Now that we are halfway through the first month of 2014, the Pet Sitters International (PSI) staff is taking a look back at the most-read PSI blog posts of the last year. The topics range from cat-sitting rules to creating a pet-sitting service contract—and everything in between.
If you are new to The PSI Blog—or are a regular reader who wants to revisit these popular topics—check out the top ten blog posts of 2013 (ranked by the number of views last year):
10. 3 Tips for Better Cat Sitting and Why Every Other Day Visits Should Not Be an Option
9. What You Need to Know about Online Pet-Sitter Directories
8. The One Question Pet Owners Always Ask Professional Pet Sitters
7. 4 Dog-Walking Insurance Claims Totaling More than $74K
6. 4 Signs You Should Say “No” to a Pet-Sitting Assignment
5. Setting Your Pet-Sitting Fees
4. 4 Tips for Selecting and Protecting Your Pet-Sitting Business Name
3. 6 Ways to Advertise Now to Attract Summer Pet-Sitting Clients
2. 25 Low-Cost Marketing Ideas for Pet Sitters
And, the most-read PSI blog post of 2013 was:
1. 6 Items Your Pet-Sitting Contract Should Include
From setting rates and creating a service contract to advertising to new clients and deciding which assignment to turn down, professional pet sitters face many issues on a day-to-day basis.
What other topics not covered in the blog posts above would you like to see The PSI Blog address this year? Comment below to let us know.
If you are interested in learning more about PSI can help you build or grow your pet-sitting or dog-walking service, test drive a PSI membership free for five days.
As a professional pet sitter, you have a responsibility to protect your clients and their pets, as well as yourself and your business. For your own safety—and sanity—you also want to ensure that all clients clearly understand the services you will be providing, your policies and procedures and what is expected from the pet owners.
What’s the easiest way to make sure this happens? A pet-sitting contract.
Your company’s pet-sitting contract, also called a services agreement, should clearly outline the services you will provide, limitations and important information about the clients’ pet and home-care needs.
Of course, you’ll also record clients’ contact information, particularly the their phone number. You’ll want to be able to call or text them to let them know everything is going well or to get in touch with them if necessary, right?
Well…maybe…but not so fast.
It’s a new technologically-advanced world and we can consume information—including communications from friends, family and service providers—through a variety of media—not just through a phone call.
So, while it’s important to make note of your client’s phone number, don’t forget to include this one additional piece of information in your pet-sitting contract—Preferred contact method.
Why is it so important to ask for the preferred contact method?
It’s vital to know how you should get in touch with the client while he or she is away. Don’t assume that because a client lists a cell phone as the primary contact method that he or she is open to receiving calls or texts.
Some clients may have a cell phone, but no texting or data plan. Others have limited call minutes, but unlimited texting.
Be sure to ask and note the preference on the pet-sitting contract.
Others may have limited cell-phone access, depending on where they will be, but plan to check e-mail regularly for updates. Be sure to note this on the pet-sitting contract as well.
A picture is worth a thousand words…and cell-phone data overage charges.
Be sure to ask, too, if clients would like to receive photos of their pets via text or e-mail while they are away.
While most clients will love receiving photos, some may not have a cell phone data plan that allows for photos (or they may be charged data fees).
You may have some clients that do not want you to text photos of their pets because of their data plan restrictions, but may have other access to the internet to check photos of their pets that you post to your social media pages.
Remember, you should always get your clients’ permission before ever sharing any of their pets’ photos online. You can ask for permission to do this on your pet-sitting contract as well.
If you do share photos of your clients’ pets online, be sure to keep these safety precautions in mind.
Keep your clients’ expectations in mind.
It’s also important to understand your clients’ expectations about how often they expect to be contacted.
For new clients, especially, a text or call after the first visit to confirm that everything is okay is much appreciated. Some clients may request a call or text after each visit.
