Pet-sitting makes for one of the best career options out there for dog lovers; if you’re great with dogs and love spending time with them, why not consider becoming a professional pet sitter in your area?
Many people manage to earn a steady part-time income through pet-sitting, while many others have managed to turn it into a full-time career. Could that be you? We took a look at some of the ins and outs of the pet-sitting business.
When it Comes to Dog Sitting Income, Survey Says…
According to reviews website Angie’s List, users report paying an average of $37 per day for overnight pet-sitting services, with a “general range” of $25 to $50 per visit in-between.
PayScale.com lists a much-higher salary estimate at approximately $31, 000 earned per year, though note that this goes with pet-sitters who have considerable experience in the business.
It’s worth noting that the average of an overnight pet sitting gig can vary considerably depending on where you live. The easiest way to see what most are charging in your area? Check craigslist, Rover, or call up competitors and ask about their prices as if you are a customer.
Of course, how you set your own rates as a freelance pet-sitter is entirely up to you as long as you’re able to (1) cover your businesses costs and (2) provide an affordable and efficient service at competitive rates compared to similar services in your area.
Elements That Can Influence How Much You Charge
While we’ve discussed a very loose range when it comes to charging for pet sitting services, there are several other factors that can affect how much it is reasonable to charge.
Sitting Location. Will you be staying at the dog’s house or your own? Staying at the dog’s house means more comfort for the canine, but more effort for you, which means you should be able to ask for more pay. Are you dog sitting for someone who lives in the middle of nowhere? If the location is more difficult to get to, you should be able to charge a bit more for that as well.
Services Required. Your services offered as a dog sitter can vary quite a bit. In addition to keeping an eye on Fido, will you be expected to walk the dog too? How often and how far? Are there any other duties you are expected to fulfill, like taking care of plants or collecting mail? The more services you provide, the more you deserve to charge.
Number of Pets. If you’re taking care of two or three dogs, you should certainly be paid more than you would normally receive for a single canine. Cats aren’t as much work as dogs, but watching over a cat in addition to a dog should earn you a bit more too. Same with any other small or exotic pets!
Medications or Unique Medical Needs. Some dogs may have certain medical needs that require pills or shots. Depending on the care, you should be able to charge more. While feeding the dog a single heartworm pill isn’t such a big deal, daily medications or insulin shots definitely deserve some kind of pay bump.
Dog Disposition. More difficult dogs require better pay. If you’re dealing with a tough canine that is a nightmare on the leash or has behavioral issues, you deserve to get paid more than the standard rate!
Basically, consider any inconveniences in the pet sitting gig. If you’re dealing with any kind of unusual situation, you can probably ask for a higher pay grade.
How to Advertise Your Pet Sitting Services
Step one for most emerging businesses and side-ventures – yes, including yours! – is to advertise your services and products. People have to know about you before they can hire you, after all.
Here are some advertising techniques for sprouting sitters that won’t break the bank:
- Get a Website – Even A Simple One! A professional website will be your businesses online home. While having your own website isn’t inherently necessary, it gives you a lot of clout and makes you seem like a more legitimate and serious sitter. You can set this up yourself on websites like Weebly, WordPress or Blogger. Your website should have an About page that tells people more about you and your services and a Contact page where people can get in touch at the very least.
- Grab Some Business Cards. Business cards are cheap enough to print and pass around whenever the occasion presents itself. Ask nearby pet stores if they’re willing to let you advertise your services in their store – many, if not most, are more than happy sticking a couple of business cards on the counter for passerby customers.
- Post Ads. Post advertisements for your services on websites like Rover and PetSitter; branch out and advertise through Facebook, let your friends know what you’re doing and make use of local and online classifieds – most, though not all, are free to use. (Use caution when meeting prospective clients and their pets, as with any other online meet-up.)
- Word of Mouth. Word of mouth is a major component of any successful business: If you’re off to a bit of a slow start, don’t stress – as time goes on, people will hear about your excellent service. It’s your job – with business cards, websites and advertisements – that they know where to find you.
Dog Sitting With Rover: Is It Worth It?
Using a services marketplace website like Rover has pros and cons.
