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Start A House Sitting Business

Updated on July 21, 2012
Dog Ma profile image

Alison has been practicing Animal Communication for over twelve years. She has a certificate from The Gurney Institute.

Shhh, don't tell my pet sitter where I'm hiding.
Shhh, don't tell my pet sitter where I'm hiding. | Source

Dog walking and pet sitting are a great way to earn extra income. It is a great business if you work another job or go to college. To give you and example at this moment I am sitting at a client’s house getting paid to write this article. While I house sit, most times I can also work on my other businesses. It is a chance if you are a college student to get paid to study.

To get paid for what you love to do is the ultimate joy one can experience. If you have always loved animals then this is a great sub-career. If you haven’t already go back and read my article on dog walking. It is full of information on how to start your own business, but as a dog walker you often get asked to "pet sit or house sit" as well. This article travels into the depths of house sitting and gives information you to help you take your dog walking business to the next level into house sitting.

Why house sitting? First, there are a couple different forms of pet sitting or house sitting. The most popular form is where a pet sitter stops by a client’s house a few times a day to walk, feed and care for their client’s pets. For pet sitters this is a more lucrative form because you can visit multiple households a day, thus making more money. An example is if you are charging twenty dollars per visit per house and you visit three houses in the morning and the same three houses in the evening you are bringing in roughly one hundred and twenty dollars in a day. This may seem like a lot of money, but this type of sitting also requires a lot of your time and gas. When I did this form of animal care I was often driving about six hours a day. Another draw back to this form of sitting is that you have to take clients pretty close to your own house. It gets pretty cost prohibitive if you have a client twenty minutes away in one direction and then twenty minutes on the other side of town. It's a lot of wasted time and gas.

On the other hand actual house sitting requires that you to stay at the client’s home while they are away. Your client may want you at the home for security reasons and or because the pet you are sitting has special needs. The draw back to this form or pet sitting is that you can only sit at one home at a time, but you can charge more. If you already have a job or you are in school most of your clients will accommodate you.

House sitters are paid to make it look like someone is home while your client is on vacation. You are there to keep unwanted visitors out. Your job will consist of taking care of the animals, picking up the mail, bringing in the paper, taking the garbage out and so forth. Many people want a house sitter so it looks like someone is home and the house is less likely to get broken into.

Where you charge twenty dollars to visit a home many overnight pet sitters make forty-five to sixty-five dollars for every twenty four hours. There are different reasons a client may want to leave their pets home. Some people choose a house sitter because they have too many pets to board. Can you imagine walking into a boarding facility with three cats, two dogs, a bird and a hamster? Even at sixty-five dollars a night it is more cost effective to have one person come to the house than to have to take all their critters to a facility.

Some pets may feel more comfortable being in their own home, so their owners would rather someone come and stay. I know my Golden Retriever hated cages and would not stay in one unless she was sedated. I could never imagine ever taking her to a boarding facility. I always left her with relatives or had someone come stay if I was going to be out of town.

Some pets are not social. Cats and dogs alike can have social issues. A boarding facility can cause too much stimulation and completely stress out a pet. No one wants to come home from vacation and face a pet bouncing off the walls. In this situation leaving a pet in the comfort of their own home and having someone come in is a much better option.

Older pets or pets that are immune compromised will need to stay in their own home. You will most likely have to be at the home the entire time they are gone. If your schedule won't accommodate this please let your clients know. Also if you don't feel comfortable administering medications pass the job on. A lot of Veterinary Technicians pet sit. You may also be able to have a vet tech make daily house calls to administer medications, while you take care of all the other requirements.

House sitting may include ranch sitting. You can charge more for ranch sitting, but again if you don’t feel competent enough to do the job then pass it on to someone that can. Ranches take special knowledge. You can always learn, but if you don’t feel comfortable don’t take the job. Animals sense fear and it will make you job a lot harder to do.

