A Guide to Starting a Pet Sitting Business

Do you love animals? Would you like to have your own business and be your own boss? I have the secrets to success in the pet-sitting industry! You set your own hours, your own rates and decide how far you want to travel. Owners see their pets as their “children” and will do just about anything for them. Most owners would prefer to have their pets stay in the comfort of their own home rather than in a noisy kennel. A stay in a kennel will generally run about $14/day. During this time, the animals are almost always in a cage/kennel. Rates vary and they’re generally on a per pet basis.

Before I had real children of my own, I had my own pet-sitting business. This article will teach you how to get started, attract customers and earn a good living doing what you love!

Purchase Pet Sitters Insurance
My first piece of advice for any pet-sitter is to purchase pet-sitter’s insurance . Being insured makes you look prepared and professional to prospective clients. My insurance was through Pet Sitters Associates, LLC. The following excerpt explains their policy and is taken from their website, http://www.petsitllc.com.

The basic policy does not cover any damage to personal property of the pet owner. If you would like this covered, please add the special property of others coverage, which includes a surety bond, for an additional $100.

Pet Sitters Associates, LLC covers all forms of pet sitting, including: Pet Sitting in the pet owners home, Pet Walking, Pet Transportation, and Pooper Scoopers.

As a member of our association you will receive the following benefits:
– Membership in a unique organization, designed for pet sitters by pet sitters.
– Quarterly newsletters that will be informative and include experiences of other pet sitters.
– Our specially designed customer check list.
– Pet Sitters Associates code of ethics .
– General Liability Insurance specifically designed for pet sitters. Details Enclosed.

In addition, the following benefits are available:
– Your spouse may be added as a member and insured for an additional $80 per year.
– Your employees and/or Independent Contractors may be added as members and insureds for $80 each per year.
– Independent Contractors are considered employees unless they carry their own insurance.
– Your minor children (under 18) are included as members and insureds at no additional charge.
– If you are a partnership, corporation, LLP or LLC, you can add your business as a member and insured at no additional charge.
– Special coverage for damage to the personal property of others, including a surety bond, is available for $100.
– Our daycare coverage is available for $165, allowing the pet sitter to bring animals back to their own home.
Taken directly from the Pet Sitters Associates, LLC homepage.

Create A Business Plan Sit down and think about exactly what you want to do with your business. Are you only willing to care for dogs and cats? What about horses or iguanas or rabbits? If you’re willing to take care of any type of animal, make sure your clients are aware of this.

Do you only want to take care of pets in the owner’s home or in your home as well? This is another thing to think about. I, personally, would never take care of someone else’s pet in my own home. I was too worried about the liability involved if something happened to them while in my care. I always felt more comfortable caring for them in their own home, where they are used to the surroundings. Some owners may have an electric fence that a dog is trained on. In the end, it’s up to you and what you feel comfortable with. Also decide if you want to do visitation only or if you’re willing to stay in the owner’s home. I had a few clients that preferred I stay in their home to care for their pets. I could still go to my full-time job while I was “living” there. It was almost like a mini vacation for me!

What will you charge for your services? Rates will vary depending on where you live and what other pet sitters in your area are charging. When I first started out, I looked at what kennels were charging per day and charged slightly more than that. Having a pet cared for in it’s own home with personal attention is worth more to owners. To give you some idea, I charged $10/visit (most were charging more when I left the business due to the hike in gas prices at the time). Generally, I would make three visits each day; morning, afternoon and evening. A visit includes feeding, putting out fresh water, scooping litter boxes, getting the mail (if applicable) and taking dogs outside. If an owner wanted me to walk their dog during a visit, I would charge $5 extra for that visit. I never charged an increased rate for additional pets, but that’s an option as well.

For in-home care I charged $30/day. This is probably a little inexpensive these days. I calculated the fee based on what I would charge for three daily visits and took into consideration that this was saving me time on the road and gas expense. Owners typically allowed me to eat whatever I wanted while staying there. I had a few that actually asked me what I liked to eat so they could purchase groceries for me before they left for vacation! This might not be the case for all clients, however. Oh, and did I mention that one of them had an outdoor pool I was free to use while staying there? Like I said, it could be a mini vacation for you!

