Pet-sitting/pet-walking is one of the easiest shoestring businesses to start. There is virtually no overhead, startup costs, or investment required. Of course, one of the biggest prerequisites is that you must love animals and are able to care for them properly.
This, seemingly, niche business is actually in very high demand as people are desperately trying to find trustworthy people to babysit and exercise their pets. Many families are now gone all day as both parents work and the kids are in school; so the need to have someone stop by during the day to feed and/or exercise their pets is great.
The hardest thing about getting into this business is getting your first customer. Because people won’t trust just anyone with their pets, you won’t get much business using the usual methods of newspaper ads or flyers. There is only one way to get into this business, and that’s by relying on referrals. Because of this, your business will take a while to become established. With that being said, your best option to get your foot in the door in this industry would be to offer your services to someone you know. Hopefully, that person will refer a friend or family member to use your services. Word of mouth will make it or break it for you here.
As a pet-sitter, you will be responsible for tending to the needs of a homeowner’s pet(s) on a short-term basis (during the day), or for an extended period (vacations). Once you build your client base, you will be able to group homes together to cut down on your traveling each day.
As a pet-walker, your job will be to pick up the homeowner’s pet (usually a dog(s), and take them for their daily walk(s). If you can manage to walk several dogs at one time, you will increase your profit substantially. Make sure the pet owner knows that you will not be walking their dog exclusively. Unless, of course, they are willing to pay for that service.
Quite often, the duties of a pet-sitter and pet-walker will overlap – It all depends on the customer. Many pet sitters have even gone on to offer house-sitting services, as this is a natural add-on.
One of the most important things to remember while you’re performing your duties is that animals can be unpredictable. You need to be able to maintain control, especially when there is more than one pet involved. You need to have authority in your voice if needed. Make it a point to get to know the animal in the presence of its owner before you are left alone. Make sure you know some basic dog commands.
You will also want to carry a good supply of treats as a last resort to maintain some control. Also, don’t forget about a good supply of plastic bags. After all, when the dog is in your care, you are responsible for everything it does.
Always keep dogs leashed. You don’t want to be responsible for losing a beloved family pet, or for that pet biting someone
What to Charge?
Typically, a pet-sitter/walker will earn from 10-25 dollars an hour, depending on the area, the number and type of animals, and the demand for this service. The most money is made in a larger city. This rate is what you will charge from the moment you arrive at the customer’s home. Keep a journal for each customer and write down the tasks performed and the time logged.
Get some business cards printed and let everyone know that you just started a pet-sitting service. It could take a while before you get your first customer. In fact, your first customer will likely be a family member or friend. Do a good job and trust in the power of referrals.
If you really want to be proactive, you can take a trip down to the local pet store and have a chat with the staff there. Who knows, they might even let you display your business card in a high traffic area. Even if they don’t, leave your card with them to refer to a customer that might be looking for pet-sitting services. Anyone that frequents a pet store, could be in need of your services at some point – Now that’s a targeted audience.
Although you’re not likely to get rich running a pet-sitting/walking service, it is a perfect business to run part-time, provided you have some free time during the day.
If you’re serious about starting a pet sitting business, do it right. Here are some of the best books available. Read up on the subject, then put your plan into motion.