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Old 07-05-2012, 10:11 AM
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JacksonsMom JacksonsMom is offline
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Default Pet Sitting Business Start-Up

Ok, so I don't want to impose on the other thread, so I figured I'd start my own.

Basically, I did dog walking "on the side" for the past 4 years. It started just watching family friends dogs and eventually... I responded to a few ads on care.com and got the jobs. They were always very happy with me and I had 3-4 clients that I would visit on a daily basis 5 days a week. I stopped in January and they were all upset to lose me, but understood, as I was going to school during the week almost an hour away so it would've been impossible to keep it up.

However, I really really miss it. And I really think I could make a career out of it and it be something I'm passionate about and make money doing. I've never come up with anything else that I would be good at, or semi-enjoy doing, or whatever. It's something I've always struggled with.

But this time I would do it right. Get my LLC, get bonded/insured, get Pet CPR Certified, and take any other certifications, etc, that would look good.

This area particularly is very dog friendly and people love their pets so I know I could build up a nice clientele if I worked hard enough (possibly getting back my previous ones too). I also know sooo many people in this area (or everyone knows our family, more like it). There's some really high up neighborhoods too near my house where I could market myself.

I did some math last night just for approximations... and with charging $15 per day (which is very low for this area, but I figured since it's just an approx) for a 30 minute visit 5 days a week for 15 different clients... equals out to $58,500/year. That's of course not including any weekend customers or over-nights. I also will be forever running my brother's non-profit foundation and can legally pay myself a salary once we get it a lot bigger, so I will plan on having that too. That is a low also. I still need to do the research and determine proper pricing. But most I've seen charge at minimum $20 per day for a 30 minute walk but I want to keep my fees a bit lower than others.


Also, how do I deal w/ weekends/overnighters? I'm not sure if I should even offer at it first. The only reason I did weekends and overnights with my other clients is because their dogs got along with Jackson and I was able to bring him. I don't want to be unprofessional and basically be like "well I have to bring MY dog if you want me to watch your dog overnight" lol. So I'm thinking, until I am able to get a helper or back-up person, overnighters will mostly be on a case-by-case basis with the clients I'm close with and know, and who don't mind him coming over. I also wouldn't mind watching someones dog in my home if they wanted that. But not sure how to handle that in general.

Also, how do you go about finding a person who could be an emergency/backup type person? Should I try to find someone right away that I can essentially hire? Or get it up and running on my own first and THEN deal with that?

Also, what would you look for in a pet sitter? I was considering offering pet photography on the side, though I still have lots of room to improve with my photography... my previous clients loved when I would bring my camera and take pictures of their dogs and give them to them. I thought it could be a unique little side-service.

Any help, advice, words of wisdom, or anything is appreciated.
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Old 07-05-2012, 10:21 AM
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Will be keeping up with this thread, as my dad suggested this same thing to me the other day!
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Old 07-05-2012, 11:44 AM
Kilter Kilter is offline
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I do pet sitting here only. Reason being is I have kids, and three dogs, and it's too hard to organize to go somewhere else to look after a pet. We have a 'mudroom' so the crates and dog stuff isn't in the way, also not a big deal to set up an xpen or whatever as needed and rotate the dogs into the household. That way too when the dog 'forgets' he's been housetrained (which happens a lot) they just stay in the mudroom the rest of the time if I can't watch him, and if there's even a slim chance of someone coming in or out the door, I put the extra dog away.

As nice as it'd be to go to someone's house and stay, my cousin has had people do that and she said it was more work as she'd have to stock up in case they wanted food etc. then change the sheets and tidy before AND after she returned. Now she has a teen come and 'babysit' the cats by coming in the evening and watching TV and hanging out for a few hours with them. We had a sitter come to our house and she wasn't experienced with older dogs, had a panic as the old guy had runny eyes (normal for him that time of year, just tears) that she thought was blood. She also didn't ask what we used for cleaning, didn't find a huge vat of pine sol so got one and used half a bottle of the crap all over the house. We came home at midnight to pine fumes and sticky floors. We usually used plain old vinegar btw.

I think the ideal 'win win' would be to advertise sitting in your home, with a proper set up for extra dogs. That way it doesn't totally affect your life, you can have backup come there instead of the client's house which they'd likely prefer, and do more than one client at a time if there's an overlap or during the busy seasons. You can still go to their house to check on things if they like for a small fee. I know of people who boarded dogs in their own house all the time and either it worked out with their dogs or it didn't, depending on the dog, I find my guys will not like certain dogs so usually the first day or two I keep them separated but around each other (one in a xpen, the others loose, crates...) and after a day they seem to get over it.

I wouldn't stress about a backup person till you're busy, you may find some kennels that will refer to you IF you charge more for the special service than they charge for boarding of course. It's a win win for them too, I sometimes get the calls from the picky people that want the extras, I quote them higher than the kennel, and I either make that or the kennel gets the dog and the people aren't as fussy suddenly (by fussy I mean the ones that want the extra walks, daily brushings, to bring every single toy and dog bed the dog owns.....stuff the kennel just doesn't want to deal with).

What you could do is take a nice portrait of their dog while they're gone, make it into a greeting card and write a thank you note inside and leave that for them.
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Old 07-05-2012, 11:53 AM
JessLough JessLough is offline
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I do pet sitting in their home only, because a) I have a grumpy senior dog that it wouldn't be fair to make share her house, b) I have ferrets that need to freely be out and c) my house is crate-free, which can cause problems.

