The pet sitting industry is a beautiful thing. I mean think about it. You’re loving on all different sorts of fuzzy creatures and are PAID to do so. But, there are a few things you must know before becoming a pet sitter.
As the on demand economy keeps expanding, there are websites like rover.com, dogvacay.com, and care.com that allow you to feel a sense of security when you sign up to be a pet sitter.
Because their leading attractor is that you are covered under their insurance plans and you have access to their brand name recognition.
Seems exciting, right?
Well, maybe not so fast. Let’s take a deeper look.
How Does Insurance Actually Work When Becoming A Pet Sitter?
When becoming a pet sitter for one of these websites, you really want to look long and hard at their policy information. Be 100% sure what you’re getting into. Like, who is covered? What if a dog attacks you and a dog you are walking? What about if a dog or cat attacks you during a meet n’ greet? Does the policy cover your own pets? your own property? or even oneself?
I have actually done an interview with an insurance expert who helps you find the answers to these questions. In fact, he breaks down for you exactly what you should be covered for when becoming a pet sitter.
The short answer: Most of these policies cover the client and the client’s pet after a $200-$500 deductible is paid.
Are the Services You Provide Even Legal?
I am not saying I am a lawyer by any means… but I have been known to do a little digging like a beagle. What I discovered is eye opening and something I feel like more pet sitters need to know. You see, a lot of people who start out, call themselves pet sitters but what they really do is accept pets into their own home. This is called boarding or kenneling.
Understandably, it is a question that many pet sitters don’t think about. Just the fact that you can sign up on a website and start accepting dogs in your home almost implies that it is ok. Right?
Did you know that in most cities you actually need a permit to operate a boarding or kennel facility?
In fact, I wrote about it in depth here.
You find the answer to this question by reaching out to the zoning division at city hall. From there, find out how many pets you’re legally allowed to keep in your home in exchange for money. Usually there’s a limited amount before you need a license, permit, or to be zoned properly.
If you don’t take heed, all it takes is one nosey neighbor to make their own phone call and boom! Zoning is knocking on your door threatening to board up your house. Not to mention, any consistent money you have been making and come accustom to.
But don’t just take my word for it:
I recently did an interview with a pet sitter who almost had her business shut down because she wasn’t initially following her state’s zoning laws. Her neighbors are the ones who got the city involved. So yes, this is real stuff that you should consider when becoming a pet sitter.
Maybe you only accept one or two pets at a time. Maybe your city doesn’t have any limitations to this. You could be in the right, or wrong. But I urge you to do everything the right way. Run a legal business that you can go to sleep at night and be proud knowing that you are running your business legally and on your way to professionalism.
What Are Your Goals When Becoming A Pet Sitter?
If you’re looking for a way to make some money on the side, then becoming a pet sitter may be perfect for you. It is easy money for mostly great pets. You can control your schedule. Decide when you want the extra pitter patter in your home.
However, if your goal is to truly build and grow a business of your own, these websites are probably not a good match. Why? Because you are contractually prohibited from taking any clients that you find on these websites.
You also are encouraged to severely undercut your competition in order to get any bookings. The websites themselves suggest this when you sign up as a way to “get clients from the start.”
As your pet business coach, I am here to tell you: that isn’t a good philosophy to live by.
Keep in mind that people use these freelance websites because they don’t want to pay professional prices. They want a cheap deal. So, if your prices are too high then they move right along to the next sitter.
Because of this, it is really tough to charge what an independent sitter does in order to make a decent, livable wage.
So I would suggest that being on these sites is a GREAT IDEA if it is a side job… but if you intend to start your own business, it is time to skip to the next step and start your own business.
When You Become A Pet Sitter, You Automatically Have 2 Business Partners
Did you realize that when you sign up as a website pet sitter you actually are taking on two business partners? First, you have the website that takes an average of 20% of your earnings. Then, you have Uncle Sam who takes another (give or take) 20%. That is a lot of money out the window!
When you are on these sites, you are called an Independent Contractor. It means that work is being contracted out to you and you are expected to pay quarterly taxes, or get a tax bill at the end of the year. So make sure you save!
