When I first started Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting at the end of February 2014, I was aiming to just earn extra spending money on the side – like a few hundred a month. I ended up making $750 in March 2014 and it’s just gone up from there. It’s now grown into a full $30,000+ per year business!
Because I’m awesome. 😉 But seriously, it’s because I treated it like a “real” business and not just a hobby. I also kept costs down to a minimum for the maximum gain.
My Business Basics
Here are the basics for Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting:
- Pet Sitting Insurance – $400 per year
- Website Hosting (I already had unlimited hosting through Bluehost) – $70 a year
- Website Domain Name (included free in a new Bluehost package) – $15 a year
- Business cards (use my referral links to automatically get a discounted rate) – $23 for 1000 cards
- Advertising on Craigslist – $0
- Advertising on Nextdoor.com – $0
- Advertising via Car Signs (magnetic) – $25 for two
- Advertising via Yelp – $0
- Advertising in my neighborhood’s newsletter – $50 per newsletter (wasted)
- Advertising via Tshirts – $2 (received two nearly free tshirts in exchange for reviewing them honestly here)
TOTAL = $585 ($400 of which is pet sitting insurance!)
I wanted to have my butt covered for accidents AND lead the pack in some way when I first started pet sitting. I noticed that the most professional-looking pet sitters I came across on Craigslist all had insurance. I researched pet sitting insurance, found the three main options, and went for the one that most of my rivals-now-friends used – petsitllc.com.
It was $305 per year to be bonded and insured my first year. Now I pay $315 and an additional $85 to insure my husband too. I could use him before for free since it was only once in a while. But now that he covers more than $600 of visits for me per year (he covers around 35-40% of all of our jobs), he needed to be added to my policy. I don’t mind at all since we are covered for all sorts of accidents and issues that I hope we never encounter (you can check out all of the coverage details in this post).
I highly suggest setting up a website for any business, side hustle, hobby, etc. If you want people to be able to see your work/product/service, you need an online site.
You can get hosting for a single site for as little as $3 a month, but I have an unlimited plan through Bluehost that I use for all of my sites other than BFS. I paid $215 for 3 years of hosting for unlimited domains with Bluehost and have fluctuated between 5-9 personal sites as I start some, sell some, buy some, etc. BFS is on a semi-private server with Pagely for $20 a month since it has grown too big for most discount plans.
If you use my referral link, you’ll get a special discount plus they include a free domain name for a year for signing up. Since it’s $10-$15 a year to “buy” a domain name (it feels more like renting), this is a cool signup bonus!
I spent $15 at Vista Print for 500 cards (including shipping) when I first started and have since paid another $23 for another 1000 cards. Service business = cards.
My clients want ones to take with them, put on the fridge, give to their emergency contacts, and (hopefully) hand to their friends. Prospective clients want one to remember my info, or even to take a picture of with their phone and keep the real one in their wallet. Brick and mortar businesses in the area let me leave small stacks so overlapping clients can find me too.
I needed business cards.
I haven’t changed my design since I created it in early 2014 since I love it and it gets tons of compliments. Clients and prospective clients can call me, text me, or find me online very easily. The picture seems to get the most mentions – it’s one my sister sent me with my mom’s parrot, Aruba, on my head. I also choose a matte finish so I can easily write on the back if I want to add additional info for someone.
I used these lessons recently yet again when ordering business cards for my online business too:
Overall, a simple but memorable card can bring in business that may have forgotten about you otherwise.
In the very beginning, I advertised my services on Craigslist. That doesn’t cost anything and I was getting about 3 new clients a week. The downside is that I was accepting clients 30+ minutes from my house. I realized pretty quickly that I much rather work close to home, so I started mentioning my service on Nextdoor.com too. That is also free and has netted me dozens of clients in my area.
Since I am a traveling-around-town pet sitter, I realized that I should use my car for advertising too. I found a custom, magnetic sign company on Ebay that would ship me two signs for $25. The signs themselves have only brought in about a dozen calls over 2 years, BUT many prospective and current clients have mentioned them. They give off a professional impression.
In late 2014, I decided I should probably list my pet sitting business on Yelp since a client asked about it. I set up that free page one evening, made a few adjustments a couple of months later, and that chugs along on its own. I’ve gotten at least a dozen clients over the last year because of my Yelp listing and reviews from clients.
I also paid to have an ad about my pet sitting services listed in one of my neighborhood’s newsletters at the end of 2015 for $50, but that didn’t get me any calls. I haven’t tried that again.
The most new clients come from word-of-mouth referrals, followed by Nextdoor.com, followed by Googling for pet sitters in our area and my site coming up.
I’ve wanted to get some Crystal’s Cozy Care tshirts made for the last 2 years, but I’ve been cheap. They would have been $15-$20 minimum per shirt, so I just kept procrastinating. But Allied Shirts came along this past summer and offered me a couple of free shirts in exchange for an honest review.
I ended up paying about $1 each to upgrade something on the design…to this day, I have no idea what I upgraded that went over the given amount by like 88 cents, but I didn’t mind at all. They ended up working out perfectly!
I ended up ordering a Unisex large for myself and a Unisex X-Large for my husband. You can see how they worked out on our frames. I’m 5’2” and about 160 pounds. He’s about 6’ and weighs around 210.
I love these shirts and they were pretty easy to design on alliedshirts.com. I uploaded the images we wanted to use for the fronts, and then messed around with the font on the back to include our name, phone number, and website. It was easy to center and they have previews before you order as well.
Best part is they already caught a few people’s attention! We are starting with a new client next week because she saw my shirt while we were at a doctor’s office together, lol.
As with everything, there are a few expenses that you don’t have to have but end up splurging for anyway. This year, I was offered a free vendor booth at a nearby neighborhood’s National Night Out this upcoming October, so I ordered a 3 foot wide banner for our table from VistaPrint for $20.
My fellow pet sitter and friend, Sarah Bara, also pulled out all the stops and convinced me to attend a popular pet sitting conference in late October (#PSO2016). I’m getting super excited!!! So I ordered a tote bag on Vistaprint too for $15 that I can use while I attend (I have one for my blog that has become a staple of my annual treks to FinCon).
When you think of the costs associated with running most businesses, spending less than $600 a year on running a $30,000+ per year business isn’t much at all! Obviously we do pay for gasoline and car maintenance stuff too, but we get to deduct mileage on our taxes, which more than covers our cost. 🙂 All of these expenses are tax deductions too, but that really means we just get a discount equal to our tax rate that year.
My main point – you don’t have to rack up a ton of overhead to run a successful small business.
FYI: I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 per year. I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $70,000-$90,000 through blogging, professional pet sitting, hubby's reffing, and our rental home. If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you, PLUS a free custom header banner from me!). Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!