Advice for Aspiring Pet Sitters
By Laura Vorreyer
So, you want to be a pet sitter?
Whether you want to work for a pet-sitting company or establish your own business, here are some things you should know:
You MUST truly love and care about pets. Anyone can adore a dog or cat (or bird or turtle, fish, snake, etc.) from the sidelines, but it takes someone who is committed to show up, feed the pet, walk the dog (if necessary) and do the dirty work. This means picking up poop, cleaning out a crate and occasionally touching slimy things. If that’s not for you I suggest you stop right here.
Are you punctual and reliable? Can you be counted on to do what you say you’re going to? After all, a beloved pet is relying on you for food and in some cases to use the bathroom. Will you be able to follow clients’ instructions to the letter? How about your communication skills? Clients want to be notified about their pets all the time. They don’t want to wonder or worry about their pets and pet sitters. What fun is a vacation if you’re concerned about your fur baby the entire time you’re away?
Remember, you’re only as good as your reputation. If word gets out that you’ve done a poor job, you will get less clients. Do a great job, on the other hand, and your phone will ring off the hook.
You will have clients that are demanding sometimes. Will you be able to go the extra mile to make them happy? What separates you from other pet sitters? Why would a client hire you and not someone who charges less?
These are all things to consider carefully before landing your first pet-sitting job.
You must have a solid work ethic.
No flakiness. No forgetting. No excuses.
As time passes and your business builds, you will find yourself with more work than one human can handle. Let’s face it; you can only be at one place at a time. If you’re committed to an overnight stay at clients who, for example, has a senior dog and then another client calls who also wants a sleepover – what can you do? Say “no” and lose that business? That’s one option. Or, you can team up with another pet sitter, perhaps someone you hire and still service that second client and make a little bit of money, too. That’s business 101; hiring people allows you to take on more clients.
It’s ideal if a friend or relative wants to get into business with you and help with your overflow work. This way you know that person and can personally vouch for them. When I was first starting out in the pet-sitting business, I had a good friend that was attending nursing school and living in a roommate situation from which she was eager to escape. It was a win-win! She was able to escape her roommates and hang out with furry friends, plus make money to boot.
But what if you don’t know anyone like that? Where should you look to hire someone to help you with your pet-sitting business?
I suggest starting with your inner circle of family and friends. Ask around to see if anyone knows anyone who would be interested. You’d be surprised at how many animal lovers are out there! Another source is your clients, sometimes clients turn out to be the best pet sitters for hire because they already know what it’s like to love and care for a pet.
Once you’ve found a potential candidate, it’s important to interview them and ask about their experience and commitment level. Is this someone you would hire to sleep in your home or to take care of your beloved pet? If the answer is no, keep looking. It’s not unusual to have to interview a lot of candidates before finding the right one for you and for your business. Remember, that person will now be representing your company. You want to be certain that when you present them to a client that they are a great reflection on your pet-sitting business.
Laura Vorreyer pioneered the dog-walking industry in Hollywood over 15 years ago and is the author of the new book, “The Pet Sitter’s Tale.” She is the owner of the pet care company Your Dog’s Best Friend, a premier dog-walking and pet-sitting business in Los Angeles. Laura has taught pet-sitting and dog-walking classes in Los Angeles and is also a passionate advocate for animal rights. She remains dedicated to pet rescue.