What Does this All Mean?
From the outsider looking in, these sites are essentially tech companies looking to make money. Some are more successful than others simply because of their fundraising efforts.
While it’s great that they offer business essentials like basic insurance coverage and access to a client base, all that glitters isn’t gold and you need to understand exactly what you are getting into.
These app companies even admit they are primarily tech companies. Safety is an issue, especially working with dogs. I see people offer such low prices they aren’t even covering their travel nor making even minimum wage. Devaluing the profession of pet sitting & driving down living conditions. If an independent pet sitter were to insure independent contractors, they’d risk mis-classification of employees as ICs.
Everything you said it so on point! Hopefully people will see through the illusion that they are tech companies and everyone (pet parents and pet sitters will do their due diligence! – Bella
“Contractually” forbidden to take on clients outside of the platform?! Totally laughable!
I used to dog sit through DogVacay (now Rover), and amassed a decent number of clientele. When they deactivated my account because of an unwarranted complaint (they encouraged me to withhold some information about the complaining customer’s dog while in my care such as his vomiting due to stress and separation anxiety–but I was truthful to the customer anyway), I contacted all of the guests whose dogs I have watched through their platform. And in one fare swoop, with little to no effort, convince them to jump ship and continue to have their dogs watched by me. There is no way for DogVacay, Rover, Wag, etc. to enforce this “contractually prohibited from taking any clients” found through them lol!
It’s been about 5 years since my break with DogVacay. I’m now an independent licensed and insured pet sitter who handles between 20~30 active clients at any given calendar year and have generated enough profit to quit my regular job and do pet sitting full time. Positive word of mouth goes a long way.
I also shared my experience of DogVacay with some of the sitters I’ve found through them and they all agreed with me, and have since all severed ties with them and take on their guests independently. I even helped them all formulate liability-release contracts.
In light of the ever-increasing incidents with these apps, I’m glad I’m not longer associated with them. I don’t need their brand to tarnish MY reputation!
Wonderful for you! It sounds like you are off to a great start! I was reporting what their agreement says. Of course everyone is entitled to do what they want and you are right – I haven’t seen them suing anyone. They are a tech company that is an incubator for the pet sitting and dog walking industry. Plain and simple. – Bella
I’m in a similar situation, whi are you licensed and insured with? Please pass along any tips!
You present these points as if the only option available to people signing up is to take in pets to their home. This is hardly the case.
I have been with Rover for 4 years and have thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve built in that time, and have no qualms about either what I charge. The fee that clients pay to Rover above your personal fee pays for admin, access to a vet 24/7 in case of emergency, a platform to market yourself, and yes part of insurance costs. Of course there is a company charge to you to provide services that only you – the sitter – provide your clients. And when building a new business – with any business – undercutting your competition is completely fair game. They offer this advice under their Q&A, not as any kind of requirement to begin. You build clientele by providing good service consistently and gaining strong verified reviews.
I do not take dogs into my own home but not for the reasons you state here. I’m an animal lover and have pets at home of my own – this is their territory and I care for my own pets as if they were my children, a common trait with many pet owners. My hard and fast rule is that I don’t allow it – a “stranger”, so to speak, because I value my own privacy, my own pets’ well being, and to control any unusual or undesired circumstances such as fleas, fights or bites. This is why house sitting is a common feature to check when setting up your profile. Potential clients who want to board their dogs while on vacation see that you don’t offer that and move on.
I have several well established clients who would rather develop a relationship with someone they trust, who can stay at their home during these times of vacation, etc. and who will bond with their animal in their own surroundings. My clients are professionals and have no problem paying my set prices because they’ve received proven quality. It takes time to build trust. All clients leave reviews as well.
With any business you work on as an independent contractor, you are required to report income for and pay taxes on as self employment, if over a certain legally required amount. That’s the Tax law.. Doing it off the platform once you’ve developed relationships nullifies your insurance because it’s being misrepresented. If you’re caring for a pet and an emergency happens, yet you’ve circumvented your marketing source and signed obligation, why should you receive support on that incident? It’s called working with integrity and honesty in business and your believe complaint here is akin to suggesting that folks do anything to bypass an honest system.
