Many pet parents rely on the services of sitters for everything from daily walks to vet trips to keeping Fido company at home while on vacation. While the practice seems unnecessary to some, pet sitting businesses are on the rise and earning well. If you are a pet lover, this may be the perfect self-employment opportunity for you.
Pet Sitting Rates
As with all businesses, rates will vary by location. I’m in Nebraska and businesses in my area charge around $15 per walk and $60 per day/night for an in-home stay. Hit up Google and Craigslist to research rates and common service offerings in your area. Stay competitive. Under-pricing can actually be detrimental to obtaining clients. It can give the appearance of inexperience and desperation.
Pet Sitting Business Plans
There are several things your business plan should cover. A few questions you must ask yourself:
- What animals will I care for? (ex. dogs, cats, snakes, birds, spiders…)
- What services can I provide (ex. daily walks and feedings, vet visits, overnight stays, poop scooping)? Will I provide “extras” such as watering plants, taking out the garbage, turning on/off lights for out of town clients? Will those come free or at a premium?
- What makes you better than your competitors?
- How will you market your services?
- Who is your ideal client?
- How will you structure your day? What are your hours of operation? Will you take last minute or emergency appointments?
- What if you have an emergency or come down sick?
Licensing and Requirements
This is one business in which you should not pass up the insurance. If you are caring for a client’s pet and entering their homes, you must protect yourself and your family’s assets should an accident occur or damage happen on your watch. You should also consider getting bonded. This not only lends to your trustworthiness with new clients, it also covers any client claims of missing property. You can never be too careful these days! Insurance covers accidents, injuries and damages. Bonds cover incidents of theft. The cost is only a couple hundred dollars per year and definitely worth the investment.
This is one business where your calendar can’t fail you. We all seem to have our own preferences when it comes to scheduling systems – apps, paper and pen, Google Calendar. Find a system that works for you and stick with it.
You are also going to need an impeccable filing system for client contracts and checklists. These will include payments terms and important contact, health and care information. Don’t forget you will also need release forms if you are taking clients’ pets to other care providers.
Accounting is another necessary evil when running a business. You need to make sure you are getting paid, paying the bills and taking any applicable business expenses. Mileage is definitely one you won’t want to skip if you are making in-home visits.
Getting the Word Out
In today’s internet age, you won’t get far without a website. It doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. It should provide a simple introduction to your business and your qualifications, inform potential clients or your services and rates, and your contact information. GoDaddy’s Website Builder costs as little as $1 per month and includes several pet-related themes to get you started.
Business cards and flyers are a must. Your offline marketing options include vet offices, pet stores, dog parks, groomers and more. Have plenty of your cards and flyers available at all times and disperse them freely in relevant locations.
Join an industry association. A Google search should turn up any local trade associations near your home. (Ex. Google “Omaha Pet Sitters Association”)
When it comes to online marketing, you can’t beat your local Craigslist. Also check to see if there are any local Facebook Groups for your area that allow for advertising your services.
For the pet lover, this business can provide such a rewarding, fulfilling opportunity to pay the bills. Make sure your legal bases are fully covered and always perform an in-home visit (at no charge) to meet prospective clients and their pets.
Have you worked in the pet industry or started a pet sitting business? What would you add to the discussion?