Blog header October 2013



 

 

Pet Sitters International free information packet

  


Keep in Touch

Subscribe via E-mail

Your email:

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Pet Sitter Spotlight: Cynthia Johnson, Copy Cat & Dog Care Pet Sitting

  
  
  

There’s great truth to the statement, “There’s strength in numbers.” Pet sitting can be lonely. And whether you are just starting your pet-sitting business or are a pet-care veteran, you have questions—and there’s no one better to help answer your questions and share in your daily challenges and joys than a fellow pet sitter.

PSI members have a network of nearly 7,000 fellow PSI members and pet-sitting business owners, and PSI is always looking for ways to help our members connect with one another. From PSI’s annual conference to the private Facebook chat group, PSI is always seeking out new avenues to allow our members to find support, advice and new ideas from fellow pet sitters.

PSI’s Pet Sitter Spotlight series has that same goal. Each month, we’ll feature a different PSI member and share his or her answers to our pet-sitting survey. The responses will help you get to “know” this pet sitter and provide you with some tips and advice for your own pet-sitting business.  You can view past Pet Sitter Spotlights here.

Meet Cynthia Johnson, owner of Copy Cat & Dog Care Pet Sitting in Lebanon, Ohio…

 

Cynthia Johnson-PSI member spotlight

 

Your Name: Cynthia Johnson

 

Copy Cat and Dog Care-PSI memberBusiness Name: Copy Cat & Dog Care Pet Sitting

 

Location:  Lebanon, OH

 

Year you started your pet-sitting business: The company was founded in 2005, but I took over the leash in 2008.

 

 

What was your previous job/profession? USPS City Mail Carrier 1996-2008, USAF 1985-1995

 

What is your current business structure? (sole proprietor, LLC, etc.) sole proprietor

 

Number of current clients (an estimate is fine): 175

 

How many visits do you typically do per day? 10-15

 

Is your service area urban, suburban or rural? Semi-rural

 

Is your pet-sitting business insured? Yes

 

Is your pet-sitting business bonded? Yes

 

Do you provide clients with proof of your clear criminal history (background check)? Yes

 

Briefly describe any educational opportunities you have taken advantage of since you became a pet sitter.  

 

* Attended PSI’s annual conference since winning the Dotty Shantz Scholarship in 2012

* Trained in Pet First Aid/CPR

* Taken several business seminars via our local Chamber of Commerce

 

How long did it take you to build up your clientele? When I initially assumed ownership, there was a small client base in place. I hit the ground running & immediately started to grow the business.

 

Do you use staff sitters? I currently use ICs as their availability allows. I still do 60-75% of the total pet-care visits. It can be challenging, but I find it works best for my business model. I have no desire to have employees.

 

Do you offer any services besides basic in the client's home pet sitting and dog walking? (pet taxi, etc.) Yes, we offer pet taxi as well.

 

Which advertising methods worked best when you were a new business? Since I started with a base, initially I kept things status quo. I quickly started networking and also jumped on Facebook. Existing client referrals and having area veterinarians recommend our service became our best advertising methods.

 

Do you still use the same advertising methods? If not, what do you do differently now? Yes. I rely heavily on client and veterinarian referrals. Any advertising (paid) I do now is more in support of local events which helps in promoting our brand.

 

What's one mistake you've made as a professional pet sitter (when you were just starting out or at any time during your career)? What did you learn/what do you do differently now?

I’m not really sure I'd call it a mistake because it makes sense at first, but looking back, I wish I had chosen my clients more carefully. When you're a newbie, you tend to say "Yes!" to everyone and everything. I'm grateful to be in a place now where I can be selective with regards to whom I choose to work with. I recognize that I'm not always the right fit for every client and vice versa.

 

What advice would you give to new pet sitters?

Pet sitting is a marathon, not a sprint. Building a pet-care business takes time. Be willing to tweak things as you grow. Recognize the importance of cultivating relationships--with clients, with fellow pet-care professionals and with local small-business owners.

 

Are there any must-have business tools your business could not do without?

A good accountant who understands the nature of the industry

 

Do you schedule vacation time and/or days off? If so, how often?

YES! I typically schedule time off for the yearly PSI Conference and I also take days off here and there throughout the year. I find that if I give ample notice, clients are not only fine with it but encourage me to take time for myself.

 

Are there any tips you would share for establishing a healthy work/life balance?

The nature of pet sitting can be ALL encompassing. I am extremely fortunate to have a wonderful support system. It's key to remember that we can't be ALL things to ALL people ALL of the time. Set boundaries. Self-care is critical and needs to be a priority.

 

Is there any other information about your business and/or what has helped you create a successful pet-sitting business that you'd like to share?

When I left secure employment with benefits nearly seven years ago to become a professional pet sitter, I had my share (and then some!) of naysayers. Many people thought I was crazy. Thank goodness for thick skin! Belief in myself and the willingness to follow my heart despite the "Debbie Downers" has proven to be one of the best decisions I've ever made.

