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How I Market Myself

If you hadn’t seen it, I posted an “Ask Crystal Anything” article yesterday that received some great questions.  One of them was from Debs at http://debtdebs.com/:

Q:  How did you get your clients when you first started dog sitting? We’re thinking of doing this but don’t know how to get started.

I answered pretty quickly with:

I sold myself hard on Craigslist.  I also posted 2-3 ads on Craigslist for about 7 days straight (one each in several categories like pet services, community, etc.) and set my phone alarm to remind me to renew them every 3-5 days.

In those placements, I listed out my experience from personal pet sitting, my volunteer work with animal groups, and put emphasis on my dependability and professionalism.  I also priced myself slightly lower than my competition in the beginning month to grab my first jobs and earn my awesome references.  Now I charge more than most of my competition but am busier than ever because I’ve built a reputation for amazing customer service for my human and animal clients.  ;-)

I still create a new Craigslist post once or twice a week and renew my old ones or repost when they expire.

Other Ways I Reached Out

Crystals Cozy Care Car Magnet Sign

Here’s one of the signs on my car door…

It skipped my mind that I did other stuff to market myself too:

  • Magnetic signs on my car door
  • Printed business cards and hand them out frequently (I also leave little stacks at local restaurants when they have a spot for it)
  • Created a profile at Care.com
  • Created a profile at Sittercity.com
  • Posted about my new service on my home owner’s association website
  • Posted my services on Nextdoor.com
  • Let all of my friends and family know about it and they help spread the word
  • Leave summaries of my longer visits and all of my contact info is only every page
  • My contact info is automatically added to every email and I make sure to make it obvious on all Craigslist posts.

I am also considering other types of small business marketing like placing my business cards in every neighbor’s door possible, taping them to the group mailboxes like the lawn guys do, and maybe even making small leaflets.  Craigslist has just been my biggest draw so far – I know because my pre-care checklist has a question about how they found me.  :-)

There you go for anybody looking to start a service-oriented side hustle!  Good luck!

Can you think of any other great personal marketing methods for small businesses and hobby jobs?

Career Options In My Past

I love what I do professionally right now.  I run my online business in the hours I have between pet sitting jobs.  I also get to see my friends regularly to hang out and have a good time.  In general, this is the life for me.  BUT, what if I hadn’t found my spot yet?  Here are the career options I had thought about pursuing before I discovered my niche.

Dream Job

Accounting

Before I started college, I thought about getting a masters degree in accounting and finance since the field seemed up my alley.  I love managing money and enjoy the geeky side of finance.  But record keeping is tedious to me, and I only do it to make my husband’s job easier each April for filing our taxes.  As much as I’d love one part of being an accountant, I decided that the job as a whole was not a perfect fit for me.

Advertising Creation

During college, I chose to major in “Marketing” in the business college and to concentrate specifically on advertising classes.  Creating ad campaigns for large companies would be fun to me.  Just try to mentally picture the commercials or billboards that I would come up with for products like toilet paper, fast food, or clothing stores.

To give you an example, I thought a great toilet tissue commercial could be a quick showing of everything we put our butts through.  Try to imagine a montage of sitting in traffic, sitting at work, bumping into furniture, cautiously lowering yourself onto a hemorrhoids ring in a chair, a person leaving a colonoscopy appointment, etc.  Then it would cut to someone doing an exuberant butt-shaking dance when they see that their spouse started stocking their bathroom with the specific brand of toilet tissue that I am in charge of promoting.  I think that would sell toilet paper.

Despite my enthusiasm, I quickly figured out from advertising interviews that the field is EXTREMELY competitive, and the horror stories of back-stabbing and people clawing their way to the top just put me off.

I enjoy people.  I love promoting the happy things in life.  Dealing with a constant demand for better and the negativity of crazy coworkers just sounded like a mini-hell for me.  So I kept looking for other career ideas despite graduating with that Marketing degree anyway.

Teaching

This was a short-lived idea.  My husband started pursuing teaching about 6 months after we graduated from college.  It looked like something I could be good at, so I took the pre-certification tests and aced them shortly after he started teaching 8th grade science.  But I then saw what he was going through regularly with unsupportive administrations, teenagers and pre-teens that hated the world, parents blind to their children’s insanity, and even the back-stabbing actions of fellow teachers that would gladly throw someone else under the bus to cover their own short-comings.  I started looking for other ideas again.

