- Aren't there too many pet sitters in the market already?
No. There are more than 63 million households with pets in the USA alone, so each community can likely support several businesses. Competition keeps standards high and prices low. Do some research and ask local vets, pet stores, groomers, etc. if they think there is a need in the area. Start with a search on the net and see who your competition is and try to guage their success.
- What's the down side?
You'll be running lots of assignments in bad weather and at times that are not convenient for you.
"Living in an area like Wyoming and being a pet sitter in the winter presents it’s own set of problems," says Terri Randall of Creature Comforts. "This year already we have experienced low temps of 20 degrees below zero, black ice and snow, so people who think pet sitting is a 'cute little fun job' really crack me up!"
"If you have scheduled sits, it doesn’t matter what the weather is like; your clients are depending on you to care for their pets."
Terri has a few suggestions for pet sitters dealing with winter conditions. "I always have extra warm clothing. Layers are key so you can add to and remove as the temp changes. I also wear long underwear. Good gloves are essential. Can’t wear the bulky ones as you need to be able to use your fingers to manipulate leashes etc."
"My 'Yak Traks' are very important in the ice. They let me walk dogs under icy conditions without slipping and falling. Of course it’s key to not keep most dogs outside for very long in the bitter cold as well. If the temp is below zero, I take the dogs out just long enough to complete their duties and then back inside for some playtime."
Good transportation packed with safety supplies is important. "I drive a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, which is really mandatory around here," says Terri. "I always carry a large jug or bag of reg. clay cat litter in case I get stuck or run into a very slippery walkway. Great for traction. I always keep my gas tank full in the winter and make sure I have my cell phone and it’s fully charged. I have emergency gear in my car at all times, ie water, flashlight, matches etc. Locks on doors can freeze up in extremely cold weather so I keep a lock de-icer in my car."
Most pet sitters work weekends and holidays. Avoid burn-out and force yourself to take vacations and days off.
Terri Randall's Creature Comforts provides professional pet sitting in Sheridan, Wyoming.
- Where do I start?
There are a lot of great books out there that provide valuable information, including “Pet Sitting for Profit,” by Patti Moran, and "Pet First Aid: Cats and Dogs," by Bobbie Mammato. There's some good email lists and groups where pet sitters provide support and information for each other as well. About Pet Sitting was founded by Marianne Castiglia of Feathers n' Paws Pet Sitting and now is managed by Terri Randall.
"About Pet Sitting is a forum with resources for the professional pet sitter. We are a FREE forum with more than 1000 members offering a place to share pet sitting business tools, stories, support, friendship and education while promoting the responsible, caring and professional aspects of pet sitting. We welcome all experienced and new pet sitters, as well as those who are seriously contemplating starting a professional pet sitting business. This forum is about helping our fellow pet sitters. If you are new to the business, our list members, files, and archives will help provide the information you need to get started out the right way. "
Feathers n' Paws provides professional pet sitting services in Hudson, Port Richey, New Port Richey and Spring Hill in Pasco County, Florida.
- Do I need a website?
"I have had a web site almost since I opened for business," Says Eindy, owner of The Pet Shepherd. "My first one was a free site that I threw together myself. My current professional web site was created by Adam at Worlds By Design.
I recommend that any professional business of any kind have some type of web presence. I get most of my business and brand recognition through my web site. My site also answers many questions and explains my policies and standards even before first contact is made directly with me. I cannot imagine operating my business without my web site."
Some smaller, word-of-mouth businesses may get a good start without a website, but eventually most sitters will need one. They are a sure-fire way to get your name out to a variety of potential customers. They are also a good way to have a definitive list of services, rates and policies available to your customers and potential customers it all times. Some sitters are so successful with their web presence that all or a majority of their customers come from the web. Photo galleries, web-only discounts, useful stories and collections of information draw potential customers to your website and lead to new clients. Worlds by Design specializes in sites for pet sitters. Contact them today for a free quote on what they can do for you.
