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Pet Sitting – Not Just About My Return on Investment

I’ve been pet sitting even more lately than is my new norm. In fact, I haven’t slept in my own bed since last Thursday night. I won’t be until this Thursday night. Honestly, that part is probably the largest downside to my new business. But the upsides are worth it usually.

Pet Sitting Pros

I love pets – dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and even the exotics. I enjoy how simple it is to feed, water, play, and pet. My best days are when a skittish pet opens up to me or when an outgoing pet simply cuddles with me instead of running around bonkers. I am proud that I can help them enjoy the time that their humans are away as opposed to simply enduring it. That is fulfilling.

Sassy

Sassy is one of the five dogs that I am living with right now.

Pet Sitting Cons

Staying overnight in other people’s homes, cleaning up potty accidents, and getting scratched up by playful puppies are generally the negatives to the job. I also know that even though I charge more now than when I started, I only make “good” money because of the amount of jobs that I bring in, not because of the hourly wage.

I charge $15-$25 for basic visits depending on the location and the pets involved. I spend about 60-90 minutes on each visit if you include the driving time along with the visits themselves. That means that I am making about $10-$25 an hour depending on the job. BUT that doesn’t take into account the overnight jobs.

For overnight pet sitting, I charge $70-$80 per night. Of the 24 hours that amount covers, at least 8 hours is generally spent interacting with the pets one-on-one in some way. So best case, I am making $10 an hour but throwing in sleep time for free. Not so good.

Pet Sitting ROI

But I don’t just pet sit for the money. If that was the case, I would stop. I do it because I get out of the house and help animals and humans at the same time. It’s a win-win-win service for everyone involved. It also brings around similar feelings to charity work. I do enjoy helping.

I don’t make much more than minimum wage for the hours I put into taking care of pets. But there is something to be valued about creating a profitable business, getting to hang out with animals for hours every day, and learning that my entrepreneurial spirit isn’t nearly as limited as I thought it was 10-15 years ago. I’m a self-employed lady that attempts to impress the crud out of those that employ my services, regardless of the niche. That makes me content.

Thinking Outside of the Box for Small Businesses

I’m a full-time blogger and blog ad manager, but I’m also a full-time professional pet sitter now.  I’m great at marketing myself for my online life, but I am slowly learning to market myself for the pet sitting.

Business Cards

I did have business cards made for Crystal’s Cozy Care nearly as soon as I started.  But I keep forgetting to put them out in restaurants and other facilities that wouldn’t mind.  I also have been meaning to go door-to-door in my neighborhood and deliver them like the lawn guys and maid services do all of the time.  Yesterday, I solved this issue!

A couple of maid service ladies handed me their business card while I was walking back from picking up my mail, and then they headed off to continue going door-to-door.  I had a light bulb moment.  I asked them to wait, ran inside and grabbed my business cards, and then asked them in my broken Spanish if I could pay them to deliver all of my cards throughout my neighborhood and the one next to it.  It took about 5 minutes to work out the details, hand over my cards and $80, and then they headed off.

A-HA!

I knew there was a chance that they would just throw away my cards.  I took a calculated risk.  Later that night though, I received an email from someone several streets over who had my card in the their door!  Woot!  I love it when my ideas pan out!!!

Thinking Outside of the Box

I know that hiring someone else to do the labor that you aren’t doing isn’t really thinking outside of the box.  But I felt like a freaking genius as those ladies hustled away!  My neighborhood has 300+ homes and I have just not found the time to walk the entire thing.  I also procrastinated at finding hired help to do it for me since that takes effort too.  This was just good luck and good thinking at the same time.  And those ladies probably think they stole the $80 since they were walking the same path either way.  WIN-WIN!

Have you ever had an A-HA moment that you’d like to share?  Please do!

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.  :-)