Are you interested in starting a pet sitting business from home? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a pet sitting business with NO money and no experience plus a sample pet sitting business plan template. For those that love anything furry, finned, and feathered, this is a profession they will totally love.
A professional pet sitter cares for the pets of other people while they are away for a fee.This could be for a short period, like in a day; or a longer period, like during the holidays or during a business trip.
Pet sitters ensure that the pets they sit, gets all manner of services like playing with them, feeding them, grooming them or giving them the needed medication or injections.
They also offer up other services which makes life easier for their customers, like changing the litter box of cats, cleaning up accidents, watering plants, brining in the mail or newspaper, and taking out the trash amongst other things.
The pet sitting profession is still relatively in its infancy as a recognized profession. According to research and statistics, only 3% of households in the united states use a pet sitter, and this add up to approximately 50 to 60 million visits annually, with the number continually on the rise.
The outlook for pet sitters is on the positive side, with some putting the number of bonded and insured pet sitter businesses nationwide at 10,000.
This profession did not exist few decades ago, and neighbors relied on each other as regards watching and feeding the pets when they were on vacation, or dropped them off at the kennels.
The change began in the 1970s, where more mothers had to get jobs, which led to fewer sit-at-home mums available to care for their neighbor’s pets.
Also, many young couples began to concentrate more on their careers and postponed having a family, which led to them adopting pets and using them to fill the void. Since more people became serious with their careers, they started traveling a lot – business travels, which led to the need of the services of a professional pet-sitter.
Anyone who intends to go into this field will need to carry our more research as regards the business, the area he or she intends to work in, and the pricing that is suitable for the business location. Also, it cannot be over emphasized that such a person would need to be an animal lover.
Steps to Starting a Pet Sitting Business from Home
1. Understand the Industry
Pet sitting consists of taking care of all types of pets usually in the comfort of their own surroundings. Pet sitters do not take the pets into their homes as that would be considered animal boarding.
Also, the pet business market is known as a high growth market, which is recession resistant and means that most pet sitters rarely go out of business except those who no longer want to continue with the business,
Interesting Statistics About the Industry
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, pet ownership grew steadily from 1988 to 2008. However as at the end of 2011, Americans had 2 million fewer dogs and 7.6 million fewer cats, than in 2007.
According to a research carried out by the APPA National Pet Owners, Survey between 2011 and 2012, 62% of the households in the United States, owned a pet, which equates to 72.9 million homes. In the first year (1988) when the survey was first conducted, 56% of the households in the United States owned a pet.
Also, there has been a rise in healthier and greener products for pets, as clients are becoming more educated through the proliferation of information available through the internet. According to Packaged Facts, as at 2013, there was a 32% increase for mass retailers especially as they devoted more shelf space to greener products.
There has also been an increase in interactive and intelligent puzzle toys for pets as customers demand for tougher products for their dogs and other pets.
There has also been increased insurance usage by pet parents as the cost of healthcare for pets continue to climb. Wellness centers and large veterinary practices have also started to provide a total care approach, as well as niche of services in the area of rehabilitation and holistic services.
Regardless of the above information, pet ownership is beginning to flatten, and it is therefore important that pet sitters and by extension other pet businesses to alter the way their businesses are being run.
There is a need to be more innovative, and also alter the way they market, speak to and retain their clients, and there is also the need to increase the demographics they reach.
2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
The demographic and psychographic condition of those who require the services of a pet sitter are traditional families, young adults, the working class of both genders and the aged. Most of these people are likely to own a pet, and are also likely like the working class and the traditional families, are likely to require the services of a pet sitter.
3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
The niches within the pet care industry, for pet sitters are basically additional pet related services that would distinguish a pet sitter from other competitors. The niches might not be limited to pet services, if a pet sitter really wants to set his business apart from others.
Also any niche idea should be one that the pet sitter can conveniently offer. Basically, the niche idea areas that can be done in the pet sitting business include;
- Dog walking
- pooper scooper
- overnight care
- taxi services
- House sitting.
Most of these services can be comfortably offered by small pet sitting business owners who are usually more flexible than medium or large scale pet sitting business owners.
The Level of Competition in the Industry
A pet sitting business is not expensive or difficult to start up, as this is a service business that requires little start-up cost, and basically very little equipment needed to get the job effectively done. Any serious pet lover who is business minded can start-up the business and start getting revenue and making profit within a month.
