Yeeesh, this blog post has been a long time coming, and I’m sorry. I’ve been promising this for weeks, so finally, here it is!
If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know one of my side hustles is cat sitting. I visit cats in their own homes and feed them 1-2 times per day while their owners are away, and get paid for it. If you love cats, it’s a great way to earn a little extra cash, so if your ears are perking up like a cat hearing a can of tuna be opened, good, because this blog will explain how to make money pet sitting, how much money you can make pet sitting, and how to get started pet sitting in your local area.
How I started pet sitting
In February 2017, I listed a profile on Pawshake, which is a website where you can search and book local pet sitters. I wrote myself a little bio, uploaded some photos of me and my cat, and then the wait began. About 3 months later, I got my first booking, and from there I got a review, and then more and more bookings came in, and I was getting repeat bookings once a family was happy with me. That Christmas I got booked for sitting for about 7 clients over the peak 2 week period, so I made about $1500 after the Pawshake fees.
Then in January 2018, I shutdown my Pawshake profile, took out my own Public Liability Insurance (as that was previously included in Pawshake’s fees), and set up on my own. I texted all my regular Pawshake clients to let them know, and about 80% of them stayed with me. I’ve been getting regular bookings from about 6-8 clients for over a year now, which is really where the effortless income started. They know me, they trust me, and I know their home and their cats really well now. They just drop me a text, I book them into my spreadsheet, and boom, done.
What’s the process of getting booked?
Usually, I’ll get a message via my Facebook page from a potential booking. I’ll chat to them about their dates they need, and what their cats are like, and then arrange a time to visit them at home. When I go round, I have a security procedure, which I explain at the end of this post. At the meet and greet, they’ll show me where everything is, and sometimes give me a key or explain where they’ll leave the key before they go away. I’ll meet the cat and ask any questions, and then usually proceed to book them in on my spreadsheet. After that, all communication is via text or Facebook message. I send them a confirmation message, and a request for payment into my account (or to confirm that they’ll leave cash), and set a deadline for any digital payments. Then finally, the day before the booking starts, I send another confirmation message double checking the dates and any special notes, and wish them a safe trip.
What do you do on each pet sitting visit?
In my experience of sitting for cats in my local area, I tend to go into the house, feed the cat, have a bit of playtime, scoop the litter tray/do a full litter change and then any other tasks that need doing like putting the bins out/in, and watering plants as requested by the owner. I also send a daily photo update of the pet, so the owners know they’re doing okay.
How much can you earn from pet sitting?
This can vary depending on where you live, the overall level of demand, your availability and your experience.
I began charging $15 per visit, and have recently raised my rates for most of my clients to $20 per visit. Some pet sitters will charge up to $40 or $50 per day, or charge per additional animal, but I keep my rates pretty low for two reasons:
- I really love cats, and I genuinely want to help cat owners by providing an affordable sitting service.
- Cats will always command a lower fee than dogs, just because they’re much more independent and don’t need walking.
The real key to good earnings for a pet sitting side hustle is repeat business. While you might turn your nose up at $100 for 5 days of driving round to visit a cat – plus going over to meet the owner and introduce yourself, plus learning where the food is and how the key works and all that jazz – remember that more often than not, that same owner will book you again and again and again. People go away a lot, whether for work, visiting family, holidays, family illness, etc. If you’re their trusted pet sitter, you’ll get work very regularly, with absolutely no effort required in terms of prospecting that business or advertising your services.
In the current financial year (July 1st to today) I made $2800 from pet sitting, before expenses.
The pros of a pet sitting side hustle
- You get to be paid to hang out with cats, and look, what’s better than that?!
- You can work on your own terms, and generally complete the visit when it suits your schedule. I work full time 8.30-5, so I go before and after work. As long as you’re upfront with the owners about that, they’re usually fine.
- Generally it’s pretty easy work. Sure, driving over to the house when it’s 42 degrees outside can be a bit of a chore, but it’s only short jobs rather than long shifts.
- It doesn’t take much brain power, so if you have a full-on day job, it can actually be quite nice to switch off and do something more procedural.
- You’re helping the local community by providing trusted, affordable pet care.
- You work on your own terms, and accept bookings based on the profitability for you and when you want to work.
- Every kilometre you drive is tax deductible, so make sure you’re on top of your record keeping.
