Making a career out of something you love may sound like nothing more than a pipe dream – or at the very least the exception to the rule – but whoever coined the phrase “do what you love and the money will follow” may have been onto something. Numerous studies have shown that happy people tend to earn higher salaries and it stands to reason that these high-earners are happy – at least in part – because they have jobs they love.
But what if a high salary isn’t what’s important to you? What if you simply want to pay the bills, have a bit left over for spending, and enjoy each day knowing that the work you do puts a smile on not just your face, but on others too.
What if, your love of say animals, is where you want to fuel your energy? Can you make a career out of something you love? Can you get paid to play and look after animals? Of course you can!
Pet sitting, also known as pet minding, is a contract service industry that’s rapidly growing. Most pet owners treat their pets with great affection and believe that pet sitters offer advantages over traditional pet care options such as:
- Reduced stress on pets because pets are cared for in their own homes
- Pets can remain in their same routine and not be forced to adjust to others
- No “travel trauma” with little need to be transported
- Exposure to illnesses and parasites of other animals is minimised
- Required vaccinations are less restrictive
- Not having to rely on neighbours and friends for feeds and walks
- Convenience for pets with health problems or mobility issues
Professional pet sitters are often licensed and insured for liability. Many pet sitters are also bonded or insured for theft. More often than not, professional pet sitters undergo training, carry pet first aid certification, or carry some level of pet sitting accreditation. It’s not entirely uncommon for pet sitters to be interviewed prior to being given a job.
How to become a professional pet sitter
1. Decide on the services you want to offer
There are many different services that can be offered by a professional pet sitter. These include:
Holiday care: While some professional pet sitters offer live-in care when their clients go away, others may offer daily visits only. A pet sitter could visit a client’s home several times a day for a determined period of time, averaging from 15-45 minutes. During these visits you might provide the pet’s customary diet and exercise routine, administer medications and vitamins, monitor health or arrange for medical treatment in the case of illness.
Dog walking: Dog owners that work long hours, the elderly and disabled clients often hire pet sitters to walk their dogs when they can’t. Some pet sitters even offer specific methods of exercise, such as jogging, running, cycling or skating, which are great ways to tire out active dogs.
Dog boarding: Many pet sitters offer to house their client’s pets in their own home. Unlike traditional boarding kennels, dog boarding is enjoying the pet sitter’s normal home environment, which can alleviate the anxiety and boredom of being left to fend for themselves.
Not restricted to dogs and cats, many pet sitters are general animal lovers and will happily take care of rabbits, guinea pigs, fish, horses, snakes, birds and lizards.
2. Make a business plan
A new pet sitter has many options when it comes to what type of business they want to start. Some people who are new to the industry may wish to join a large pet sitting company or agency, or you may like to enquire about working alongside an already established pet sitter. You may need to talk to a lawyer to decide which type of business structure suits you, and don’t forget to think about things such as liability insurance, licenses and permits.
3. Decide your pricing
Coming up with the right pricing is one of the most important aspects of your pet sitting service. You don’t want to charge too much that your service becomes unaffordable, but you don’t want to be too cheap either. Ideally, you want to be in the same ballpark figure as other pet sitters in your local area, but refrain from being a carbon copy. Think about what makes you unique and the type of client you want to attract. Maybe you have special expertise in caring for exotic pets or maybe you will be offering additional services like daily photos sent to owners?
4. Document it
A must-have document for any pet sitter is a client contract. Talk to your lawyer or with a professional pet sitter association to set this up. It’s important you be clear on things such as emergencies, vet care and the exact services you plan to provide, as well as when you expect to get paid. You’ll also need a reliable method to keep track of your schedule and appointments.
5. Make it official
Making your business official is a great base for building a good reputation, so consider joining a pet industry association. The Pet Industry Association demands exacting standards from its members to ensure the welfare of animals and helps to promote responsible pet ownership. Your affiliation with other pet care professionals gives your business a good look.
What you’ll need
To cut it as a pet sitter, you’ll need a certain skill set. These skills and qualities include:
1. A genuine love for animals
You will need to have a genuine love for all creatures great and small to survive in the pet industry. If you are nervous around dogs or unsure about snakes, this may not be the job for you, but do bear in mind you can be selective about the animals you look after.
Don’t jump into the pet sitting game just because you think cats and dogs are cute. Pets can be hard work and require lots of care, so be sure you know what you are doing before even thinking about doing it for a living.
3. A strong sense of responsibility
Pet sitters must be good at making clear arrangements with pet owners and then sticking to them. The welfare of the animals you care for should be your number one priority and you should be prepared to act quickly and with common sense in the event of an emergency. Respect dog walking etiquette, respect routines and be responsible and around the client home.
4. Excellent communication skills
Being a pet sitter isn’t just about getting along with animals, but with people too. This means responding to messages promptly and clearly, answering pet owners’ questions effectively, and asking your own questions when appropriate. After all, pet owners are entitled to get to know the person they are entrusting with their furry friend.
As your own boss you are entitled to set your own working hours, but you must be prepared for a little flexibility when it comes to owners’ needs.