The Pet Shepherd provides professional pet sitting services in Morrow, Georgia; service Clayton Country and surrounding areas.
- Do I need a logo?
Certainly. Anything you can do to distinguish yourself from other businesses and catch people's eyes (within your budget) is going to help along the way. Worlds by Design can help you with that too.
- Should I get incorporated? What about a business license?
America is a strange country. We call ourselves capitalists yet we government-regulate business at every turn. Thankfully there is no pet sitter license yet instituted by the government (this may not be true for other countries). However, laws regarding general business licenses vary from state to state and city to city. Check with your local city hall for the rules.
Many worry that incorporating is too difficult or too costly. “Simple as pie to do also,” says Candy Telford of Candy’s Pampered Pets. “My main reason for Incorporating was to protect myself as much as possible from losing my home if I was ever sued for something. Society today will sue you for crossing your eyes and spittin’ in the gutter. Secondly, for tax purposes; my business has grown from just me to several employees. I think the most important overall thing you can do to stay out of trouble and to make an honest living (and not break any rules) is find a good accountant. Its the best move I ever made.”
“Accountants should be able to tell you if its time to incorporate or stay a sole proprietor a bit longer. if they are good, they will have you document everything and they will do your payroll and give you monthly reports of where you stand and what you need to do and when. Mine takes care of all reporting and follows up. If there's an error he deals with it. My background as a banker has helped me in the office part of my business, but there were things I didn't have a clue about for running a business. The one big thing I knew, and this guy keeps me to, is to document and copy everything you do. Leave an audit trail. When you least expect it, you will be prepared if you do get audited.“
“I never dreamt I'd be running a full fledged business. I thought I was retiring and going to walk dogs and have some fun, and make enough money to pay the bills each month. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I love what I do and despite some personal physical setbacks I am still running my own show and working in my “jammies” at home. That’s what it was all about for me. Marching to my own drummer. Good luck to you all.”
Candy’s Pampered Pets provides professional pet sitting in Hayward, Castro Valley, San Leandro & San Lorenzo, California.
- Do I need insurance?*
Yes. Liability insurance is for the protection of the pet sitter.
The sad reality of America's great democracy is that we like to sue each other. The legal systems in developed countries are choked with civil litigation. Many business owners are petrified of lawsuits, and for good reason. A judgment against a small business owner can be devastating. The fact that pet sitters enter the homes of their clients and care for their beloved pets makes them very susceptible to lawsuits. Many lawsuits have no merit, but even the defense costs can be overwhelming for a small business owner, not to mention emotionally devastating if you have no back-up plan. Liability protection insurance is a must for every professional pet sitter.
- Do I need to be bonded?*
Yes. Bonds protect the customers.
Pet sitters enter client's homes as part of their normal coarse of daily work. As such, they could be held responsible for any theft of client property that occurs during the duration of the assignment. If you establish a bond, the company who holds it will make an immediate payment to your client, up to the value of the bond. This will take place only after it has been determined that the accused party has committed a criminal act. Afterwards, the bond company will seek restitution from the guilty party. Being bonded gives a client confidence when you enter their home, that they are protected and will be immediately reimbursed in case of a criminal act.
- Should I use signed contracts with customers?
Yes. Avoid problems that arise from misunderstanding or dishonesty. Clearly define the obligations of your company and your client, and the fees involved. Ninety-nine out of one hundred assignments may go smoothly, but just one not-so-smooth assignment can make you wish you used a contract on all one hundred!
- How much should I charge for a pet-sitting visit?
Most pet sitting businesses charge an average of $15 per 30-minute visit. Usually they charge a few more dollars per each additional pet. You must also factor in transportation-distances, gas mileage, tolls, and time spent in traffic. This will help you establish a service area too. Check the rates on your competitor's websites. That's a good way to gage the going rate in your area.
*Please note: This information is being provided as a free service. This is not legal advice. We do not sell insurance or bonds. You should consult a lawyer and/or insurance company if you have questions regarding legal issues.