I think my success is largely due to my passion for pets and their people. Pet sitting is personal and for me, relationships are the key. No two clients are the same. Every pet is unique. Every home is different. I pride myself on not being a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all type of sitter. I recognize my strengths and I own my weaknesses. “What you see is what you get” and so far, that's working well for me…very well!

Setting Your Pet-Sitting Fees

  
  
  

setting pet-sitting fees

 Last update: March 17, 2015

 

 “What should I charge for my pet-sitting services?”

It’s a question we hear a lot here at Pet Sitters International (PSI).  

To avoid the appearance of price fixing, service providers, such as pet sitters and dog walkers, are prohibited from collectively discussing specific pricing details. (This means it could be illegal for pet sitters to discuss the specific prices they charge in blog comments or even in a private forum or Facebook group). 


Fortunately, PSI included questions on rates and services in its 2014 State of the Industry Survey, which can be shared.

PSI's survey information provides national averages. Keep in mind that pet-sitting rates vary depending upon where you live, so it's a good idea to take a look at what other pet sitters, boarding facilities and doggie daycares in your area charge to get an idea of local pricing.

Also, keep in mind that almost all of the pet sitters completing PSI’s survey maintain pet-sitter liability insurance.

According to the 2014 survey, the average pet-sitting visit lasted 32 minutes and the average fee was $18.67.

To learn the national average for pricing for other common pet-sitting services, including dog walking and overnight sits, download this free resource, "How much should I charge for my pet-sitting services?"

 

PSI members, you can download the complete average pet-sitter pricing report here.


A word about setting your pricing…

Remember, when setting fees, you’ll want to do some calculations to anticipate what your overhead business costs will be. Expenses to consider include:

  • insurance and bonding
  • utilities
  • phone bill
  • printed literature
  • advertising
  • professional membership fees, etc.

To be able to meet these expenses, you will need to factor a flat overhead cost and a margin of profit into each services fee.

“You have to remember all the expenses that go into this professional pet care service you’re
providing. And you have to believe that you’re worth it and be ready to explain to surprised customers that there is more to this business that simply putting out some pet food. Once customers understand the value of your services, price is usually not a deterrent.”

–PSI President Patti Moran

See what fellow pet sitters have to say:

To see how other professional pet sitters set their pet-sitting fees, PSI posed the question in its private Facebook group:

setting pet sitting prices 1

setting pet sitting prices 2

setting pet sitting prices 3

setting pet sitting prices 4

setting pet sitting prices 5

How did you determine your pet-sitting rates? Feel free to share your feedback in the comments section below,  but remember: mentioning specific rates is NOT allowed.


3 Things Learned While Pet Sitting in a Blizzard

  
  
  

Pet Sitting in a blizzard The PSI Blog

As Boston and other cities around the country have seen the snowiest winter on record, professional pet sitters have felt the painand dealt with the stresses—of one of the harshest winter seasons in recent history. While some office commuters can work from home and others benefit from delayed business and school openings or the option to take a vacation day, pet sitters don’t often have the option of a “day off,” particularly when pet parents are out of town and their pets still need care.

Many areas of the country have faced unprecedented cold temperatures and wintry participation, and many pet sitters have been forced to deal with the new pet-sitting issues inclement weather caused. Even for pet sitters in northern states accustomed to harsh winters, the severity of this year’s winter season has been challenging and damaging to the morale of even the most experienced pet-sitting business owners and their staff sitters.

PSI reached out to members in Professional Pet Sitters Chat, the association’s private Facebook group to ask pet sitters about the lessons they’d learned this winter. Overwhelmingly, their responses focused around three main recommendations:

 

1. Preparation: It’s important to plan ahead and talk to clients in advance about preparations that need to take place for winter weather. For example, what is your company’s policy on snow removal—does the client call before leaving town to arrange this service or do they provide you with their preferred snow-removal company for you to contact if needed? Whatever your preferred policy may be, it’s important to have a plan in place to ensure you are not spending exorbitant amounts of time in frigid conditions to “dig” your way to clients’ front doors for your pet-sitting visits—and it’s important that pet owners understand their cooperation is vital in ensuring you can properly reach and care for their pets.

It’s also important to consider what you would do if icy roads (or a state of emergency/travel ban) make roads impassable and prevent you from reaching clients’ homes. Verify that you have the correct contact information for your clients’ emergency contacts and discuss who you should call if you are unable to reach their homes. (For example, a relative may be the emergency contact, but perhaps, a neighbor could check on the pets if you were unable to reach the home for a day—so make sure you have that information as well!)

2. Personal safety: Harsh weather can take a toll on your physical well-being. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that those working outdoors in the winter wear appropriate clothing, sprinkle sand or cat litter on icy patches, be aware of the wind chill factor and work slowly when doing outside chores.

PSI member pet sitter Jamie Hoad shared this advice in PSI’s private Facebook group: “Long johns, scarves and chap stick are your best friends. The cold hasn’t really been a problem—the wind is the issue. It’s quick, fast and the chill brings the temperature down about 20 degrees. Wind burn is no joke, so wrapping up extra good is key!”