I would always ask that you never take up house sitting for the money. You will never become rich. House sitting is a good way to supplement your income, but it also takes responsibility. Many of your clients consider their pets part of the family, so you will be caring for people’s family members. You will be responsible for their pets, their home and sometimes their ranch.

If you don’t think pet sitting is for you there are a lot of other jobs and I wish you good luck. If you decide this is a job you’d like to do then keep reading. I will give you some practical tips to guide you. There are some definite things you will need to remember before, during and after you leave a job.

Let’s start at the beginning. If you really want to take this on as a career then you will need advertising. You want to convey the following information.

Who you are (name and any abilities that will help you get work)

What you do (house sitting and be specific, list specific things you do while you are sitting)

How much you charge (list all rates for all jobs)

How your clients can reach you (phone, email address, web site etc.)

Sample Flier

Ali’s Stay At Home Pet Sitting

Because some pets are more comfortable at home.

Pet Care & Home Care (Small Domestic $45.00-$65.00 per 24hrs)

Walking, Feeding, Clean Up, Administer Meds, Cage Cleaning, Bathing, Brushing, Water Plants, Take in Paper, Take Out trash, Collect Mail, Spend the Night.

I make it look like you didn’t leave home!

Ranch Care ($85.00-$105.00 per 24 hrs)

Feed & Water Livestock, Muck Stalls, Pick Up Feed, Clean Pens, Administer Medications, Bathing Animals, Turn Animals out, Put Animals in, stay over night.

References upon request.

Call Ali (555) 555-5555

Fifteen years experience taking care of people’s pets.

Keep the information short but let them know what you do, how much you charge for what you do, and how much experience you have. I actually have experience in dog training and canine water therapy as well, but I only want to let my clients know about my experience as a pet sitter, so I don‘t clutter the flier. Now, I’ve had clients call and ask me about my experienced in handling aggressive dogs. Since I have that knowledge I told them I can do the job, but I also charge more. If I didn’t have the experience in handling an aggressive dog I would probably turn the job down. Do not take a job just for the money. It may end up costing you more in the end.

Once you have your fliers made up take them to local vet offices, feed stores, pet supply houses and in rural areas ask if you can leave fliers at the local general store, delis and check with real estate offices too. Some restaurants also have advertising boards. I do not recommend on line advertising such as Craigslist. I have advertised on such sites and got a lot of scam emails back from it. Stick to local advertising in the areas you want to work.

Try to get letters of recommendation. If you are just starting out ask some of your friends to write letters on how you are with their pets. If you have your own pet also mention that. People want to know their pets are safe with you and that you are trustworthy. Word of mouth will always be your best source of advertising.

Some pet sitters carry insurance and it is not a bad idea. I’ve never had to use mine, but I feel better having it. Some clients will also ask if you are bonded. Bonding is a type of insurance that covers you or any of your employees in case something is taken from a client's house during one of your stays. I actually had a girl working for me that ended up stealing from one of my clients. I was furious and embarrassed, but unfortunately it happens. You don’t have to have bonding for yourself, but since most of my clients have asked me if I was bonded I went ahead and got it. I did carry on myself for a while because most clients don’t know what it really is and they ask for it. If you choose not to carry insurance you may lose out on some jobs, but for the most part if you are sitting for friends it doesn’t become an issue.

Later, I will give you a list of things that will make your house sitting jobs easier, but for now we will work on what to do when you get that first call. Once a client has called and requested your services you are going to set up an introduction visit. This lets your clients meet you and gives you a chance to meet the animals you will be caring for. Take a notebook with you because you will need to write down all the instructions for your stay.

Take a notebook. I tried making up a form, but every house was so different I ended up taking a notebook for notes, anyway. In the book you will list feeding times, how much food, what medications the pets need and at what times, what day the trash is picked up, etc. Below I’ve written out some of the questions you will need answered.

How many pets and what species are they? You can have all kinds of critters to take care of and you will need feeding and care instructions for each of them. Make sure you see all of them. Do a meet and greet.

What type of food does each animal they eat and at what times?

