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Innisfree

Want to tell me about pet sitting?

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I need a part-time job, and pet sitting seems like it might be a good fit.

I have decades of experience with dogs, cats, and assorted small pets. I'd be fine spending occasional nights in someone else's home, but would not want to bring their dogs or cats into our home. Checking on animals several times daily and taking them for walks would be no problem. Ideally, I'd want to earn around $2000/month to make my efforts worthwhile. I can probably put in as many hours as a full time job, but until both kids are a bit older and driving themselves places, I need flexibility in my schedule.

What do I need to know? 

Have you used Rover.com, or set up a business independently?

When I look on Rover for our area, there are a ton of young people with a few reviews, and a few people with more (30+). There are also already several independent pet sitting businesses. So, maybe the market is saturated. But we're in an area with a fair number of people who can afford services, so maybe not, especially if there's a way to distinguish myself from all the folks on Rover (maturity and experience?).

Any thoughts? 

Adding: if you have used or might use a pet sitter or dog walker, what would be important to you? What would you want to know about your sitter?

Edited by Innisfree

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My kids and I do it by word of mouth.  I don’t care for rover and won’t put an ad on it.  We do mostly small animals along with dogs and cats.  For the ones that have me go to their house, flat fee but I also normally get in the mail for them.  I have some that come to my house and I charge a little less for it.  Not all do this but I give medications/injections ( usually insulin) as I have been trained and am very comfortable doing this.  

 

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Look into how much insurance would cost you. You don't want to be entering strangers' homes without some form of protection in case something happens to the home, the dog, etc. 

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1 hour ago, itsheresomewhere said:

My kids and I do it by word of mouth.  I don’t care for rover and won’t put an ad on it.  We do mostly small animals along with dogs and cats.  For the ones that have me go to their house, flat fee but I also normally get in the mail for them.  I have some that come to my house and I charge a little less for it.  Not all do this but I give medications/injections ( usually insulin) as I have been trained and am very comfortable doing this.  

 

If you don't mind mind, could you tell me why you don't like Rover? I have no experience with them, good or bad.

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2 minutes ago, Innisfree said:

If you don't mind mind, could you tell me why you don't like Rover? I have no experience with them, good or bad.

I'd be interested in this info, also.  My 18 yr old dd was just researching Rover as a possible part time job for the summer.  

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I have been running my own pet sitting business since I was 17, so 15 years. I never thought it was necessary to deal with websites that were the middle man. Instead, I used word of mouth, advertised on local classifieds sites, had a website with good SEO, and left business cards and flyers on businesses community boards.

$2000/month is certainly doable but it will take time to build up that client base. Doing research on proper pricing for your area is key. If you price too low you can get tons of clients relatively quickly but you'll burn out and be selling yourself short. Price too high and you may get a few good clients but you'll price yourself out of the market. In my area, I can charge $18/ half hour visit or $25 for an hour and most people find that reasonable. The ones who don't generally have to go with a teen who isn't licensed or insured. Insurance is less than $300/yr. 

Pet sitting can be flexible but too many black out times and days will make clients look elsewhere. My policy is to ALWAYS be available with proper advanced notice. I tell my clients to set their travel dates by a certain date and then I will set my travel dates around their needs. If something comes up last minute for certain clients I will bend over backwards to make it work or set them up with someone who I trust with my own animals.

 

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Thank you, hjffkj! That is very helpful.

Taking some time to build a business is fine. I just find myself casting about for a productive way to use my time as kids become more independent, and I'd like to bring in some income.

Sounds like I need to learn about websites next, along with insurance.

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39 minutes ago, Innisfree said:

Thank you, hjffkj! That is very helpful.

Taking some time to build a business is fine. I just find myself casting about for a productive way to use my time as kids become more independent, and I'd like to bring in some income.

Sounds like I need to learn about websites next, along with insurance.

You know, I started by putting my name out there. My first client was my mom's friend who had 2 dogs and 9 cats. The next thing I did was post an ad on a local universities classifieds page. That got me grad student clients who needed the occasional afternoon visit because they were too busy to get home. I also got professors who travelled a lot.  I gave incentives to clients for referring me to other people and I started offering things like giving the dog a bath or trimming nails for extra.

I spent $500 to advertise in my churches bulletin for a year and that paid for itself in two months.  Craigslist was another avenue I took but I didn't really like most of the clients I got from there so I stopped that quickly. If you are in Nextdoor people are always looking for pet sitters on there. Local Facebook groups are a great way to find people looking for pet sitters. I think I spend more time responding to ads for people looking for pet sitting in the first 2 years than anything else.

I did all of this before I ever looked into getting a business license, insurance, or creating a website. Once u had a steady stream of clients that generated enough income to pay for my college books and fun money each semester I started thinking about making it an official business that would appeal to a different kind of client.

I didn't even do my own website. I hired that out to someone.

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I have not read the replies.

