How to Start Your Own Freelance Pet Sitting Business

One of the best things about being a freelancer is that you have the opportunity to design a career path which truly fits what you’re passionate about. After all, part of why lots of people choose to freelance is because they’d prefer something more meaningful than just going through a standard routine day after day in an office cubicle.

Pets are an exceptionally important part of life for many people. Therefore, when business trips, vacations, and even long days away from home at work occur, devoted pet owners recognize the importance of keeping their pets both physically and emotionally healthy; many look to hire trusted pet sitters for these purposes. Having your own freelance pet sitting business will require a positive, patient, compassionate outlook, as well as a willingness to learn best practices.

Embrace expertise.

If you’re going into this purely on the concept that you think it’d be fun to take care of pets, yet you don’t have any real experience in doing so, then take a step back and reassess. After all, pets are so much more than cute. They’re intelligent beings in their own right, and while love is always part of any pet sitting equation, respect for specific care needs must be there, too.

  • Although various online resources could be used as supplementary references, in-person experience is a must. The more experience you acquire, the better, especially when it comes to administering any medication, observing specific dietary requirements, and potential pet aggressiveness.
    • Consider taking certificate courses at a local community college – you might even want to take the training further and become a veterinary technician.
    • Some animal care facilities (such as kennels) hire people with limited experience who can learn on the job.
    • Volunteering at a local animal shelter is another great way to network and build skills.

If you already have experience successfully taking care of your own pets, you can choose to perfect what you’ve learned along the way.

  • Are you a current dog owner? Local pet supply stores usually offer behavioral training classes for various age groups. Bring your dog along to improve on any irksome habits, and if you build enough of a rapport with the instructors, you may get the chance to observe other age groups.
    • Think about expanding upon what you learn in these settings to become a certified dog trainer.
  • For other types of pets, consult with your veterinarian about educational resources that they’d recommend, or perhaps experts who’d be willing to mentor you.

Start with what (and who) you know.

Don’t jump into starting your own freelance pet sitting business with the mindset that more is better. If you take on too much too soon, the quality of your pet sitting could falter, leading to bad reviews.

The first months (and even year or so) should strictly be focused on building a solid reputation and clientele base centered around the types of pets you already know well and have the most confidence in caring for. However, it’s the pet parents you’ll need to impress first.  One idea is to test out the process by offering one free pet sitting session to family, neighbors, or friends. At the end of a session, ask for objective feedback and implement changes as necessary.

  • Create a Facebook business page and encourage these early test clients to post reviews.
  • These first pet sitting experiences should help you develop a rubric of care levels.
    • Is your pet sitting business meant for animals of certain sizes and age ranges?
      • Price your services very affordably initially for the sake of competitiveness. Then, as you gain more clients and a strong reputation, slightly raise them to more profitable levels.
    • Will you be going to other people’s homes?
      • Have a system in place for safe exchanges of keys/access codes.
    • Would you prefer to pet sit in your own home?
      • Make sure you’re in compliance with local laws regarding how many pets can be in a home at one time, as well as any business licensing requirements.
      • If you have your own pets, be sure they can tolerate extra pet guests, and that those pet guests can tolerate your pets, too!
        • Pet owners will often prefer pet sitters to come to their homes, as it’s generally the most streamlined and least stressful approach.
      • You need to have a reliable way to track your income and expenditures for tax purposes, be it through spreadsheets, software, or hiring an accountant.

Careful Connection and Communication Considerations

As you move from the planning phase into the doing phase, you’ll want to have an Internet presence. This could be a Facebook business page, a .com website, or a combination of the two. Adding an Instagram profile to the mix is yet another option. Aim to accumulate a number of testimonials with corresponding pictures of the pets. The more authoritative-yet-accessible you appear, the better.

  • Have a business card at the ready that includes a dedicated email for your business, as well as a phone number that, ideally, people can text you at.
  • Online bookings should, for safety purposes, be limited to previous clients.
    • Always meet with prospective clients first, preferably in a public location. Then, if that goes well, proceed to a visit at the pet sitting location.
  • Be upfront about your response times; will you take last-minute pet sitting requests?
  • Keep people regularly updated with your availability, an example of which could be an online calendar.
  • Go the extra mile and create a report card of sorts to give to the pet owners – especially if they’re away for several days or more.

If you’ve previously worked at an animal care facility, it’s best practice not to take away from their clientele – perhaps you signed a contract to that effect anyway. However, if your pet sitting differs from their business (if they’re, say, a groomer), it could be mutually beneficial to share clientele.

Remember, you can put as many rules into place as you want, but ultimately having your own freelance pet sitting business will require adaptability. Schedules change, people change, pets change; there’s no one standard situation to anticipate. Maintaining the highest level of compassionate professionalism throughout benefits not just your business, but also your character.

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