Even though the business is relatively still in its infancy stage, competition still exists. The existing competition might not be as stiff as in other industries, as this is basically a location based job, but it exists all the same. Even so, a pet sitting business start-up can comfortably compete with other such businesses either medium or large scale.
4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
The reason why some brands are more popular is the fact that they have carved out a name for themselves in the industry, either through their well known unique services, or through their marketing, publicity and promotion campaigns.
Below is a list of well known brands in the pet care industry in the United States:
- Alone at Home Pet Care
- Best Friends Pet Care
- All Paws Pet Sitting
- Camp Bow Wow
- Critter Watch
- Fuzzie Buddies
- Happy Paws
- Pampered Pets Inc.
- Pet Care Plus
- Pet Express
- Walkies Pet Sitting
- Urban Animal
Before venturing into this business, one would have to ensure that they carry out a thorough research or feasibility study, which will help them decide if it is something worth throwing their money at. The pet sitting business is a service oriented industry, and there are many important factors that you would have to consider when starting up the business, chief among which is location.
A business location is important as it might lead to the growth of the business or not. Due to the fact that more people are going out for jobs and having less time for their pets, they also have more disposable income that can be used to care for their pets, which involves getting the services of those required to care for the pets while they are away at work, have traveled for a business trip or are taking a well deserved vacation from work.
This is why as an entrepreneur you must note that, while your location positions your business for growth, the caliber of clients or customers help sustain that growth. Locating your business in an area where you have your target market is so that your company’s bottom line might be healthy and also increase for possible expansion according to the vision you have for your company.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
Yes, you can totally start the business from scratch, as this is a business that doesn’t require much capital or equipment to start up. The entrepreneur that is interested in this business needs to have a one-on-one relationship with the pet they intent to pet sit.
Also, most tricks new entrepreneurs who have carried out a thorough research use is to buy off existing business structures from businesses that are no longer in operation, this act would give any start-up leverage as compared to the one that is totally starting from the scratch, and also enable them compete favorably with any franchise or brand out there.
Even though this is relatively a new industry, as it hasn’t been around for that long; franchises still exist, and entrepreneurs who do not want the hassle of going out to get customers, or carrying out an intensive advertising campaign to get new clients, might likely look into buying a franchise.
Most franchises already have certain mechanics in place, and so a franchisee might have it easier especially if they have a passion for pet sitting. Whatever one decides to go into, should be one that would favor the entrepreneur in the long run.
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
As a business person, your business is always going to face challenges or threats either internally or externally. Internal challenges could come from the pets causing havoc, bites from pets, diseases that could be transferred from the pet, and also difficult clients that would likely not pay as at when due.
External challenges could arise from bad weather, economic down turn. Threats could come from your competition. As a business person, there is hardly anything you can do about these challenges or threats, you can only minimize the impact by being proactive in some instances, and maximizing every opportunity you get so that your business doesn’t fail.
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
Due to the nature of the service oriented pet sitting business, most people to keep their operational cost low prefer to start the business on a small scale, so as to be able to concentrate on their target market which would be in their intended location.
There really aren’t that much people that would start their business on a large scale, as the percentage would not really be that significant, and so most people usually start off as sole proprietors. In the United States, there are five different business structures that a pet sitter can likely start from.
Even though the nature of the business might require a sole proprietor, it is also good to be aware of the other legal entities that exist so as to be able to make the right choice concerning which might be best for the business’s overall interest or long term goals. The five different business structures are sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation (Inc. or Ltd), S corporation and Limited Liability Company (LLC).
While sole proprietor business structure is limited in scope, with the entrepreneur being liable if anything goes wrong especially as regards finance, it isn’t so for a limited liability company, as they can operate on a larger scope. This means that those intending to go on a medium or large scale might decide to use the LLC business structure.
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name
It is really ideal that for anyone to start a pet sitting business that you have an attractive name. Here is a list to run through;
- Poop Sitting Agency
- Woofing Services
- Dogs and Sitters Agency
- Petting Services
- All for pets
- Karen’s petting agency
9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
Pet sitting insurance is a very vital part of the business, as it will ensure that you are covered from any accident that might occur in the home of your client, either through your action or the pet’s action. Also the insurance will ensure that you are covered if the pet you are in charge of attacks another person or pet.
