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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

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
  • Created a profile at
  • Posted about my new service on my home owner’s association website
  • Posted my services on
  • 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:


  • 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


  • 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!


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  Then I bought the domain and forwarded that page to  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?

How We Started Our Online Party Supplies Business AND a Giveaway!!!

GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED!  Congrats to Sarah and Helen!!!

The following is a guest post from Mich & Nadine, the husband+wife team behind Cupcake Makeover.  The shop is the fusion of Mich’s technical experience from blogging in the past few years with Nadine’s passion for unique and adorable designs. A mom of 2 twin girls, Nadine has been enjoying party planning for the past 7 years.  Mich has been a blogging buddy of mine for a while.  Good luck guys!

Choosing the Passion

The hardest part of starting your own business is finding something you like to do; a passion or a talent that you can monetize. That was never an issue with my wife; she is creative and equipped with the proper graphic design skills. But most importantly, she has a blast when it comes to planning our kids’ birthdays. For the past few years, she’s been asked on every birthday why she doesn’t monetize her skills by offering her services.

How could she do that when she has 2 young kids to take care of along with a job during the day?

Getting it Going

We were always part of those people who dreamt of running their own business yet always had a reason to avoid taking that first step. However, she really wanted to! She’d been itching for some way that would allow her to do what she loves and profit from it. She certainly has the skills and the talent, these were never missing. What she was missing was the technical expertise to step into the world market of the internet. This is where I stepped in as I developed this knowledge over the past few years.

She was finally able to have her store on the internet as we took the plunge and started our small business by launching an online party supplies store: Cupcake Makeover. It was the result of combining her passion with my technical background in building and running websites. It’s the perfect business marriage, one that took a few years to materialize.

Taking that step required a high level of dedication as there’s an extremely competitive market out there. Your passion for something is often not enough to start a small business unless you believe you can do better than everyone out there. This is what I meant by having a high level dedication, prior to starting a business you need to study the market to know who you’re competing against. And in the party supplies segment, the competition is disheartening.


Yet that did not deter my wife from her decision, I did my part by setting up the store and after a few late nights she started rolling out her designs. She had jumped right into the fire by starting her work on a superhero party theme; this is one of the most popular (and competitive) party themes out there.   She created all the coordinating supplies for a number of superhero sets from cupcake toppers & wrappers to treat boxes, party favors to food labels and everything in between.

Then we received that first order and it was a memorable experience. The feeling is weird, making $10 dollars from your own work beats making $100 from a regular job working for someone else.  The money is just more rewarding. With the initial orders rolling in, my wife was also able to put her biggest fears to rest. She has been very worried about customer satisfaction; the recurring positive feedback from customers finally eliminated that anxiety.

Her work has paid off!


To celebrate, I’m sponsoring a $50 giveaway (two $25 certificates) for free stuff from!  This will run from today through September 15, 2013.  Crystal will let me know who wins.  Use the Rafflecopter Widget below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Babysitting this Weekend, Any Suggestions?

We are part of a really cool group of people that hang out to board game whenever possible.  We also take turns hosting potlucks and dinner parties pretty regularly as well.  One of those friends and his wife haven’t had 3 days in a row to themselves for more than 12 years!  Holy moly!  So I will be taking care of 3 kids from Friday morning through Sunday night…

How Did I Get Into Babysitting?

Well, our friend asked me about a month ago to see if anyone could babysit this coming weekend since his regular go-to sitters weren’t available.  He has a 6 year old little girl, an 8 year old boy, and an 11 year old boy.

The only special circumstance is that the 11 year old is autistic, but he is actually the most laid back kid of the group.  I’ve been around him for half days two or three times now.  The only thing that seems different is that he can get really, really focused on something to the point of it being almost obsessive.  Like rules or making sure something was worded correctly.  But anytime it’s happened around me, I just distracted him with absolutely anything else for a second and then he moved on.  He’s just a normal little guy that sometimes has what feels like a brain glitch over specifics.

I asked our friend what the pay would be so I could pass it along to the group.  It’s $12 an hour during the day and $6 an hour for 8 hours each night.  That comes to nearly $700 since they needed someone from 6am Friday morning through midnight Sunday night!  That is a lot of babysitting…but it also is a nice chunk of change.

I Threw My Hat in the Ring

I let him know that I would cover it for sure, and that I would ask around to see who else would help me out.  He was so excited that he’ll get real time with his wife!  That made me smile.  But I also thought I could split a couple of days with other friends and the weekend would be a little easier.  Well, no one else is free this weekend, so it’ll just be me.

I babysat all through middle school, high school, and occasionally throughout college and these past 10 years.  So I am ready for this weekend, but it was a little unexpected that I’ll be handling it alone.

Before anybody yells at me for taking money from a friend, he is supplemented by the state for babysitting expenses like this once in a while because of the autism.  It’s called “respite care” money to allow parents of children with disabilities to get a little time away each month.  But they haven’t been able to get any time away for a while, so it has built up enough to cover a 3 day trip.

Ideas for the Weekend

I’ll be staying at their house the whole time, so I know we’ll have access to their normal activities.  There is a swimming pool (and life jackets), a netted trampoline, and their pets (a dog and 2 cats…lots of Claritin for me, lol).  I also know that they can play a few board games already and have a ton of coloring supplies.  The kids also know how to operate the tv and dvd player.

My general plan is to get them outside in the morning and late afternoon using the pool or trampoline.  In my experience, half the battle of watching kids is making sure they have ample opportunities to burn off energy.  During the super sunny parts of the day and at night, I’ll see what they want to do inside and take it from there.

I know I don’t need to actually keep them entertained 100% of the time since they all are a but autonomous already.  I also made sure my friend and his wife know that I will consider this a complete success as long as their kids are alive and their house is still standing by the time they get home.  I definitely am setting a low bar.  :-)

Side Notes

I do have 2-3 people on call that will drive up if necessary.  They just didn’t want to babysit the whole weekend.  So if there are any problems at all, I’ll have all of the parents’ info, my husband, and a couple of friends that have promised to help if needed.  I’ll let you know next week how this turns out.

Also, my plan is to use the money from this weekend to pay for an 11 day trip in September to visit a couple of great blogging buddies out in Utah and Portland.  I’ll be spending about 5-6 days in each place and just turn it into a blogging buddy adventure.  I’ll let you know how that pans out too.

What would you suggest for a 3 day babysitting extravaganza?