How do I become a Freelance Groom?
In order to answer this question “correctly”, you need to understand what it means to be a freelance Groom. You will be an independent contractor, you will own your own business, and you will carry the risks and rewards of owning your own business.
What you will NOT be is a Groom that works under the direction of anyone else. This is not a situation where the trainer or barn owner says “you are an independent contractor” and poof you become one. The IRS and your state get to determine this. BUT - if you control your own work, have a few clients or more, and work independently, you are most likely an independent contractor and therefore “freelance”. Remember - it’s not about the label, it’s about who controls the work. If any of this is fuzzy, please refer to this very detailed article about employee vs. independent contractor.
Some great examples of some independent contractors, AKA "freelance" workers, in the horse industry are Farriers, Veterinarians, Massage Therapists, Braiders, Body Clippers, you get the idea. You can be a freelance Groom and work a full day at one barn. Many freelancers work at several barns during the week to fill in when the regular Grooms are having a day off. Freelancers work shows, they have several clients that they may pick stalls for, do the laundry for, clean the tack for.
What do you need to know about becoming a Freelance Groom? A few things that will impact you smack dab in the middle of your pocketbook. But, being properly registered and insured will save your hide if you get into trouble, there's an accident with a horse you are handling, or you get hurt on the job.
- You must decide if you want to be an sole proprietor, a LLC, or a corporation. A very skilled accountant or employment lawyer can help you decide and also file all of the necessary paperwork needed to become official. A note about remaining a sole proprietor - if you are sued, all of your personal assets will be at risk. Becoming a LLC or a corporation will remove that risk from your business. Think long and hard about this - if a horse is injured in your care and you are sued while a sole proprietor, you can lose everything you own, from your car to your shoes and more.
- You must carry proper insurance. Your business in general will need insurance, and a good policy at that. You will need Commercial Equine Liability Insurance and Care, Custody, and Control Insurance. You may also need Show and Event Liability Insurance. More information on insurance can be found here!
- You will need to register your business with your local city, county, state, etc. Many municipalities and states have fees that are required for you to pay. This is in addition to taxes. Again, an employment lawyer can help you do all of this.
- You must also figure out a way to have a safety net if you are injured on the job. For regular employees, most states require that worker’s compensation be provided to employees. Because you are your own business, you need a plan to cover your medical expenses and lost wages while on the job. Your insurance agent can help you determine what is the best policy for you.
- You will need to find out if being bonded is required or highly recommended in your area. Bonding is a way for your clients and customers to be protected from losses if you or your employees steal or damage their business or property. This is not the same as insurance.
- You need to market yourself and go find work. You need to build your list of clients. You may be hanging flyers, emailing everyone you know, banging on doors, building a website, starting social media campaigns, networking your butt off.
- You are in charge of what you charge. You provide invoices to your clients, just like a Farrier or Veterinarian. This also means that you are also in charge of collections, accounting, and your own business taxes. You are responsible for keeping records, mileages, and recording hours and time spent.
- You will need to have your own tools. For grooming supplies, you will also need to find a way to disinfect them between horses. This likely means that you own more than one set of everything. This also means that you will be stocking up on supplies.
This seems like a lot. Because it is. But, once your have a business structure in place (LLC or sole or corporation) you can move on with obtaining insurance and starting to market yourself and your business. You need to consult with an attorney in a few cases. One, if you think your employer is mis-classifying you. Two, if you really do know you want to be a Freelance Groom and you are ready to start your own business. Do the same with a reputable insurance group or agent with experience in the horse industry.
It’s not going to be easy. In fact, it will probably be downright horrible at times. But, you are your own business, and in that there is freedom, possibility, responsibility, and just plain fun!
How did you get started as a “freelance” Groom? What is your specialty? What obstacles do you face?
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are opinion only and based on the experience of the article's author and not to be construed as legal advice in any respect. Consult an attorney before taking action based on the contents of this article. Liv Gude, and Professional Equine Grooms, LLC. expressly disclaim all liability in respect of any actions taken or not taken based on any contents of this article.