Creating your pet-sitting contract…
Remember, combined with pet-sitter liability insurance, your pet-sitting contract is your best defense against possible legal claims against your company. It is worth investing the time and money to have your pet-sitting contract reviewed by a legal advisor to ensure it meets the legal requirements in your jurisdiction.
Do you need help creating your pet-sitting service contract?
Download PSI’s free e-book, “Creating a pet-sitting service contract & other pet-sitting forms to consider.”
This free e-book from Pet Sitters International (PSI):
- explains the 7 items your pet-sitting contract should include.
- suggests other pet-sitting forms that are beneficial to your business.
Download our copy today.
“Do I need to be bonded, especially if it is just me - no staff sitters?” is a question we receive a lot here at Pet Sitters International (PSI).
It is important you contact your insurance company or insurance agent for questions regarding your insurance coverage or bond; but PSI provides these general guidelines to help you in determining whether or not purchasing a dishonesty bond is a good decision for your pet-sitting business.
What is a bond (or dishonesty bond)?
First, it’s important to understand what a bond is and what it covers.
PSI pet sitters have access to both pet-sitter liability insurance and a pet-sitter dishonesty bond through PSI Preferred Provider Business Insurers of the Carolinas (BIC).
According to BIC’s website, the pet-sitter dishonesty bond “protects you and your customers from loss as a result of theft committed by you or your employees.” Simply put, the bond (or dishonesty bond) pays out to a client in the event that you (or a staff sitter) stole property and/or money from the client's home.
For the particular policy offered through BIC, “employee” refers to all owners, full and part-time employees or independent contractors. If you have or are considering purchasing a bond through another agency, you should contact them directly to determine who is covered under the policy. In a recent discussion on PSI’s Facebook page, some pet sitters indicated that their bond did not cover the owner of the company.
When does the pet-sitter dishonesty bond pay out?
The pet-sitter dishonesty bond available to PSI pet sitters through BIC will apply in cases where proof has been established that the accused party has committed a crime. In these cases, the client will receive payment up to the limit of the particular pet-sitter dishonesty bond that was purchased by the business owner. Once the claim is paid, the insurance underwriter will seek restitution from the guilty party. So, if a staff sitter is found to have stolen from a client’s home, the individual sitter will be liable for the restitution—and not you, the business owner.
Should you purchase a pet-sitter dishonesty bond for your pet-sitting business?
For pet-sitting businesses with staff sitters, the answer seems clear—YES. As a pet-sitting business owner, it is your obligation to protect yourself and your clients, particularly when using staff sitters. This involves carefully screening any potential staff sitters (including background checks) and both insuring and bonding your pet-sitting company.
If you are a sole proprietor with no staff, however, is a pet-sitter dishonesty bond still
necessary? Obviously, you know you would not commit a crime, so on the surface, it would seem the bond would not be needed if you are not using staff.
However, as the pet-sitting industry grows, conscientious pet owners have become more aware of professional pet sitters, what questions to ask and what credentials to look
for. Insurance and bonding are often at the top of their lists.
PSI member Jessica M. shared on Facebook that she recommends that even solo pet sitters
“I got a client for this particular reason. They are wealthy with a lot of expensive stuff at their place and their first requirement was that I be bonded; even though I was working by myself and had references.”
Some pet sitters weighing in on the bonding discussion on PSI’s Facebook page say
they’ve opted to not be bonded if they don’t have staff sitters. However the majority say they choose to be bonded because they feel it is a part of being a professional pet sitter and gives clients peace of mind.
Through BIC, a sole proprietor can purchase a bond for around only $50 per year. PSI
encourages pet sitters to make this small investment and purchase a pet-sitter dishonesty bond.
Long-time pet sitter and PSI member Janet F., who also joined in the bonding discussion on
Facebook, said “It’s the best $50 I have ever spent!”
Maintaining a pet-sitter dishonesty bond (in addition to pet-sitter liability insurance) is a
great advertising point and can give your pet-sitting business a competitive advantage over other pet sitters who are not insured and bonded. By having the bond, you give the pet owners (who do not know you) the extra assurance that they are protected.
