Consider the following...
With so many people out of work these days, many turn to the Pet Sitting industry... thinking it's an easy business to start and seem to think that all a Pet Sitter does is slop down food, pat the pet on the head and go on their merry little way... making a mint doing it! We often hear things like... 'It must be an easy job' and 'it must be very lucrative'. These are misconceptions about the Pet Sitting business and often the demise of many Pet Sitting Companies.
If only it could be so easy! You will not build a good reputation by performing your job in such a fashion, however, you will build a good reputation by viewing your clients pets as members of their family and treating them as such.
This information is intended to help a person make an informed decision when choosing Pet Sitting as their career as well as show the reality of various aspects of the business and what it takes to be a good, reliable and professional Pet Sitter.
Some Pet Sitters decide to do this as a part-time job to help supplement the family's income. They wish to work the business around their personal and social lives, trying to avoid the sacrifices that are typically required of those who do this business. A good way to make sure this is something you want to do long term, day-in and day-out, is to work for someone else in the business for at least a year, or longer. Others decide to do this fulltime as their main source of income from the very beginning... without taking the time to do the proper research on what is really involved in doing this business on a fulltime level. Many who start a pet sitting service decide to give it up with in the first year or two.
Any Pet Sitter or Pet Sitting service should strive to provide the highest level of service, quality and professionalism. Not only does this mean that you need to be trustworthy, responsible and reliable but also that you need to have dedication, knowledge and experience. Having these qualities not only allows you to provide an excellent service but also gives the pet owner the confidence and the peace of mind that you are competent and comfortable in the handling of animals and any situations that may arise.
When deciding that the Pet Sitting industry is your career of choice, make sure that you do your research first. This is an important aspect of whether you will be successful in this industry or not. This business takes a lot of dedication, motivation and a genuine love of animals to be successful. True Professional Pet Sitters not only love their job but take their profession and the commitment to this profession very seriously.
Not all pet sitting companies are the same, the differences are in their knowledge, training, experience, personality, work ethics, educational background, social skills for customer relations, type of company set up, etc. This is not a cookie cutter type of business (or shouldn't be) and if it is, then it is not unique to yourself. It takes a lot of time (at least 3 years) and hard work to develop a company to become what you want, have a good client base and gain a good reputation. A bad reputation requires very little work and even less time! Your company should be built upon your experience, education, qualifications, and dedication, not that of others. A good reputable sitter is typically in high demand therefore the work load can be very busy, an average of 60-70 hours per week or more is not uncommon.
Yes, pet sitting has its perks (lots of Folgers in the am!)... you get to be your own boss (well, sort of... ), you get to play with lots of animals (Yea!), meet lots of new people ('eek?'), everyday is different (what the... ??!?) and with a lot of hard work (oy vey!) you can make a living as a pet sitter. There are lots of funny encounters and memorable moments to experience and share with the animals that come to be in your care which make this a great job to do!
Pet Sitting also has it's downsides... animals can be unpredictable, emergency situations can and do arise, you may encounter problems with the client's home, you must work regardless of the weather, holidays, etc... you can easily find yourself always working... to name a few. This doesn't mean that all jobs have 'issues' but these are some of the things that we and other pet sitters have had to deal with on occasion.
Let's address a few issues:
Animals can be unpredictable - They can have accidents (diarrhea, puke, etc.), they can bite, get loose, decide not to finish their walk and you have to carry them, or run rampant in their yard and refuse to listen to you when it's time to go in, etc. If a pet does have an accident, a good professional pet sitter would clean up after the pet (even if they were told not to worry about it). This is for the well-being of the pet and in the best interest of the client. "Ouch!"... you're bitten, now what? A professional sitter would still provide care for the pet until the return of the client or other arrangements have been made.
Work regardless of illness or weather - Unfortunately, even if you're sick and feel awful or the weather gets bad... rain or shine, hot or cold, snow and ice... a pet sitter is expected to be there... dogs still need to get out and have their breaks, food, water and medications still need to be given and your clients property still needs to be checked on.
Emergencies - Emergency situations can and do arise... are you capable and qualified to deal with sick or injured animals until vet treatment can be sought. If a pet passes on... how do you handle that?
