How to start working as a pet sitter?
Do you love animals, have bags of experience with them, and are looking to build your income or even start your own small business? If so, then it might have crossed your mind to offer pet sitting services, such as dog walking, house sitting for people with pets, or feeding cats and small animals in their own homes while their owners are away.
But before you write up your advert and wait for the phone to ring, hold your fire – there is much, much more to starting a responsible, competent and legal pet sitting business than simply convincing people that you can care for their animals!
In this article, we will share some basic tips and advice on how to begin working as a pet sitter, what it takes, and what you need to get started.
First and foremost, it is important to realize that simply loving animals and wanting to spend more time around them is not enough to make it as a pet sitter. As a pet sitter, you are asking the owners of the pets you will be minding to put their trust in you when it comes to looking after not only their animals, but also their homes; even if you only have to pop in to collect and drop off their dog for a walk, you will still need to be entrusted with the security of their home and possessions, as well as the safety and well-being of their pet, and also for dogs, other dogs and people too.
Making this commitment to a person and their pet is not something to be undertaken lightly. You must be 100% reliable when it comes to doing what you say you will, when you say you will, and also, know what you would do if you had an emergency, such as if you fell ill or your car won’t start when you’ve already committed to care for someone’s pet.
You will of course need to have a love of animals to be a good pet sitter; that is a given, but you should also have a good understanding of the pets that you wish to care for too, be able to deal with problems and emergencies calmly and effectively, and when caring for dogs, be able to manage and control them properly and keep both yourself, and other dogs and people safe.
What you need
You will also need your own mode of transport in most cases, unless you intend to work within a fairly small area or in a big city, where public transport is a viable option for getting around. If you are using your vehicle for commuting and/or for carrying your charges, you will need to inform your insurance company of this, so that they can adjust your policy accordingly. In order to be able to work as a pet sitter, you will need to have insurance. Various insurance companies offer tailor-made insurance specifically for pet sitters, which provides coverage in the case of unforeseen situations, damage or harm coming to the pet in your care or their owner’s property, and third party legal liability too.
While anyone can theoretically begin working as a pet sitter and build up their reputation and client base over time, in order to get a head start, it is wise to take a qualification or certification in pet sitting and the care of the animals that you will be looking after. Skills or certifications in additional areas such as first aid for pets is also a great idea, and will give you an edge when it comes to building trust, and developing your business.
Added to this, many pet sitters also undergo a CRB check to provide added reassurance to their clients, and if you intend to work for a pet sitting company or agency, you will almost certainly be required to have one.
Finally, once you start making money as a pet sitter, you will need to declare your income and register for income tax.
How to find work
Marketing yourself and letting your potential clients know about you is an integral part of any small business, and pet sitting is no different! You will need to be reasonably internet-savvy in order to do this, as many potential clients look for pet sitters online, so look for sites and directories that advertise pet sitting services and get yourself signed up.
Additionally, you may wish to find out about advertising in the phone book, shop windows, and pet-related businesses in your area too, such as dog groomers and veterinary clinics.
You can also sign up with one of the various pet sitting and dog walking agencies out there, which will help you to find work and handle a lot of the paperwork and advertising duties for you, although this will of course be reflected in your take-home earnings.
Some basic tips to get started
The longer you work as a pet sitter, the more confident you will become about it, as you develop a better understanding of your own abilities and limitations. You will also soon find yourself working out ways to save time each day and maximize your income without compromising the care of your charges, and also, improve your skills continually simply be becoming exposed to more and more opportunities.
It can take some time to get your first clients on board and build up your reputation, so don’t expect to start making a living wage out of pet sitting right away!
It is also a good idea to build up a relationship with other local pet sitters to exchange knowledge and potentially work, such as if one of you has more work than you can handle, or if you need help when you are ill.
If you find that you aren’t managing well with one particular client, such as a dog that is particularly unruly or potentially aggressive, it is important that you know when to call it a day and ask the owner to find an alternative option, rather than carrying the risk of continuing on in a situation that is potentially risky or not working out.
Also, particularly during the early stages of your business, don’t bite off more than you can chew; don’t commit to taking on so many animals that you will be pushed to get round to them all, don’t walk more dogs than you are confident with, and if you come across a client that tells you that they have been through multiple pet sitters already but they all left, find out why!