Do you need more information on the pet-sitter dishonesty bond or pet-sitter liability insurance?
PSI has partnered with Business Insurers of the Carolinas for many years to offer members a special group rate on pet-sitter liability insurance and access to the pet-sitter dishonesty bond. Their coverage is affordable and comprehensive.
Learn more on BIC’s website or by calling (800) 962-4611. You can also download this free
resource from PSI to learn what you need to know about finding the right pet-sitter insurance
for your business.
Whether you are just starting pet sitting 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.
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. 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.
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. Remember, your contact information should be included on every page of your website. Many pet sitters also include their pricing information online.
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.
2. 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!”)
Shared on Facebook:
“The initial phone call is the key to setting the stage for your professionalism and to discuss pricing and pets they have. It allows both sides to have enough info to decide to go forward with a meet and greet consultation.” –Laura E.
3. 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.
Shared on Facebook:
“We generally show up directly from another walk or sit. This means we're wearing our ‘easily identifiable apparel’ - and we are real, down to earth, and still professional (despite the fur!). We also warn them we'll be showing up that way, so there are no surprises. :) I think most folks actually like that they get to see exactly what they will get!”–Robin B.
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.
4. 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.
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.
Learn how to create your own pet-sitter’s presentation book.
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 presenation 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.
Are there any other tips you would add that have helped you make great first impressions with potential pet-sitting clients?
Share your advice in the comments section below.
As a professional pet sitter, it is essential that you have a professional website for your business, but creating one is no small feat. You may be very web savvy and know how to create your own website using a low-cost site builder tool. Or, with the effort needed to manage your pet-sitting business, you may not be able to invest the amount of time to create a professional business website.
Either way, before deciding to create your own website or outsource the project to a professional designer, consider these factors:
Free programs or do-it-yourself web design kits save you money initially, but remember to factor in the time you will spend. How much is your time worth and do you have the time to devote to designing and creating your site? Before embarking on the task, ask your business contacts or other professionals whose sites you admire what their time and money investments were like.
Even with free programs, you will need web-design knowledge. To build a professional, effective website, you will need a solid understanding of website design and a good understanding of search engine optimization (SEO). Effectively using SEO for your business website is necessary to ensure that your site comes up in web searches for local pet sitters. With the growing number of people using smartphones, you’ll also want to make sure that your website is mobile-compatible. If you are not confident in these areas, consider at least consulting with a professional developer before creating your site.
Do you have time to keep up with the ever-changing World Wide Web? A static website with rare updates will not help drive more traffic to your site. To effectively market your business and stay in the top of search results, your website must constantly offer new content. Maintaining a company blog on your website is a good way to ensure that you always have fresh content.
Make sure that your website platform allows you to make these changes when needed. Make sure your site allows you to integrate your social media pages, blog and e-commerce functionality if needed.
Invest the time necessary to create good online content. When it comes to the creation of website design and content, less is often more. Think from your potential client’s perspective—what information is most important, what will make your site attractive, easy to read and easy to navigate?
You want to make sure that your key information is easy-to-find. Can visitors to your website easily locate your phone number and e-mail address on each page of your website? Also, if you want pet owners to engage with you on social media, do you have your social media icons integrated into your website?
When designing your website, create a consistent look and feel. You own a professional business and your website should reflect this. Your website should be consistent with your business brand. Use colors and images similar to your business logo and other marketing materials.
Think about the websites you visit. Have you ever been to a website that had flashing graphics, used different fonts and almost gave you a feeling that this may not be a safe site to visit? Don’t be that website. Make sure your site looks professional and provides potential clients with confidence in using your services.
Good luck creating or updating your website! A well-planned and professional site is essential for your business. Remember to include your PSI Member logo on your website to display your professionalism.
Are there other tips you would offer to fellow pet sitters either creating or updating their business websites? Share your suggestions below.