The harsh winter weather also makes what would typically be a minor inconvenience—a flat tire or car trouble—a dangerous predicament. The CDC advises checking your tire tread or replacing tires with all-weather tires if necessary, along with keeping an emergency kit in your vehicle. PSI member Jordan Di Marco shared similar advice in the PSI Facebook group: “I keep a good deal of winter stuff in my car—kitty litter, foldable shovel, extra hats and gloves, Yak Trax, flashlights, jumper cables and hand warmers.” (Note: Hand warmers – and foot warmers – are inexpensive, with many options to choose from. Most have long shelf lives as well.)

Icy roads and slippery sidewalks make it more important than ever for pet sitters to exercise caution to avoid slips and falls. One pet sitter reported a fractured wrist and dislocated rib resulting from a fall after slipping on ice. Remember, too, that these injuries are not covered under pet-sitter liability insurance. (Workers compensation covers work-related injuries. Contact Business Insurers of the Carolinas to get a quote for your state.)

3. Pets’ safety: In our online discussion about the recent blizzards, PSI member Robyn White shared that “one of the biggest challenges in this snow and cold is how badly it affects the dogs. Their paws get so cold from the snow and ice and they get irritated from all the salt people put down on the sidewalks. It's rough on us and it's also rough on them.” Her concern has been a common one this year—what effect does this cold weather have on pets and how should pet sitters adjust their services to ensure pets’ safety? More specifically, this harsh winter season left many professional pet sitters asking: When is it too cold to walk dogs?  Some pet sitters have also been faced with clients who wanted their dogs outdoors for extended periods of time.

To get an answer to this question, PSI reached out to Dr. Tony Johnson, clinical assistant professor at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and a consultant to the Veterinary Information Network. He offered this advice: “The rule of thumb is ‘if you're cold, your dog is probably freezing.’  A walk to eliminate and stretch your legs is OK. A 45-minute forced march...not so much.”

Dr. Johnson also added, “Cold and pets don’t mix well in many cases. A dog’s degree of cold tolerance can vary – just like with a person. Some dogs that are accustomed to cold and have a dense fur coat will do fine, even into the single digits, if they can stay dry and out of the breeze.  A little Chihuahua with no fur and no tolerance to the cold won’t. Dogs that are acclimated to cold conditions will do better than those that haven’t been gradually exposed.  There is no single number I can answer when people ask, ‘How cold is too cold?’ but keeping the above guidelines in mind can help keep your pooch safe and comfortable when the snow flies.” 

It is important for pet sitters to share these guidelines with clients and suggest alternatives—such as indoor play time—when frigid winter temperatures make it unsafe for pets to be outside beyond short potty-break times.

Surviving the winter…

In addition to focusing on preparation, personal safety and pets’ safety this time of year, there’s another important quality to help pet sitters survive this harsh winter—patience.  On the worst days, when it’s too cold to walk even the most energetic dogs, when you’ve had to shovel your way to a client’s door or have had to change a flat tire as sleeting rain pelted down, remember…Spring is coming! Your commitment to providing pet care in even the harshest conditions sets you apart and your clients are surely grateful for the peace of mind you provide, particularly during seasons like this.

Are there any more winter lessons learned you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below, post in Professional Pet Sitters Chat or contact us directly

Pet Sitter Spotlight: Katie Casell, Dances with Dogs, Inc.

  
  
  

There’s great truth to the statement, “There’s strength in numbers.” Pet sitting can be lonely. And whether you are just starting your pet-sitting business or are a pet-care veteran, you have questions—and there’s no one better to help answer your questions and share in your daily challenges and joys than a fellow pet sitter.

PSI members have a network of nearly 7,000 fellow PSI members and pet-sitting business owners, and PSI is always looking for ways to help our members connect with one another. From PSI’s annual conference to the private Facebook chat group, PSI is seeking out new avenues to allow our members to find support, advice and new ideas from fellow pet sitters.

This new Pet Sitter Spotlight series has that same goal. Each month, we’ll feature a different PSI member and share his or her answers to our pet-sitting survey. The responses will help you get to “know” this pet sitter and provide you with some tips and advice for your own pet-sitting business.

Meet Katie Casell, owner of Dances with Dogs, Inc. in Miami, Florida…

Katie Casell-Pet Sitters International  

Dances with Dogs, Inc. PSI blogYour Name: Katie Casell

 

Business Name: Dances with Dogs, Inc.

 

Location:  Miami, FL

 

Year you started your pet-sitting business: 2002

 

What was your previous job/profession? sales manager

 

What is your current business structure? (sole proprietor, LLC, etc.) S-Corporation

 

Number of current clients (an estimate is fine): 200

 

How many visits do you typically do per day? 15-20

 

Is your service area urban, suburban or rural? Suburban

 

Is your pet-sitting business insured? Yes

 

Is your pet-sitting business bonded? Yes

 

Do you provide clients with proof of your clear criminal history (background check)? Yes

 

Briefly describe any educational opportunities you have taken advantage of since you became a pet sitter.  I went back to school and got my degree in management. I am currently studying to become a professional dog trainer because I have more and more clients with reactive dogs and felt that I needed the education in order to help the dogs and the people. I have also read numerous books on dog behavior. In addition, I have my CPPS designation through PSI.

