Want to work from home but not sure what you can do? The Hot Home Business Directory helps you find a business to run out of your home, lists the skills you need to do it and tells how to get started and where to get more information. Read on to find out if this Hot Home Biz is for you!
Pet sitting is an up and coming business catering to the millions of pet owners needing extra help during the work week, vacations or prolonged illness. A number of errand runners have branched out into this niche service, and many have found it to be a business that can involve the whole family.
What You'll Do: Care for other people's pets either in your own home or in the owners' homes. Responsibilities may include feeding, boarding, cleaning, trips to the vet, walking, playing with and exercising dogs or larger animals for owners who are working full-time, on vacation or ill.
Skills You'll Need: A passion for pets! Animal lovers will enjoy this type of business the most, as will those with a nurturing personality and a calm, patient attitude. You'll also need:
- A working knowledge of the traits and habits of various household pets, including different breeds of dogs, cats, birds, horses, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, exotic fish and other pets you may come across.
- Good people skills. You must project a feeling of trust, reliability and professionalism to your customers. Pets are loved like members of the family, and you have to convey the feeling that you share your customers' emotional ties, enthusiasm and concerns.
- Time-management skills. You'll have to organize a schedule that will accommodate several customers a day, if necessary, without shortchanging anyone. Be prepared for sporadic business -- summer and holidays can be extremely busy.
- The ability to create a safe, playful environment for pets. Lots of energy is a plus!
Start-Up Costs: To operate a pet sitting business that doesn't include boarding in your home, your initial investment should be relatively small. You will need:
- Marketing materials to emphasize your specialty (big dogs, exotic birds, etc.). This includes letterhead, business cards, flyers and possibly an ad in the local newspaper and a Yellow Pages listing. Total will run about $500.
- Liability insurance and bonding. Insurance is necessary in case of injury or damage to a customer's pet or home. Rates vary greatly, so check with several insurance companies on the Internet, as well as your agent; the range is $255 to $590 and up annually. You may also want to consider insurance to protect yourself against bodily injury if attacked by a pet. Bonding is necessary to promise security and trust to a customer, and in some cases, establish your credibility; cost is $50 to $300.
If you are boarding pets, add the following:
- Insurance to protect your property against damage
- Cages, bedding, food, feeding dishes, leashes and toys for prolonged care
What to Charge: You can research prices by checking with errand runners, other pet sitters, pet groomers and vets. Most charge $10 to $16 for one visit per day; $18 to $25 for two or more visits. Some specific examples:
A Kansas woman charges $11 for one visit per day, $18 for two visits and $25 for three.
An Oregonian pet-sitter charges $12 for one visit per day and $20 for two visits.
The Canadian-based owner of A Gift of Time has set these rates:
- $16 per 30-minute visit for one pet (includes walking, feeding, playing and cuddling)
- $18 per 30-minute visit for two or more pets
- A daily rate for dogs starting at $28, which includes two to three visits per day
How to Break In:
- Many areas require a license to operate a pet care business. Check with your county or state business office and obtain a license, if necessary.
- Create a detailed flyer or letter describing your qualifications and trustworthiness.
- Market your business to working couples, housebound elderly and vacationing families. Leave flyers and business cards describing your services at veterinarians' offices, supermarkets, pet stores and corporate human resources offices.
- Create a Website for your services. Include the URL on all your marketing materials.
- Place a small ad in the local newspaper or community yellow pages, offering a coupon or discount for the first month of pet sitting.
- Purchase inexpensive promotional "trinkets" with a pet theme to hand out to potential customers at community events or fairs. Dog and cat treats or pet-themed magnets, key chains (to hold a customer's house keys!) or pads of paper are popular.
- Hold a pet-care day at the elementary school or community center to educate owners about their pets and promote your services.
- Since trust is very important, word of mouth is often the best way to attract clients.
- Network with corporate concierges and errand runners to send customers your way.
- iVillage Errand Runners message board -- tips and support from other pet sitters
- Pet Sitting for Profit by Patti Moran -- book written by a professional pet-sitter for those trying to break into the niche
- Pet Sitters International -- educational and networking site; insurance information
- Pet Sitters Yellow Pages -- comprehensive site for pet-sitting businesses
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