Offering Freelance Clipping: logistics and concerns

After a long hard debate and a little bit of internal struggle, I have decided to quit my job grooming and instead move back home to work a ‘regular’ job with normal hours in an effort to get my life back.

There is a small horsey community back home and I was thinking that I would offer freelance clipping to make some extra cash and get my horsey fix. I have my own clippers and equipment but I am just not sure how to go about it. Some things that have been concerning me are:

  • how to ensure payment? (because horsey people can be… uh… unreliable? cheap? at times. I don’t want to be taken advantage of.) I will probably leave an invoice of sorts behind but I’m not sure what I would do if someone refused to pay me
  • what to do with a difficult/dangerous horse? at my job it is not a problem if we school/twitch/drug horses to get them clipped, but I know some private owners are very particular about how their horses are handled and would be opposed to this. This also brings me to…
  • should I get my own insurance? for y’know, safety reasons, medical coverage, and all that jazz

I’m also debating how much to charge. Around here full body clipping can cost $125-$200. I was thinking of charging $125 plus the cost of gas, since the nearest barn is ~30 minutes away from where I would be living.

I do have my own transportation and connections within the horse community there, so advertising myself and getting to different barns is not a problem!

(and just to be clear, I’m an experienced groom working in a very busy and successful international show jumping barn who is used to handling a variety of horses everyday, and I clip multiple horses a week. I’m no n00b when it comes to clipping, just the business side of things!)

Any other suggestions and tips would be helpful as well :yes:

Pay up front unless you really know the people

You never do work and leave without payment unless you have a relationship with that person. Make it known that you expect payment at time of service and what payment methods are acceptable. If they don’t pay you, you need to figure out what your local laws are regarding collecting the debt.

For a difficult/dangerous horse, you either suck it up and accept the risk or you flat out don’t work on them or you suggest that the owner twitch/drug/whatever the horse.

Yes you need to get your own insurance. You also should consider equine insurance like care, custody and control (or whatever it’s called) in the event that you are left with the horse and something happens to said horse.

Regarding what to charge, you need to see what the market will bear. If everyone is only willing to pay $50 for a full clip, then charging $125 probably won’t get you much business.

Some thoughts from back in YesterCentury when I freelance body clipped some.

I think you need to charge more. You probably can do a really elegant job and/or cajole the young/hot/unbroke horses enough to get the job done.

I’d offer different prices for full vs. partial clips. IIRC, the average partial clip costs about 70% of a full clip. I’d found it to be easier on my body and more lucrative to do more of these than fewer show-quality full clips. It’s a PITA for man and beast to get everything shaved smooth on the legs and head.

I’d know my correct patterns cold, as well as be able to offer modifications and explain what those can do for a horse in a different living/working/blanketing/TO environment.

You should get paid at time of service.

The parts of this gig that are tougher:

The horse you’d ordinarily drug if you were working for a pro or it belonged to you. Technically that shot of Ace in the muscle before you start is really illegal. IMO, you don’t want to do it. You need to have the HO make the decision about that and give the shot.

You need to talk about the horse’s experience and be prepared to charge more/advertise a slightly different service if the horse is young or hard to handle. I explain to HOs that I’m not there to teach the horse how to be clipped, unless that’s what we agreed I’d do. If he’s not a horse who’s clipped each winter, you might be in for a training experience as much as a hair-do.

But! The good news is that you might be just the person to give the horse his first experience with clipping. I always explain to HOs that horses need to learn to accept clipping, much like loading. And if that’s done right in the beginning, it’s a cakewalk later. So they might want to hire me to do the extra teaching that comes along with that clipping job. And I strongly recommend a minimalist pattern clip for these horses so that we do end up with a successful haircut, no matter how bad or unbroke the horse is.

The other thing to figure out is who bathes the horse the day before (if you want one of those “shampoo him to the roots” baths that will help your clip job and blades). It was a pain, but I included a “day before” bath in my price; I wasn’t sure folks would get them clean enough.

Hope these thoughts help.

I always get paid in full before clipping the horse. No cash/check, no clipping. I’ve been doing this for almost ten years and I have scaled down over the past few years to my regular customers.

Advertise in feed stores, tack shops, and even the local PO bulletin board. You’d be surprised how many people call you from these ads. Also leave your name/details with your vets office. My vet would get a ton of calls about clipping each fall/winter and would send them my way.

Yes, you should have insurance. I use the one that covers my training/lessons/barn basics. You never know when a horse is going to flip on the cross ties and smash his skull and have to be put down. Yes this happened to a friend of mine on a simple whisker trim. Her own horse, but still, it happens.

I charge $120 full body (legs/head/rinse after), $90 for just the body, and between $50 and $75 for a trace clip depending. I get a ton of jobs each winter and my business grew through word of mouth and cheap advertising. It usually pays for quite a bit of my winter show season which is nice. Good luck.

I really like what mvp has to say about teaching the green horse to be a solid citizen for clipping, the pre clip bath, all of it.

I don’t know if you can make any money at the specialized end of clipping, my cushing’s old man has gotten into the realm of needing to be shorn like a sheep for the first go round, before I can even bathe him for a regular clip. I calculated out the gross cost at close to $300 what with the multiple blades that were dulled as I got close to his skin surface without actually properly clipping him this year. Plus we had a hot spell and flirted with heat induced colic, it took forever, etc. If I could have gotten him done for $200 I’d have happily paid cash, even $250 now that I know how hard it was - of course now I have a whole boxfull of blades to send off to be sharpened and ready and clipped him again day before yesterday - not getting behind again!