How To Start A Pet Sitting Business: The Ultimate Guide
About 90.5 million families own a pet in the U.S. And that’s a lot! With COVID restrictions being taken off and people beginning to leave for offices or travel, pet businesses are seeing growth again.
If you are thinking of starting a pet sitting business you would have plenty of fish in the sea. Well, plenty of puffy paws actually.
Now, let’s get to the real deal. Setting up a business is not a walk in the park. Bummer, we know. But… It’s not a marathon in the park either.
What are the first steps to take up? What are the legal requirements? How much would it cost you? – there are a bunch of important questions to answer before you build a business.
And, we’ll answer all those questions and cover much more here in this blog.
Here’s a little sneak peek of what’s ahead:
- Getting the foundation of your business set
- Getting the operation plans of your business set
- Getting the post-launch plans of your business set
Ready to set up your own pet sitting business? Let’s get into it ASAP!
1. Getting the foundation of your business set
First, you need to begin with the baby steps such as choosing a name for your business, choosing a niche, etc. Then comes the complex steps like creating contracts, registering for taxes… you know, the boring tedious paperwork.
Knowing which steps to follow one after the other would help you in starting your pet sitting business easily. So, we have listed out the steps to build your business logically for making it easy for you!
Selecting a niche
People have different types of pets, from squabbling birds to silent fishes, there are a variety of animal friends. And along with that hundreds of pet sitters as well. To stand out from the crowd, try to niche down your business.
You could perhaps run a pet sitting business that is a pure dog sitting business or a pure cat-sitting business or it could be pets with disabilities… Specializing will help you get clients a bit more quickly.
For example, let’s say you started a dog sitting business that specializes in dogs with reactivity problems. Clients look through 5 different general pet sitters and see you specialize in this category. YOU would be their first choice. You are sold from the beginning because of your specialty. It’s an easy sell! Sounds good, right?
Before niching down though, analyze your location, the people living there, your competitors, etc to understand the market. What kinds of pets do people have? What do the other pet sitters charge? What kind of services do they offer?
This will help you start a pet sitting business that caters to the pain points of the pet owners.
For example, huge metropolitan cities like New York would have busy pet owners. So they might require dog walking, pet grooming, feeding, etc. These inhabitants are also likely to have a high income, so you can charge a bit more than usual prices.
You could also set up a home sitting business that provides 24 – hour supervised care for pet owners who have to travel out of the city.
Choosing a business name
The name of your business should ideally showcase what you do. Make it simple, relevant, and easy to search. You could use an online name generator for your business to get hundreds of name ideas.
You could also go ahead with a name that has been on your mind. For example, the name of your lovely first pet. Mention it on your online profiles if you have a meaningful reason behind the name of your business. This could help you build a connection with potential clients.
Also, make sure you check that the proposed name is not already in existence. You can check it on your state’s business records, federal and state trademark records, social media platforms, and web domain.
Picking a business structure
The next step is establishing your pet sitting business as a legal entity. For that, you need to pick a business structure. The structure of your business will determine the amount of paperwork you will have to do including the taxes, licenses, insurance, etc.
Your business could be a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation.
Pet sitters usually operate as sole proprietors since it is the simplest and most common structure. Plus there is no formal action required for forming a sole proprietorship.
Another structure that you can pick is being a limited liability company (LLC) because it separates personal and business assets; this makes you, the business owner, not personally liable for the debts of your business.
For forming an LLC, you can form it yourself and pay the state filing fee to complete the process. Depending on your state, this fee would range between $40 and $500. You could also hire an agent for an additional fee if you don’t have prior experience.
After deciding your business structure and based on your location, register your business with the state and local governments for legal and tax benefits.
Obtaining a license
The next step to open a pet sitting business would be to get licensed. But then, depending on your state, sometimes it is not necessary to get a business license. The cost of these federal and state licenses or permits too varies from state to state.