What is their walk schedule and where do they get walked?

Do any of the pets need medications and at what times?

Are there any special care needs, such as bathing for allergies etc?

How are farm animals cared for, again go meet them?

What day is trash picked up, recycle etc?

Where is the mail box?

Do you want me to answer phone, take messages etc?

Do you get the paper and where do you want them put when picked up?

Ask about plant & lawn care and watering house plants.

Where & How about heating & air conditioning?

What am I allowed to use, washer, dryer, computer, television, kitchen appliances etc? Get instructions on how to use each.

Where do I sleep, couch, bedroom, floor?

Any other items I need to be aware of ex: gardener or housekeeper coming by?

Ask if there is any food in the frig you can use, sometimes they will leave milk & may want it used up so it does not go bad.

Be sure to get the key or ask where it is hidden.

Absolutely no parties when you are pet sitting!!! This is a bad business practice all around. When you are at someones house you should be there alone. I have invited my mom to someones house maybe once in all the years I've been sitting. If you have a friend over be sure to ask your clients if its okay first. You need to know how their pets are going to react around strangers.

Don't use things like incense or fragrant candles. These are dangerous to certain animals like birds. Feed their pets only what you are told to feed them. Do not let them get into alcohol or any other toxic products. Be very careful what you do in your client's home. You are responsible for their pet's safety.

When you go to someone’s house to sit you will run into many different living styles. I made a box up for myself that I keep in my car just in case. You never know what situation you will be working in. If your idea of roughing it is a hotel with no room service this may not be a job for you. I’ve worked in places where I needed a sleeping bag and I’ve worked in places where I slept in a king size bed. Be prepared for every situation.

Also when I go to someone’s house I like to be compact. I don’t spread myself all over the house. I keep my suitcase, shoes, laundry bag, sleeping gear it all in one room. I take a small piece of counter for my food and a small area in the frig for my things as well. It’s easier if your keep all your stuff together. There is less chance you will forget your items when you are done with your job. I also keep my toiletries in a bag, so I know what is mine when I leave.

You may or may not be able to do laundry ask, but pack enough clothes to last your entire stay. Also pack the type of clothes you will need for the type of job your are working. If you are going to be working a ranch for a week you won't need evening wear or beach clothes. I find I pack a lot of jeans, sweat pants, sneakers, hiking boots, sweat shirts, t-shirts and good heavy socks. Be aware of the weather, type of terrain, sleeping conditions, showering situations, kitchen amenities, television etc and pack accordingly.

I have sat for people that live very green. They didn’t have a television, water was scarce although they had a little, they had a compost pile and the house was geared toward conservation. I basically camped out that week and I packed like I was going camping. When I pack for a job I usually throw a sleeping bag or bedding in the car, just in case. I also pack my own towels & washcloths, toiletries, blow dryer etc, iron. Again, think camping.

Your clients are not responsible for feeding you. You would have to eat if you were home, so you need to pack your own food to take with you. I have a cooler I pack with all my food for my stay. I put it in the frig when I get to my job. I don’t like to do a lot of cooking while at other people’s houses so I pack easy to fix things like frozen dinners, sandwich ingredients, sodas and iced tea, cereal, fruit, snacks, milk, instant coffee, things like that.

I pack clothes that I can work in comfortably, this usually consists of sweats. Socks and sturdy shoes are a must if you will be walking dogs and open toed shoes are down right dangerous if you are taking care of farm animals. I bring sandals to wear around the house. I use sneakers or hiking boots when walking dogs. If a dog suddenly lunges you have much better traction in sneakers than in flip-flops. Be sure to bring warm clothes for evening. This is what is in my pack when I go to a gig. Pajamas, underwear, socks, t-shirts, jeans, a jacket, sweat pants and sweat shirts, shorts, although when working on a ranch I wear jeans when at the barns. I only pack swim clothes if my clients have a pool and they’ve given me permission to use it. I pack my own towels, beach towels, wash cloths, hand towels, sleeping bag, bedding and pillows

Besides my food and clothes I pack a box that I leave in my car. I take it with me for all of my jobs, even though I may not use it. In the box I keep paper towels, toilet paper, garbage bags, plastic storage bags, Kleenex, plastic utensils, paper plates, foam cups, grocery bags, Aleve, benadryl, Band-Aids, Neosporin, Tums, Pepto Bismol, bottle opener & corkscrew, wet wipes, nail file, q-tips, rubber bands, extension cord, dog poop bags, flash light, batteries, lighter or matches.

