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Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting Update

I mention my pet sitting side hustle frequently, but haven’t written a thorough update post lately about Crystal’s Cozy Care.  I saw this question left in my newsletter post this month from Leilani (thank you for subscribing and commenting!) and thought it would make a good lead in, LOL:

I also have a pet care hobby business and so far have to limit the jobs I accept because of my day job. I’m hoping to grow this hustle. Right now, I only accept cash and checks, but would eventually like to accept credit cards. So, my question: What type of payments do you accept for your pet sitting gigs?

Payment Methods

I started at the very end of February 2013 by accepting just cash and checks.  But then I was asked about other methods in April 2014 so I started accepting Paypal.  Finally, about 3 months after I started, I came across a photographer client who highly suggest the Square payment system.  It’s fees are less than Paypal, so I use that now exclusively for credit card payments (although only one client uses it regularly).  I still have two ongoing clients that prefer Paypal.  The vast majority, more than 95%, still leave me cash and checks.

Payment Methods that I Accept

Business Growth

I still advertise my services mainly through Craigslist, word of mouth, and Nextdoor.com.  Craigslist has led to the most jobs.  I also apply to gigs on Care.com and Sittercity.com, but that has only amounted to a few positions.

Crystal's Cozy Care Pet Sitting

In super happy news, most of my monthly income now comes from repeat customers.  A couple of neighbors and families near me use me for every weekend trip or major vacation that they take.  Two mommies have such odd work hours that I pet sit for their pups for at least a few days if not more of every month since they met me.

Snake Drama

One proud papa of a 10 1/2 lavender reticulated python has hired me for one visit a week pretty consistently since the end of May 2014.  Her name is Sephoria and here she is under a black light:

Sephoria the Snake - Lavender Reticulated Python

Sephoria is gorgeous and has grown to be nearly 11 feet long in less than 18 months.

The drama behind Sephoria is that for about 3 weeks, I was replaced with a “snake specialist” only because her owner wasn’t comfortable with her size and me mixing when she was hungry (every 4-8 weeks depending).  Well, that specialist ended up being truly dumb and unethical…he stole Sephoria.  Within 5 days, her owner had posted a want ad for Sephoria on Craigslist that explained the whole situation and asked for help.  The stupid guy’s cousin saw the post, the guy freaked out, and he returned her.  Yay!

Needless to say, I have my job back since I can be completely trusted not to steal her.  Her owner has now requested to be allowed to go home from his trucking job at least once every 2-3 weeks so I won’t even need to feed her myself (her giant frozen rabbits take more than a day to thaw properly and the feeding process is too complex for my schedule).

For my non-snake loving readers, here are some of the cute mammals (mostly dogs and cats) that have become regulars:

Eisley

Fred and Ginger May 2014

Jackie and Daisy

Khaleesi

Khari and Kori

Nunchuck

Pendek

Ricai

Zim

Income

Unless I start taking on more employees, other than my close friend and roommate, Mandy, then I think I am pretty much around the most business that I can take on right now. School is back in session, so there will be a slow down. I’m totally okay with that since I was working 30 hours a week just for pet sitting in August 2014. Here have been my total income numbers so far (not taking into account my driving deductions and stuff like that):

  • March 2014 – $1100
  • April 2014 – $400
  • May 2014 – $580
  • June 2014 – $1640
  • July 2014 – $785
  • August 2014 – $1680

I have put more than 5000 miles on my new car.  I am slowly making sure to stay within a 15 mile radius from my house so that those driving numbers should decrease each month from now on while my income stays above $500.  The more popular I become, the pickier I can choose to be on the locations of the jobs that I accept.

Pricing

Along those lines, I have increased my pricing as I’ve developed my reputation as well.  I used to be $15 a visit or $50 for overnight care.  Now I’m $20-$30 per visit depending on location and $70-$90 for overnight care.  Yet, my business is growing.  I also still charge a little less for my returning clients since I grandfather in their rates unless I was being simply unrealistic (like $60 a night for more than 5 pets that are all high maintenance or $50 a night for locations about an hour away…I’ve changed those and informed those families of my actual rates with a slight discount just for them).

Overall, I’m enjoying myself and am honestly trying to keep myself to 30 hours or less per week of total time towards pet sitting.  That only became difficult during the craziest parts of the summer so far.  I expect the holidays will be packed too.

Did I miss anything that you wanted to know about?  Please let me know!

