How to Start a Pet Sitting Service
Become a Pet Sitter
Need a change of career? Love cats and dogs? Then how about quitting your job and starting your own pet sitting service? It might not seem like it on the surface, but pet sitting can be very profitable.
As someone who’s started, maintained, and currently owns a well known pet sitting service business in the Southeast region of the US, I’ve come to learn a thing or two over the years while running my business. By applying my go-getter attitude with my love for pets and people skills, I was able to dominate the pet sitting service industry in my area in less than one year, and I wasn’t even 18 yet.
So if you’re interested in starting your own pet sitting service, then this is the perfect place to start. Make sure to read this guide thoroughly and not to skip parts, especially the next few ones!
How Much Do Pet Sitters Make?
Like I said earlier, pet sitting can be very profitable. Pet sitters who work for themselves can make anywhere from $10,000 to over $100,000 depending on the services offered, price range, and number of clients they service. On average, pet sitters make around $20,000 to $35,000 per year.
Personally, I was able to make a little under $18,000 in my first year, almost $25,000 my second year, and almost $32,000 my third year. This is from working alone with no hired employees or contractors, and where I'm located, this is great money for the amount of hours I put in, and my business continues to expand and earn. I actually need to hire a pet sitter or two.
Qualities and Characteristics
Obviously, if you want to become a pet sitter then you've got to love animals. There's no getting around that -- if you're meticulous about cat fur embedding itself into your cashmere sweater, or your favorite pair of shoes getting pee'd on (it happens), then move on. First of all, what are you doing wearing those things? Pet sitting is a dirty job, and you've got to dress accordingly!
Now if you're okay with a few scratches here and there, don't mind dog breath and love long walks and loving on furry friends, then you're in the clear... with the pets, anyway. While you'll be mostly dealing with animals, you can't forget your human clients either. They're the ones that pay you!
Remember: You're not just planning on being a pet sitter, but you're also trying to run your own business, so you should have an entrepreneurial mindset. Be good with money, be available day or night, answer calls and emails promptly, manage time well, and have people skills! You can never be too friendly when you're in a service job, especially when dealing with pets and their parents. Remember that.
Job Description and Details
As you could imagine, being a pet sitter is pretty straight forward in terms of a job description. You'll be required to stop by clients homes and feed, play, and let out their pets for potty breaks. Some clients want their dogs taken for walks, while others might want you to clean out the litter box. Others who are on vacation may have you take the garbage out (if there is any) and rotate lights and blinds.
Besides the basics, here's the deal: If you want to be a great pet sitter, you're going to need to be available to clients 24/7. Emergencies might pop-up at 3am and they'll need to book the next flight ASAP out of town, or they might have to stay late at work and may need you to check in at their home for them, so if you're someone who's not a big fan of answering the phone, you're through.
There's also a lot of running around involved, especially between pet sits. If you live in a densely populated city, you may be able to foot it around town just fine, but having a car is going to be necessary at time (if not most of the time). I look at this as a perk -- who doesn't love driving around and listening to music?
So you're cut out to be a pet sitter and you're excited to get started. Don't rush off and order a thousand business cards just yet though. The next think you should do is conduct some market research, check out the competition and see what you're up against!
Other Pet Sitting Services
Try doing a Google search for "[YOUR CITY NAME] Pet Sitter" or some other variation and see what comes up. Are there any pet sitting service websites? How many? Be sure to take into consideration the amount of people in your town with pets in comparison with how many pet sitting services there seem to be.
In some cases, you might find that there are quite a few pet sitting services, or one or two that are un-competed against and are dominating the industry. You've got two choices here: Either forget about becoming a pet sitter if you think there's no room for competition, or find their flaws and build a better business.
Does the website look outdated? Have you ever even seen any basic advertising done? Are the prices too high? If so, still consider jumping into the business but with a more realistic idea of how you'll do (and also how you'll blow the competition out of the water!).