 

How long did it take you to build up your clientele? 2 years

 

Do you use staff sitters? Yes, independent contractors (ICs). I decided to use ICs because I wanted sitters with experience. My ICs also have their own clients.

 

Do you offer any services besides basic in the client's home pet sitting and dog walking? (pet taxi, etc.) Yes, we offer pet taxi as well.

 

Which advertising methods worked best when you were a new business? community newspapers

 

Do you still use the same advertising methods? If not, what do you do differently now? I now get most of my clients through Angie's list and referrals.

 

What's one mistake you've made as a professional pet sitter (when you were just starting out or at any time during your career)? What did you learn/what do you do differently now?

[One mistake I made was] giving clients a price break in order to get the job. I learned that I need to value my profession, so I no longer give price breaks.

 

What advice would you give to new pet sitters?

Don't spread yourself too thin (time wise and area wise).

 

Are there any must-have business tools your business could not do without?

Poop bags, treat pouch, good leashes, and a few good pairs of sneakers.

 

Do you schedule vacation time and/or days off? If so, how often?

I do now—usually a four-day vacation every four months.

 

Are there any tips you would share for establishing a healthy work/life balance?

We all want to be successful, but we can lose sight of the other aspects of our lives. Take time for yourself. Learn to say no.

 

Is there any other information about your business and/or what has helped you create a successful pet-sitting business that you'd like to share?

I was willing to work long hours, weekends and holidays in order for my business to be successful.

 

Update: After posting this member spotlight, we received a media notification about a member in the news. Dances with Dogs, Inc.'s press release on Professional Pet Sitters Week™ was featured in a local Miamia newspaper. Katie, great way to use the PSI press release templates and get exposure for your business!

5 Things You May Not Know About Your Pet-Sitter Insurance Policy

  
  
  

pet sitter insurance-5 things you may not know

If you've already taken the necessary step of obtaining pet-sitter liability insurance for your business-WONDERFUL! Maintaining pet-sitter insurance is vital for every professional pet-sitting business. It’s important, however, to make sure you understand what type of coverage you have—what is covered and what is not. It’s better to understand your pet-sitter coverage now, than be surprised when you file a claim and learn you are not covered!

We spoke with Business Insurers of the Carolinas, PSI’s Preferred Provider for pet-sitter insurance in the U.S., to discuss common misconceptions pet sitters have about their pet-sitter insurance policies.

Here are five things you may not know about your pet-sitter insurance policy*:

1: Your automobile is not covered under the PSI Liability policy offered through Business Insurers of the Carolinas (BIC). David Pearsall of BIC says they often receive calls from pet sitters that believe their vehicles are covered under the PSI Liability policy when a pet chews up the interior of a car, such as a seat belt or back seat. This type of damage may be covered under your auto insurance policy—physical damage - if purchased when you took out auto coverage on your vehicle.

 

2: Injuries to yourself or your employees or independent contractors are not covered under your pet-sitter liability insurance policy. Pet-sitter insurance does not cover injuries to you or your staff, but these types of claims would be covered under workers compensation insurance, if purchased.

 

3: The personal contents of your own home are not covered, even if you have the In Your Home Pet Care (Optional) Endorsement. BIC often receives calls from pet sitters who do have the In Your Home Pet Care (Optional) Endorsement and believe their personal contents in their homes are covered if a pet chews up or destroys. Since these claims are to your personal property and not the client’s, there is no coverage.

4: Pet-Sitter Insurance DOES cover vet medical expenses. BIC has found that some pet sitters do not understand that the PSI Liability policy offered through BIC covers vet medical expenses, regardless of fault/negligence, up to care, custody and control (CCC) limit the pet sitter has chosen. It’s very important for you to make sure you maintain the right care, custody and control (CCC) limit for your pet-sitting business. Many pet sitters have filed CCC claims that exceed the $10,000 limit, as vet bills continue to increase, especially for emergency surgeries, PT, etc.

 

5: Pet-Sitter Insurance DOES include a provision for lost or stolen pets. The PSI Policy includes reward coverage for lost or stolen pets up to $500. The policy will reimburse you for flyers or newspaper ads or a reward to find a lost or stolen pet that was in your care.

 

* Please note: This information was provided by Business Insurers of the Carolinas and pertains to the PSI Liability Policy that is available at a group rate to PSI members. It is important to contact your pet-sitter insurance provider directly with any questions you may have.  Coverage varies by provider. (View this insurance comparison chart.) Your insurance provider can provide you with details on your specific coverage.

Because your insurance needs may change as you build and grow your pet-sitting business, it’s also important take a look at your insurance coverage periodically to ensure you really have the coverage you need.

