Mr. Bopper and I are discussing starting a pet sitting business. We both have experience as vet techs so we know a good bit about general animal care.
Has anyone started a business like this? Any suggesions or comments? I know we need General Liability Insurance but what else should we consider? I am reasearching information on the internet but getting comments from people who have done this would be great.
My pet sitter ist bonded, licensed and insured.
Her husband recently retired and they are now both doing the pet sitting business. Not sure how profitable it is - I think it would be okay as a second (smaller) income.
My pet sitter operates in a large city - she charges $20.00 per visit.
Also check for bulletin boards for pet sitters. It will reveal the good, the bad, and the weird to make sure you want to get into this.
I farm sat for residential, boarding and breeding facilities for many years, and also house sat and cared for cats and dogs on the side. Insurance and contracts are mandatory! The above group has good rates for insurance, and it covers a lot. Check with your state's laws on bonding. Here I would only have to do this if someone helped me, which was never the case, so I just went with insurance. For the most part the busy season for horse sitting was Memorial Day to the end of October, dog and cat sitting was more common year round, with big spikes during school vacation times. I also have a friend who dog sits in her home. She is hugely popular on Cape Cod, to the point where people in Connecticut and W. Mass. send their dogs to her when they go on vacation. She also cares for cats and dogs in their own homes locally.
For dogs, I always walk them without getting near other dogs or walkers to minimize the risk of bites or injuries and stay away from dog parks. I'll take a dog to play dates only if they have been pre-arranged between the owners. And for in-house visits I make sure there is a spare key available in case I forget it inside the house. The insurance will cover lost keys as well. If you are good, advertise with your local vets, farriers, tack shops, pet supply shops, groomers and locally related advertising. I met one person who dog sat for folks during work hours, and always left a care card each day on the counter/table for the owner so they would know the service had been rendered and all went well (or didn't). Have the name of your business and tel # on the card. If you are good, you could end up with the whole neighborhood to take care of!
Well, a business license, bonding and insurance are biggies. Get a DUNS number and then incorporate (Sub S perhaps....talk to a good lawyer, it's worth the money).
Figure out how much time you have and make sure you don't over-schedule how much time you need to "do it correctly".
What will make you a different vendor from your competition? Why should they hire you?
Don't sell yourself too cheaply! What are your fixed costs (land/labor/capital/entrepreneurship) and variable costs (gas goes up, transportation costs go up). What do you want/need to make an hour/day/week? Price yourself accordingly.
Good suggestions Trak! And though it's good advertising, don't get those magnetic signs you put on the car doors to advertise-they are great advertising, but bad for informing neighbors and passers-by that the home owners are gone. And make sure you limit your geographic area, or have a mileage rate too or you'll lose money on some clients. A few services I know are very popular for home visits without pets, and they take in the mail, newspapers, put garbage cans in and out, so no one knows the homeowners are gone. The ones around here that do a home visit, walk puppy, clean up messes, and then call to say they've been there and how things went cost $30 a day for one visit. And this is in a fairly cheap area to live (the Columbus, GA area), so $20 might be low.
I'm not sure if your sitting pets in their home or yours. I know a lot of people have their clients bring over dogs to their home and run a doggy day care. If this is what you are planning check your local zoning and animal control laws and codes, because they may require you to get a kennel permit.
Don't forget to get lots of insurance for yourself...injuries, dog bites, injuries etc. that can put you out of action.
Do you wish to hire "independent contractors" to also do dog sitting/walking? You don't want them as employees (to many costs involved) vs. contractors. If you just set up the appointments for them they can legally be considered ICs.
Don't forget what to do if you're sick or stuck due to bad weather? How dependable will you be if things "happen"? Do you have friends you can depend on to help if things go tits up?
Have a partnership with a good local kennel in case a pet needs to be boarded...a win-win proposition since they may recommend you to their customers.
Vets...you'll want to have an agreement that if the pet's vet is needed, you can take them to the vet (or an emergency vet if after hours) and the owner will pay the bill....sort've a doggie "living will". You sure don't want to take a dog to the vet only to hear, "But we didn't authorize those charges". and you're stuck. Not good.
I'm an IC. I'm actually pretty damn burned out. It's working basically holidays and weekends. You make your money on holidays.
Now, granted, I work a full time job as well.
The pets are generally good. It's the people that suck. I've now been screamed at by angry neighbors on 3 occasion and had one take pics of me with a telephoto (well, 2... it was scary and I was glad the dog I was walking was a pit).
The hours are weird- you get a lot of am visits and people love the late night potty break- so I am up at 5 am, then out until 10pm. I've worked a few full days and you get small breaks. The traffic is a killer- anything over a 5-10 minute drive one way is a waste. If you can link visits together that helps, but it rarely happens.
Charge enough for yourself- our service charges $20 for a 30 minute visit.