Wrong Key or Locked out - At times a client may give you a wrong key or may have changed locks and forgot to inform the sitter. Locks can and do malfunction, keys can break and power can go out leaving garage doors inaccessible... your client is now gone for a week and you have no way in... what do you do?
Problems with the home - It is not uncommon for a water pipe to break, an A/C unit or furnace can fail, a home can be vandalized or damaged by a storm... how would you handle situations such as these?
Always working - A pet sitter who does this for a living or has an excellent reputation is always in demand, working weekdays, weekends, holidays as well as being 'on call'... it is a 24/7/365 commitment. You are always in your car and eating on the run... not a good job for someone who has to maintain schedules such as getting a child on or off the school bus, after school activity commitments or if a husband expects a meal at a specific time every evening (well, there's always Cheeto's... ).
How do you determine whether this is a good career choice?
First of all, you need to be aware that this business requires a high level of responsibility... you are going into people's homes to care for their babies but also everything that they have worked for is now in your care. This is not a job you should take lightly.
Next, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
|Do I have the dedication needed for this business, working many long days?
Do I truly love animals and love to spend time with them?
Am I a responsible person, trustworthy and reliable?
Am I capable of determining if an animal is having an issue (difficulty going to the bathroom, differences in their stool, lack of appetite, difficulty breathing, etc) ?
Am I confident and capable to deal with these issues or any other emergency that may arise? What if a pet is having a seizure, could I handle that? I'll tell you first hand, this is not an easy thing to deal with... there are different levels of seizures but the Gran Mal which is the worst is the hardest thing to see a pet go through also the most dangerous for the pet and the guardian in charge.
Am I able to administer first aid and medications (oral, injectable or sub-Q fluids)?
Do I have any fears of specific animals, large dogs, snakes, etc? A healthy respect is one thing fear is another.
What if I encounter a dog who has become aggressive whether the clients or while walking a clients dog?
If you are not confident with your answers to these questions or answered 'No' to any of them then this is probably not the best career for you as it could easily be detrimental to the client, the pet and your business.
Now at this point, if you still think that you may enjoy this line of work, if you truly love animals and have experience working with animals, don't mind a hectic schedule and are a dedicated and motivated type of person then you may be a good candidate for the pet sitting industry. It can be overwhelming at times and exhausting... 'burn out' is a huge problem, but that goes with the territory.
Let's cover the lucrative part:
If lucrative to you is easy money and little work , then do NOT become a pet sitter .
If lucrative to you is working 7 days a week 365 days a year and anywhere from 10 - 15 hours or more on many days including weekends and holidays as well as always being on call... then, Yes! This is what it takes to be a full time 'Professional' with a good reputation!
To put this in perspective, it takes 3 to 4 'visits' to cover the cost of a nice 'dinner' out (without drinks!) or just to fill the gas tank... it takes a lot of visits to cover your costs of the business... insurance, bonding, state & local licensing, memberships, advertising, gasoline and maintenance on your car, office supplies and utilities, before you ever make a dime to go towards your living expenses!
If you are still interested in the pet sitting industry, the following questions and answers may help. These questions are asked regularly by potential pet sitters. They are, for the most part, answered in a generic sense relating to the industry itself.
Approximately how many hours per day do you work making pet-sitting visits (including drive time) on: Every day is different and all sitting companies have different schedules based on the type of clients serviced. Most sitters run an average of 60 - 70 hours per week.
Weekdays: My husband and I both put in an average of 10 hours daily running and servicing our business (20 man hours easy)
Weekends: usually busier than weekdays
Holidays: not uncommon to work 18 - 20 hours each
Approximately how many hours per day do you typically spend on paperwork (invoicing, marketing, accounting, phone calls, e-mails... ) on: answer included above.
Approximately what is your average number of pet-sitting visits per day on: Every day is different and it changes frequently... you may think you have a light day and that will change at 7 am that morning and vice versa. A lot of sitters try to stay at 10 or under in order to still have a social life. Being a pet sitter is a lot like working a swing shift because you are constantly in and out... you work morning, midday and evening.
