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December 2015

Pricing — Excerpt from The Successful Pet Groomer

Pricing is one of the most important parts of running a grooming business. I have seen this with my own eyes. If you do not start out pricing right, your business will flounder. The last thing you want to be is swimming upstream. The work is too hard.

If you are not showing a profit, you will not be able to pay yourself a living wage and afford important necessities including the best tools and products that you need to run a top-notch business. It will be difficult to maintain your van or trailer if you are mobile.

Attending a grooming show or taking a much-needed vacation will be out of the question. You will not be able to afford health insurance, something that has become so important to each and every one of us in this day and time.

Many pet stylists are beginning to realize how important it is to charge by the hour, as many breeds are not created equal. For example, I groom many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. There is a huge range in size and coat. Some take an hour. Others can take as long as ninety minutes. This is a perfect example why groom fees can fluctuate.

All dogs should have their own pricing scale but the same criterion applies to all: size, age, weight, health, coat condition, grooming temperament, time, and labor.

Consider big dogs, including giant breeds. These dogs require a lot of labor and can be backbreakers. Some require two groomers. Not all groomers will even tackle the big ones. Groom fees should reflect the time and effort it takes to get the large breeds done properly and safely, including cleanup.

Owners who have their pet groomed more often should not have to pay the same fee as a pet who is groomed four times a year. This is why groom fees by breed should not be etched in stone. Price accordingly.

Starting out with lower fees and giving away discounts, thinking this will attract new customers, is a huge pitfall new groomers fall into. Groomers that go this route have come to regret it and urge others not to make the same mistakes they did. Their business filled up with lower-paying customers. Once the business was up and running, it was very difficult to raise prices and take those discounts away.

Elizabeth Adams states, ”I lowballed myself when I started and it hurt a lot when it came time to raise my prices. My advice is to ask for what you want the first time.”

Do not take tips into consideration when figuring out your pricing. Price as if you will not be tipped. If you are driving away or pets leave the salon and you feel you needed a tip, you are not charging enough.

The biggest mistake I made when starting my business was that I did not charge extra for additional services like dematting and deshedding. A tip from me – let your customers know upfront that these services are not included in the groom fee. Communicate with your clients to help them learn about and understand the grooming process.

Remind your customers before grooming that you gave them an estimate, not a price. Have their written bill ready and itemized when you return the pet. Remove from the equation that awkward moment when you have to speak up and tell mom the groom fee is going to cost more due to behavior, coat condition, etc. If they have any questions they can always ask you.

When you are overflowing with customers and do not have any appointments available it is the perfect time to reorganize your business (see Chapter 8) and increase your prices. Pat yourself on the back because you are giving yourself a raise. Smile. Your business is growing in the right direction.

Price right from the beginning! Charge what you and your services are worth. This will put you on the path to success no matter what you groom: big dogs, little dogs, cats, haircuts or baths. As Barbara Bird once said so brilliantly, “It is all about your happy price.”


Ellen Ehrlich is a mobile pet stylist who loves to think, talk, read, and write about pet grooming. Next to grooming, she loves to empower, motivate, and inspire other groomers to be the best they can be.  For more information go to: