Originally published in PET CENTER NEWS, May, 2013
(no longer online)
I first started a pet sitting business in 1994, after being “downsized” (a nicer way of saying “fired”) from my corporate job and not finding a suitable replacement. We were apartment dwellers at the time, so it was mostly house calls for cats, plants, birds, fish etc., plus dog walking all over town.
After about 10 years or so, the running around 7 days a week with no time to myself was wearing on me, so I switched to offering home boarding for dogs only. (We had become home owners in the meantime and have a large back yard.) This has worked out well and my house is like a little “doggie commune”.
With so many years experience behind me, I can offer multiple insights.
First, ask yourself these questions:
Do I love animals?
Do I have extensive experience with taking care of animals,
including administering medication?
Am I willing to make this my main focus in life?
Can I get by without earning a lot of money? (At least, initially)
Can I do without benefits, paid vacations, paid sick leave or regular days off?
If you answered “NO” to any of them, please, find yourself another line of work!
To be a good pet sitter takes a lot of love and dedication and you have to be prepared for fluctuations in income. Also, think about what services you wish to offer.
1. Dog Walking: In my opinion, dog walkers have the biggest earning potential. If you can get several weekday regulars and consolidate some of them together, then that’s a fairly steady paycheque and usually all in the space of 4-5 hours per day. It also gives you weekends off, which other types of pet sitting do not. The downsides? You will have to deal with all types of personalities, (every dog is different, just like humans), possible injuries, (just like with kids), mud and depending where you live, bouts of extreme weather. Keep several towels in your vehicle, along with a good brush and a fully-equipped first aid kit, including hydrogen peroxide.
2. House Calls for cats and other small animals, plants, etc.: This is slightly easier than dog walking in one respect. You don’t need to be outside in bad weather. The downsides? Usually, weekend visits are required, plus you will have to deal with any emergencies that come up with both the pets and within the home.
3. Live-in pet/house sitting: This has good earning potential too, if you can get many steady clients. Of course the responsibilities are greater as you will have to take care of the entire home as well as the pets, plants, etc. The downsides? Those mentioned in #2, living apart from your own home/family and more unstable income.
4. Home boarding: Again, a good income depends on having many steady clients. While I have chosen to offer overnight boarding only, doggie daycare would bring more financial stability and you get weekends off. This can be a fun job, but it also has a few downsides. Be prepared for much wear and tear to your home and yard, not to mention extra chores! Stock up on dog towels, Windex and stain/odor remover. Get a steam cleaner. I am constantly reseeding the backyard and have burned out a few vacuums. You need to “dog proof” your house. Remove all breakables from harm’s way and don’t keep poisonous plants, (such as Poinsettas) around. Vacations should be planned well in advance and the clients notified, because they rely on you. (This would apply to any form of self-employment.) I always inform my regulars and also leave this info on my outgoing voicemail message.
Once you have decided on your scope of services, tell everyone you know and ask them to pass the word along. Enlist a friend or two with pets to serve as references. Buy an ad in the local paper. Get business cards and flyers. Visit pet shops, vet clinics, dog groomers, and sell yourself to them, leaving cards and/or flyers for their clients. Of course, this is the computer age, so you could also start your own web site.
How big or small of a business you want to make it is up to you. For me, this is “self-employment” and fairly simple. For others, it could be a large-scale operation with many employees, in which case, there’s a lot more to it and you’ll need business advisers.
This touches on a few basics.
Please feel free to ask questions or offer comments.
THE SCOOP ABOUT PET SITTING PART I:
How ti Choose a Good Pet Sitter/Dog Walker
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