For instance:

  • Have you begun using staff sitters but still have only the individual policy?
  • Have you chosen the correct level of Care, Custody & Control coverage? If you had a major claim, would your insurance policy cover it?
  • Does your insurance policy cover all of the services you offer (limited in-home boarding, house sitting, etc.)?
  • Do you have insurance to cover you if you were injured while pet sitting?

Business Insurers offers a free review of your current pet-sitter insurance policy. Visit this page to sign up and have your policy reviewed

What’s in Store for the Pet-Sitting Industry this Year?

  
  
  

2015 Pet-Sitting Industry Forecast

There’s no question—the pet industry is thriving!

In its 2013-2014 National Pet Owners Survey, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports that pet ownership is at an all-time high. With 68 percent of U.S. households owning a pet (82.5 million homes), the need for professional pet sitters and dog walkers is also at an all-time high!

What’s more, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of animal care and service workers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Pet-loving entrepreneurs outside of the United States are also in luck—the passion for pets is without borders! Reports from many countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia, reveal growing pet-ownership rates.

The increase in pet ownership, combined with the increase in ownership of a variety of types of pets, equals an increased need for professional pet-care providers, including those who specialize in specific pets (“cats only” pet sitting, for example).

For those already pet sitting—or those thinking of entering the growing pet-sitting industry—2015 has the potential to be an excellent year.

To provide current and prospective professional pet sitters with an accurate analysis of the professional pet-sitting industry’s current state and to forecast its growth in the coming year, PSI has created the 2015 Pet-Sitting Industry Forecast.

This free eBook incorporates solid market research, results from PSI’s State of the Industry Survey, the association’s collective intellectual capital, and knowledge from its twenty-year history and nearly 7,000 member businesses to examine the pet-sitting industry’s current:

  • climate
  • culture
  • competition
  • continuing opportunities

 

Download your free copy of the 2015 Pet-Sitting Industry Forecast here.

 

(Note: PSI member, do not access the eBook from the link below. Log-in to the Members’ area to access your free resource and additional eBooks.)

In addition to an in-depth look at current pet-ownership statistics, this eBook also explores the current pet-sitting industry, including the average revenue for professional pet sitters, the typical client demographic and the services offered by professional pet-sitting businesses.

Here is an excerpt of the data shared in the 2015 Pet-Sitting Industry Forecast:

 

Basic Pet-Sitting Business Traits:

 

  • 98.3% of all businesses are independently owned.

  • 83.4% of businesses are owned solely by women.

  • 83% carry both pet-sitter liability insurance and bonding, with more than ¾ insured through Business Insurers of the Carolinas

  • 43% primarily service urban areas. 44.3% service suburban areas and 10.4% service rural areas.
 

If you are already pet sitting, are you predicting growth for your business in 2015? We’d love to hear from you—leave a comment below or contact PSI directly by phone or e-mail. 

5 Tips for Making a Good First Impression on Potential Pet-Sitting Clients

  
  
  

5 tips for making a good first impression on pet-sitting clients

Whether you have just opened your pet-sitting business or have been pet sitting for years, attracting clients is likely a top priority. As pet owners move in and out of your area, the economy changes and more pet-sitting businesses open, it is more important than ever before that pet-sitting business owners understand the importance of making a good first impression on prospective clients.

While you may possess professionalism and passion for what you do, you are unlikely to get and keep new pet-sitting clients if pet owners can’t see that passion and professionalism—not only in how you interact with their pets, but also in how you promote and present your pet-sitting service.

It’s important to step back occasionally and look at your business with fresh eyes to see how local pet owners see your pet-sitting business.

1. Obtain and maintain professional credentials. As pet ownership continues to grow and more and more individuals advertise pet-sitting services, it is important that you establish a strong, professional foundation for your pet-sitting business—and look for ways to stand out from the crowd. Maintaining pet-sitter insurance and bonding, providing proof of a clear criminal history and pursuing educational opportunities, like becoming a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS) demonstrate your commitment to professional pet sitting as a career and provide potential clients with peace of mind. Once you obtain these credentials, be sure to promote them in all of your promotional materials.

PSI encourages pet owners to ask seven important questions when interviewing a pet sitter. Make sure you can answer “YES” to these important questions!

2. Remember, the first impression often starts online. In today’s digital age, most consumers start their searches for service providers, including professional pet sitters, online.

Your Business Website:

Make sure local pet owners can easily find your pet-sitting business website online and that your site conveys your professionalism. If you have not created a business website or are looking to improve your current site, check out these five tips for creating your pet-sitting business website. Remember to make sure your website contains the basic information local pet owners need to know: the services you offer, your service area and how to contact you. Your contact information should also be included on every page of your website.

Your Company’s Social Media Presence:

It is also important to make sure your social media profiles are consistent with your company’s branding and also reflect your professional image. Your pet-sitting business’ Facebook page or Twitter account is a great opportunity for prospective clients to learn more about you, your pet-sitting service and how you interact with your current pet-sitting clients. Be sure you share pet tips, photos and other useful information on your social media pages. Also, respond to all questions and comments made on your social media pages. As part of a good customer-service plan, you should respond promptly to social media posts just as you would phone calls or e-mails.  