Pet Boarding Facility

I actually wrote about my idea for Crystal’s Cozy Kennels here in September 2010!  My idea was to buy an acre or two of land in an acceptable area and build an air-conditioned pet boarding facility.  I sort of forgot about it after my online business took over my time.

Then my oldest dog passed away this past February, and I pushed myself into my new side hustle – Crystal’s Cozy Care.  It didn’t require any start-up costs other than gas and time.  As it grew in March, I invested more money into it and got myself insured, bought business cards, and even have magnetic signs for my car now.  It still has low costs, makes about $1000 a month, and is a lot of fun for me.  As side hustles/hobby jobs go, this is definitely the one for me.

I don’t regret my path taken so far in my work life.  My online business fulfills my marketing background and my pet sitting gets me close to animals nearly every day.  I have unintentionally covered my bases.  Yay for the subconscious pushing us to where we need to be!  ;-)

Do you enjoy your current job?  Have any others in mind?

 

Opportunity Costs at Work

There are opportunity costs for everything in life.  Every choice made means there were paths not taken.  Nothing defines “opportunity costs” like a small business though.  My pet sitting business only has one of me and when I take a job, I am limiting my options for other jobs.  I’ve been working this out the hard way.

Not So Bad in the Beginning

When I first started Crystal’s Cozy Care in February, I took any job that I could get.  I craved to grow quickly and word of mouth is gold to service businesses.  Since I wasn’t being offered many positions, it’s not like taking one across town would mean I’d need to skip a job around my home.  It just meant that I needed to stay around their home to conserve gas and bring my own food to conserve money.  My opportunity costs were low no matter what job I accepted since there weren’t many options.

Opportunity Costs

Bad Now

Now, I shoot myself in the foot if I stray from a 10 mile radius of my house.  I still have a few days here and there that are open, but in general, I am pet sitting at 2+ places per day.  My top so far has been 4 different jobs in one day.  That’s TOO MUCH driving if they aren’t close to home.

My opportunity costs for taking the “wrong” job have skyrocketed.  Just last week, I worked a 1 week job about an hour away from my home.  It was also for less than my normal rate because $350 sounded like a fortune to me when I booked it in late April.  Now, I would get $420-$560 for a week of overnights.  I ended up having to drive back three different days simply not to skip jobs near my home that I am hoping to turn into regulars.  That was entirely too much driving, which ate into my profit.  I spent $85 on gasoline over those 7-8 days.

I obviously wouldn’t back out of the gig though since my word is gold.  I follow through on my agreements.  But I did let the family know of my new rates at the end of the job so that they could replace me if necessary in the future.

Think It Out

Don’t ignore the opportunity costs in the decisions you make either.  Any time you agree to something even though you really didn’t want to do it/go/attend/etc, you are giving up that opportunity for enjoying something else.  If money is involved, one decision means that you skipped others.  Think carefully about the choices that you make every day to ensure that you don’t regret a missed opportunity elsewhere.

What do you think?  Have you regretted some of your roads not taken?

 

Summer Job Ideas

We all have months where we’d like some extra cash, right?  I was wasting time yesterday and ended up on Craigslist.  There are a plethora of ways to make money if you have some extra hours available after work or on the weekends (even more if you are available during the day).

Summer Jobs

Here are my favorites:

Care

  • Nanny – kids are at home
  • Babysitter – everyone needs a date night
  • Tutoring – some extra help over the summer
  • Daycare Worker – shifts need help
  • Gym Teacher for Child Summer Programs – self-explanatory
  • Lifeguard – quick course to get certified
  • Elderly Care – year round
  • Pet Sitting – I can vouch for this and you can get $20+ per visit or $40+ per night
  • Music Teacher – piano, guitar, etc.
  • Makeup Artist – personal and for plays
  • House Manager – with the kids at home, you may need something even more than a simple nanny

Home

  • Housekeeper – weekend work or day time work
  • Cook – evening work
  • Handyman – weekend work or spur of the moment
  • Lawn Care – $25-$50 per yard depending on location
  • Newspaper Delivery – year round
  • Painting – the summer is a great time to catch up with that to-do list
  • Pool Cleaner – perfect timing

At Home Work

  • Video Game Tester – fun!
  • Online Sales Assistant – for Ebay, etc.
  • Phone Surveyors – could be interesting depending on the company
  • Social Media Manager – businesses and bloggers need this
  • Writers – business and personal sites
  • Artist – you can create and then list your creation for sale in your free time
  • Graphic Designer – always needed

Fun/Outside the Box Stuff

  • Wax Specialist – this is for waxing away hair…
  • Meat Cutter – butcher shop
  • Sign Holder – hot work but all outside
  • Pleasure Party Host – marital aid sales
  • Movie Extra – could be a conversation starter
  • Scuba Instructor – so fun!

