How to decide if starting a Pet Sitting business is right for you
Have you ever thought about starting your own pet sitting business? If yes, or even if it is just a "maybe", read on. This post can help you figure out if a professional pet sitting business would be a good next step in your life.
The first question to ask yourself is "Why? Why does this particular type of business peak my interest? Am I interested in a pet sitting business because I love pets and want to spend more time with them? Is it because this is a business that is fairly economical to start? Is it mainly because I think it is an easy way to make some money?"
Perhaps a combo of all of these is at play.
Pet sitting is a business in which you will have access to other people's homes and will assume the responsibility of pet care and, by virtue of having access to clients' homes, will also be responsible for a general watching over of the home/apartment/condo. Because you will be in the home you will be the first to notice if something is wrong and will need to be proactive in dealing with it - whether that means contacting the client directly in their "away location" or contacting the person they instructed you to contact while they are away. In short, people will be trusting you with their most prized possessions - their homes and their pets. Are you up for it?
Below are some questions that I pulled together for people who are considering starting a professional pet sitting business. I encourage you to think about them. Perhaps grab a notebook and journal your thoughts. I also encourage you to read my previous post on pet sitting as a Lifestyle business.
These questions are in no particular order:
Why are you thinking about starting a pet sitting business?
What are the things about this business that appeals to you?
What do you think are the perks of having a pet sitting business?
Have you ever owned a business before? Was it a good experience?
What gifts, talents, skills, and unique qualities do you have that you can bring to this business?
What do you think the challenges would be in running a pet sitting business?
Is there a local Small Business Administration in your area that you can contact for information on starting up a business?
Do you want to pet sit for all types of pets or just certain types? Ex: do you just want to focus on dogs and cats, or do you want to handle more exotic pets too? Do you want to care for large animals like farm animals? Will you specialize in birds or rabbits? Make a list. (Hint: most homes have more than one pet, so if you want to just focus on cats, keep in mind that there might also be a dog in the house, or fish, or a bird too.)
Are you willing to get up very early in order to start your breakfast pet visits and walks?
Are you willing to do pet sitting visits late into the evening - like for late-night dog walks before a dog "turns in" for the night?
Are you healthy? Do you have the stamina to walk a lot?
Can you handle, or do you want to handle, high energy strong dogs that can pull you along and cause wear and tear on your body over time?
Are you comfortable going into people's homes early in the morning and very late at night if necessary when it is dark out? Would you feel safe doing so?
How are you in a crisis situation? Do you keep your wits about you or do you panic?
Do you have marketing skills or are you willing to develop them in order to get the word out about your business to your community?
How many miles away from your house will you be offering pet sitting services?
How do you do deal with difficult people - and difficult pets?
Are you willing to venture out in bad weather - severe storms and snows - in order to get to a client's house for pet care?
Do you have a good car suitable for travel in bad weather?
Are you willing to transport pets in your car for fun and frolic or in case of an emergency vet visit?
How comfortable and calm do you think you will be when dealing with an ill pet?
Are you willing to administer medications to pets?
How are your customer service skills?
What do you need to learn about starting a business?
Many pet owners go away for holidays or escape snowy weather for winter cruises. Are you willing to pet sit on holidays?
Are you willing to alter or cancel family holiday plans and miss certain events (like a friend's funeral out of state) because you have to do pet sitting visits?
Are you willing/able to work seven days a week?
Do you enjoy having your weekends free? A lot of pet sitting happens when clients go away for the weekend - are you okay with that?
Are you interested in learning as much as you can about pet care, pet behaviors, and all aspects of this business?
Do you feel passionate about pet sitting and what you can do for your clients?
Are you willing to start this business "on the side" and grow it into a full-time business or do you have enough money set aside to carry yourself until which time you can earn enough money as a pet sitter?
Do you have a spouse and children? How will this business effect your time with them?
Do you want to offer pet sitting services in your home? Are you willing to look into local laws as to providing pet care in your home?
Do you want to be a solo pet sitter or do you want to grow it into a business with multiple employees or independent contractors?
Have you explored the local requirements of starting up a business in your city and in your state?
Have you explored pet sitting associations such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) or Pet Sitters International (PSI) to see what resources and supports they offer for pet sitters?
If you are planning to be a solo pet sitter? Are you willing to do your pet visits despite feeling ill? What would your back up plan be?
How are your communication skills - with pets and people?
Are you honest, trustworthy, a hard worker, persevering, upbeat, kind, patient and flexible?
Do you return phone calls/e-mails in a timely manner?
Especially if you are a female, how comfortable are you going out late nights and into people's homes for late-night schedule pet visits?
Will you be pet sitting in a generally safe local residential area or in a thriving metropolis area where personal safety becomes a concern?
Are you willing to do late-night pet visits if needed?
Will you be interested in providing house sitting services and staying overnight at clients' homes or just providing pet care in their homes and not sleeping over?
Are you a person who naturally has a "safety first" state of mind?
Have you researched pet sitting fees?
Are you organized and do you follow through on what you say?
Are you willing to walk dogs in very cold or very hot weather, very early or late in the day, in the rain and snow and wind?
Are you physically able to do all that pet sitting demands?
Are you comfortable dealing with disarming and setting alarm systems in various houses when entering/leaving clients' homes?
Are you resourceful?
Do you think you can come up with a great business name?
Do you have, or can you arrange, back up transportation if your car has trouble?
Are you looking to create a fun and interesting business that you will enjoy for years to come?
What will set your business apart from other pet sitting businesses?
Are you a visionary with excitement for all the possibilities such a business will hold for you and for your community?
Closing comments: I encourage you to make a big list of pros and cons, based on your responses to the above questions. I'd be interested to know if these questions were a help to you.
I do offer phone mentoring for pet sitters or potential pet sitters and in-person mentoring for those who live in my area (southeastern CT / southwestern RI) or anyone willing to drive to meet me in my area. Contact me for rates if interested. Please see my contact page for info on how to reach out to me.
Finally, please check out my post on Pet Sitting as a Lifestyle Business. It will probably also help you discern the next chapter of your life.
These were the initial questions I asked myself way back in mid-2001. I had always wanted to have my own business but I didn't want to spend a lot of money to do it. But beyond the money factor, there were other questions I had to consider.
Starting around June of 2001 I started seriously considering and researching this business as something to augment my then-current income of being a Youth Minister. I loved animals and my local avian vet was the first one to suggest I start this type of business. She said I would be the perfect person for this type of business and she could "keep me busy" as far as recommended clients were concerned.
I started reading and looking on the internet, and attended a NAPPS (see my resource page) conference in order to discern this path. I also asked myself a lot of questions and did a lot of reflection. Here are some thoughts I considered
Over the years, pet sitting has brought me a significant amount of joyful moments. I loved all my furry and feathery clients (and still do).
But, as wonderful as pet sitting is, and it is an awesome business and way to live out your days on earth, it is still a business, and must be treated as such. Otherwise your business will not last that long and you'll end up losing, rather than earning, money. However, there are many pet sitters who sit on a part-time basis to augment their income, but even then, it must be carried out as a business.
There are so many variables at play. P pet sitting is a service business that strives to accommodate the needs of its clients, so that means flexibility in scheduling and going the extra mile.
Sometimes people think pet sitting is an easy business. One of those "make your own hours" type of businesses where a pet sitter frolics in the park with adorable, well-behaved dogs, and where all cats want to cuddle and not swipe at you or hide under the bed for days, and where no pets need medication or have episodes of illness, and where there are never any problems in a client's home.