Wednesday, March 23, 2016

So, you want to work with animals ...

Every few months or so, a friend-of-a-friend asks if she can give my email to someone who desperately wants to work with animals but doesn't know where to start. The cousin/brother-in-law/dental hygienist/other-random-acquaintance  is burned out on people and ready to go play with dogs all day. I've gotten to the point where I just cut and paste the same brutally honest but hopefully still motivating response. I think my grand tally of converted dog walkers is 0. Here, dear readers, is what I write:

I got into pet sitting because much like you I wanted to spend my day with animals. I tried applying to tons of places having anything to do with pets, but I didn't get much of a response, likely because they must have been inundated with applicants and my work experience was with humans. Finally I got a job working for a pet sitter, a 45 minute commute away! She couldn't get enough clients for me to make a living, so I worked for another pet sitter 30 minutes away which also had problems staying afloat. (lesson learned: no one wants the new kid on the block to take care of their pet, regardless of how qualified that person may be). Finally, I got a prosperous position working for a pet sitter here in my town and simultaneously started my own pet sitting business because I was very afraid of not having a reliable income. I now run my business full time doing dog walking, pet sitting, overnight house sitting, and in home pet boarding. It's not unusual for all of these services to overlap in the same day.
It took me about two years to build up a solid, full time client load. Just about every pet sitter I know had a moment in the beginning when they had to sit down and have a "come to Jesus" moment where they realized they might have to find another job or continue trying to pet sit and eat ramen noodles for dinner every night. My response to this was to take every single client who called me, which meant that I was taking a lot of clients that other sitters turned down: Christmas clients, people who don't tip, problem dogs, short notice, etc. Don't make the mistake I did! I was so hungry for the work that now it is nearly impossible for me to set boundaries with my clients such as when it is inappropriate to call, ask for a short notice pet sit, etc. It's kind of like gaining weight! I'm now slowly in the process of losing some of that "weight" by hiring help, taking one weekend off per month, and saying no when I already have personal plans.
I could go on and on about my personal experience! I'm also happy to meet you for coffee some time if you have more specific questions.
Also your small business resource center should be a wealth of information. I took a free class from ours and learned everything I needed to know to get registered with the state. Sometimes they offer free business counseling, too.
For insurance, I go through Pet Sitters Associates, LLC. They can insure you for a year for like $200.
But this is all assuming you want to be a pet sitter. My personal favorite is in home boarding, which Pet Sitters Associates can also insure you for. This is easy money, and if space allows maybe you want to do a doggie day care. You can list yourself on websites like dogvacay.com and rover.com
Or maybe you want to take some classes at the community college and become a mobile groomer! The possibilities are endless ...
I hope this helps! Feel free to reach out to me anytime.

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