I know it doesn’t sound like you can get rich by pet-sitting, but it’s possible! Take into consideration that you could be staying in a home for $30/day, as well as visiting other homes at $30/day. If you have three pet-sitting jobs at once, you’re making $90/day or $630/week! And this is only based on what I was charging at the time.

Create Business Cards
The next step is to create a client base. It’s fairly inexpensive to print your own business cards and posters from home. You can purchase special paper from an office supply store and create them using your personal printer. You can also design and order business cards online for a fair price.

Distribute your advertisements to local pet stores and veterinary offices. I don’t recommend simply dropping them off, as most veterinarians are wary of advertising someone to their clients that they are unsure of. Make an appointment to meet with the office manager so you can properly introduce yourself. Ask them if they would allow you to display your poster on the bulletin board or place your business cards on the front counter. Pet stores and veterinary offices are obviously a great place to reach pet owners! Also, most local grocery stores have bulletin boards where their customers can place advertisements for their business.

Once your business is on the road to success, you may want to consider creating a web presence as well. A professionally designed web site will help build your client base. Not many people use the yellow pages anymore. Clients will likely be using the internet to research pet-sitting services in their area.

Create Business Forms My first step after being contacted by a potential client was making an appointment to visit their home and meet their pet(s). During this visit, the owner and I would go over the pet’s daily routine and any special care that may be needed. I had a contract for the owner to sign outlining my fees as well as other necessary information. These forms can easily be found on the internet and in many pet-sitting forums. I downloaded a form and edited it in Microsoft Word to include my name and business information.

Another form that is useful is one that the client fills out with their emergency contact information, veterinary information and any special instructions for their pet(s). It is extremely important to have this information! If a pet gets sick or injured while in your care, you need to know where to take them. Most owners will alert their regular veterinarian that they will be away and that their pet(s) will be cared for by a pet-sitter. They may also give them their payment information or set up an agreement to be billed if anything happens during their absence.

Always have the forms filled out at the initial visit BEFORE the owner leaves. I made the mistake of allowing an owner to fill out the forms and leave them on the counter for me to pick up at my first visit. When I came to the house for the first time and opened the door, the dog was extremely aggressive and actually bit me. Needless to say, I couldn’t get into the home to get the owner’s contact information! Luckily, I knew that the owner’s sister lived across the street and she contacted the owners and helped me enter the home to pick up the paperwork. This could have been a very bad situation if I didn’t have her assistance.

Make Your Services Stand Out Owners love their pets. When you care for them as if they were your own, the clients will be very satisfied. On the last day of each assignment, I would take a picture of the pet and create a little card on my home computer. The card had a personalized message inside letting the owner’s know that their pet was a joy to care for and everything went well while they were in my care. It’s a nice token of appreciation for their business and every owner loves a picture of their pet!

Offer to do a little extra during your visits. I always offered to collect the mail or water plants while I was in the home. These tasks don’t take long, but they make your service stand out above the others. If I was on an in-home assignment, I would always do a quick cleaning of the areas I stayed in and also wash my bed linens and towels. Owners never asked me to do this, but I felt it was a little something extra I could do to make myself stand out from the others. Have fun!

You’re doing something you love, so enjoy it! This is a business where you can work full-time or part time. I chose pet-sitting as a way to earn extra money while working a full-time job. Luckily, most of my client’s were near my place of employment, so I could visit them before work, on my lunch break and after work. If that’s a little too much for you to handle while working, you could advertise that you’re only available for weekend trips.

Word-of-mouth is very popular among the pet owner community, so don’t be surprised when your business grows at a rapid pace. As I said earlier, owner’s would prefer to have their pets stay in their own home rather than a kennel.

There is a lot more information about this business and I recommend you spend some time researching it before you dive in. Being an independent contractor, you’ll have to handle your own income taxes. Take your time finding out all of the details and have everything in place before you start taking assignments. Be prepared and have fun!