Gig Work: Pet Sitting With Rover
What is Rover?
I love dogs. And, I love to pick up some extra cash when possible. It helps keep my own mutts paw deep in kibble and bacon flavored treats. If you have ever thought about pet sitting as a way to reel in some additional dough, then you have undoubtedly come across an advertisement for Rover.com. Rover is basically a matchmaking site that couples up pet owner with potential sitters.
Rover allows sitters to set their own prices (they have a recommended pay structure if you have no clue what to charge), set their own schedule, and decide what sort of services to offer. Potential sitters can offer a doggie daycare where the owners drop off and picks up their pet at your residence, a drop-in to let the pet out to potty and refresh water and food, walks of varying length and a combo of pet/house sitting where the sitter overnights in the pet owner's home.
Rover does all of the advertising. It is one of the best known and most visited pet related websites which assures that you will at least have a lot of potential clients looking at your services. Rover also handles the money end. Pet owners book and pay for your services and it it stashed in your Rover account which you can have transferred to you at any time. In return for handling all of the details that goes along with pet care, Rover keep 20% of your booking fees. If you book services that add up to $100, you only get $80 of that. It sounds steep, but considering that you likely would not get most of those gigs without Rover's services it is reasonable.
How to Get Started
Getting started with Rover is simple and straight forward. You create your profile on their website, pony up $15 for a background check and then you are off and running. Your profile and list of services offered goes live shortly after you create it. At that point, customers seeking pet sitters will see your profile listed among others in your area and the pet owner will pick a sitter based on their personal criteria. You will need to download Rover's free app in order to respond to potential clients. The app will also notify you of messages and bookings and send you a text of the same if you so choose.
Pros of Being a Rover Sitter
- Rover takes care of all of the logistics of matching clients and booking for you.
- You can decide to only work on weekends or nights which allows you to have other full time employment.
- You automatically have insurance through Rover if something goes awry.
- You can block out any dates you want to ensure you do not get any request for services.
- You can set your own price for services.
- You get to meet a lot of great dogs.
Cons of Being a Rover Sitter
- Rover takes the aforementioned 20% of your earnings. It stings when you see your invoice, but as previously mentioned, it is that 20% that makes Rover possible.
- The app/website is not super intuitive for some potential clients. I found this especially true for older customers. I have had potential clients give up when they attempted to book multiple services.
- Pet owners have a hard time realizing the limits of services. I charged $35 for an overnight. That included arriving between 5pm and 7pm depending on customer preference for a 12 hour stay. That 12 hours included letting the pets out for potty breaks and feeding them. Most thought that would include at least one walk as well. A walk would be an additional $20. And many thought that would also include me dropping in midday. I am not sure what part of overnight confused them but many balked when the added up what all of the services they wanted would cost. An overnight and midday drop-in (which is what most people going out of town needed) would add up to $50 a day. Toss in a walk and it is $70 a day.
- Sticker shock for customers. A lot of folks are used to giving the neighbor kid $50 for feeding and letting their dog out for a week. That's a great side income for a middle schooler, but as a professional, background checked sitter, they should expect to pay you accordingly. The previously mentioned $70 a day for an overnight and a walk could easily exceed $100 a day if there are multiple pets. It is still cheaper (and less stressful) than boarding pets, but once they add it all up they are likely to see if that neighbor kid is still available. Your price is your price, stick to your pricing structure and if you lose a client or two because of it, so be it.
- Expect to work most weekends and all holidays. The good news is you can charge extra for holidays. The bad news is you will probably be spending Thanksgiving eating a bowl of cereal while sitting on the couch of a stranger's home watching the Macy's parade with someone else's dog by your side. You can block out holidays, or any day, on you calendar, but by doing so you risk a potential client finding another sitter they will call on in the future.
- You will get the stink eye from your own hound when you come home smelling like other dogs.
How to Succeed as a Rover Sitter
Rover often advertises that sitters can rake in a cool grand every month if they are ambitious. Actually, if you live in a decent sized city I would think you could make even more if you hustled. That's not a bad side income. Here are some ways to maximize you cash intake as a sitter with Rover.
- If possible, offer a doggie daycare. This is where the money is. You can sit several dogs simultaneously and all you have to do is ensure they are watered, fed and get some exercise (and occasionally administer medications). You would need at a minimum a decent sized fenced yard. I personally did not do this, my pooch, Ella the Brown Wonder, is very protective and not fond of other dogs near her human.
- Create a profile that illustrates how much you love dogs and comes across as friendly and warm. Include a picture of you with your pet if you have one. Owners are likely to pick you if they feel you will treat their dog with the same love you have for yours.
- Structure your prices to be competitive. Do not try to undercut your Rover competition in an attempt to reel in new customers. Charge the average and raise it later if you need to. Also be sure to use the tiered pricing system. It took me a while to figure it out, but it gives a discount on additional dogs you sit at the same time. I charged $35 for an overnight, an additional dog was $25, and each dog after that was an additional $15.
- Use the meet and greet function on Rover. When a prospective owner contacts you and seems serious about using your services, you can propose a meet and greet on the Rover app. Pick a place and time convenient for both of you and suggest they bring their dog. A park is always a good choice. Nothing is better advertising than a dog owner seeing their precious pooch wagging their tail as you rub their ears and talk to it.
- Keep your commitments. Owners like to book far in advance for the most part. After you commit to a sit or walk there is a 100% chance that something will pop up that you would rather do than dog sit. A dog's owner is counting on you, do not let them down. There is also a star rating system on the Rover app and owners will rate you after you complete a job. Nothing is more of an income killer than even one bad review.
- Opt for overnights or doggie daycare versus walks and drop-ins. A walk will take you 30 minutes to complete and likely a 15 minute drive each way. I charged $20 for a 30 minute walk. After Rover takes their cut that equates to $16 an hour, not including travel expenses. Additionally, most people want their dog walked or looked in on at midday. That makes sense of course, but unless you live in a tightly packed urban area, the most you will be able to do during lunchtime is four of each before it is either too early or late for owners to book you.
Is it worth it? You can definitely make some extra coin being a Rover sitter. If you are relying on gig work for you only source of income, it can fit nicely and allow you to take other gigs between sits. You would be hard pressed to make a living solely from dog sitting, although in the right area it is possible.
It can end up paying for your own vacation, or perhaps even make your mortgage payment. Only you can know if getting a face full of slobbery dog kisses and giving up your holidays is actually worth it.
I had nothing but good experiences with Rover and the dogs and humans they hooked me up with. I probably averaged $300-400 a month being a Rover sitter, and I did enjoy the extra cash. But in the end, it really intruded on my own extracurricular activities and I gave it up. But that's another good thing about Rover. In the event I want to sit some dogs, I can just reactivate my account.