Are most of your clients seeking services due to Holidays, Vacation, Work Travel, Long work hours, Other: Most sitters do mainly vacationers, some prefer just daily jobs, we do all and have a very diverse client base that uses us frequently.
Approximately what percentage of your business is: Dogs, Cats, Birds, Fish, Reptiles, Small critters (ferrets, rats, rabbits... )? The majority of sitters and sitting jobs are for dogs and cats... we are qualified for caring for all types of pets and breeds... not something many sitters can do and would be a huge liability to the sitter if they did not have proper knowledge of the pets in their care... a lot can happen. Something else to consider... what happens if you are bit? Do you still continue working and do you still care for the pet that bit you? It is one of the hazards of working in a pet related industry.
What is the average service area for a typical business? Some sitters have a 5 mile radius, most have a 10 - 15 mile mainly because you live in your car, gas is expensive, and not uncommon to put 30,000 or more miles on your car yearly .
How do you handle personal vacation and/or time off (Do you let clients know say a month ahead of time, at the beginning of each year, or do you have someone to cover your clients?)? Letting clients know at least 30 days ahead of time would be a good thing. If you have someone to cover for you, that is good.
About how much personal time off did you take last year? This is a personal decision for each sitter or sitting company and based on how you as a sitter wanted your business run.
Do you find the best marketing tools are: Flyers on doors, Vets, Pet stores, Website, Phone book ads, Other: The best marketing tool is word of mouth... flyers usually go in the trash without ever being read, Vets won't recommend people they know nothing about, pet stores such as Petsmart, etc, do not allow information for other businesses to be handed out, Yellow page ads are costly and so on. Once established, a reputable sitter doesn't have to do much advertising since word of mouth works wonders! A website is an excellent tool, and a good 'professional' website requires a lot of work and/or a lot of money!
Do you obtain your insurance and bonding through PSI? If not, where? There are several places to get this... PSI, NAPPS and Pet Sitter Insurance, LLC or your local insurance agent may be able to provide this for you.
Are there software programs available to track clients/appointments/invoicing or does this all need to be developed from scratch? QuickBooks.
Do you have an Accountant to assist with tax implications or anything else? If so, approximately how much should be budgeted for such a service? Most sitters hire an accountant and that is several hundred a year based on your needs.
Are you aware if a license & permit are required? Depends on what area you are in... call the clerks office and ask... at the least you should be registered with the State, either as a 'DBA', a Corporation or an 'LLC'.
Do you recommend a cell phone or home phone for the business (with the understanding that either would have an answering machine)? Either phone will work.
Do you believe there are any subscriptions and/or memberships that are worthwhile for the profession? None are necessary but you may find some to be beneficial.
What range of salary (after business costs) can one expect to make after the business is grown to a solid client base? After a good solid client base is built you will do good to make 25,000 after 3 years (and that is working crazy hours and 365).
How long would you say it takes to obtain a solid client base (assuming you are a reliable sitter and are spending adequate time marketing)? It takes a good 3 years at least to build a good solid client base, especially in transient areas.
Do sole proprietors try to find and work with other sole proprietors to back each other up in case of illness or vacation? Most sitters do not feel comfortable having another sitter cover their clients... it is a rarity if it happens at all. The other issue is that the reputable sitters are all busy with their own clientele, so that finding time to fill in for another sitter is not really feasible.
What is the best way to gain knowledge on animal medical and emergency procedures, and general care info on less common animals (ferrets, rats, reptile, saltwater fish... )? (books, internet, seminars) Read a lot, attend seminars and work in the veterinary field for several years.
Have you ever had the need for an attorney – whether as a plaintiff (i.e, go after non-paying clients) or a defendant (i.e, client sues you for whatever reason) or simply for business advice? All sitters will encounter non-paying clients and law suits are always a possibility.
If at this point, you believe Pet Sitting may be a good career choice, you will want to read over the information on the Pet Sitters International website ( www.petsit.com ), read Patti Moran's book on Pet Sitting and talk with the professional sitters in your area... get to know them and let them know your intentions up front! Networking with the professionals in your area will be an asset to your business in many ways... professional sitters have the experience and the knowledge that can be very beneficial to a new pet sitter. You will no doubt have many questions & encounter many issues on your way to becoming a successful pet sitting service.