Decide how many and what types of pets you can handle in your home if you decide to take on pet sitting. Remember that the animals won't be familiar with each other, and you'll need to keep them separated for safety and liability reasons. If you're a renter, check your lease or talk with your landlord about your idea; just because you don't own the pets doesn't mean you won't be in violation of a "no pets" clause in your contract.
You'll also want to check your local laws to make sure it's okay to operate a pet sitting service from your home. Some cities may require you to buy a business license, which could make running a service like this cost-prohibitive. For example, many cities in California require you to purchase a business license, even if you're boarding pets as a hobby or if you're not making a profit at it.
Depending on your plans, you may need to purchase some kennels and other supplies to run a pet sitting service. If you're expecting to sit for multiple animals, for example, you may need several kennels in different sizes. If you plan to just sit for one animal at a time, you might let it roam around the house freely. Bowls for feeding and watering and extra leashes and collars may be additional things to add to your purchase list.
Running a Pet Sitting Service
Pet owners have varying requirements when they look for a sitting service, and you may not be able to meet all of them. Whether they go on vacation or just leave the pet there for a day, they'll expect at a minimum that their pet is fed and watered, exercised and kept safe. It's a good idea to have pet owners provide their own food for their animals when they drop them off. That way you don't have to worry about any special dietary requirements, and you can cross food off the list of your expenses.
During a typical day, you can leave the animals crated when you're not interacting with them, so long as it's okay with the owners. Dogs will need walks periodically, and some may require an extra bit of playtime or exercise depending on the breed. Cats may or may not need any interaction with you, depending on their personality.
Be sure to collect as much information from pet owners as possible before you agree to care for their animal. Ask about the following:
- Feeding schedule
- Amount of food required
- Amount of interaction required
- Any special needs the animal has
The reason you ask these things is because you may or may not be able to meet all of their requirements. For example, you may not be comfortable administering insulin shots twice a day to a diabetic cat. It's okay to turn down potential customers if you're not okay with any of their needs.
Rates to Charge
How you price your pet sitting service is entirely up to you. It can be as low as a few dollars an hour if you want, or a flat fee per day or week. It depends on what services and extras you want to provide. If you're just providing the bare minimum, $5 to $10 an hour is a fair price for your services. If you're offering lots of interaction, playtime and attention to a pet, you can reasonably charge $15 to $20 an hour.
Where to Find Clients
Drumming up clients can be as simple as canvassing your neighborhood and introducing yourself to people. Word of mouth and passing out cards or flyers can generate enough clients to keep you as busy as you want. You can also talk to local pet stores and other locations, and see if they'll let you post a flyer for free.
Tips for Running a Pet Service
The summertime, the Christmas holiday season and spring break are the three times of year when people are most likely to take vacations. If you only want to be a pet sitter for part of the year, you can solicit your services for those times to ensure that you'll have some money coming in.
If you make more than $400 in a calendar year, you'll have to file self employment tax with the IRS. If you target your services seasonally and keep your income below that level, you're not required to pay any tax on the income. State laws may vary on this, so be sure to do some research before you get started.