What interesting side hustles have you come across?

 

The Mandatory Rant on Work Ethic in Your 20s

The following is a guest post from my friend and blogging buddy, Martin of Studenomics, where he shows you how to reach financial freedom by 30 without ever having to say no to a good time.

“I can’t sell my five tickets. Looks like I won’t be on the upcoming wrestling show.”

A friend from wrestling posted this on Facebook a few weeks back as he tried to garner sympathy from classmates and coaches. The rule at the gym is that you must sell 5 tickets to be on the card. This forces us to hustle and promote. It also guarantees an audience of 300-400 people for us to perform in front of. If we don’t sell tickets, we won’t have a crowd. How fun is a wrestling show in front of nobody?

There are obvious exceptions. If you’re the best wrestler in class, train hard, or do your absolute best to sell tickets, you might still get on the card.

I usually sell anywhere from 10-15 tickets through promoting on Facebook.

This guy was just giving up. There was a week left and he just gave up. He didn’t even bother. Then he started posting nonsense about video games and movies he was watching. He clearly wasn’t giving it his all and I honestly can’t respect those that don’t give it their all.

“I can’t make it to class because I can’t afford the membership.”

This same classmate followed up with this message a few weeks later.

This guy claims he wants to make it big and go to WWE. He claims that he’s serious.

I think not.

If you can sleep in until noon every single day and brag about being great at video games, you have time to find a job or make some money. I don’t give unsolicited advice, but this guy in question has repeatedly asked me for help. I’ve tried to help him. So have others. I believe he has even found a few job offers. I guess he was too busy to accept them.

You can’t be mad about the results you don’t get with the work you don’t put in.

You have to put the work in. Motivation is more than just posting quotes on social media. You have to get off your laptop sometimes.

I’m all for passive income. I made close to $100k last year with my condo and I could live off this money. But this income wasn’t exactly passive. I had to save up for the downpayment, stress about tenants, hope that the value would go up, and somehow survive without losing my pants. Things worked out in the end, but a lot of it was due to luck and timing. But guess what? Luck favors the prepared!

You can’t be sitting at home and complaining about results you’re not getting. You have to do something. Do anything. When you’re busy working and meeting cool people on your journey, you won’t have time to whine about how you’re not getting what you want.

This is the best time to be alive.

Think about the resources that are available to us. I use my smartphone to meet girls, learn Spanish, respond to emails, deal with comments, and so on.

When else have there been more resources available to young folks? We don’t even have to put on pants to apply for jobs. My parents had to bus or ride a bike across town to just apply for jobs 20 years ago. Now we can apply for jobs while swiping away on Tinder. So what’s your excuse?

Why are you not getting what you want?

When can you slack off?

When you plan for it. When you deserve it. After a long week. After you get the important tasks done. Whenever. You don’t have to be working 24/7. You just have to work when it matters so that you can slack off whenever you want. I won’t lie, I enjoy going out for drinks on Wednesday nights. This just means that I might have to sacrifice weekends to get work done.

I’m all for relaxing. I can’t tell you how to live your life. I have friends that work so much harder than me and I’m not even slightly jealous of their work ethic because I couldn’t imagine pulling it off.

All I’m saying is that you can’t be afraid of work. You also have no right to complain until you’ve given it your all. So get out there and make things happen. You’ll never save any money or get in shape if you’re not willing to put some effort in.

Question for the readers: how do you respond when a friend whines to you about not getting results when they’re clearly not trying?

“Building a business from scratch is 24 hours, 7 days a week, divorces, it’s difficult to hold your family life together, it’s bloody hard work and only one word really matters — and that’s surviving.” — Richard Branson

Took the Pet Sitting Insurance Leap – Coverage and Cost Breakdown!

I mentioned yesterday that I would be investing in pet sitting insurance soon to protect me from general crud that could happen with my new side hustle – Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting.  Making extra money wouldn’t mean much if I ever get sued and lose based on something my pet sitting fur-clients did while under my care.

Insured and Ready to Go!

Insured and Ready to Go!

