Going to the Dogs Can Really Pay Off

Pet Sitters International
Going to the Dogs Can Really Pay Off
Making a career out of dog walking and pet sitting

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Pet sitters are in high demand. You may have even used one yourself when vacation, work trips or long work hours kept you from home.

More than just a hobby or side gig, pet care can be a viable career option. According to a 2018 survey conducted by Pet Sitters International (PSI), an international educational association for professional pet sitters and dog walkers, the average national gross revenue for its members in 2017 was $75,658 USD (U.S. members) and $61,208 CAN (Canadian members).

“For pet lovers with an entrepreneurial spirit and the willingness to continue to expand their pet-care knowledge and business savvy, operating a professional pet-care service can be a fulfilling—and financially rewarding—career path,” explained Patti J. Moran, PSI president and author of “Pet Sitting for Profit.”

Cathy Vaughan, owner of Cathy’s Critter Care in Texas, says the earning potential surprised her early in her career. Cathy, who recently celebrated 20 years in business, said that when she first started she would have never thought she “could make it a career that supported a family of six!”

                                                                

While working with pets all day can offer a steady income and may seem like a dream career (and it can be!), Moran advises that it’s not all kitty cuddles and puppy kisses—and her association offers these four tips for pet lovers considering a career change:

1. Conduct a “pet-business knowledge inventory.” While loving pets is certainly necessary and having experience with your own pets is a big asset, you also need other skills. Take an inventory of your current business experience and pet-care knowledge. Perhaps you feel you need more experience with cats or birds, or maybe you have no experience with large dogs. Or, you may feel confident in your pet-care knowledge, but have no experience operating a small business. Search for online classes, training workshops and even volunteer opportunities (for example, at your local animal shelter) that would provide you with virtual and hands-on training in specific pet-care topics. Work with local business support agencies or register for classes at a local community college or university to build your business acumen.

2. Get legal advice.  As a professional pet sitter or dog walker, you’ll also be a small business owner—and it’s important you operate your business professionally and legally. After you decide on a business name and ensure it’s not already in use by another business, you should also inquire if a business license is required in your city, state or province—then obtain any necessary licenses to ensure you operate your business legally. Deciding on your business structure and becoming familiar with any local or federal business laws will also be important next steps. These are topics you can research on your own; however,

professionals (i.e. attorneys, accountants, etc.) can provide you with valuable insight to ensure you are operating your pet-sitting business legally.            

3. Protect your assets—and your clients. You should obtain pet-sitter liability insurance before you accept your first assignment, because accidents can occur—even for the most conscientious pet sitter.  Having comprehensive insurance protects you and gives your clients peace of mind that you are covered in the event anything should go wrong. In today’s litigious society, no professional pet sitter should go without insurance coverage.

4. Put everything in writing. It’s vital that you use a pet-sitting contract. To avoid confusion, you will want to ensure that all clients clearly understand your services, policies and procedures. Your contract will outline the services you’ll provide the clients, any limitations, and detailed information about the clients’ pet and home-care needs. Some pet sitters choose to purchase pet-sitting service contracts, while others work with an attorney to create one.

                                                                

Once you’ve taken the steps to establish a strong foundation for your pet-care business, it’s time to start promoting your services! While various marketing tactics can work, depending upon your service area and desired clientele, word of mouth is the most popular (and effective) marketing tactic, according to PSI’s survey. Make beneficial connections and spread the word about your services by introducing yourself to local veterinarians and dog groomers, participating in community events and networking with other local professional pet sitters and dog walkers. You can also inexpensively promote your business online through a website and social media.

Building a pet-care business takes time and determination, but going to the dogs (and cats) can pay off big with a career you can love—and one that pays the bills!

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