Being a pet sitter is one of the few jobs in the world that involve personal interests to such an extent, while also being a good source of income. A pet sitter requires not only being a fundamental animal lover, but also the mind of a professional businessperson.
Starting off, there are some major points that are defined as qualities of a pet sitter. The most important of them are:
- A love for animals; it is what probably prompted you to look at pet sitting as a career option. It will also be what helps you maintain the job. In a fair sense, loving equals understanding, and understanding equals care. A natural animal lover will go a long way in this profession.
- Sole Proprietorship; the simplicity of the business allows you to be your own boss. With yourself as the decision center of your business, things will be more organized and you will be able to give it your own styling.
Think you find both in your favor? Well, then pet sitting is the job for you!
Starting Up a Pet Sitting Business
First comes the start-up costs. Fortunately for us, initial costs are unbelievably minimal. The only things you need to take care of are:
Pick a proper name. This tells the pet owners a lot about you. The general marketing of your business will depend on the magnitude of your proposed business idea. If you’re looking for a ‘local-only’ type of pet sitting, most of your publicity will be through the word of mouth. Here, instead of first impressions, you will need to take care of your appearances and attitude right from the start. Most people in the neighborhood should already know you by now as an animal lover. This can work to your advantage if you already own a pet, and have a fairly good reputation. Most owners are really concerned with their pets, and they see you as a friendly-to-animals kind, they will be happy to leave their pets with you.
Locations for Scouting Clients
Two of the best places will be at the vets and the parks/dog parks. You can talk to the vet and the receptionist about yourself and have them passively promote you. This can be done by the receptionist handing out your business cards, or at least letting you keep a stack with the right kind of message for pet owners to see. Dog parks are the other option. Talk to owners about you, your business and hand them a detailed card. Target the people who seem to be free, not the ones in a hurry. Bad first impressions are as good as last impressions. An important point you need to place ahead is trust. These people probably don’t know you, so it’s essential for you to make them trust you with their pets. Be precise with them about your goals, your ability to handle pets – whether sick or old. Once this is done, have a cell phone handy or make sure you have an answering machine.
Get an idea about your own comfort levels with animals when you start. If you aim for a dogs-only pet sitting business, be sure to target only dog owners. If you’re sure you can handle cats and dogs (maybe even at the same time), or better yet, even birds and reptiles, then you can significantly enlarge your clientele.
This is a very important part, which concurs with the whole trust issue. Clients who know that an insurance has vouched for you will be all the more comfortable letting you around their pets. Know that this will cover for objects, not pets you take care of. Depending on the stage your business is at, you will have to pay the appropriate premium.
Costs and Taxes
If you’re aiming for a much larger population, you need some cash in your hands. This will be mostly for printing business cards and fliers. Depending on the quality, this stage will cost you anything from $25 to $75. Once that is done, the next step is to place these in the right locations. Try talking to a financial adviser about all the related taxes and ways to do a little cost-cutting. For example, business miles can be tax-deductible.
Handling the Business of Handling the Animals
1. Appearances are a lot, if not everything. You may really be an all-out animal lover, but if you cannot convince the pet owners about this, you won’t go too far ahead. Be polite without getting pushed around, headstrong without coming on too strong, and you’ll have yourself a client.
2. Know the owners. You’ll be taking care of the pet, but it’s the owners who will be paying you. Before you commit to pet sitting for someone, hold a formal meeting with them and the pet together. Play with the pet while you’re there, but keep in mind that you need to talk business with the owners too.
3. Decide on the pay. This has to be done in the first formal meeting with the client. It is a good idea to get paid in advance for the first few times from a new client, while you can keep a tab or an account later on, if you can. The amount you charge should depend on – what the other pet sitters are charging, the number of pets someone leaves you with, each pet’s health and the duration of the visit. You may charge more for starters and reduce the price later on. This can make the clients happier and approach you all the time.
4. Get acquainted with the work hours and the pattern of work. Try to get the help of another pet sitter for this. There may be times when things will be very busy and you need to be prepared for that. Convey to all new clients the minimum notice period before hiring or cancellations. This will apply to you too. This is a very good way to keep things organized on the professional front.
5. Start a website. Include animal photos (preferably related to the kind of pets you take care of) of the ones you’ve already taken care of. Get a database and a feedback forum started, where you can have clients, put messages about their pets, compliments to you and also your tips for the owners. This is an ideal way for people to reach you and know more about your business and to maintain contact with owners to tell them about your schedule. Also, remember to constantly update your site with new pictures, information and client database. Owners will feel good to know that you keep contact with them even when you’re not taking care of their pets.
6. Maintain contact with the nearest vet for any tips or emergencies regarding the pet’s health.
7. Always maintain the paperwork. Obtain all the right data about clients and the pets, like –
- Client locations (where they have gone to) and emergency phone numbers,
- All the vital information about the pets like – allergies, medication, grooming requirements, feeding habits, walking habits in case of dogs, special care like toilet training.
8.Have your own life in order. A job like this will draw a very thin line between personal and professional life, and it is good to have both in place. Organize a day or if you have a busy schedule, a week ahead so you won’t need to worry about any major changes in decisions later on.
At the end of the day, you look as good to the client as their pet does when they return. A word of caution, owners will always know if there’s anything wrong with their pet, like irregular eating times or insufficient exercise. No matter how small these mistakes are, owners will be unhappy. Think of the owners as people who treat the pet as their own child, and you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about. The devil is always in the details, so make sure they are taken care of.