When you hire a professional pet sitter, what exactly are you paying for? You take care of your pets just fine with little or no training, so what’s the big deal? After all, the sitters are staying in your house! Fair enough, and I hope to shed some light on why it is often more expensive and time consuming to hire a professional pet sitter than to enlist the help of a family member, acquaintance, or what are known as “hobby sitters”, people who are just doing it for a few extra bucks but have no professional credentials.
While starting a professional pet sitting business is low-cost compared to most entrepreneurial endeavors, there are still costs to maintaining it year after year. We had to pay to register our business with the state of Maryland. We had to buy insurance to protect ourselves and our clients from accidents, then get bonded to protect clients against theft. Obviously we know we would never think of doing such a thing, but we are essentially strangers to our clients at first. We decided to pay for background checks to ease the minds of our clients, who after all are trusting us with the lives of their animals and the safety of their homes. And that’s the bare minimum for a professional to get started. Most of these are yearly policies that must be renewed time and again in order for us to stay in business.
La Pawtite is not satisfied with the bare minimum. We love our pets like our children and would only want the best for them, so we also demand it of ourselves when looking after our clients’ babies. This is why we decided to become members of professional pet sitter organizations so we could continue our learning, but these come with yearly dues. This is also we we decided to take first aid/CPR courses, which also come with fees and need to be renewed every two years.
We pay a monthly fee for our software which allows our clients to keep on top of visits, receive updates on how their pets are doing, have the ability to see GPS tracking info, send forms and request appointments easily. Then there’s the monthly phone bill. We pay a yearly fee for this website. The bank charges us a monthly fee to maintain our business account.
And all of that is before marketing. We have to advertise ourselves in order to reach potential clients, which includes printing flyers, brochures, purchasing business cards, and mailing out coupons/postcards, etc.
We also like to treat our clients to a little thank you every now and then for trusting us with the most precious things in their lives. We purchase little gifts and leave-behinds for our clients, and special gifts for their pets (especially on anniversaries of our becoming their sitters or on birthdays!). There are also supplies to consider, and while most of our clients have supplies on hand, there are plenty of things that are necessary to have on hand at all times (first aid kit, a tick key, extra poo bags, flashlights, a pill cutter, and hand sanitizer, for instance). And we still need office supplies!
The biggest daily expense for the professional pet sitter is gas. We drive from house to house all day long and that leaves us refueling quite a bit. This is also why you’ll encounter pet sitting services that say you’re our of their “service area” – it’s simply not economical to travel over a large distance. And tightening the service area also helps us to better accommodate our clients. Stretch yourself too thin and you’re trying to rush the care of the pets just to make the next visit. Our goal is to grow our business to the point where we can afford to hire extra help to widen our service area, and we’ll have to account for their wages.
At first, you may wonder why sitters charge what we do for taking Pup out for a stroll, or scooping Kitty’s litter box. In essence, it’s because running a business ain’t cheap, time is valuable and gas ain’t free!