You’ve decided to open a pet-sitting business. Now what? One of the very first things to do is to name your business. Selecting the perfect name for your pet-sitting business can be tricky.
You can’t pick just any name for your pet-sitting business.
With the ever-increasing number of pet-sitting companies, some business names have already been trademarked, which means these names can’t be used.
Although hiring an attorney may involve some expense, it is a wise initial investment to find out if you have the RIGHT to use a specific business name.
For example, a pet sitter in Florida had been doing business under a certain name for more than a year. She had established an excellent reputation and developed a devoted clientele. Then out of the blue, a letter arrived from an attorney in the Midwest informing her to cease and desist use of her business's name immediately because it was federally trademarked by his client.
To make a long story short, the Florida pet sitter had to hire an attorney to look into the matter, only to find that indeed, she did not have the right to do business under her current name. Her innocent mistake ended up being a very costly one. It was expensive to change all of her forms, stationary and business literature. Having to notify her clients of a new name was awkward as well. It would have been less expensive to go through all the proper name-checking channels at the outset - not to mention the headaches she would have been spared.
How can you select and protect your pet-sitting business name?
When brainstorming business names, consider incorporating your city or community name, your own name or something specific to you to avoid selecting a name that’s already taken.
Once you’ve narrowed down your name selections to a few favorites, you’ll want to take the necessary steps to ensure you pick a final business name you can actually use:
- Check with your county clerk’s office to see if these names are in use by another business in your community.
- If the name is locally available, the next inquiry should be to the Secretary of State’s office to determine if anyone in your state has registered your preferred business name.
- Next, check to see if your preferred business name has already been trademarked with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You can determine if there’s a federal trademark on the name by checking registrations through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or by hiring a patent and trademark attorney to do this verification for you.
- Once you’ve decided on a business name, be sure to protect it. Register and trademark your business name to ensure that another business doesn’t, which could prevent you from using it down the road.
How do other pet sitters choose their business name?
Naming your pet-sitting service is not a decision to be taken lightly. It sets the tone for your business and it’s included on all of your company’s materials from your website to business cards and fliers. Recently PSI posed this question on its Facebook page: “How did you select the name of your pet-sitting business? Knowing what you know now, would you have kept the same name for your business?”
Some pet sitters used their city or state in their business name:
Christina B.: I named my business Connecticut Pet Sitter LLC. It was the best decision I ever made and I was even lucky enough to get www.ctpetsitter.com as my website domain.
Others incorporated their own pets’ names into their business name:
Elise N.: “It took me a while to think of my business name, but I finally went with a nickname I use for my dog: Bandito Pet Sitting. It is definitely a lot different than any other pet-sitting business name in my area!”
Many pet sitters mentioned that they selected their business name with a desire to evoke a certain emotion or feeling:
Emery F.: “My name is Emery and people frequently call me ‘Em.’ I wanted clients to have a warm and fuzzy feeling when seeing my business name to create a comfort level. So, the name I chose was Auntie Em’s Pet Sitting & Dog Walking.”
Some selected a name that identified their specific pet-sitting clientele:
Executive Pets: “I selected the business name Executive Pets because I am targeting the executive market—business people who travel regularly for business or pleasure.”
Tracey B.: “My pet-sitting business caters to clients who are wealthy and travel often. So, I chose the name Jet Set Pet Sitters. My motto is ‘when you jet set…we’ll pet sit!’”
Others incorporate their own name into their pet-sitting business name:
Laura W.: “I have an easy last name so Woods Pet Sitting was a no-brainer decision for me. I changed my business name to Woods Pet Care two years ago. As I told my clients, we do more than ‘sit’ with your pets.”
For one pet-sitting company, the business name was a family tradition:
Copy Cat & Dog Care: “I get asked a lot about my business name. My cousin was interested in starting a pet-sitting business in 2005. Her sister had a successful pet-care business in another city at the time and she wanted to try starting her own. She wanted a unique business name. As she was sharing possible business names with her teenage daughter, her daughter accused her of being a ‘copycat’ since she wanted to do the same thing as her sister. My cousin ran with that idea and named her business Copy Cat & Dog Care. When I took over the business in 2008, I kept the name since I, too, was a copycat. It ends up we’re just a family of copycats!”