I know I’ve mentioned things twice, but I have been places and forgotten most of these things. I’d rather over pack than under pack. When you get to your gig you might be tempted to unpack and spread yourself all over the house, especially if you are going to be staying a while, but don’t. Take it from me you end up leaving things. I’ve had to replace brushes, hair bands, clothes, you name it. Now I keep everything together in one room, kind of like when I stay in a hotel room. I also clean up after myself as I go. I actually had a client come home in the middle of one of my stays. They were at a beach house not far away and she needed paperwork. Thankfully I had vacuumed that morning.

Always leave a house in the same or better condition than you found it. If I’ve slept in a bed, used towels or dish towels I will do a load of laundry before I leave. I wash down kitchen counters, dust, vacuum and clean the bathroom. I stayed at a place where they did not have garbage pick up, so at the end of my stay I packed up my garbage and recyclables and took them back home for my garbage man to pick up.. You really have to go into this with the idea that your clients are paying you to take care of their house. It does them no good to have to come home after vacation and clean up after you.

Your clients will ask you to do many things. If you are given a chore you don’t want to do let your clients know up front. For instance I said no to feeding a snake. In my own opinion snakes are not meant to be pets and I don’t like feeding them live mice. This is my own issue. If you feel comfortable feeding snakes then by all means do so. I think that is the only thing I said no to in all my years of pet sitting.

I have in the past taken care of farm animals, domestic animals, watered plants, cleaned up the yard after the dogs, bathed and brushed dogs, bathed and brushed horses administered medications, put flea protection on, cleaned bird baths, mowed lawns, taken in paper & mail, gone to feed store to buy hay & feed, gone to town to pick up packages at the post office and much more. You never know what you will be asked to do. If you have things you won’t do you need to let your client know up front.

If you have a full time job your clients will need to know. This is time that is going to be taken away from their pets. They will want to know how many hours in the day you will be gone. It may be okay for some of your clients, some it may not.

Always call a client about a week after you have finished a job and check in to see if everything was okay. Were the pets happy, did you leave anything, was every okay when they got home? Its always nice just to check in with your client once you have left.

House sitting can be a fun way to earn extra cash. You may not feel like you are working, but remember that it is a responsibility. There are many people, for many reasons who would prefer to leave their pets at home, so there is a need for professional house sitters. If you choose to become a house sitter take the job seriously. Go visit your client before you actually go and stay. Your clients may give you full access to their house, but be prepared to rough it, too. Always pack like you are going camping to be comfortable. Pack the appropriate clothes for the work you will be doing and the appropriate food for where you will be staying. Enjoy your stay, but remember you are in someone else’s home. Treat it with respect and leave it as clean or cleaner than you found it. It is a nice gesture to call your clients a few days after you have finished the job to make sure everything was good the way they found it and to check on the animals.

Word of mouth spreads quickly so don’t be surprised if you get busy very quickly. Have fun with each new venture and relish in the fact you are getting paid to play. Happy House Sitting.


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    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 5 years ago from Northeastern United States

      I know a lady who kind of fell into becoming a pet sitter. It started with one dog and now is a business, all in her neighborhood. Not only does she love it but she's lost 45 pounds with all the activity!

      Thanks for sharing all this valuable information. Someday I just may become a professional pet sitter!

    • profile image

      Dog Ma 5 years ago

      Thanks compliments are much appreciated.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Great hub, really comprehensive. Voted up.


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