Most clients are also comfortable with pet sitters who have a pet sitting liability insurance because it ensures that the clients are protected, as well as the pets when they are in your care. Below is a list of the basic insurance cover in the United States that a pet sitter might consider getting:
- Pet Sitting Liability Insurance
- General Insurance
- Health Insurance
- Worker’s Compensation
- Hazard Insurance
- Public Liability
- Property Insurance
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
If you are venturing into this business, be rest assured that you would not need to be concerned with the hassles of intellectual property protection, as well as filing of patents, except you intend to intellectually protect the logo of your business or a distinctive business statement. The truth is that most who have been in the pet sitting business do not consider getting an intellectual property protection as a necessity.
11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
No, the business does not require certification before one can venture into it as a start up but if you are serious about your company’s image and intend to be regarded as a professional pet sitter, there are certifications you could take, so as to boost your resume to clients.
Every business has circumstances that might crop up, and that was not intentionally bargained for, regardless of the type of business. For instance, a professional pet sitter should be trained in first aid for dogs or other pets, as this might come in handy for any emergency that might occur while on the job, and before help can be gotten.
12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
Even though pet sitting does not require a trade license, some states in the United States, require that one registers with them before wanting to start the business. Also in Canada, you may be required to acquire a Master Business License or municipality license in each area you would likely service. Some of the basic documents required are:
- A business plan
- Certificate of incorporation
- Insurance coverage for small businesses
- Self employment Tax and estimated tax documents
- Federal employer identification number
- Business license
- Employees handbook
- Certificate of Occupancy
- Operating agreements for Limited Liability Company (LLC)
It doesn’t matter if some people pet sit for others for fun, as an entrepreneur going into the business and not intending to sit for fun, you would need a business plan, as the business has to be undertaken as you would any other business.
A business plan also protects you from throwing your money into a venture that might not be profitable. This business might not be one that would require a comprehensive business plan, and you might just end up drafting a business document, that would contain the essentials a business plan does.
A business plan is a guideline that shows a clear intention of how the proposed business is intended to run. It helps in influencing all business actions and decisions.
For those who do not want to be bugged down by the task of writing a business plan, they could employ the services of those skilled in the art, while supplying them with information that can be used to create the precise picture for investors; you could also decide to download a template online that would guide you on how to write the business plan.
Writing a business plan isn’t a fun task, especially as strategies that will help you in administering the pet sitting business has to be crafted and drafted. The strategies could range from generating capital or source funds for the pet sitting business to attracting and retaining customers, from expanding the services of the business to competing against competitors. Every business plan needs some key components.
The key components that a business plan is supposed to have are:
The Executive summary which states in clear terms what your pet sitting business is about, the strategies you intend to use in getting clients as well as marketing to prospective clients, your business goals, your target segment, services you intend offering, and how your services will be better than that of your competitors. The segment also covers the vision statement for your company, the goals and objectives you intend to achieve, as well as your mission statement.
Other components that are vital in a business plan are the publicity, promotion and advertising strategy, operations cost and financial projections, the strength and weaknesses of your business, as well as the opportunities you present to customers, and how you intend to source for capital and pay back if need be.
14. Prepare a Detailed Cost Analysis
According to research, it is quite easy to start a pet sitting business. Apart from the fact that costs might vary depending on what state or country one is in, it still isn’t a business that would require you breaking the bank to start up as long as some essentials are in place to protect your business.
Most new entrepreneurs starting off on a medium or large scale might lead those who want to venture into the industry to have doubts on their ability to start off the pet sitting business, but in this business you can start off with any amount as you are comfortable with. Some even start off the business by pet sitting for friends and family members, save what they make and then register their business.
Below is the basic checklist that you would need to launch your own pet sitting business in the United States of America and most likely in other parts of the world;
- The total fee for incorporation – name check and filing – would cost $200
- Liability insurance, business license and permits would cost $700
- Business cards and other miscellaneous expenses would cost $200
- For those who would get an office probably due to location, an office facility – for at least 6 months – would cost $1,000
- Launching of website would cost $200
- Equipping the office with computer, phone, file cabinet would cost $500
- Other operating expenses would cost $200
The report from the above checklist shows that on a small scale, one would need at least $3,000 to be able to start.
If one intends starting a medium scale pet sitting business in the United States, one would need at least $8,000
And if one intends to start on a large scale in the United States, one would need at least $15,000. This goes to show that it is an easy business venture to start up.
15. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
A service business isn’t like a business where tangible goods are sold for money, so obtaining financing might not be so easy. Although a pet sitting business requires moderate start-up funds, compared to other type of businesses, nevertheless approaching a lender or an institution for a loan will require a business plan, where your financial projections or statement are in order. Without a business plan, no serious investor would take you seriously, and might feel you are wasting their time. A business plan not only shows how serious you are in having carrying out a feasibility report, it also tells the investor how far the business might likely go.
Applying for a loan is a stressful business, and any serious entrepreneur that knows that his or her business is worth it, will have to go the extra mile in looking for places to source for funds without committing too much in terms of interests and paybacks. Every entrepreneur has to realize that finance cannot be avoided, and so must be prepared for the task at hand.
When it comes to raising finance, every business person is faced with different available options, the decision on which to use for the benefit of the business will come after weighing the pros and cons attached to each option, and also depending on the business scale you want o start from, small, medium or large. Below are finance options for pet-sitting start ups:
- Money can be raised from personal savings, as well as sales of valuable property or even stock.
- Money can be raised from friends and families
- Apply for a bank loan
- The business ideas can be pitched to investors
16. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
Before one decides on the location for a pet sitting business, different factors have to be put into consideration. If you plan on opening an office for your pet sitting business, it has to be in a location where there are several people that own pets, and also it has to be in a residential area, there is no point locating your pet sitting business in a corporate area.
Another factor is also to locate your business in a residential area that can afford your services. If you locate your business in an area, where people live in trailers, you would not get people that will patronize your business, as they may not have the disposable income that would be needed to acquire your services. This means that not only must your business be located in a residential area where pets are owned, but in an area where the residents are pre-disposed to having spare money for your kind of service, so that you can make good returns for your business.
If your home is far from where business will likely be favorable for you, it is advisable you get an office facility, even if it is a small one, so as to be close to your clients, but if you live in an area where they own pets, then it would be easier if you run the business from home, so as to keep your operating costs at a minimum.
Another reason why you might have to operate an office is if you are running a medium or large scale pet sitting business, and are likely to employ people that would work with you.
17. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
There really are no technical details required for a pet sitting business except those that are planning to run the business on a medium or large scale or those that are offering other services such as dog walking. Some of this equipment can be gotten on cheaply as re-furbished or fairly used.
Even though it doesn’t seem like a pet sitter might require any equipment, here are is a checklist of equipment for those who want to go into the business on whatever scale especially those offering extra services:
- Pet First Aid Kit
- Spare leashes and collars
- Rain and winter gear, boots inclusive
- Poop bags, Bio Degradable
- Portable water dish and water container
- Towels for drying dogs
- Mobile phone
- Muzzles and Harnesses
Due to the nature of this business, most pet sitters work alone and do not need extra manpower except the business is one that is on a medium or large scale requiring more employees to sit pets for clients.
Most pet sitters work in the homes of their clients, and so anyone starting out would not need an office facility and can work from home. A full medium or large scale office could employ a receptionist/cashier, and if they are offering other services, they could employ dog walkers, dog runners, supervisor, and manager. This could be between 2 and 6 people and above. The office would need minimal and functional equipment such as computers, phones plus a waiting room for clients and their pets.
The Service Delivery Process of the Business
There is no production process involved in a pet sitting business as this is a service delivery business. The process can range from learning and knowing about different pets, and the requirements that will be needed while carrying out the pet sitting.
The other processes ranges from pet sitting to cleaning the pet, feeding the pet, pet grooming, walking and training the pet, and ensuring they get medical services as at when needed.
18. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
Every business requires income, and the only way to generate income for one’s business is to put out one’s business out so that customers can know about the business and patronize it. Every entrepreneur starting this business should know that they have to market their pet sitting business, and should be prepared for it. However, marketing ideas and strategies shouldn’t be one that will break the bank.
According to a State of the Industry Survey from Pet Sitter’s International, the easiest and cheapest form of advertising is word-of-mouth advertisement. Other popular forms of convention that can be used are business cards, car signs, brochures, distribution of fliers and posters, and be at local events. Also, the social media platform is another way one’s pet sitting business can be promoted for free.
Below are other marketing ideas and strategies that can be used to promote one’s pet sitting business:
- The local media can be used to advantage; you could send press releases to your local newspapers, which could be on the services your business offers.