How did you choose your pet-sitting business name?
Do you have a creative name for your pet-sitting business? Or a simple name that works well for your business and your pet-sitting clients? Tell us your pet-sitting business name and how you chose the name in the comments section below.
Here at Pet Sitters International (PSI), we’ve just released a free e-book, the 2013 Pet-Sitting Industry Forecast. A follow-up to the 2012 report, it is a compilation of data from our State of the Industry Survey, current market research, collective intellectual capital and knowledge from our 18-year history and more than 7,100 member businesses. Analyzing the current climate, culture, increased competition and continuing opportunities within the professional pet-sitting industry, PSI predicts another stellar year for this growing profession.
So, what’s in store for professional pet sitters and dog walkers in 2013?
For those currently in or thinking of entering the professional in-home pet care industry as pet sitters or dog walkers, times are changing—and PSI offers these three recommendations for the coming year:
- Pet-sitting businesses should consider expanding services to cater to multi-species pet households. The 2013 Pet-Sitting Industry Forecast explores how professional pet-sitting services now extend beyond cat and dog care. More than 60 percent of PSI’s member businesses also offer pet-care services for birds, fish and cage pets. This expansion of services is not surprising considering the American Pet Product Association’s findings in its 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey that pet ownership is up across the board, including bird and fish ownership. This opens the door for pet sitters who have typically focused on cats and dogs to offer services for other pets—and also allows for pet sitters who prefer to focus on a niche audience, such as specializing in exotic pet care, bird care or offering cats-only services. For pet sitters without experience with these other pets, volunteer work with pet-rescue organizations or taking advantage of educational opportunities like the PSI Certification Program can expand knowledge and enable them to attract a broader client base.
- Pet sitter and dog walkers should approach online pet-sitter directories with caution. PSI’s e-book also notes another sign of the growing industry—the recent influx of numerous online pet-sitter directories and pet-care search sites, often funded by venture capitalists and tech-savvy entrepreneurs. Many of these sites offer legitimate opportunities for professional pet sitters and dog walkers to promote their services to a new audience and have search-engine optimization benefits as well. However, it’s important to understand how each pet-sitter directory operates before signing up. Some charge pet sitters for client leads, have other hidden fees or service charges and group professionals and non-professionals together.
- Professional pet sitters and dog walkers will face more competition than ever before. The growing pet-care industry is good news for those in the profession, but it also means that more and more entrepreneurs will enter the industry trying to get their piece of the “pet-loving pie.” Fortunately, those currently in or entering the pet-sitting industry today also have access to more tools and resources than ever before to help them gain a competitive advantage over amateur pet-care providers. PSI offers member pet sitters access to the PSI Certification Program, free monthly webinars, free pet-sitter forms, pet-health resources, marketing guides and more to allow those serious about the industry to create a business model that will stand out from the competition.
Another growing trend?...the use of social media. While it may seem that everyone has a Facebook page, many in the pet-care industry have been late adopters of the various social media platforms. Stay tuned for an in-depth report on pet sitters and their use of social media for business next week.
Want to learn more about what’s in store for the industry this year? PSI is offering the 2013 Pet-Sitting Industry Forecast e-book free of charge to current and prospective pet-care professionals on the association’s website.
What is a pet-sitter presentation book and what does it include?
Your pet-sitter presentation book may include a variety of materials and information that reflect your professional qualifications, involvement and accomplishments. Typically compiled in a three-ring binder, the book will contain record of your credentials, possibly including resume, transcripts or any accreditations or certifications you may possess. Newspaper articles, photos and letters of recommendation may be included to demonstrate your business achievements and to highlight your involvement, including pet-related volunteerism, association membership, as well as attendance of conferences and pet-sitting events.
