How to Start a Home-Based Pet-Sitting and Dog-Walking Business


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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: So You Want to Start a Pet Sitting Business. • The pro’s of pet sitting• Flexible time• Low Stress• You’re the boss - you make the decisions• Good pay for the hours of work and resources needed - How much do you want to make?• How much will it cost to start my pet sitting business? Can I really work ‘when I want to’ and ‘be my own boss?’ The truth! The con’s of pet sitting• The family’s take: Is it a Joy or a Pain? Is it really all worth it? •• The con’s of pet sitting• Through wind and sleet and snow....working in all kinds of weather conditions.• Working when others are ‘off’ - working early mornings, late evenings, minor holidays and of course, major holidays!• The cyclical nature of the pet sitting business. Consider the slow months and busy months.• Driving...driving...driving! The biggest expense of time and money for pet sitters.•• The personality of the successful pet sitter and other questions you should ask yourself• Do you love pets and people? I have yet to have a dog sign the check!• And you thought it was just playing with as a therapist, grief counselor, pet nutrition expert, accountant, teenage babysitter and more.• The buck (or ‘bark’) stops with you! Handling people pleasing/customer satisfaction issues. How comfortable are you with being the person who handles customer issues and conflict?• Physical demands of the job.• What is your personal comfort level with different pets? Are the certain pets you can’t imagine caring for?• Can my kids come with me? Should they?• Still not sure? Visit a local networking group. Chapter 2: Envisioning the business • Determine a need in your area - market research of your geographical service area and other similar companies.• Calling all dogs and cats? Will you specialize or encompass all species of pets? Will you fill a niche market and specialize?• Determine your service area. Radius of travel? Urban/Sub-urban/Rural?• Will you work part time,or full time?• Are you interested in starting your own business or buying into a franchise?• What other services might you offer? Pet Taxi, Behavior Training, Errand Services, etc...• Growing your business/Meeting your clients’ needs.• Juggling family life when your office is at home.• Handling your pet sitting schedule + your family.• Dollars & cents - How much can I make? Is petsitting really recession proof?• Choosing your name...and making sure nobody else has!• Sole Proprietor, LLC or Inc.? What’s best for you. Chapter 3: What you need in your home office and mobile office. • Keeping your office a work space. Setting boundaries on family and setting boundaries on business.• The benefits of designating a space for your business from the IRS perspective.• Hours of operation - phone calls at 11pm!• Your client files - paper and electronic• Your client keys • Computer• Calendar• Phones (land lines, cell phones and smart phones)• Tools of the trade - leashes, toys, treats• Things to have with you - pens, dayplanner, cards Chapter 4: Writing a business plan. • Why do I need a business plan if I don’t need any investment money?• Solidify your objectives: What, How, When, Where and Who.• Parts of a business plan - Get it done in Chapter 5: Getting started. • Start up costs list.• Should I hire professionals to help me? (Marketing companies, CPA’s, attorneys, etc...)• Choose a name.• Do I need a logo? Can I trademark my logo?• Write a Mission Statement. What for? I know my mission.• Goals Checklist• Register your business.• Join a professional organization.• Purchase insurance and a bond policy - yes, they are two different policies! This is a must before your first assignment.• Get your printing done!• Printed materials - business cards/flyers/brochures/magnets/shirts...• Business documents - service contracts, • Supplies - What’s all the junk in the trunk? Things you don’t need too!• Your Presentation Book• The benefits of education/accreditation - PFA/CPR Chapter 6: Financial planning• How much do I need to make?• How much can I charge? How much should I charge? Remember you are the business owner. You make the decisions on what you will charge.• Publishing your prices - the pros and cons.• How to deal with the “price shopper.”• Setting a monetary value on your time.• Invoicing and payment• Long term financial planning - no 401K’s here...planning for your future. Chapter 7: Financial management • Your pet sitting business should make you money! How to know if it does.• Running your pet sitting business debt free isn’t a dream - it can be a reality. Chapter 8: Taxes and record keeping• Do I really have to pay taxes? • When do I pay taxes on my earnings and how do I determine what I owe?• Monthly income and outgo. A basic balance sheet or P&L.• Keeping track of your biggest expenses - especially mileage.• What to do, when - record keeping on a daily basis, monthly, yearly• When to complete and file your taxes. Chapter 9: Legal and ethical issues • Pet Neglect? Can I get involved and should I? • Under promise - Over deliver. Do the job you promised plus more• The Golden Rule is still alive and well• Am I on candid camera? Clients and ‘nanny-cams.’