into your dream budget! Have fun with this one! You might learn some things about yourself if you dare to dream about the possibilities. Include things like a trip to India, a new boat, a new entertainment system in your family room, etc. On a more practical, but still expensive list, might be things like adding another child to your family, a new pet or a home remodel—or all three!

Finally, build your monthly business budget with your necessary and/or desired salary included, based on your personal budgets. Start from scratch here too. Lease/rent, utilities, supplies, payroll, taxes, insurance, tech–support and advertising are some of the basics. Then expand into a savings for the business. Again, this is extremely important. As the owner, you should always have plenty of safety–net–savings. You just never know what could happen. Also, just like with your personal budget you should include extra savings for anticipated upcoming expenses. For example, if you know you will need to give the place a paint job in a few years or you want to upgrade all your grooming tables from hydraulic to electric.

If you are an employee, the monthly personal budgets are imperative to your life’s goals and dreams! Again, you will learn a lot about your priorities and true desires. If you develop these budgets and find that your income falls short, have a brainstorming session with your employer to see if you can find some solutions to get you closer to your goals.

Remember, it is in your employer’s best interest for you to earn more. For example, your employer might agree to a price increase if you were to become a Certified Master Groomer, or you attain your cat grooming certification and agreed to spend 2 hours per week going to veterinarians and pet stores promoting your cat grooming service. In exchange, your employer might agree to spend $100.00 more per month on advertising for cats. These are just a few examples of possible ways to help you reach your goals.

Once you have determined what the total monthly income of your salon needs to be to fulfill your budget, simply divide the total by your average service price and see where you stand. If you have determined that a price increase is necessary, hand out a letter of explanation, send out a mass email or set out a sign a few months ahead of time to give your customers a heads up.

Don’t bother raising your prices by a buck or two. If you are going to ruffle their feathers make it worth it. Consider this, if you raise a customer’s price that comes in eight times a year by ten dollars, that is eighty dollars per year. That eighty bucks a year hardly impacts the customer’s budget. But eighty bucks a year, per customer impacts your budget greatly.

Also keep in mind that a price increase may be less about increasing your income and more about spending less time at work. For example, let’s say you typically charge an average of sixty dollars per pet and groom an average of six pets per day. Let’s say you raise your price by ten dollars per pet, after accomplishing a few things to increase your earning potential, of course. Now you can groom one less pet per day and make nearly the same income.

Whether you are an employer or employee, you have some control over how much you earn. You can also make life and budget adjustments based on your earning potential. Don’t assume the neighboring salon or groomer has the same earning potential. Decide for yourself what your earning potential is and either adjust your budgets and/or improve your earning potential. ✂


I am a multi-Best-In-Show and Best-All-Around groomer. I am the recipient of many Barkleigh Honors Awards including journalist of the year. I am a Silver and Gold medalist for GroomTeam USA. I am the winner of Show Dog Groomer of the Year 2015. I am a (VIG) Very Important Groomer-Ambassador for Purina and I have been teaching as The Grooming Tutor since 2000. And I groom to make a living, just like you. Please send questions to [email protected]

Post a Comment