When would you use your pet-sitter presentation book?
A presentation book can be shown to your potential clients, potential partners and your peers. It allows you to demonstrate your professionalism, industry credentials and accomplishments in a clear, organized manner.
Your presentation book is wonderful at initial meet and greets to demonstrate to the pet owner that you are a trained professional and take your work seriously.
When trying to establish networking opportunities or event partnerships with fellow pet sitters, other pet care professionals, veterinarians or local businesses, your presentation book conveys your commitment and professional image.
Compiling your pet-sitter presentation book:
If you do not already have a pet-sitter presentation book, or if yours needs updating—start today! Compiling a presentation book involves time and attention. Do not wait until the night before a client meet and greet or a meeting with a potential event partner, as it may take time to collect and make copies of the materials you plan to include.
Below is a list of items you may wish to include in your presentation book. Be sure to tailor the presentation book to reflect your business. And remember, never leave your presentation book with a client or potential sponsor or partner — you do not want to lose the certificates, photos, etc., that it contains!
What should you include in your pet-sitter presentation book?
Download PSI's free "Creating a Pet-Sitter Presentation Book" resource that:
- lists the items you should include in your pet-sitter presentation book.
- offers tips from other pet sitters on compiling your pet-sitter presentation book.
Pet sitters, do you use a pet-sitter presentation book? Are there any other items you recommend including? Share your tips in the comments section below.
If you’ve ever considered pet sitting as a career, you’re not alone. Pet Sitters International (PSI) has helped thousands of pet lovers with an entrepreneurial spirit pursue their passion for pets since PSI began in 1994. This year alone, more than 4,000 pet lovers have downloaded free information PSI offers about starting a pet-sitting or dog-walking service and PSI has experienced increased growth in new memberships—more than 25% over last year.
PSI’s State of the Industry Survey shows that professional pet-care business owners come from all walks of life—from veterinarians to retired military personnel to former CEOs and scientists. Regardless of their past careers, these entrepreneurs are finding great success in the pet-care industry. If you’ve been thinking of taking the next step to pursuing pet sitting as career in 2013, you’re in luck! There’s never been a better time to become a professional pet sitter or dog walker.
Now is the perfect time to enter the growing pet-care industry. Read these “3 C’s” to find out why:
1. Climate: Pet ownership is at an all-time high. With 62% of U.S. households owning a pet (72.9 million homes), the need for professional pet sitters and dog walkers is at an all-time high. In fact, there are now more households with dogs (43 million) than children (38 million), according to the USA Today analysis of the 2010 Census.
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).
What’s more, professional pet sitters have gained credibility and attention over the last decade and are now well-known professionals in the services industry. Gone are the days when boarding kennels or burdening a friend or neighbor were the only options for pet care when a pet owner traveled. The numerous pet-sitter search sites that have launched in the last few years are a testament to the growing popularity of pet sitting. Pet sitting was also listed #1 in Small Business Opportunities® Get Rich at Home™ 2012 special edition of the Top-100 Home-Based Businesses.
2. Culture: With an annual average revenue of more than $48,000 and increasing, professional pet-care as a career has proven to be a viable, profitable career option. Demographic information on the average pet-sitting client combined with recent U.S. Census data also demonstrates that there is a substantial client base to support the growing industry.
These pet owners have not slowed spending on their pets, either. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates that $52.87 billion will be spent on U.S. pets alone in 2012. Of this total, $4.11 million will be spent on pet services, including pet sitting and dog walking.
In fact, spending on pet services increased nearly 8% from 2010 to 2011 and the APPA reports that the pet-services category is anticipated to see the largest solid growth over all other pet-spending categories in the coming year.
3. Continuing opportunities: The increased educational and marketing resources available to professional pet sitters have served to increase the professionalism and success of the industry at-large. And, the low start-up costs –including training and marketing expenses—are not prohibitive as they are in some other small businesses. Virtually all tools and resources needed to successfully start a professional pet-care business are either free, inexpensive or included in the cost of PSI membership. Now, pet-sitting newcomers can enter the industry with the knowledge that they are entering a profitable, professional and fulfilling career path without overstretching their budgets.