If you want more tips on making the best first impression on social media, be sure to check out “5 Ways to Make a Killer First Impression on Social Media” by Louis Foong in the January/February 2015 issue of Pet Sitter’s WORLD magazine.

3. Does your voicemail message “speak” for your pet-sitting business?  After researching your pet-sitting business online, interested pet owners will most likely take the next step and call you to learn more. This phone call typically determines if a pet owner will take the next step to schedule an initial consultation and, hopefully, book your pet-sitting services.  

First, whether you use a landline or cell phone, you should have a business phone line separate from your personal phone line. Because you are often out caring for pets and unable to answer the phone, a professional-sounding voicemail message is also extremely important to make a positive impression on callers.

Be sure your voicemail includes your company’s name, thanks the pet owner for calling, explains that you are busy caring for pets at the moment but will return their call in a timely manner. To manage their expectations, also include when the pet owner can expect to hear back from you (i.e. “ABC Pet Sitting returns all calls received prior to 4 p.m. on the same day. We look forward to speaking with you more about your pet-care needs!”) 

4. Make the most of your face-to-face consultations.  Once you’ve scheduled an initial consultation with a local pet owner, you are one step away from booking a new pet-sitting client. As a professional pet sitter, you should require an initial consultation before accepting any new pet-sitting assignment. The initial consultation (or meet and greet consultation) allows the pet owners and their pets become more comfortable with you, it allows you to get acquainted with the pets, their routines and the household; and is a time for you to review your company’s policies and procedures, record important information about the pets and pet-sitting request and have the pet owner sign your service contract.

Remember, an initial consultation is a business meeting. You should allow 30-45 minutes for the meeting and if possible, conduct the meeting at a dining room or kitchen table, instead of on the living room sofa.

As a professional pet sitter, there’s no need for you to wear a business suit to an initial consultation, but clean, company-branded attire can go a long way in making a good first impression. Or, if you will be coming directly from a pet-sitting visit, simply let the clients know what to expect.

Just in case the previous pet-sitting visit may be unusually messy, consider keeping a change of clothes, or an extra company shirt, in your car.

While you want to make sure you are able to get detailed written instructions about the care of the pets and home and discuss your company policies and procedures, you want to make sure you allow time to interact with the pets.

The potential client is sure to want to see how you and their pets interact, and you need to allow time for their pets to become comfortable with you.

5. Use a pet-sitter presentation book to discuss your pet-sitting business A pet-sitter presentation book allows you to demonstrate your professionalism, industry credentials and accomplishments in a clear, organized manner.

It is perfect to use at initial consultations when time is limited. The information you include in your pet-sitter presentation book can also demonstrate to the pet owner that you are a trained professional and take your work seriously. Once completed, your presentation book can also be used when meeting with local veterinarian or other pet-industry professionals as a way to introduce your business.

Shared on Facebook:

“I have a presentation book that contains a copy of my degree (BS Veterinary Science), proof of bonding and insurance, my city business license, PSI membership card, pet first aid and CPR certificate, BBB accreditation certificate, ‘orchids’ written about my business in our local newspaper, and some thank you notes from existing clients. I always get a lot of comments on how professional I am and how  thorough my contract is too!” –Nicole H.

To learn more about creating your own pet-sitter presentation book, download this free resource from Pet Sitters International, “Introduce your business with a pet-sitter’s presentation book.

This free resource explains how to best use a presentation book when meeting with potential clients or other pet professionals and offers a list of items to include in your pet-sitter's presentation book.

For more tips on making a good first impression when meeting prospective clients for the first time, be sure to check out the January/February 2015 issue of Pet Sitter’s WORLD magazine.

Are there any other tips for making a good first impression that you’d suggest? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

How to Stay Sane While Running a Professional Pet-Sitting Business

  
  
  

stay sane while pet sitting pet sitter burnout Pet Sitters InternationalIf you are like many professional pet sitters, you may have left the Corporate rat race to start your own pet-sitting service. Or, maybe you were finally fed up after a string of unfulfilling jobs and decided to follow your passion for pets. Whatever your pre pet-sitting situation was, you likely entered the pet-sitting industry with dreams of finally making a living from a fulfilling job that you loved. And, if you’ve been a professional pet sitter for any number of years, chances are that you are now…TIRED.

Burnout…it happens to the best of pet sitters. Do you know the feeling? You strive to always provide the best possible care to clients’ pets, help out with last-minute requests, volunteer with local pet organizations, pet sit from sun up to sun down and then try to find time to bill clients, return prospective client calls, check e-mail and market your business. Then, you get up the next day and do it all over again.

Does this sound familiar? Do you find yourself tired all of the time, unable to ever take time off and, if you are really honest with yourself, probably not enjoying pet sitting the way that you once did?