- You could post your business cards on hospital bulletin boards, especially as some patients might be looking for someone to take care of their pet.
- Use the social media to your advantage especially Facebook and Twitter.
- Your business cards are the next important thing after word of mouth, and so you mustn’t leave the house without it. The business cards can be distributed whilst walking down the road, using the supermarket, and at parks.
- Look out for pet owning household, and post your fliers close, or try and tell the owners about your services.
- Get your pet-sitting business listed in an association’s directory, as well as online directories like on Google and Bing
- Get involved in a local non-profit organization.
19. Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products
To get the right factors that will enable you set the right service pricing for your pet sitting business while not burning a hole in the pockets of your client and eating into your profits, you would have to ensure that you operation costs far less than what you would earn, for example, instead of locating your business so far from your clients, that would require you spending more to commute, or on fuel, it would be preferable for you to locate your business where you won’t require to spend much, so that it would not affect the pricing of your services.
20. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
There is no field, business or industry without competition, as competition ensures that businesses are proactive in attending to customers’ needs and wants, while also ensuring that the customer gets the best deal offered. To stay above the competition, a pet sitter would have to give out certain services that the competition does not necessarily offer, such as celebrating a pet’s birthday.
Also, while your competition might offer services targeted at different type of clients or market segment, you could model your services to suit your client’s income, style and preferences therefore offering different packages that would suit your client’s pockets while making them happy at the same time.
Another competitive strategy could be in offering extra services, such as sending a reminder to clients as regards important pet dates, such as when they have to go to the vets and other such services.
21. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
Customers stick to the brand, company or business they feel treat them better than others, and so any serious minded entrepreneur knows that the way to increase customer retention for a business is to ensure that you treat them better than your competition, by making sure that you either meet or surpass their expectations.
You could also give out incentives such as offering to sit the pet free on certain days for loyal customers, giving extra free services such as walking the pet on certain days, taking the pet to the veterinary, or giving out the first day as a free day for new customers.
22. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
Strategies are of immense importance when trying to boost your brand or create a corporate identity for your pet business. The strategies that will be used are similar to that of any business. If as an entrepreneur, you decide to own a pet sitting business that will employ others, it is important that you choose the right strategies for your business.
There are platforms that can be used to boost the brand awareness of your pet sitting business, as well as create a corporate identity for it as well, they include:
- Join a pet association, and offer to help publicize the association, thereby creating more awareness for the association and invariably yourself.
- Give useful pet hints to your client, and ensure that they help spread the word about your business to their friends, colleagues, and family.
- Distribute handbills and fliers to targeted areas informing people of your services and any other unique service that sets your business apart.
- Advertise your business in a pet’s magazine, local newspaper, radio, and television.
- Form an online pet discussion forum where people can talk about their pets.
- Use the social media effectively by posting tips about pets, or you with different pets showing off your services.
- Attend pet shows and events to mingle with pet owners and spread word about your services.
23. Create a Suppliers/Distribution Network
If you are engaging in other services apart from pet sitting, especially if you would be cleaning, bathing, or walking the animal, you would need suppliers of poop bags, for when walking the dog.
If you are in a good business relationship with the suppliers of all that you need for your business, it will help you carry out your jobs promptly. Even though you have the option of getting any material that might be needed for your business from the market yourself, vendors or distributors are particularly useful because of other intrinsic values that will be gotten from them such as pet knowledge and other such related knowledge.
24. Tips for Running a Pet Sitting Business Successfully
A pet sitting business can be very lucrative and fulfilling for the right person who truly loves pets. Anyone who doesn’t have a love for pets cannot thrive in the pet sitting business. Experience is not required for one to be a pet sitter, however having a past experience with animals in a volunteering or real work experience, like in a zoo or animal shelter, will be of huge help to the pet sitter and the pet owners, as they are not likely to fumble with regards to care for the pets.
In order to be successful as a pet sitter, one must first have the right personality by being friendly, responsible, and with lots of patience. They also should be approachable, and open to clients especially when answering inquiries as regards the pets. A pet sitter should also be calm, especially in the face of emergencies, where the pet might require medical attention.
Apart from a good personality, a good sense of business is required plus a certain level of assertiveness. Even though it might be considered a fun job, as a business person, you will also need to file the correct income tax forms every year, deal with problematic clients who might be slow in paying their bills, as well as track your income and expenses.