- Referral business is pretty common. I’ve had regular clients refer their friends to me for sitting, and they’ve ended up becoming long term clients, too.
- You tend get repeat work once you’ve onboarded a client. I’m actually now at a point where most of my pet sitting income comes from repeat business. I’ve been meaning to put flyers out in my local area, but I just haven’t needed to prospect for the business yet.
Cons of a pet sitting side hustle
Like most side hustles, there are always downsides. Particularly with making money from pet sitting, it’s not all furry fun and games.
- Sometimes you’ll get sick while you’ve got a booking, and unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. Of course, if you get really, really sick and can’t complete the visit, you’d have to sort something out with the client, but if you get a really bad cold or in my case, break your elbow (seriously), it’s kinda still your responsibility to sort out an alternative. When you think about the fact that your client has gone on holiday, often overseas, you need to make sure you can deliver the service you promised. Try to have a friend or family member on hand who would be willing to help you out if something did happen.
- You HAVE to be okay with picking up animal poo and vomit. Some pets will throw up when their owners are away out of stress or just by chance. And yes, it’s your responsibility to clean it up.
- Petrol prices vary a lot, so calculating how much it’ll cost you to drive to the booking can be hard to predict, meaning your profits fluctuate.
- I’m always anxious about my car breaking down, but it’s just something you have to swallow. Again, having a back up plan for if that happened is really the only way to prepare.
- 80% of the time I’m more than happy doing my pet sitting, but sometimes it does become a real disruption, especially over holiday periods like Easter and Christmas. You’ll find yourself torn between making money over the peak period, and actually enjoying the time off. Be very careful to check your diary before you accept a booking, to make sure you haven’t booked a night away or an event where you’ll be drinking and therefore unable to drive to the booking that night.
- Chasing payments is a major downside to setting up on my own. The beauty of platforms like Pawshake is that the client has to pay upfront, and then Pawshake pays you. Now though, I have to chase payments, check my account to reconcile who has paid and who hasn’t, and troubleshoot when payments aren’t being made on time.
- The responsibility of people’s homes is quite full on, especially over Christmas when burglaries are quite common. Find a system that works for you to ensure you ALWAYS double and triple check you’ve locked everything correctly. The same goes for keys. I try to keep my client keys safe at home so I can’t lose them when I’m out and about. I’ve woken up in the middle of the night before panicking that I’d lost a set of keys, but I hadn’t!
- Initial meet ups take time, and tend to be unpaid (though some people do charge for the initial meeting and key exchange). While it can be annoying driving round to someone’s house before they’ve even committed to booking you, remember the potential for repeat business.
Safety and security of pet sitting
The security and safety aspect is something I had to systemise, particularly as a woman. When someone contacts me for sitting, I ask for their full name and sometimes occupation, and do my research to make sure they have some kind of digital footprint and that their story about themselves checks out. I’ll sometimes ask for photos of their cats in advance, too. Then, whenever I’m going round for an initial meeting and key exchange, I tell my boyfriend the contact’s name and address, and message him when I’m going in. Then I’ll send him a signal via message to let him know everything’s legit. I also have my location turned on in ‘Find My Friends’ on iPhone during visits, so if I’m shoved in a bin bag and driven away in a white van, he can track my location. It might sound extreme, but it’s really just an extra layer of security that helps me stay safe. Clients are usually more than happy with this procedure, too, and may ask similar security information about you, since you’re the one entering their home.
How to start a pet sitting side hustle
I personally think starting out on a platform like Pawshake is a great way to test how much you actually like doing pet sitting, and it’s an easy way to start getting your first clients. Alternatively, you could jump straight into advertising on Facebook and in local community groups, and see if you can get your first clients that way. Remember to explain why you’re great with animals (i.e. have you had cats yourself?) and whether you’ve any direct or indirect experience. Be quick and polite when responding to enquiries, and if you can’t accomodate the dates the client is asking about, try to tee up a meet and greet anyway, for future booking potential. Not all sitters are available all the time, so by explaining to them that it’s worth having more than one sitter on hand, you could secure some back up biz next time they go away.
Building up a portfolio of regular clients takes time, but it can be very tidy side income once you’re established! If you have any other pet sitting questions, slide into my Instagram DMs or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my absolute best to reply.
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