Love pets and interested in making a little extra money?
Amanda Ventura of Phoenix, Arizona came across a Facebook ad for Rover.com and saw it as a way to spend some quality time with dogs without taking on the full-time responsibility of ownership. She created a profile and started walking and sitting.
“My favorite part is walking the dogs. I have a suspicion that’s the dogs’ favorite part, too.” Amanda says. Although she’s always seen it as a side job, the extra income helped her when she was between jobs and now helps cover her student loan payments.
What services can you offer?
If you love animals and have a flexible schedule, you can provide all sorts of services to pet owners. You can stop by someone’s house and take a dog for a walk during the day, board the pets at your house, or housesit while watching pets.
Prepare to speak with the pet owners before you get a booking, especially when you’re just starting on a new platform and don’t have any reviews.
A side job or serious commitment?
You may just be looking for a little extra income right now, but if you like the work, there’s potential to make this a full-time job.
Sam Williamson lives in Dunfermline, near Edinburgh, Scotland. Sam started advertising his dog-walking services on Care.com about two years ago when he was looking for a little extra work. He’s since quit his full-time job and now runs a dog-walking business with two employees. A few jobs come through Care each month, but he now has enough returning and referral clients to sustain the company.
Where should you post your offering?
You can find pet-related work by posting flyers around town, asking friends and family, or creating listing on sites like Craigslist. However, the following sites are set up to connect providers with those looking for services.
Rover – Allows you to create a profile and set your pricing for boarding, house sitting, drop-in visits, day car, and walking services. You can also list your preferred dog size.
Care.com – This is a job board with subsections for children, seniors, home, military families, and pets. You can create a profile and apply for jobs, such as pet sitting, dog walking, or animal training.
DogVacay – DogVacay focuses on overnight stays, either at your home or the pet owner’s home. Create a profile and start advertising your availability.
Fetch! Pet Care – Rather than creating a profile and trying to attract clients on your own, Fetch! matches you with appropriate jobs.
PetSitters.org – PetSitters.org has the national directory for pet sitters that are also members of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS).
When you apply and create a profile, be prepared to be vetted. Rover also lets you get a free third-party background check, after which you can display a background check badge on your profile.
You can create profiles on several sites and increase the likelihood of finding work, but there’s also a downside of spreading yourself too thin. Many of the sites let you list your availability and automatically block of spaces when you book an appointment. Having to mark off the times on the other sites can be a hassle. The reviews on your profile can also help you attract new clients, but they’ll be spread out if you work on several sites.
Even so, consider trying out a few to see which system you like most. You can also offer different services depending on the platform, such as dog training on Care and dog or cat boarding on Rover or DogVacay.
How much can you make?
The services you provide and your market will determine your rates. Look at how much other people in your area are offering services for and price yourself accordingly. You don’t necessarily want to have the lowest price, even if you’re just starting. People want to make sure they’re leaving their pet (and in some cases their home) in good hands – not the cheapest hands.
Care.com has a calculator that shows approximate rates based on the service and zip code. They seem to hover in the low tens for big cities. You might be able to make more by walking several dogs at once or upselling additional services, such cleaning the house or watering plants when stopping by for a mid-day walk.
Specialized skills can help you stand out.
Danielle Welke of Mason, Michigan was a veterinary technician for over 20 years, which helped he stand out from the crowd on Care. She found work through the site and now has three long-term clients whose pets have medical needs.
“I love it,” Danielle says, “The pets are usually really nice and because of my veterinary experience I can medicate them sometimes without them knowing, so it’s easy for me. I see beautiful houses and earn money when I want.” Although she doesn’t spend the night, she’ll visit a home and collect mail, let the pet out for a walk, clean the litter, and give the pet medication if needed.
That being said, the job may not be for everyone. Pets can behave in crazy ways, especially after getting separated from their humans. The humans can also be difficult. If you’re going to the person’s house, Danielle says, “You have to realize that every time you go to the house you are most likely being watched by a neighbor that will report back to the owners.”
Whether or not you have a professional background that’s related to caring for animals, consider joining one of the pet sitter trade organizations, such as the NAPPS or Professional United Pet Sitters (PUPS).
Prices range from a one-time fee of $29.94 for basic membership in PUPS to a $135 per year membership in NAPPS. After joining, you can often list yourself on the organization’s directories, review their educational material, and get access to group rates for insurance.
Certifications in pet CPR and first aid might be worth looking into as well.
Some of the pet sitter marketplaces give you coverage with insurance in case something happens to the pet. They also offer people who use the service insurance in case items in the house are damaged or stolen.
If you plan on branching out and offering pet walking, grooming, or boarding services you may want to consider insurance and bonding coverage for yourself. Not only will you appear more professional to potential clients, but the protection may also be worthwhile as accidents happen.
If a dog your walking bites a person or dog, you might be held liable for medical expenses. Depending on where you live, you may also require bonding, which protects you and clients from losses due to theft. Consider the options on this chart, and do independent research before deciding if it’s a right choice for you.