Now, there’s no reward without hard work and being a small business owner isn’t easy. But, just as important as working enough to make sure your pet-sitting business succeeds is not working so much that you crash and burn.

Do you feel like you need a vacation—or at least just five minutes to breathe?! If so, read on…

5 Things You Need to Start Doing Now to Succeed as a Professional Pet Sitter:

1. Set boundaries. Have you ever had a client who waited until the last minute to cancel dog-walking visits Every. Single. Time? Each time, you are aggravated, have to rearrange your schedule and think “one day I really am going to charge him that cancellation fee!” Think about the amount of stress you could save yourself if you really did charge that cancellation fee—which may just make that client stop and think before cancelling at the last minute again. Your business policies are in place for a reason—and you need to stick to them. (Of course, clients will occasionally have extenuating circumstances, but the exception shouldn’t be the rule!) If you allow clients to continuously walk all over you, you may just find that your joy for pet sitting seems to “walk right out the door.”

2. Learn to say no. Setting boundaries is important, but there are also situations that require you to take it a step further and just say no.  Let’s say you are absolutely booked for the holidays but have clients calling last minute and begging you to please fit them in. While you want to accommodate all client requests if possible, you have to think: Would saying yes be the best decision for you, your business and the pets you are caring for? If you are overworked and overbooked, you are more likely to miss visits, make mistakes and/or the pets may not get the care they deserve-and your well being will suffer (and your company's reputation could as well!). There are other situations that require a “no” as well—taking on pet-sitting assignments when your gut instinct tells you it’s not a good fit, continuing to service “problem clients” or continuing to take on clients outside of your service area are all examples of situations that will cause you chronic stress—that can only be relieved by saying NO! (See this related blog post on 4 Pet-Sitting Assignments You Should Turn Down.)

3. Learn from the success of others. Particularly when you are struggling to build your client base or grow your business, it can be difficult to feel positive about your competition. But, the success of your competitors can benefit you as well. Stay up-to-date on what other local pet sitters are doing, follow news about them and learn more about their business milestones. You can look beyond your local area and find other pet sitters anywhere that you admire. Read news, articles and books by other professional pet sitters. You never know what inspiration you will find as you carve out your own path to pet-sitting success!

4. Find new hobbies. Repeat after me: Prospective client meet and greets (initial consultations) do not count as a hobby! I know what you are thinking…that you don’t have any time for a hobby. But, understand this, for you to be as successful as you can be in your pet-sitting business, your mind and body need time to relax. Get up a little early to go to a yoga class, join a book club, take an art class…whatever interests you. Not only with this time away give you time to regroup and recharge, it can also be a great networking opportunity. You never know who you may meet while taking a break from your pet-sitting business that could actually be your next client or someone who can help you build or promote your business!

5. Establish a support group. Pet sitting can be lonely. You may find that even your family doesn’t understand the unique challenges you face as a professional pet-sitting business owner. That is why finding a support group is vital. Network with local pet sitters, attend pet-sitter conferences and join online groups like PSI’s Professional Pet Sitter Chat on Facebook. Building a support group of fellow pet sitters allows you to bounce ideas off others with experience in your industry, vent when you need to and also to share what you have learned with others. Having a local support group of pet sitters also offers you the opportunity to refer clients and have a backup in the event of a full schedule or emergency.

Ultimately, pet sitting will never be a 9-5 job. But, finding a balance that works for you is the key to building a successful pet-sitting business that you actually enjoy waking up to run each day.

 

Is there anything you would add to this list of things to do to prevent burn out and ensure the success of your business? Share below!

End of Life Options for Pets: Pet Sitters, You Can Be a Resource

  
  
  

pet loss

As trusted pet-care professionals, pet sitters become more than a service provider for their clients. If you are a pet sitter, to most of your clients you are likely family. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that your clients look to you for advice on even the most delicate pet issues, including end of life options.

But, how would you respond if your pet-sitting client looks at you and asks: “Is it time to let my pet go?”

Handling pet loss is a complicated issue for professional pet sitters. Pet sitters are in a complex situation when it comes to the loss of clients’ pets. Many don’t think about the impact on the pet sitter—but consider that a pet sitter often spends more time with a client’s pet than any other pet-care professional (and in some cases, almost as much time as the owner!)

Pet sitters must allow themselves to grieve the loss of clients’ pets, but their clients are also looking to them to be a resource and form of support during this difficult time.

To address this issue, Pet Sitters International offered a session on this topic at its most recent Pet Sitter World Educational Conference & Expo, as well as in a free member webinar.

The session’s presenters, MJ Tucci and Laurie Califf, were the co-founders of CenterPeaces, LLC, and co-authored A Peaceful Path: A Supportive Guide Through Pet Loss. In addition to presenting a conference session and webinar, these two also co-facilitated the 2014 Pet Memorial Service at PSI’s conference with PSI member Robert Nager of Decadent Dog, Inc.

Is it time to let my pet go?

In their session, MJ and Laurie shared tips to help professional pet sitters answer the question: “Is it time to let my pet go?”