Coverage

I ended up choosing a policy through Pet Sitters Associates, LLC.  Here’s a quick breakdown of the coverage:

  • $1,000,000 per occurrence, up to $2,000,000 annually for bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, advertising injury, products, and completed operations
  • $100,000 annually for fire damage
  • $15,000 per occurrence, up to $30,000 annually for pets lost, stolen, injured, or killed in your care
  • $1,000 per occurrence, up to $5,000 annually for vet expenses regardless of negligence
  • $2,000 annually for lost keys and re-keying of customers homes
  • $5,000 annually for medical expenses
  • $10,000 per occurrence, up to $25,000 annually, for the theft, breakage, and mysterious disappearance of the personal property of the pet owner while under the care of you, your employees, your independent contractors, or your incidental helpers.

No deductible for claims, EXCEPT $500 per incident if you purposely took an unleashed animal to a dog park or outdoors unless it’s in the pet owner’s or pet sitter’s yard with an above ground fence that will keep pets inside and people/animals outside.

In Short

Does the pet insurance cover your liability if the dog bites someone or runs in the street and causes a car accident or does it cover death and illness of a pet? If the pet has to go to the vet, you might have to pay if the owner refuses to reimburse you. If the pet dies the owner may want compensation from you.

In short – yes, all of that is covered.  :-)

Total Cost

Here was the breakdown of the costs for coverage from April 3, 2014 for one year:

  • Basic Insurance – $185
  • Special Property Coverage (that $10,000 property coverage was extra but I’m clutzy sometimes) – $100
  • Processing Fee – $10
  • Listing Fee to be in their search database of pet sitters – $10
  • Total = $305

Totally worth the peace of mind for me and my clients!  And it looks good to be able to show and state that I’m insured.  :-)

Side Hustle SUCCESS – Pet Sitting Rakes in $1000+ in First Month!!!

It’s 2:30am on April 3rd, 2014 and this will be posting in 2.5 hours…THEN:

  • 6am – waking up to take care of two cats
  • 10am – walking and feeding two dogs
  • 11am – drive to my grandparent’s for lunch with my cousins
  • 2pm - the two cats are being picked up thanks to my awesome roommates
  • 9pm – meeting with a client to schedule her Easter weekend pet sitting
  • 10pm – walk the same two dogs again as I did at 10am

Motivated Again

I should be asleep, but I just got in bed 20 minutes ago since I had to walk some dogs at 11pm, take a shower, then answer some urgent emails for my online business, update my records for pet sitting for 2014′s taxes, and finally, I wanted to write this post while I was still buzzing with adrenaline.

Today’s schedule is one of the busiest of the last month or so, but every day has had something.  I’ve been physically exhausted, but mentally, I’m pumped!  I forgot how much I love making new business ideas work!  I’m getting more done online even though I have way less time than for the last year or so.  I’m like that - I’m at my best when I am extremely busy.  Woot!!!

Crystal's Cozy Care Pet Sitting

Proof that Hobby Jobs Can Make Money

For the disbelievers out there, side hustles can make you good money fast (check out my top 10 tips here).  I started Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting by posting on Craigslist and getting my first job on February 27.  I made $1125 by March 27.  Now, a week later, the total is around $1320!

So far, it has cost:

  • $60 in gas so far thanks to making 30mpg and having close gigs
  • $44 in advertising ($20 for business cards and $24 for car magnet signs) – Thanks to my friend, J, for the free, super awesome design below!!!
  • $8 in extras like a poop bag dispenser with bags and a small bag of treats

Crystals Cozy Care Car Magnet Sign

That brings the NET TOTAL to $1208 in about 5 weeks!!!  And I have $120 lined up for the next week.

Right now, I am using a pet sitting release-of-liability contract to cover my butt (along with a healthy dose of common sense), but my pet sitting insurance is going to take a $300 bite out of my earnings next week.  It’ll be worth it to be able to advertise that I’m bonded and insured.

Taxes will also take their bite in April 2015, which is why I am on the ball with recording my mileage, costs, income, etc.  BUT, I’m just really happy that my chosen side hustle is taking off, forces me to exercise, and is helping animals have a less stressful time when their owners are away.  In-their-home pet sitting seems better for everyone involved.

Mushy Stuff

As you may have noticed with my online business, I have turned a side hustle into real money before.  I just wasn’t 100% sure that it wasn’t a one-time thing.  I’m unexplainably exuberant about my successful entrepreneurial spirit…I feel like it’s a family heirloom that has been passed down the generations and I’m just happy it’s in me too.  :-)  My great-grandparents – the bakers, the butchers, and the pelt sellers before them – would all be proud…well, at least that is what I’m feeling right now.  ;-)

Please share all of your side hustle stories below!  Anybody else find a fun way of making $1000+ a month on the side?  Please share!  :-)