How Do I Explain Un-Timed Visits To Pet Sitting Clients?

Pet sitters around the world typically do two things when they charge for their services.

They either charge by time or by un-timed visits.

Personally, I don’t believe in charging by time and I think every single pet sitter could do the same, if they wanted to. Here, we will focus on the in’s and out’s of un-timed visits as well as how to get over the mental roadblock of many automatic questions it comes along with.

price of pet sitting

How Will My Clients Still Know That They Are Getting A Good Value For Their Money?

How do they know that 30 minutes equals great pet sitting services?

They don’t.

They have been conditioned to think that.

So is it safe to assume that we can condition them to think a different way? Couldn’t a pet sitter sit there doing nothing for 15 minutes because a cat won’t come out for them? Every client (two and four-legged) is different. Some want you to try and sing and hang out to get the cat to come out, others don’t want you to. Plus, what an amazing marketing technique that could be in your area. “No Time Limit!” When all of your “competition” is charging by time! This is precisely what un-timed visits are all about!

How Can I Find Employees That Won’t Think It Is A Good Way To Go Fast And Not Do A Bad job?

If an employee does a good job or not, it has nothing to do with the amount of time on the clock. Some are lazy. Some are superstars. Some will walk back to the kitchen 5 different times for 5 different things. Others will anticipate what they will need and bring it all at once.  Sometimes they are there for 45-50 minutes. Sometimes they are there for 15. It all depends on the client. Every client is different.

What Do I Tell The Clients Who Ask How Long I Will Be There?

(This is my fav)

Before they even have a chance to say anything…. you tell THEM that you have un-timed visits. Trust me, this really breaks up the momentum of it all. It is like tires screeching and, “Wait…. what?!?”

Then you can explain to them that “This means if Fluffy is scared, we will take the time to try to form a bond. If Fido is sad because Mom is away, we will sit on the floor and hand feed him. Or, if it is a beautiful day and they are really enjoying their walk, we might take an extra lap. Alternativelyif they decide to “redecorate your house” or have an accident and we need to wash materials… we will be there to get it done. We are more concerned about you and your pets happiness and less about the ticking on the clock! I usually tell them that if any emergencies arise, we deal with that 100% with no extra charge for our time. Un-timed visits mean we are there for a quality time… not a quantity!” 

Another benefit to this type of thinking, and what always makes the client feel great is when you say, “If we charged by time, you would come home to an extra bill for extra time spent. With us, you will never have an extra bill. We provide a full service, quality service, guaranteed!”

This is almost verbatim what I say to people on the phone.

If they ask you again, how much time (which by this time, since I brought up the objection myself….AND showed them the value they hardly ever ask) I tell them average visits for households like yours are…. (insert time span here. 20-30 min 25-35 min 25-45 min) It all depends on their situation.

What About Dog Walks?

“Our average dog walk is between 20-30 minutes. Just depends on the day and the dog!” See? That is un-timed too!

What If They Insist on A Certain Time?

If clients are demanding an exact time and that isn’t what you provide you can do two things. One, tell them you don’t have a service that will fit their needs. Two, offer then another service like pet sitting by the hour. Which, in my company, is not a visit. It is like baby sitting. It is by the hour.

It Is A Frame Of Mind

Are you a rigid business owner? Do you have a micro or macro management style? How are your marketing skills? How do you set yourself aside from the rest? Not charging by time doesn’t mean that a business owner is a rip-off or being evasive. It just simply means they like to do things different than the normal. Sometimes it could really offer the business a way to stand out above the rest. It is all in the way that the business owner views and manages this situation. A pet sitting business owner could “not charge by time” but then say that every visit is typically between 20-40 minutes. Is that charging by time? Nope. That is a range and not specific. If a pet sitting business owner charges by time and says $20 for 30 minutes, I firmly believe the client should be charged for 10 or 15 minutes extra if the pet sitter is there. After all, that WOULD be charging by time, right? But many do not. (Sorry, I know I am repeating myself but I think it is a huge point to make!)

Why Is This The Way I Choose To Do Business?

  • My staff isn’t watching the clock and “waiting” for time to pass on those houses that just are low maintenance.
  • When you have a saturated area, (clients on the same street/building) sometimes you can do 3 -4 visits in an hour or hour and fifteen minutes. It all depends on the situations. This is great for your staff and for your business. Although this is more connected to your marketing plan.
  • My clients are more concerned about the quality of the work. The warm and fuzzies. The intangible feeling and understanding that we “get” their pet like they do.
  • My staff LOVES it. They feel like they are always on the move and they have the freedom to do a great job. Honestly, more often than not they spend more time than I think they should but they have the option to do that and make a difference.
  • It offers me a HUGE way to differentiate my business from the other 40 pet sitting companies in my area. Saying off the bat, “No Time Limit!”  People do a double take because for all the other websites they were searching everything is 30 minutes for $X. Now, truth be told, there is one “competitor” who recently just followed my lead… 🙂 It helps our brand message be quite different!

Who Isn’t This Method Good For?

As with all things in life, everything isn’t for everyone. Just like timed visits aren’t for me. Un timed visits aren’t for others. The business owners that think this method wouldn’t be good for are those who run a rigid ship where everything is defined. I am not sure of the best way to say it, but “structured” seems like the best description. There is an exact exchange of $20 for 30 minutes. You know exactly what you are getting (time) and it is measurable. When you don’t charge by time, it is less measurable. Although, what is being cared for is almost immeasurable. I mean, when was the last time you rated your happiness on a number scale?


