How To Start A Profitable Pet Sitting Business

This article describes how to get started in the pet sitting business. Tips on how to develop a contract, advertising, and insurance information.

So you want to be a pet sitter? What is involved? How do I get started? Well, I've pet sitting for over 6 years, and it's been a wonderful experience. For anyone who is thinking about starting his or her own pet sitting service, read on.

Pet sitting is strictly an animal-lovers only profession. And profession is exactly what sort of business pet sitting is. It requires a great deal of commitment; walking dogs in the pouring rain, snowstorms, and 100-degree temperatures. It is not an easy job by any means, but it can be one of the most rewarding occupations if you sincerely love animals. Getting started is the hardest part.

First, you need to come up with a name for your business. You will also have to check to see that no one else in your area has the same name. You can do this by looking through the phone book, and by contacting some of the pet sitters in your area whom have web sites. A great starting point is Pet Sitters International (PSI) (www.petsit.com). PSI maintains a full service web site that includes a locator service.

All you have to do is to key in the zip codes of the areas that you want to work, and the site will list all of the pet sitters who have also registered for those zip codes. This will tell you the names of the other businesses, so that you do not accidentally chose the name of an already existing service. It the name you wanted is not listed there, or is not in the phone book, then you have a pretty good chance of keeping the name of your business. Don't be discouraged if you find that there are many pet sitters in your area, or selected zip codes. Pet sitting is in high demand, and many pet sitters are no longer accepting new clients as they are booked to the maximum.

The next thing you have to consider is liability insurance. Don't think that you can operate without having pet sitter's insurance. No one will hire you without it. You must understand where the clients are coming from; you will be a complete stranger with a key to their house. For safety's sake, and in this era of lawsuits, get the insurance. The insurance costs between $150.00 and $300.00, depending on where you live, and whether or not you will be offering grooming as a service. Pet Sitter's International provides a link to an insurance company that will get you started in about a week.

Once you have the liability insurance, you can start making business cards. You will also want join Pet Sitter's International so that you can be listed on their locator link. This way, anyone can key in his or her zip code, and if it is a zip code that you have selected, your name, phone number, web site, and information will appear. It's a great way of advertising your business. Be sure to put that you are a member of PSI on your business cards, as pet owners recognize PSI as a highly professional and recognized Pet Sitting organization.

You will have to then think about the sort of animals that you would like to service. Some pet sitters provide services to cats only, while some pet sitters will provide services to any pet. Also, some pet sitters only provide regular daily services, such as dog-walks, while others prefer to provide occasional services for people who go out of town occasionally, or on vacation. Many pet sitters do both. However, think long and hard about this, for you might have 3-4 dog walks on the same day, and 3-4 cats every other day. Figure out what you can handle.

The next and most important step is writing a contract. In your contract you must list everything about your service. Your rates will be the most important thing to consider. Most pet sitters, depending on where you live, charge between $10 and $15 per half-hour walk. You will need to spell out, very clearly:

-Will you provide feedings?

-Administer medications?

-Provide a 1/2 hour walk? A 40-minute walk?

-What sort of notice do you need? A day, a week?

-Provision of a pet info form; pet's vet info, emergency contact info, behavioral issues, allergies, medical conditions, where pet's food is kept, etc.



-Are there any sorts of pets that you will not service? Pit bulls? Snakes?

-List the name and telephone of your insurance company.

-List at least three references

-Provide a mission statement: why are you a pet-sitter?

-How can clients reach you? Home phone, cell phone, e-mail?

-Where will the client's house keys be stored? In a locked safe?

-What areas will you service?

Once you have your contract ready, make sure that each potential client has a copy. Once the Pet Info form is filled out by the pet's owner, make sure that you; keep a paper copy, a copy on disc, and that the pet's owner is given a copy to be placed in a common area, so that you will know where to find it in case of an emergency.

The most efficient way of running a pet sitting service is having a listing on the Internet. Now, if you have an Internet provider that provides you with a free home page, you can use that as you web site. You can purchase a DOT.COM name by registering your name with any one of thousands of DOT.COM merchants. This service costs less than $70.00. Once you have the DOT.COM name, which is the name of your business; the DOT.COM company provides a "URL Forwarding" service. This means that if your business is: WWWSamspets.com, anyone opening that web page will automatically be redirected to your homepage. This is by far much easier than telling people your homepage address. Homepages generally have about 20 alpha-number combinations, for example: Sampets/homepage/MSN.hfw938/93zll/html.

No one would bother trying to remember such a web page URL. It is easier to remember Samspets.com, and to click on the dot.com page and be forwarded directly to your page. On your page you should include an e-mail link (which again forwards directly to your private e-mail address, so that you do not have to keep clicking in to your DOT.COM mail, as this can be very frustrating). When you list with a locator service, your DOT.com address will show up, and the client can go directly to your page and read about your service. You can register with the search engines, but that takes a lot of time and sometimes a bundle of money.

If you are a new pet sitter, you will need references. If you do not have references, volunteer to sit for a friend's pet for free in exchange for a reference. Most people would love to go away for a weekend and have FIDO taken care of at no charge. You can also begin to network with other area pet sitters. Many times, they will have more business than they can handle, and can pass along referrals.

Beware of expensive newspaper advertising; it is costly, and most people will not see the ad. Try posting business cards where professional people tend to be, grocery stores, veterinarian's offices, and community bulletin boards. The majority of your customers will be professionals who work late, go on business trips, and need someone to care for their pets while they are at work, or on business trips.

Read up on the different breeds of dogs and cats, so that you can gather as much information as possible. Also, be sure to arrange an interview with the pet and the pet owner to be sure that the match is perfect. The pet and the pet's owner need to feel comfortable with you as well.

As a pet sitter you are an independent contractor. This is great tax deductible small business, if you a homeowner, or even a renter. You can deduct all of your printing costs and the purchase of your computer; a portion of your home or apt. is also tax deductible.

Good luck on your new venture, and welcome to the rewarding field of pet sitting!

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