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Pet sitting businesses offer pet owners a variety of animal care services, including exercising their pets while they are at work. They also provide an affordable alternative to boarding pets at a kennel during vacations or business trips. Being able to remain in their own home environment can reduce separation anxiety for both pets and their owners.
This illustrated Field Guide to Pet Sitting is a cute and humorous overview of what it takes to be a stellar pet sitter.
Who is this business right for?
This is a great business for animal lovers who enjoy walking and staying active. It’s ideal for people who prefer lower stress levels, since spending time with pets has been shown to reduce stress. Those who are compassionate and responsible, yet prefer to work alone and be their own bosses as well as make their own schedules thrive in this type of business.
What happens during a typical day at a pet-sitting business?
Pet sitting business owners participate in a wide variety of activities, including:
- Animal-proofing various environments to ensure the health and safety of pets
- Reviewing and following pet owners’ instructions
- Entering information about clients and their pets into a database for future reference
- Feeding, watering, exercising, training, and socializing pets
- Administering prescribed medications
- Pet Bathing/Grooming
- Veterinary appointments
- Home security responsibilities
- House and yard care
- Pricing services, billing, advertising and accounting
What is the target market?
Preferred customers are those who care about their pets and want to provide them with superior quality care.
How does a pet-sitting business make money?
A pet sitting business makes money by charging pet owners for a variety of pet care services. Some services are priced by the hour, while others are priced by the service. For example, a pet sitter may charge a set rate for weekend care, but charge additional fees for services such as grooming or specific training.
What is the growth potential for a pet-sitting business?
Some pet sitting businesses, such as Rover.com, are nationwide and offer employment opportunities to thousands of semi-independent contractors.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful pet-sitting business?
Communication skills are essential in this type of business, both for negotiating contracts with customers and for advertising your business. There is amazing software available designed specifically for this business that can help with database creation, scheduling, inventory and invoicing. In addition to a few basic business skills, there are a number of personal characteristics that are also essential. Those characteristics include trustworthiness, flexibility, patience, consistency and reliability. Pet owners have strong emotional attachments to their pets, so developing the degree of trust necessary for them to invite you into their homes to care for them is the key to success in this business.
What are the costs involved in opening a pet-sitting business?
Most pet sitting businesses can be run from home, which means it costs less to start this type of business than many others. You won’t need much more than a decent computer, some professional software, a flexible schedule and a love of animals. If you want to work beyond your own neighborhood, you’ll also need an insured and fully fueled vehicle. Industry experts also recommend that you purchase general liability insurance designed specifically for pet sitters, which is relatively inexpensive, ranging from $200 to $300 per year.
What are the steps to start a pet-sitting business?
Once you're ready to start your pet-sitting business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your pet-sitting business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your pet-sitting business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
How to promote & market a pet-sitting business
One of the most common promotional tools for this kind of business are fliers containing your company name, contact information, your website address, and a description of the services you provide. The fliers are usually placed on cars and with local businesses, such as pet stores. Once you have gotten your first customer, quality service will help you build and maintain a good business reputation through word of mouth.
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How to keep customers coming back
The internet can help you attract new customers, as well as provide space for testimonials from satisfied former and current customers. Posting an ad on Craigslist is one way to introduce your new business to the local community. Creating and maintaining a business website that lists all of the services you provide as well as your competitive prices is essential.
How and when to build a team
Any independent contractor in this business needs a backup team from the beginning, even if it’s just one reliable family member. No matter how conscientious, everyone is subject to an occasional illness or an emergency situation. Your customers need to know their pets will be cared for according to the dates and times they’ve arranged with you. Many pet sitters form cooperative relationships with other professionals for just these sort of unavoidable circumstances as well as educational opportunities.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a pet sitting business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
Pet sitting businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should outline exactly what your service offers, pricing, payment options, cancellation policies, damages, number of visits per day, veterinary situations etc. Here is an example service agreement.
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How much can you charge customers?
Prices for services are usually set using the following criteria:
- The type, size and number of animals
- The number of hours and types of services requested
- Physical and medical requirements of the animals
- Demographics and local pricing comparisons
A simple hour-long walk in the local neighborhood may cost $15-$20. An hour-long trip to a dog park requiring intensive socialization supervision may cost $20 to $30, depending on the local economy. Owners usually charge set prices for services such as bathing and grooming. a two-hour trip to a dog park three-hour trip to a dog park
Day-sitting costs an average of $37 per day with a range of $25-$50. Overnight boarding may cost between $50 and $75 per night.
What are the ongoing expenses for a pet-sitting business?
Ongoing expenses for this type of business include:
- Business license and insurance
- Computer, business software and website maintenance
- Advertising costs such as business cards, etc.
- If there are employees, add federal and state taxes, bonding, and Workers Compensation costs
How much profit can a pet-sitting business make?
Those who work for larger pet sitting businesses report earning between $30,000 up to $45,000 per year. Independent pet sitting business owners with no employees report earning as much as $57,000 annually.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Getting just one new client can translate into a substantial increase in earnings throughout the course of a year. Placing business cards at local pet stores can help spread the word about your services. You can also be your own best form of advertising. Wearing your love of animals on your sleeve in the form of a t-shirt, jacket, or hat with your business name and logo while you’re out in the community caring for pets is a great way to attract other pet owners. You can also ask current clients for recommendations directly. Satisfied customers like rewarding business owners with new business. Offering coupons, discounts and other incentives for new customers on your website can also be highly effective. A combination of these strategies is likely to have you turning away business or looking for a partner to expand before long.