Programs such as the PSI Certification Program offer a strong foundation for professional pet-care providers at a fraction of the cost of traditional professional training and coursework. And year-round learning opportunities, such as PSI’s free member webinars, keep pet-care professionals on the cutting-edge of the industry without exorbitant costs or time away from their businesses.
What’s in store for your pet-sitting business in 2013?
If you are considering becoming a professional pet sitter or dog walker and want more details about important steps to take, download PSI’s free e-book “5 Must-Do Steps to Starting a Successful Pet-Sitting Business.”
If you are already pet sitting or dog walking, what are your business goals for the coming year? How do you plan to take advantage of the growing need for pet-care services to increase your clientele and boost business? Share your goals in the comments section below.
Caring for animals is second nature to Jordan Di Marco, owner of Dogma Catma Pet Sitting in Boulder, Colo., and PSI’s 2011 Pet Sitter of the Year™.From spending summers on her father’s ranch in New Mexico as a child to working in veterinary clinics, doggie daycares, and at PetSmart, she has been around pets—both personally and professionally—her entire life.
Since she began pet sitting in 2004—and started her own pet-sitting service, Dogma Catma Pet Sitting in 2006—Jordan has learned many business lessons as she followed her passion for pets and entered the professional pet-care industry.
In a recent interview, PSI asked Jordan to share the #1 piece of advice she would give to new pet sitters, as well as some of the most important lessons she has learned as a professional pet sitter over the last several years:
1. What is the #1 piece of advice you’d give to brand new pet sitters?
Contact other local sitters just to chat over coffee or join a network. I can't tell you how much that has helped me, not only in a "how do I handle this situation?" but also if I am booked or a client is outside my area. It really pays to network!
2. What advice would you give to more established pet sitters?
Take time for you! Clients will understand if you need a few days "off the grid"!
3. What has been your most successful marketing/advertising tool?
Personal referrals! I give a free visit to clients who refer my services. I give a referral fee (equal to the price of one 30 minute sit) to my sitters when they bring in new clients, whether or not they are the assigned sitter for the job.
I also have a close relationship with a pet-supply store. The store has a great reputation and lots of fun treats for critters! The store staff refer my services and in turn I put a coupon for their store in my new client packets.
4. If you could go back to when you first founded Dogma Catma Pet Sitting, is there anything you would change (given the knowledge and experience you have now)?
Oh yes! The part of the business I am least competent in would be the bookkeeping and tax part. I taught myself a lot of the operations because I thought I couldn't afford to have someone else do it for me. Later it was more stress and it ended up being something I procrastinated on! I would happily go back and have someone help me right off the bat.
5. Do you have any tips or advice for keeping clients happy? Is there anything you do to go above and beyond to keep clients happy?
Mistakes happen and no one is perfect. When you make a mistake with a client, address it right away, apologize, and ask what you can do to make it right. That puts the scenario in their hands and makes them feel listened to and valued.
I really like to make sure everything is tidy when I leave a house, even if it was kind of messy before I got there. I will often vacuum or sweep up and make sure everything is arranged before the client gets home.
6. Have you been able to find a work/personal life balance—and if so, what advice would you give to other pet sitters?
I will admit, it took me a while to get a good balance and I occasionally struggle with it still. I would advise to have clear policies in your business and stick to them, such as having set hours you answer the phone. Clients will understand and frankly if they don't, you don't need the hassle. Schedule time off with friends and family, find time between sits to catch up with a friend over lunch or lounge in the park, whatever gives you a little time to yourself.
Thanks to Jordan Di Marco for sharing her experiences and tips! Stay tuned for a future blog post where we will share Jordan's experience with disaster preparation and her tips to help pet sitters and their clients prepare for disaster.