In the first half of our article, “Are You Ready to be a Pet Sitter?,” we looked at your love of animals, whether pet sitting is feasible for you from a variety of perspectives, and if you are capable of doing the job. Now we’ll look at the business aspect. Take whatever statistics you’ve read – or any salary you’ve worked out based on the number of houses in your subdivision with pets in them…and set them aside for a minute. Let’s have a look at reality.
Pet Sitting as a Business
If you were attracted to the profession mostly because you’ve read pet sitting companies can earn up to six-figure incomes, please understand these are not the norm! And you will most likely find them in urban centers where multiple pet sitters from the firm can move quickly from home to home in a very jam-packed day. I’m aware of two companies that fall into the six-figure range. Both have been around for 10 – 15 years and started with two people working endless hours. Then they slowly added employees or independent contractors to their roster as their territory grew.
If your goal is to manage a company and let others do the pet sitting for the most part, and you live in an area to support the infrastructure, then this is a business type with a growth potential you can research. Certainly the statistics support it. Again…where you live is paramount. We’ve forgone the idea of building a multi-sitter business because we recognized the distances we travel each day and the money we pay for fuel is the same as what a contract worker would face. Pet sitting prices have a definite, and fairly low, ceiling already…so the only way to be fair to the one sitter we had was to take a very small cut ($1 – $2 dollars a visit in our case). That much was totally insufficient to cover the time and costs of running the area. Other companies disagree with the way we did things and have built a multi-sitter firm. They charge the client the same as us or less, so their sitters must make just over minimum wage. That wasn’t for us – but it works for them. Remember…we live in a rural area. It makes a difference.
Choosing your area. In the course of our own business we’ve also found some neighborhoods and villages gave us business while others did not and if we judged the approximate income level of the clients based on their homes, it didn’t make a difference either. Some areas just work and others don’t. Try a few clients in the various neighborhoods you have access to in your working radius so you’re not relying on one spot.
Distance between calls is a limiting factor in your daily income as a pet sitter. No matter how hard you try, you can fit only so many calls into a lunch period that has start times for visits between 11:00 and 1:30 and finishes by 2-2:30. Figure a half-hour at each home and then the distance between homes. If you’re driving even 12 or 13 minutes between calls that’s at least one less visit you’ll make per lunch period. We find four-five calls are comfortable for one person.
The same distance factor holds true for vacation visits where you’ll be at the same house at least three times in a day. If you’ve booked three vacations – which makes for a lovely nine-visit day even without any lunch regulars – you’ll have a good financial outcome too! But how far apart are the homes? You’re not making dog-food deliveries where time doesn’t matter, you’re trying to get to dogs who have been left alone for many hours between calls and they really, really need to get out! This is when some experience in knowing the dog’s routine and how to shift it slightly comes into play. Your priority is their safety, but their comfort is next – so think about that backup pet sitter if the logistics just don’t work.
Backup is essential if you’re starting your own business. Whether it is someone who will go into it with regular days or routes, or a spouse, friend, or part-time contractor to fill-in as needed, this person must be someone you can rely on in a pinch. No matter how hard you plan or how many times you head out with a cold or flu…there are times when you just can’t be there. Ensuring the animals in your care that day are looked after not only shows professionalism, it will help you feel better too. No one likes to leave a pup stranded for a long day when you know he has to get out!
Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Well now…that might be a trick. Before you jump in…have you set aside sufficient funds to carry you a few months? If you don’t have a spouse helping to cover expenses as you build, money could be an issue. We all hope for lots of clients up front…but the problem is, that very first caller is likely to ask for lunchtime visits two or three days a week. That’s okay if you have a lunch hour at work and the office is close by…but what happens if you get a second client? Each call is a half hour. How long is your break? What happens if they need you mid-afternoon instead? Even working part-time at a regular job is difficult because calls come in for all different days and all different times.
You can start by advertising for weekday lunch hours only in an area close to your office. Or for weekends only. To build an income, and a business, though, you’ll need to be available for morning, noon, early and late dinners, and bedtime. You’ll probably need help. The urge to quit your day job for this wonderful alternative might be strong…but take the time to look at the numbers and your budget before you do. It might be better to pay someone else for the calls in-between hours until things pick up. You can keep building once you go full time and you’ll have someone to rely on who knows your clients at the same time. Share – and enjoy – as you build.
Taking the Plunge as a Pet Sitter!
Are you ready to be a pet sitter? If you’ve weighed all the options, pet sitting can provide a steady income … with some willingness to work hard for it. For most pet sitters, their love of the animals is enough to keep them going even if they need a second part-time job, at least in the early days.
Spend some time up front considering your reasons for wanting to be a pet sitter and what exactly about the job would make you happy. You might want to strike out on your own or you might prefer to join an established company, at least at first, so they can deal with the business details and enable you to do what you love – looking after the animals.
If you’ve read through this article, have everything in hand, and still believe pet sitting is your calling – go for it!
Until next time…have fun out there!