Still Don’t Believe Me?

That’s okay. You don’t have to.  Believe Becki:

untimed visits pet sitting

Your Turn:

How do you charge your clients? Do you charge by time or no time and WHY? Do you think I am right with what I just wrote to you above or do you disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts and how you do things!

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20 replies
  1. Laura Brwon
    Laura Brwon says:

    Great Article – this is the first time some one has articulated this issue in a manner for me that makes sense – i have been contemplating doing this in the beginning i have been very ridged but this past 4-6 months i have changed the way I’m doing things and this past Xmas was a perfect example – i was not nearly as stressed – i still worked really hard but i literally did not write up a time schedule the first time in 12 Xmas holidays i did not do this
    thank you –

  2. Jenna Trethewey
    Jenna Trethewey says:

    I agree 110% with un timed visits. I started out charging by time, but found myself always spending more than the agreed 30 minutes, mostly because I was having fun. I never charged extra for the additional time. I finally realized that charging a little more for un timed visits was a win win for everyone. The people feel good knowing we are there as long as their pets need us and know we are providing a quality service.

    • Bella Vasta
      Bella Vasta says:


      So glad you agree! Pet sitters do often spend more time at a clients house…. unpaid. If the barometer is going to be time then it is important to continue with the time as a way of being paid.

  3. Karen Levy
    Karen Levy says:

    I greatly appreciate your thorough explanation, but for some reason I just can’t wrap my mind around this concept. It’s so difficult for me to conceptualize this. I just have such a mental block on this subject. Sigh.

    • Bella Vasta
      Bella Vasta says:


      Thanks for your comments. I get it… it is a tough concept to wrap one’s head around. I’d be happy to answer any specific questions you have. Otherwise, if you can’t persuade yourself of it, you probably can’t persuade clients of it. It isn’t a one size fits all companies! 🙂

  4. Tripp Barrett
    Tripp Barrett says:

    So, I currently have a few different options on my website and PPS portal. I am SO going to change it from “15-minute, half hour, 45 minutes, blah, blah, blah), to an untimed visit. I feel that as long as my staff and I are able to do what we need to do, and do it well, we should not have to spend longer than it takes, or less than it takes because “that’s the time the client paid for.” WOW! Thank you so much for sharing this with us! You are a lifesaver!

  5. Lucy
    Lucy says:

    I’ve been thinking about this concept, lately. Thank you for answering many of the questions I had on how to approach this way of service with potential clients. A big question I have is how do you pay your staff? Do they submit a time sheet at the end of a pay period? Or, do you just figure an average visit length and pay that amount per visit? Or, some other way? Thanks for helping me piece together the puzzle!

  6. genna
    genna says:

    I charge by time only because people feel comfortable with being given a time. Almost 100% of the time i stay much longer and the client doesnt even know it. I think this is a great idea and i love how you explain it to them so they know they are getting quality rather than just quantity.

  7. Pam
    Pam says:

    Bella, does this concept work only for
    Pet Sitters w/ employees ?
    I am a solo pet sitter,
    How would I stay on schedule?

  8. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Bella, this is great! The one thing that’s giving me grief, however, is: if you’re paying per visit and visits can go up to an hour (for example) – how do you make sure your staff are always getting minimum wage? If my staff are getting $8 pay per visit, and the visit ends up taking an hour, they would then be making way below min wage (which at the moment is $11.40/hr). Does it even out with the shorter visits in their day?

    Also, what’s your limit when scheduling a time block? How can you be sure there’s enough time for all the visits you’ve scheduled? Thanks!

    I know there’s a lot of questions but I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around this. I love the idea in theory but there are so many uncertainties! It almost feels like giving myself more work to try and keep track of hours worked to make sure I’m complying with min wage.

    • Bella
      Bella says:

      HI Sarah!

      I think you might be overthinking it!
      To the client – No time limit
      To the sitter – min of 20 min, not more than 40 min.

      To answer your min wage question (and also depends on State DOL) If you are paying $8 per visit… that means it is $12 an hour.

      Does that help?

      The Pricing Structure and Strategy class goes through this a LOT! 🙂

      • Sarah
        Sarah says:

        Yes, that’s very helpful. 🙂 Thank you! Does the pricing class go over how to switch current clients from timed visits to un-timed? (I have several clients on 45-min and 1-hr walks, how do I explain that I can’t offer that exact length of time anymore?)

  9. Heather Branch
    Heather Branch says:

    Boom! Thank You for explaining this! I have been saying this for years now that we are not selling Time we are selling Pet Care. I need to conceptualize & revamp my prices & marketing to reflect this. Thank You for putting this out there -I totally agree!

  10. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    I feel this is essentially how I do things but I charge by time because that’s all I knew. I’m trying to figure out how you know what to tell people they owe and then how do you pay your workers, hourly or salary? maybe by house I want more info on this please

  11. Alicia Valdés-Pagés
    Alicia Valdés-Pagés says:

    I feel like saying 20-30m, like I do is saying, depending on your pets and situation that day, we may be there 20m or up to 30m. Would that be considered “untimed” even though essentially it is being timed because it is limited and capped?


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