A couple of weeks ago I received a call from a prominent doctor in Austin. I was surprised this person was able to track down my phone number because I purposely don’t publish my number since I am actively trying to cut down on the number of inquiries and new business I get. Anyway, I was surprised to learn that even at their coveted home location – an estate literally on the shore of Lake Austin – they said their hired pet sitter apparently never spent the night there, even though they paid her to stay overnights. I mean who wouldn't want to stay overnights in a lakefront home?
Dishonest people! The horror! I may not have taken many business classes in college, but I know Business Ethics 101 and I am pretty sure this is a major violation. Side note to pet sitters out there: Neighbors watch out for neighbors. Many people have video cameras mounted facing their driveway, entry way and street. Chances are, someone WILL know if you do not visit when you say you will or if you don’t stay overnight when you say you will.
The first key to pet sitting success is: Do what you are getting paid to do.
I am amazed by how “basic” businesses are when it comes to providing a service. They will try to get by with the bare minimum whenever they can. And they do. But when it comes to pet sitting, it pays to NOT be like all the other sitters out there. You know those sitters I am talking about, the ones who charge $90 to sleep at your house from 8pm to 7am. With most animals eating and needing a potty break around 6pm and 8am, I am not sure what this $90 service is providing?
So how to set yourself apart as a pet sitter? The first requirement is having a genuine love and regard for animals, this is basic. If you don’t truly care for animals, you will not be successful.
Read on to learn how to improve your pet sitting “game”.
1. Offer a Complimentary Meet/Greet
This is for the benefit of all involved. I spent 3 hours at a meet/greet once, and the couple gave me a cash tip for my time, and ended up hiring me for a 3 week pet sit before they moved out of state. The tip was unexpected. Meet and Greets are necessary, charging for them is not. Meet and greets are as much for you as it is for your potential clients – each party needs to see if the other is a fit. I have turned down clients after a meet/greet when I got a bad feeling. Don’t deny those gut instincts!
2. Provide References or Testimonials Upfront
For many people having a stranger come into their home to stay with their beloved possessions (aka: pets) while they are hundreds or thousands of miles away is very anxiety-provoking. Providing the client with testimonials or references upfront can ease their worry. You can read mine here.
3. Ditch the Scary Agreement
Some of the larger local pet sitting companies use long agreements that sound scary and strip confidence from the pet owner. Using a basic agreement is sufficient and covers the bases in most cases. I firmly believe that to be a successful pet sitting company you have to be small, and when you are small and care-focused, the need for a big scary (negative sounding, lawyer-languaged) agreements is less dire.
4. Provide Guidance to Your Clients
Set the pet-owners up for success by providing them a document covering all possible details they’ll need to provide you for your stay with their pets to be a successful one. Many pet owners aren’t sure how much, or how little of information to leave you. Many are embarrassed about leaving too many details.
I love all the details. The more detail, the better! Details will help you be successful, and help you to not bother the pet-owner with endless questions while they are away enjoying their vacation. Some details my document asks for are (Me asking the pet owner):
- Where do you keep the towels for when you pet comes in dirty/wet from outside?
- Has your pet ever displayed any sort of aggression toward people/children/Men or other animals? (It is OK if so, I just need to be aware to avoid possible aggression triggers.)
- Does anything spook your pet? Fireworks? Noises? TV?
- Does your pet have any allergies (environmental or food)? Any recent or chronic illness?
- Local emergency contacts in the event you cannot be reached?
5. Tidy Up!
It is easy to feel like I am staying in a luxurious Airbnb when I stay in a client’s home with their pets, but it is essential to remember that I am being paid to provide a service. You are a pet sitter, you are not on vacation. Yes, this is hard to remember sometimes.
Keep the client’s home tidy and clean. Wash and reset the towels and sheets you slept on if you have time before you go. Clean and put away your dishes. Take out the trashes. Do a quick vacuum of dog hair before they return.
Many people are totally beat after a day of travel or international flights, and coming home to a clean home along with their happy pets is the best way to re-enter reality after a vacation.
Tune in next month for part two of this list...