Honestly, most people don't leave me food. I wouldn't expect them to bring me food if I was watching dogs in my house, so why should I expect it When I'm there? I'm an employee and there for work purposes, not a guest. Generally, if they are leaving food, the rate is lowered to compensate for that.

I'll type more later, on iPod now
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Old 07-05-2012, 02:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JessLough View Post
I do pet sitting in their home only, because a) I have a grumpy senior dog that it wouldn't be fair to make share her house, b) I have ferrets that need to freely be out and c) my house is crate-free, which can cause problems.

Honestly, most people don't leave me food. I wouldn't expect them to bring me food if I was watching dogs in my house, so why should I expect it When I'm there? I'm an employee and there for work purposes, not a guest. Generally, if they are leaving food, the rate is lowered to compensate for that.

I'll type more later, on iPod now
I'm so confused - did I say anything about food? Lol...

Jackson is really inviting of guests in his home, so I'm thinking to start, maybe I'll offer sitting in my own home for the reasons stated in the post above... it IS stressful when staying in someone else's home and worrying about my own dog at the same time, etc.
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Old 07-05-2012, 02:23 PM
JessLough JessLough is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JacksonsMom View Post
I'm so confused - did I say anything about food? Lol...

Jackson is really inviting of guests in his home, so I'm thinking to start, maybe I'll offer sitting in my own home for the reasons stated in the post above... it IS stressful when staying in someone else's home and worrying about my own dog at the same time, etc.
LOL no, sorry, the person who posted before me mentioned stressing out the owner by them needing to buy food and such, I just wanted to touch on that XD

I'm exhausted, nevermind me
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Old 07-05-2012, 02:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JessLough View Post
LOL no, sorry, the person who posted before me mentioned stressing out the owner by them needing to buy food and such, I just wanted to touch on that XD

I'm exhausted, nevermind me
LOL, it's okay... I must have missed that in the post too, I didn't see anything about haha. I'm just as tired... had a terrible sinus infection yesterday and did not sleep at ALL last night.

Anywho... haha...
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Old 07-05-2012, 02:26 PM
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DixiesMom... if this can be of help to you... I know it's a really informative post that helped me. Someone else on another forum told me this:

Quote:
What a wonderful idea. Take a course for the small business owner, is always a good thing. Communications is so key in any business your in, but particularly a people service business.

1. BAck up person should you be ill/unwell,your vacation time etc. First I would suggest if you have not already talked to some "professional dog walkers" that would be a good first start. Try to get to know the business from the inside out as it where. Develop a good list of questions you would like to ask them. And there might be an arrangement you can make with someone.

2. There are all sorts of things to think about - like will you accept large dogs? How many dogs large n small can you comfortably and securely walk at one time. Maybe you could only once a week a day trip for several dogs whose owners are willing to take the pups swimming (Dad's pool?).
What will be your rules to acccept a dog for walking?
You will need to develop an application form
What will be your hours?
Cancellation charges when customers cancel on you?
Will you want to offer monthly packages? ie - Commit the client to a month's worth of your services?
Liability Issues for sure - what are they? What will the Insurance be?
Will you need to update your car? Or at least buy some protective covering for the back seat. That is if you will be taking dogs in the car with you.
How will your customers pay you? cheque, cash, paypal, charge card?

3. This may be old news to you, but it does really work well. Develop a five year, and a 10 year plan. After five years where do you want to be in the business? Income, employees? Ten years down the road? It is not just about $numbers, but more qualitative goals.

If you are going to be on your feet a whole lot, look at your shoewear. You will need some good quality shoes, and a couple of pairs of them.

I definitely see you involved in training. Maybe that can also be something to look into - get certified by what-ever is a good reputable agency in your state.
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Old 07-05-2012, 02:31 PM
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I have been the "back-up" person for a pet-sitting business before. I was called in so the head petsitter could have a week off or if she had multiple clients requesting conflicting overnight stays.

My friend was the head petsitter and owned her own business, licensed and everything. If you'd like, I can perhaps get you in contact with her for advice and information. She isn't currently doing the pet-sitting business anymore (she decided to change paths and moved on to work in a veterinary clinic), but it was her full-time, pay-the-bills job for several years.


ETA: She did the gig alone for 12-18mos before I was contacted as a back-up. That was just due to the rate which her contact list grew. That may be different for you, but based on that, I wouldn't worry about hiring extra help right away.
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Old 07-06-2012, 02:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JacksonsMom View Post
DixiesMom... if this can be of help to you... I know it's a really informative post that helped me. Someone else on another forum told me this:
Thank you!!

I dog sit for people at my church all the time so I think it'd be really cool to put an ad out there for people who might be interested in having me watch their dogs. We just left Violet with someone and after that, my dad suggested maybe trying it out myself!

Good luck, let me know how it goes for you!
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Chloe - 9 y/o Dachshund/Chihuahua | Violet - 3 y/o Siberian Husky
Rest in peace - Holly (Siberian Husky)|Misty (Siberian Husky)|Princess (Silky Terrier)
Forever in my heart - Dixie (Yorkshire Terrier)|Lucy (Silky Terrier/Yorkie Mix)
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