• Help! What if I am sued! Answers to insurance and legal questions.• Real-life insurance scenarios you won’t believe but are true! Chapter 10: Marketing your business - Getting your name out there is your #1 goal• Your niche drives your marketing - are you the Pet Sitter for Everyone, are you the Cat Specialist? Highlight what sets you apart• The Green pet sitter - riding the eco-friendly wave.• Press Releases• Visits to vet offices and groomers with food, free speaking engagements, dog parties/events and other ‘guerilla’ marketing tactics to bring you clients.• Wear your colors! Your wardrobe now consists of a myriad of shirts with your logo and tagline!• Using your business phone line/email to drive business to you.• The yellow pages - will it work or won’t it? How your business makes that decision for you.• Using neighborhood newsletters and small town newspapers to your advantage.• Keeping your current clients and having them provide you with more...word of mouth referrals.• Offering specials - CGC, Shelter, Rescue Group Discounts• Set up booths at local pet events - contact shelters and rescue groups.• Participate in pet related events like PSI’s TYDTWD, Wishbones for Pets.• Stay educated and up to date on pet related topics. Keep learning. Set yourself apart from the competition by being well educated in your field.• Networking! It’s not a four letter word.• Have your 30sec, 2min and 5min ‘pitch’ of your business ready. You never know who will ask you about your shirt logo in an elevator!• How do you know if your marketing is working? Which parts of your advertising campaign are working for you? The way to know - Ask & Track. Chapter 11: The internet and e-commerce• Your website - the best use of your business dollars!• Using the internet for your day to day business - Pet sitter software to run your business.• Social Networking sites - Use them to your advantage - avoiding the pitfalls and mistakes.• How simple email can be your best friend for booking verification• E-commerce and selling pet supplies on the internet - options for the pet sitter Chapter 12: A Day in the Life• The phone what? A likely script of what you might hear.• A list of questions new clients will ask you and possible answers.• Jump out of bed and stumble to the kitchen! It’s time to start the day. An account of a real ‘day in the life’ of a pet sitter• The client meeting - the must have information you need from each of your clients.• What you need to do at every visit - a checklist• Some additions to your standard service that will set you apart (leaving written notes, calling the client, leaving a gift for the pet).• Some problems and challenges you might run into. The solutions to answer them.• They want you, but do you want them? How to ask the right questions to get the clients you need.• Your day to day safety - How to be safe when working alone.• Safety of the pets in your care. “A good dog walk gone bad.”• I just wish I could have one day off! Using other pet sitting companies and colleagues to help make it happen.• Emergency Preparedness - for the big, the bad and the ugly - weather and other catastrophic events.• What to do if a pet dies in your care.• How to handle the client you can longer or just don’t want to work for.• Keeping the clients you want by getting feedback on your service.• Dealing with the death of a pet client. How to help your human clients how to help yourself. Chapter 13: Business endgame• Stay small or grow big? Pros and cons - dollars and cents of each approach.• Avoiding the B-Word - B*U*R*N*O*U*T• Setting up your business as a ‘process’ - think fast food chain!• Employees or independent contractors?• Where do I find good people to work in my business? Recruiting 101.• Interviewing and screening potential employees.• Dealing with people that work for you.• Setting up schedules• How to pay employees or independent contractors.• Changing with the times - keeping your business strong as times/circumstances change.• Take me to Tahiti - Selling your business. Chapter 14: Training and certification - Setting yourself apart• Accreditation as a pet sitter - courses available.• Read! The only difference between where you are now and where you will be• Pet First Aid/CPR• Conventions and Regional meetings• Using your local resources - dog trainers and veterinarians. Appendix I• FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions (10 to 15, intended to be used on website)• Web Resources• Organizations• Trade Shows• Educational Resources and Training Programs• Other Useful Information Appendix II• Forms: Service Agreements, Pet Sitter Instruction Sheet, etc...

About the Author

Cathy Vaughan established Cathy's Critter Care as a one-client start-up in 1998 and today her business employs sixteen part-time pet sitters and a full-time office manager. She has been a Goodwill Ambassador for Pet Sitters International, spoken at conventions, and published articles in World of Professional Pet Sitting. In 2010 Cathy co-established Bluebonnet Bunk'n Biscuit, a comprehensive pet-care facility.

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