Learn from Experience
Besides spying on the competition, you should also read and learn from other pet sitters experiences. While there are countless articles on the web giving you a basic idea on how to start a pet sitting service, there aren't nearly as many that can give you a detailed explanation on how you should run it.
The best resources in this case would be books... you know, those things with pages that you read out of. You can find cheap and affordable used books on pet sitting on Amazon, and I've even included some of my personal favorites for you to check out. I've found these most useful out of all the books I've reviewed.
You can really save yourself a lot of money by choosing one or two of these books instead of going with some online "Learn the Secrets of Pet Sitting" website that can charge you $150+ for tips, tricks, and all the bells and whistles such as pet sitting forms and contracts and advertising tips -- you'll easily find this information in the books.
Business Plan and Resources
Done snooping around and seeing where you can get a leg up? Now it's time for you to lay out your business plan and gather the necessary things you'll need to start your business. This is where you really get to be in control because you're the one deciding what you're going to do and when you're going to work!
Services and Pricing
What services are you going to offer to potential clients? Will existing clients have special services available to them, such as trips to the dog park or vet visits? Will you administer medication? Besides basic pet visits, these are a few other services that are usually offered:
- Overnight Boarding (in your home)
- Overnight Stays (at their home)
- House Sitting (no pets)
- Dog Walking
- Grocery Pickup and Delivery
- Pet Baths
More importantly, how much will you charge for these services? Since these things are central to your business succeeding, it's important to really think these things through. Additionally, how will you handle appointments set with less than 24 hour notice, or if you're allowing dogs to board overnight in your home, will you charge owners extra if they don't pick their pet up by a certain time?
Decide on Your Hours
The best part about owning and running your own business is getting to work your own hours whenever you want. While it might seem like the life to work whenever you just felt like it, that's not exactly how you're going to make it in the business world. Clients who work Monday through Friday early in the morning and late into the evenings often want someone to do daily visits, and most vacationing clients need these daily visits even on the weekends, multiple times a day, so don't go and write yourself off as free for Saturday and Sunday just yet.
As you establish your brand and your regular clientele, you'll be able to have a better idea of what your weekly schedule will look like ahead of time and will get better with time management. In the beginning though, keep on top of things and always keep yourself free!
Transportation and Means of Contact
You really should have a vehicle at your disposal because first of all, you never know when an emergency might pop up and you'll need to rush somewhere ASAP, and secondly, getting from point A to point B in a small time frame isn't exactly the easiest thing to do when you've got scheduled visits. Whether this vehicle is a car or a bike, it doesn't matter. Just have a way to get around!
Even more important is being able to be contacted by clients while on the job. Of course, I'm talking about a phone. It's a good idea to have a completely separate line for your business so that you don't get your personal and business stuff mixed up -- plus, what potential client wants to hear "What's up, I'm not at the phone right now. Leave a message, I might call back"?
Handy Products and Items
Even though most pets will have their own leashes and toys, you should always be prepared with extras. Make sure to keep an extra leash in your car, along with things such as toys, treats, a muzzle (just in case), a first aid kit, food, and any other items that you may imagine would come in useful someday.
If you'll be offering to take client's pets to the vet or for trips to the dog park, you might be interested in investing $20 or $30 in a car seat cover or dog hammock so that their fur doesn't get all over your car.
Insurance, Licensure, and Paper Work
Running a service business is super risky so you've got to be prepared for the worst! Next you'll need to look into having your business insured, licensed, and having the right paper work (contracts and pet sitting forms) available for clients.
You really shouldn't be doing business unless you're official for many reasons, but specifically for two: Should something happen, depending on the way you license your pet sitting business, you'll keep yourself and your assets protected, and by being licensed as a business, you'll be more trusted and respected by potential clients and other pet sitters in the area.
Keep in mind that if you're doing business under a different name (a company name perhaps) then you'll need to fill out and file a fictitious name statement. All of this could be found at the local court clerk's office.