Check out your town or city’s website or the SBA website to know the minutest details of these licenses or permits. Consider taking help from a business attorney to assist you with all the legal parts of building your pet sitting business. Let’s be honest, the legal terms in paperwork can be overwhelming.
2. Getting the operation plans of your business set
Now let’s get into the details.
Set up a pet sitting business plan to help you map out the specifics of your business. It will help you answer questions like the startup costs of your business, the pet services you would be offering, the policies you would be adhering to, and much more.
Ultimately this clear and detailed plan will help you along the course of your business journey.
Get to know the taxes applicable to your business
You have chosen your structure and registered, now you just need an EIN to start up your pet sitting business. Employer Identification Number is a nine-digit unique number that will recognize your business as a legal entity.
It’s sort of like a social security number for your business. EIN can be applied online for free immediately after registering your business with the state/federal agencies.
Now as you are a legitimate business, certain taxes are applicable to you. The most common taxes are income taxes and employment taxes. Other types of taxes that could be used for your business depend on the business structure and your state.
You can find those tax obligations by visiting the SBA website to know in detail.
Separate your personal and business assets
Open up a business bank account that will allow you to separate your personal and business assets. This will ensure that your personal valuables like your home or car are never at risk because of business debts. Separate accounts will also help you to have clean financial recordings and simplify tax reporting.
Regardless of the structure, this business account will separate your personal assets from your business assets. Additionally, learn how to build business tax credits. This can help you get credit cards and other financing for your business, better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Outline business policies to be clear
Before starting your own pet sitting business, assess your training and skills to understand your capability and capacity. Based on those insights, decide on what kind of pet care you would be offering.
Will you have to take them to the vet? Will you provide grooming services plus take them for a walk? Will you have to give them medication?
Keep in mind that as a pet sitter you will have irregular hours that include nights and weekends. Thus being flexible is an important attribute. Be sure about what you are ready to do and what you wouldn’t do as a pet sitter.
Clarify the services you are ready to offer down to the last detail to avoid any misunderstandings when you open your business.
Get insured to protect your business
An insurance policy will protect you and your business from any legal action that could occur if a pet under your care causes damage or faces any health issues.
Numerous insurance policies are available depending on the type of business. Your business could, for example, set out with a General Liability Insurance which is the most common coverage for businesses starting out.
Other types of insurance that you might wish to consider too for your business could be, for example, Home-based Business Insurance, Business Owner’s Policy, etc.
Estimate the start-up cost to start your business
Setting up your pet sitting business costs a lot less than most other business ventures. It doesn’t necessarily require you an office, various tools, inventories, etc. Your workplace usually would be your client’s house and with automated systems, most of your admin work can be done on your laptop.
You just need to think about your funding now to begin a pet sitting business. From your legal structure to website domain costs, these would be the estimated setup costs for your business:
For setting up your business, altogether the average cost could range from $300 – $5,000. These are some of the general start-up costs.
Set realistic prices
Structure your fees at reasonable rates. You won’t be able to draw in clients if you charge a high amount for your services. But at the same time, you won’t be able to survive as a business if you don’t charge an adequate amount.
Pricing for pet services is usually determined by the following factors:
- The type, size, and the number of animals
- The hours and kinds of services requested
- Physical and medical requirements of the pets
- Demographics, and local pricing standards
A simple hour-long stroll around the locality could cost $15-$20. A trip to a park for an hour that requires extensive socializing supervision may cost $20 to $30, depending on the local economy. You could charge an extra fee for services such as bathing those furballs or grooming them as well.
Researching competitors’ prices also could get you an idea for creating a feasible price structure.
3. Getting the post-launch plans of your business set
Foundations laid. Plans set. Funds ready. Now all you need are clients!
You can build a successful pet sitting business by expanding your network. You could begin by taking a membership at Pet Sitters International. This will get you perks like advertising, courses, exposure, and networking opportunities.
We know you are excited! Not gonna hold up, let’s talk more about the post-launch part of your business.