Additionally out of these regular clients, the ones who do repeatedly book my service and use me exclusively do so because they know and trust their pet is getting taken care of. I often receive tips on top of what they’ve already paid for the service. In two of the cases the tip has been at our over 100%… How often does that happen in an on-demand job like food delivery? Rarely if ever.
I’ve made over $15K through this business in less than 4 full years. I’m able to pick the jobs I want, control the circumstances around me, and spend wonderful time with great pets. I am also a full time college student, so my intentions were never to make this a “living”, but it beats the hell out of thankless delivery jobs, minimum wage burger flipping or retail work, and has allowed me to build an excellent reputation while doing so. Your article is presented as if there’s not much to hope for and it’s a near-scam. Neither is true by a long shot.
Incidentally I’ve had two circumstances with two different stays that have caused me to call for help or rather guidance from Rover’s emergency line. Neither were including an immediate or perceived danger to the pet, but rather for advice on how to handle something. On both occasions, the advice was to share everything with the owner and never have I been asked to lie or misrepresent the facts to the owner. Rover has always handled themselves with complete integrity over the entire time I’ve been with them.
If you’re going to write an article like this, don’t skew it to only present a one-sided and inaccurate assessment. That’s just unskilled and predatory click-baiting. You get out of It what you put in..
Thanks so much for your time to write out your feelings. I very much value them! At what points of my article do you feel I did you injustice? -Bella
I understood that we are not able to accept tips, part of our rover contract, Ive always turned tips down. Please advise.
Eileen, I would refer back to where you saw that. I don’t understand why you couldn’t accept tips? – Bella
It very much sounds like you are in fact working in an admin position for Rover or the like while pretending to be a student working part time for Rover. It’s just so obvious in your writing. Maybe it would be less obvious if you naturally had some unbiased views – no one is 100% complaint free when working for someone else. I have been the #1 pet sitter in Phx AZ for over 20 years. When I started this industry out there were only 2 other “professional pet sitters” in all of AZ. People wanting to get into this industry used to call me fishing for details of my business hoping to start one of their own, professing to the disguise of their call at the end. Now, there’s a pet sitter on every corner. I would NEVER succumb to working for the likes of Rover or similar – they take away all of your autonomy and money. I checked it out last month purely out of curiosity and could not believe the fees they were asking – I started out over 20 years ago asking for what they are charging now. Ridiculous. If a client is over 2 miles from my resident then I charge $30. a visit – if within 1-2 miles it’s $25. a visit for up to 30 minutes. I believe this is still too low. But, I need to stay somewhat competitive. I don’t know one single service industry that would show up to someone’s home, much less clean up dog poop, cat litter/throw up through out home; feed, walk, administer meds (this alone should be a flat $50-$60 rate if not more); water plants, take in mail, take out trash cans, etc for $25-$30. Until each pet sitter wakes up and starts charging more for their valuable time we will all look back in another 10 or more years and this cap on rates will still be in affect – making just above min wage for each job!
My comment above (from #1 Pet Sitter in Phx) was directed towards K. Peters, not Bella.
There’s alot of opinions about Rover, as the experience generally isn’t one size fits all. It’s one of those things where you have to try it and see how well a particular sitter works, then go back to them if they are the right sitter for you. That’s what it sounds like to me, anyway. Good article Bella! Keep it up!
It’s heartbreaking to read stories about bad experiences with pet sitters. On behalf of the global pet sitting community, I apologize to any Pet Parent who has had a bad pet sitting experience. It gives makes pet sitting seem to be untrustworthy as a whole, which is a harsh and untrue conclusion.
I’ve been an in-home International Petsitter since 2012 and I travel full-time. Never would you hear any pet sitter horror stories from any of my Pet Parents around the world. I have been invited back for additional pet sits 100% of the time.
It’s unfortunate that some pet sitters do a bad job. It’s also unfortunate that people are more motivated to share negative experiences online than they are to share positive ones.
What kind of paperwork do you need to become a dog sitter and what kind of license do you need to become a doctor as well I just want to know so I can be up to note on what to do
Call your city hall and ask. It varies from place to place.