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.