Most pet sitting services decide to get licensed as an LLC, or a Limited Liability Company. Basically what this means is you and your company will be seen as two completely different entities. If your company is sued, your personal items and assets will be safe and only anything owned by the company will be at risk. There is more to an LLC than just this, but it's mostly the reason most pet sitting services are licensed as such.
Pet Sitting Insurance
Believe it or not, pet sitting insurance exists and there's actual companies that offer just that. While some major insurance companies may offer this type of service, it's best to go with one that specializes in pet sitting insurance.
Without insurance, if something goes wrong then you're out of luck. You're even unlikely to have clients if you're uninsured. Nobody wants to take on that sort of risk, so don't forget to get it!
You can find a compare and contrast chart of pet sitting insurance companies here at this link.
Pet Sitting Forms and Contracts
You shouldn't conduct a pet sit without having the proper paperwork filled out by clients beforehand. If you failed to have the correct forms and agreements filled out and signed, it could really come back around to bite you if something goes wrong and the owners sue. Here's a list of the paperwork that you definitely need to have filled out and signed before even thinking about taking care of someone's pet:
- Pet Sitting Information
- Owner Information
- Pet Sitting Agreement
- Veterinarian Consent
- Home Information
- Pet Medication
- Key Release
Most pet sitters create their own above forms so you can do so as well, except for the agreement form. It's a good idea to consult a lawyer or look for one online and use that as an example for your own.
Create Your Identity
I personally find this step to be the most fun because you get to let your imagination run wild! You don't necessarily have to wait until you're finished with all the above stuff to start working on your business identity, so feel free to grab a pencil and some paper and start doodling away as you go.
Business Name and Logo
First impressions are everything, and that couldn't be any more true when it comes to a service businesses name and logo design. Potentials clients will make serious judgement on whether or not to check you out based on your pet sitting logo, so try to come up with something catchy, fun, memorable, and unique!
"Dan's Pet Sitting Service" doesn't sound like it's going to set the world on fire anytime soon, and there's not much that comes to the imagination when you try to think up a logo for it. On the other hand, "Walking Paws Dog Walking Service" definitely sounds a lot better and instantly strikes an image into your head that might work for a logo.
If your pet sitting service isn't online then it might as well not exist. Most clients do a Google search or a look through online local review sites in search of a pet sitter, so it's important that you put yourself out there to be found.
You can build a great looking website (remember, first impressions!) with WordPress for under $150 including a domain name, hosting, and a theme, or you can create a site with a free website builder such as Weebly if you're not too computer savvy.
You've done it! Congratulations, now there's just one last thing to do in order to give your business a push in the right direction, and that's to do some advertising.
Business cards might seem like sort of a joke nowadays, but they're just as important to your business as a website is. You can leave these in all sorts of locations, and you can even have them pretty much printed on refrigerator magnets so that people will always know just who to call when they need someone to watch their pets!
These are great to be left in places such as pet stores and vet offices where people might look through them while waiting. Make sure to pack these with useful information about your business, and don't forget to include your services and prices!
If you're going to be driving to your pet sits then you might really want to get yourself a large car door magnet displaying your pet sitting service information. You'll turn lots of heads at the stoplights and may even get a lot of calls this way.
Okay so a $50,000 commercials isn't exactly in your price range at the moment, but that doesn't mean you have to go without one. Make your own and contact your local network provider and ask how much it'd cost to have a short commercial aired in your area. These typically cost anywhere from $200 to $1,000 and they're a great way to get the word out about you and your business.
Well, at least hopefully you'll be able to enjoy your success. While this article can definitely walk you through creating your own pet sitting service business, none of it matters unless you're willing to put the time in, work hard, and really be there for your clients and their pets.
Remember to always wear a smile, even when you're deadbeat tired and there's nothing more that you'd like to do than to throw your phone against the wall and crawl into bed. Appearance and advertising will you get halfway there, but what matters the most over everything is your attitude. Good luck!