To best answer this question, MJ and Laurie suggest:

1. Acknowledge feelings first. Examples of responses could include “I know this must be really hard for you,” or “I know how much you love [pet’s name]. It must feel really scary to face this medical situation.”

 

2. Be encouraging. Encourage your clients to explore the questions they have and speak with their veterinarian about their concerns.

 

3. Look at options. Questions to consider include:

            *Do they have the emotionally stability to make a clear decision?

            *What is their financial situation like?

            *Are they capable of offering continuous care and attention to their pet if that is what 

            will be needed?

            *Are they able to handle the stress and a possible long-term commitment to a pet with 

           a diagnosis that may involve ongoing treatment?

 

4. Help them understand quality of care. Help your clients think about the days, weeks and months ahead and discuss what is most important to them about the life of their companion animal. Allow them the opportunity to thin about pain versus suffering.

 

The suggestions above are a brief excerpt from MJ and Laurie’s presentation: “Set Yourself Apart: Understanding end of life issues for pets and how to be a valuable resource to your clients.”

PSI members, you can view a free recording of this presentation in the Members’ area of petsit.com.

Have you been asked this question?

Have clients asked you for advice about end of life options for their pets? How have you responded?

If you haven’t been asked this question yet, it will come. Do you think you will be comfortable answering the questions or pointing your clients to local resources that can help with the decision?

6 Pet Travel Safety Tips to Keep in Mind this Summer

  
  
  

pet travel safety tips resized 600

For both pet owners and pet-care professionals, pet travel safety is an increasingly important issue. According to the AAA/Kurgo Pet Passenger Safety Study, nearly 56% of people transport their dog in their car at least once per month.

So, we checked in with our friends at Kurgo®, the leading manufacturer of pet travel safety products, for tips that will help keep your pets (and your clients’ pets) safe while traveling this summer.

Pet Travel Safety Tips for You & Your Dog:

Whether it’s taking dogs to parks or transporting dogs to and from your clients, you probably drive your clients’ pets and your own pets around in the car quite a bit.

In order to ensure the safety of your charges, there are some basic safety tips you should follow:

1. Leash your dog before opening the car door. Every year hundreds of pets are lost or injured as they dart out of cars uncontrolled. Be sure to collar, ID tag, and leash your dog before opening the car door. When in a strange and busy environment, pets can be frightened and run off into traffic or to places that are difficult to find. Have control of your dog(s) at all times.

2. Keep heads, arms, & legs inside the car. Many dogs love to put their head out of the window or ride in the back of a truck. But if it isn’t safe for children, then it isn’t safe for a pet. 

Not only are there risks of being hit by other traffic or roadside objects, the ASPCA reports that dogs can also get debris in their eyes and lungs leading to illness. Some dogs have also been known to jump out of car windows while driving or stopped, running into traffic or getting lost.

3. Keep pets out of the front seat. Increasingly, accidents are being caused by distracted driving. 30% of people admit to being distracted by their dog while driving, according to the AAA/Kurgo Study.

Pets should never be in the front seat of the car while driving and they definitely should not be on your lap. Pets should be in the back seat or the cargo area. If you have a hard time keeping pets in the back seat, there are a number of products that can contain them. For example, there are several types of backseat barriers that fit between the two front seats to keep pets in the backseat. Innovative products, such as the Auto Grass, sit on a car console and deter Fido from taking a step forward and into the front seat.

4. Restrain pets for safety. Another way to keep dogs out of the front seat is to restrain them. There are a number of different options for doing this. Some people prefer to crate their pet, but make sure that crate is secure by using a pet carrier restraint attached to the car’s seatbelt system.

If your pet needs a little more freedom, you can use a dog harness and seat belt tether to give them lead to sit or lay down but still protect them in case of a crash. If you know Fido just will not stand for that, you can also connect a dog harness to a zipline that goes the width of the backseat which allows them to walk back and forth. This is not as safe as a seat belt tether, but it will keep them out of the front seat.

5. Keep your dog hydrated. Make sure your pets have plenty of water to drink in the car or stop frequently to re-hydrate. Many dogs pant excessively in the car making hydration even more essential. A dog travel bowl is handy to have for trips.

6. Never leave your dog alone. Hopefully, it goes without saying that dogs should never be left alone in a car regardless of the weather. The obvious danger is heat. On an 85-degree day, within 10 minutes the car inside temperature can rise to 120, even with the windows cracked open. The other danger is that your pet will attract thieves.

Take 30% Off all the Dog Travel Gear you Need for Summer

Kurgo is offering The PSI Blog readers a 30% Off Coupon for any of their Dog Travel Products through August 15, 2014. Just use coupon code: PSISUMMER30 on the Kurgo site to receive your special discount.

 

Terms & Conditions: Expires 8/15/14. One use per household. Cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions. Must use coupon at time of check out. Coupon cannot be applied to past orders. Valid on in-stock product only. Discount applies to product only, not taxes or shipping.

All Posts