DD and I started our own pet sitting business June 2018.  Immediately we posted on nextdoor.  Within a short amount of time we received our first call and job of a beautiful 8 year old golden retriever.  He was our first and only customer for awhile.  In time, he suggested our name and we added a new customer.  That new person suggested another new customer.  We were recommended on nextdoor.  So, mostly word of mouth but also customers are added from nextdoor. 

We do not market ourselves much as this is only part-time but over the last 12 months we gathered 8-9 customers.

Take aways:
~ decide what type of pet/s (I think you did this)
~ rate (ours is based on a "per visit" program. Also, we have a rate for the first pet and add on a tiny bit for each additional pet - all per visit) 
~ people have asked us to house sit (I think you mentioned this.  I don't do that but dd does.  However, we are very selective about where she does this.  The money is quite good but house sitting is not needed much).
~ we create a folder on each pet family.  We require a "pet care plan" stating when/how much to feed, particulars to that pet, etc. This ends up being about a page long.  With many customers it's best not to leave all pet specific info to memory but to have it in writing.  Also, we require a copy of vac record to make sure each pet is current.
~  Our customers have security systems.  Normally they supply "codes" for entry.  Sometimes we are asked to kept a physical copy of their house key.
~ When someone hires us, we schedule a meet and greet so we can put faces one to the other (people) as well as pets.  They show us where everything is: water/food bowls, food bags/cans, litter box, litter, treats, leashes, poop bags and the list goes on.  
~  We work and receive payment at end of assignment.  A few people tip.  I've noticed the more affluent (homes over 1M) the customer - they do not tip.  Funny.  
~ We ALWAYS tidy up.  If there was a thunderstorm and there is a huge stick in the yard, I'll move it.  Now, I'm not going around picking up all there is in the yard, but if it's something obvious, I'll do it.  
~ Usually you'll bring in the mail.  Maybe trash can/s.  You might be asked to water plants or feed fish.
~  We ask what lights are on timers so we're not alarmed if one goes on/off while we're there.  We have one customer who we watch daily.  He is a 9 month old terrier.  So sweet.   In addition to a walk, I'll let him play outside.  The owner dad mentioned to us to make sure gate is closed/latched or he might bolt.  Good info.  
~ Our rate is based on a 3 mile radius.  All of our customers fall within that right now.  If we're asked to go beyond, our price will increase a bit.  Why?  Cost of gasoline to drive and burn gasoline stopped at lights, distance, etc.   Determine your map.
~ Find a substitute for YOU!  We are leaving on vacation and found a substitute.  A friend of dd's.  He has a dog and is an animal lover and experienced.   He was going to become a marine biologist but changed his major.  He's reputable.  
~ We do not advertise (paid) as this is part-time.  We "market" freely on nextdoor.  We are considering buying business cards through Vistaprint.  Cheap.  500 cards for maybe $20.  I don't think it's necessary to spend a lot of $$ advertising.  

THIS WILL PROBABLY TAKE TIME TO GENERATE A CUSTOMER BASE.  Do not expect to make 2k/month right off the bat.

Lastly, I called a new apt. complex. They were thinking of such a person to offer to their clients.  That would be a good set up.  Walk 10 dogs or so in one visit (not at a time).  Everyday.

Know that you need to rise early to feed breakfast, be available mid-day, dinner and bedtime for those on vacation.  And, yes, you'll be busy when others go on vacations for holidays.  Are you willing to work that?  In time, you'll have multiple pets that will "need" to go potty and need your visit in the same time range.  Allow time to drive from one to the other.  This is why we require a "window of time".  We can't be in 2 places at once.  

I'm eyeballing getting a part-time job.  DD will go to away college in a year so not sure if I want to do this myself.  She and I "share" the assignment and pay.  

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We've used Rover several times as a customer and have only had outstanding experiences with them.  It might be a good place for you to start.  We've used both experienced and not-very-experienced providers from there.  A person has to start somewhere, so I like to give non-experienced (I don't mean not experienced with pets, but just not on Rover long) providers a chance if I'm comfortable with them.  

What I like about them and what I'd recommend you emphasize:

It's a great way for people to find a provider within their neighborhood -- makes it easier on everyone.

Offer a "meet and greet" ahead of time, before they make the commitment.  (This was sometimes possible for us, but other times we just didn't have the time to do that -- more of an urgent pet care need.)

Even if you're new on Rover, list your experience with pets over the years (even if they're all your own pets).

Offering to take care of very young puppies or very elderly dogs is always a plus!  (When we were looking for emergency care for our new pup given a family medical emergency, the ONLY thing I looked for was someone who particularly highlighted that they work with very young puppies.)

Offer to send them text and photo updates.  (That means a lot to people nowadays!)

Encourage people to leave reviews.

I believe many people are looking for someone to give their pet loving care either while on vacation or at work.  Once they find that one person, they'll stick with them forever.  I don't think that market is yet saturated, at all.

You can offer to start with a friend or family member's pet for free so they can leave some positive reviews to get you started.

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