Getting your first client
How to get your first client? It is definitely an overwhelming question to think about. The first few clients could be really hard for you to acquire. Not gonna lie! But you don’t have to worry much. Here’s how you can successfully land the first client for your business:
- Begin with your contacts and your personal social media account to spread the word. Use the age-old advertising method, word of mouth. Share your business cards and information with your neighbors, friends, and family and request them to spread the word as well.
- Next, you could put up your business as an ad in the local newspaper. You could also post it on websites like Craigslist to get you much more exposure.
- Put up high-quality fliers containing all the services you provide. Include your contact details as well. You could put it up at local businesses, such as pet stores, supermarkets, dog groomers, and vet clinics.
- Find out groups or communities on social media that are relevant to your potential clients. For example, a Facebook group of local pet owners. This would be the perfect group for you to interact with if you provide services in that niche.
Attracting more clients
After you get a few clients, don’t forget to put up their testimonials. Attach the lovely photos of their pets with you as well on your website or social media platforms. This will instill trust and give you a credible front to potential clients.
Share valuable information in the form of social media posts or blogs. For example, you could write blogs about pet health or how to detect health problems earlier in pets.
Develop a loyal client base by emailing updates of your services, the new blog you have posted, or something as simple as a birthday card to former clients to retain them.
Creating client contracts
Every pet has different needs. So it’s important that you draft contracts for each pet. This way you let your clients know what you are open to and what you are not, especially in writing. Drafting client contracts will help you create agreements with them so that each party knows exactly what to expect.
You can draft sample contracts that can be found online or consult a legal professional who can handle creating business contracts. What would the world do without legal professionals!? Phew!
Apart from the general agreements such as payment terms or cancellation policies, consider contingency plans as well. This could help you be prepared for emergencies concerning the pet’s wellbeing and have the owner agree to pay any fees that may incur.
In case you possess the keys to your client’s house, it is advisable to have a criminal record check done through your local police. Mention your authentication and give a copy of it as well to your clients. Contact your local police authority for more details and to go through the process.
When you start getting clients, make it a point to take down their details such as:
- Phone number/ emergency contact numbers
- Email ID
- Pet’s health history, for example, any allergies that the pets have
Along with this information, take note of the pet’s
- Exercise schedule
- Veterinarian’s name
- Clinic contact information
For repeat clients, ask for any changes or updates in the information. You could save time by putting out an online intake form to gather all the information easily.
Utilizing software systems
Now as an official business owner, you are going to have to handle a lot of admin tasks like taking in appointments, sending out emails/texts, promoting your business, etc.
The best way to set up a pet sitting business that functions smoothly is to automate it.
Also if you are wondering how to choose a scheduling software that will best serve all your needs, read this blog: How to Choose The Best Scheduling Software: Everything You Need to Know
You could use automation tools for various tasks like
- Email marketing – Using an email marketing tool will allow you to keep in touch with your existing (and potential) customers without a hassle. This will help you get the messages delivered to your customers at the right time.
- Website – Your website is a representation of your business that can feature your information, services, prices, testimonials, etc. Hence choosing a website builder that can help you easily run your business could be a lifesaver.
- Scheduling – Using a pet sitting scheduling software like Appointy can help you easily in multiple ways like:
- Automating the scheduling process for your clients. It can send reminders to avoid no-shows and last-minute cancellations
- Booking easily with Google Business as Appointy is an official scheduling partner of Reserve with Google
- Scheduling with a ‘Book Now’ button on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to reduce friction in scheduling with you
- Accepting payments/prepayments with the integration of POS systems to your business
- A mini website domain if you don’t have a website
To wrap up
It could be exciting to start your own pet sitting business but at the same time, nerve-wracking. Nonetheless, take a deep breath and just let it flow. Celebrate your wins and learn from your mistakes.
Showcase trust, flexibility, and reliability to your customers because pets are family to their owners and these emotional characteristics will help you build a degree of trust.
Go little rockstar!
We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, and resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium businesses face every day.
If you have any thoughts on this blog or would like to chat about your business struggles and achievements, let us know in the comments below.
We love a good talk!