The advantage? Rover basically advertises your services for free. While the cost of buying PPC ads, Facebook ads, TV ads, and radio spots is well outside of the average dog sitter’s expense, Rover is a massive company with a big ad budget. When Rover promotes their website, they’re promoting you too (unfortunately that goes for your competitors as well).
Rover also is handy to have as a middleman – they can help handle customer service complaints and lend a hand if things go awry.
The major disadvantage of Rover is that you won’t get the full cut of what you make. Rover takes 15% off your earnings, leaving you with 85% of the money made. That’s not a terrible deal, but sometimes it stinks to not get the full amount that you’ve earned. The good news is that if you develop a rapport with a client, you may be able to eventually book future sitting arrangements with them directly and cut out Rover.
Another aspect of Rover that is both helpful and a hindrance is the reviews. Starting off, you may have a difficult time booking sitting sessions without a collection of shinning 5-star reviews under your belt.
A good way to combat this issue is to offer your services at a discount initially, simply doing gigs to build up reviews. Once you’ve earned a handful of strong ratings and testimonials, you can begin to up your rate to something more sustainable long term.
Some tips for winning good reviews? Take photos of you with your designated pooch and share them with the owner. Make sure to provide a detailed report about the dog’s behavior, actions, and potty movements. Going the extra mile will really impress owners and ensure a good review!
Getting Started With Your Dog Sitting Services
Ready to get started? Before you jump straight into it, you’ll have to decide exactly what kind of service it is you are going to offer.
Will pet-sitting be hourly, daily or over longer periods of time – like when a pooch’s owners go on holiday for a month?
Also consider if you will be a live-in sitter for the longer periods, and if you will be traveling to owner’s houses to collect their pooches there, or if you have an existing area – your office or home – to get things done.
Once you’ve decided, you might need some other things to get your business going – among other things, a good quality poop-scoop and wet wipes are key.
Depending on the services you’re offering, you may also require types of shampoos for every type of pooch’s skin, water and food bowls, as well as the actual food – though in most cases owners will provide their own.
You may also need to purchase a variety of dog collars and harnesses – sometimes dogs will have their own preference for a certain type of collar and refuse to walk with anything else. Again, usually owners will provide you with the dog’s main harness or favorite toys, but it’s good to have a few backups just in case.
Also make sure to ask about what treats are safe to feed the dog, and which he likes best. It’s never a bad idea to have a dog’s favorite goody on hand!
Don’t forget you’ll be dealing with all kinds of different dogs and their individual dog quirks, so be ready to adapt to the dog’s demeanor.
Dog-sitting, like being Spider-Man, comes with great responsibility. People will be entrusting you with their beloved pets; this trust involves getting their dog from Point-A to Point-B safely and securely, making sure they’re properly fed, have gotten more than enough exercise and are, well, happy as a dog can be. Can you do that?
Let’s take one last look at what you could be charging…
Calculating Your Expenses: What Should You Charge For Dog Sitting?
Just how much should you be charging? That will be largely dependent on what you do, how you do it, and how much it costs you.
Do a little bit of market research in your area: Call other pet owners and ask them if they’re already making use of such a service and, if yes, how much they are paying for it; find out what makes them happy about existing services and what they feel they could be offering – that’s how you spot a gap in the market.
Also consider calling up a few local competitors and posing as a customer to get their rates. Remeber, anyone with an already established business and more experience will likely be able to charge more than you will when you’re still new and getting started. Still, you’ll get a good ballpark amount on what the going rate is for dog sitting.
With this market research, you can take into account what others are charging.
From there, you want to take a good, long look at your expenses. Profit is calculated by subtracting your income you’re your expenses – you’re looking for a positive number here, of course.
Grab a pen and piece of paper, then make a list of everything that will be costing you money to make the business a reality – think of starting costs (things you will likely only pay for once or twice during the start-up phase) and running costs (what it will consistently cost you to keep things going.)
These expenses can include dog collars and other pooch-related accessories, travel costs (depending on how far you’re traveling, gas can be a big one), advertising costs, pet sitting insurance, etc.
From that, you should be able to calculate how much you will need to charge in order to cover your costs – and, of course, make a profit.
Are you on your way to pet-sitter stardom? We hope so! Are you an experienced pet sitter – share your tips in the comments! Got more questions? Let them fly in the comments and we’ll try to provide guidance.