20 Pet sitting strategies for pandemic times - what pet sitters can do when business is slow
No doubt, like most other businesses, many pet sitting businesses are experiencing some downtimes during this pandemic. Many people must stay home. Business trips are canceled. Vacations are canceled. Even though our country is starting to open up, things will probably be slow for a while. What's a pet sitter to do?
A pet sitter can freak out and think they are sunk because business isn't coming in and their schedule is greatly reduced. The optimist would say to use this time wisely and so I'd like to share some ideas and thoughts that might help pet sitters weather the storm and come out shining in the sun long after it is all over.
1. Many people are re-evaluating their lives during this time. This is a good idea for pet sitters as well. Take a deep look at your life: where you are at, and where do you want to go. Decide how pet sitting fits into the grand dream of your life.
2. First, focus just on the pet sitting business part of your life. Get a huge piece of paper or whiteboard and make a Vision board. Examine all aspects of your business with a fine-tooth comb.
3. As part of the vision board, or in a journal, make some lists. What do you like most about your business? What do you like the least? What stresses you out and how can you reduce, eliminate, or manage those stressors better?
4. Examine how you've organized your day to day business practices and consider how they can be improved? Ex: your prepping for pet visits, your file system, your communication system, your policies.
5. Go through all your computer and paper files. Purge. Organize. Update. Make it more user-friendly so you can save time once your business activities resume.
6. Do a deep dive into your financial situation. Where can you tighten up? Where do you need to put your money in the future in regards to marketing and advertising? Are you still in the world of using paper and pencil to record income and expenses? Do you need to explore upgrading software to save time for yourself in the future?
7. Pet sitting fees - examine what you charge for pet visits and other services. Make changes as necessary. Do you want to add or reduce your number of employees or Independent Contractors?
8. Appearance - if your business was growing before the pandemic hit and you've taken on employees or have had more local notoriety, perhaps this is a good time to invest in business t-shirts, a removable magnetized sign for your car, and any other things that might give you a better business appearance once the pandemic breaks.
9. If you have employees, get yourself on Zoom or another platform and have meetings. Do some brainstorming sessions, get feedback from employees, tackle some client issues or concerns.
10. Reach out to your clients. Let them know you are still here and available. Given that many people are now financially downsized, if only temporarily, you might consider offering a little discount for the first month once services resume. Let clients know you are available by phone for FREE pet care advice during this pandemic. The added support is good marketing and keeps you on their radar.
11. Update your website, or create a website if you don't have one. This can be labor- intensive, especially for those who aren't that tech-savvy. I put myself in this category - it took me months to create this website, but I did it! Ask clients for photos of their pets and post them on the website.
12. Go through your pet sitting "go bag" - toss out things you no longer need, order supplies you do need and get a new bag if necessary.
13. Either on the vision board or in a journal, brainstorm about the ways in which you can expand your business going forward. Perhaps you never offered overnight services before, but now that is a possibility. Perhaps you want to learn dog or cat massage and want to offer that as a service. Perhaps you want to learn how to make dog treats and sell them? Maybe you might want to think of a way to honor the memories of the pets who have passed away during your years of pet sitting and how can that be done?
14. What are other services you might provide in addition to pet sitting? What are your other gifts and talents? This might be a consideration especially for those of you who are solo pet sitters and your business isn't that big. If clients already trust you in their homes and trust you in general as a person, maybe they might hire you for other things? What might those things be?
15. Do some networking with other pet sitters or reach out to veterinarians and other pet professionals in your area and let them know about your business offerings.
16. Get certified through NAPPS*. As I said before, I'm a big fan of NAPPS. When I was actively pet sitting - in the early years - I was on their board of directors and it was such a great experience. Becoming certified is certainly something you can do during this downtime. Let clients know you are working on certification.
17. Write an article for your local newspaper or create a newsletter to snail mail to clients (or e-mail if you prefer - but sometimes I think people enjoy getting things in the mail that aren't bills and that are positive.). This would give you free advertising.
18. Like talking to people? Work on becoming the local voice of pet sitters and try and get yourself interviewed on local radio or TV stations - you can offer tips on what to do with your pets during a pandemic, or how to help pets readjust once clients return to work.
19. Consider figuring out how to open an online pet store that can augment your pet sitting services once things are back into full swing.
20. Make a list of business goals - with specific timelines - for the next 1, 2, and 5 years or more. Make a to-do list to follow once things turn around so you don't forget and keep yourself on track.
I hope some of these ideas will help you. Please e-mail me and let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org .
* NAPPS - National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (www.petsitters.org)