I Might Be an Uber Driver Soon…

Have you heard about Uber yet?  I read an article about a drunk guy using them exclusively in a classy part of Houston and keep seeing mentions about them around the web (like this guest post about being a driver at Budgets Are Sexy).  It’s a virtual taxi service that connects drivers with passengers, handles the bills with the passengers, and then pays the drivers 80%.  It’s super easy although a little pricey for the passengers.  For the drivers, there is a bit more to handle…

Why I’m Interested

My ears perked up a little because:

  • It’s a pricey service and 80% seems like a great commission.
  • My nearly new car is in great shape (see below).
  • You only “go online” (log in to the app) when you want to work.  I can’t find minimum requirements.
  • They only keep drivers that stay well-rated overall.
  • I already drive more than I generally would like to thanks to pet sitting – it would be great to make some real money off of the driving itself…
  • I live in a suburb outside of Houston by enough that I doubt I will actually be very busy.  I just want to test the waters.

An Uber Driver?

Applying to be an Uber Driver

Here are the basic things that stuck out to me while applying:

  • Your car has to be a 2005 model or newer that is in Excellent condition.  No body damage, interior problems, or missing hubcaps.
  • They verify that you have current insurance.
  • They verify that your car is properly registered.
  • You submit pictures of all of the above stuff including interior and exterior photos of your car from lots of requested angles.
  • They do a surprisingly thorough two-step background check.

Early Planning Stage

They said it would take 2-3 days for my application to be looked at and approved or not.  I’ve already received the results of my background check – all clear as expected.  I paid attention to their make-more suggestions and am planning to be a great car service that offers:

  • Getting the door for them.
  • Cool water bottles.
  • An android phone charging station.
  • Great company.
  • A clean vehicle.
  • Fast service.

I doubt this will become a big part of my life, but I am looking forward to trying this out and seeing if I’d like to add yet another side hustle to my growing list, LOL.

Have you heard of Uber?  Would you want to be a driver?

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?

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?

 

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!  :-)

10 Tips to Starting a Service Business Side Hustle

A few people, including myself and my husband, are honestly surprised that my pet sitting business is taking off the way it is.  I figured I could list out what I did to start my service business so that we can all remember, lol.  I search this site all of the time for the recipes I posted and to refresh my own memory about dates that we did stuff…so here this is for posterity.  :-)

10 Tips to Starting a Successful Service Business Side Hustle

  1. Choose a service that you enjoy doing.  For me, it was pet sitting.
  2. Think of a good name.  It may help to include the general service in the title too.  I like alliteration, so I chose “Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting”
  3. Create a bio that clearly states what you will be doing and why you are a good choice to do it.  Consider having a site to post the bio and other info on since it does seem more professional.  I wrote out my intentions, experience, and general rates at http://www.dogslifeforme.com/crystals-cozy-care/.  Then I bought the domain and forwarded that page to http://www.crystalscozycare.com/.  I edit that site any time I come up with more info, or when I get to know myself better as I pet sit more.
  4. Choose an image that you will associate with your services.  People like pictures.  They enjoy being able to see a picture and associate it with a place or person that they know.  I chose a picture that my sister sent me of me at their home with their parrot on my head.Crystal's Cozy Care Pet Sitting
  5. Advertise that you are available – clearly state where you are willing to work and any other details that should be known up front.  I posted my services on Craigslist and clearly state the area I will work in, what my services include, my experience profile, and my very general rates.
  6. When you use Craigslist, remember to post in ALL of the categories that your competitor’s are posting in.  For me, I made sure to have at least one post under “Pet Services”, “Community – Pets”, and even “Sales – Animals” because that is where everyone else was listing too.  I also chose my prices based on the going rates too – I wasn’t the cheapest or the most expensive.
  7. Highlight your special.  For me, I need to highlight that I prefer to pet sit in the owner’s home since that is what I am getting the most interested calls about.  Pet parents know that they are happier at home and are willing to pay me more to come to them.
  8. Update your advertising when things change.  When I decided to mainly concentrate on pet sitting at their home, I stopped making a big deal about the rates to pet sit in my own home.  I also have raised my rates since a pet sitting client pointed out that they were too low and simply paid me more.  Now I know that staying the night with someone’s pet is worth at least $60.  If I am simply doing one 30-60 minute visit a day, that is worth $15-$20 depending on their location.
  9. Under promise and over deliver.  I let my clients know what I will be doing at a bare minimum and then I do more.  With pet sitting, I take care of the pets as we agreed, then I step it up.  With the Boxers, I played with them outside way more times than I promised.  In my current job, I am playing with Buster even more than I promised, AND I also cleaned the whole kitchen including the stove and microwave.  Just a happy surprise for them when they get back.  :-D  I also have a “Pet Sitting Summary” for all of my clients where I record everything we did, when they ate, and any additional notes.
  10. The final tip is to DO IT NOW!!!  No one ever made a penny with just an idea.  They either had to put the idea in motion or sell it to someone who would.  Good luck!!!

Am I missing any obvious tips?  What do you think about the ones above?