Becoming a professional pet sitter is a fantastic way to enter the pet industry and can be a rewarding career, providing you’ve done the groundwork.
Don’t be fooled into thinking pet sitting will be a walk in the park; there are many sides of the business to bear in mind.
Perhaps you’ve already been providing pet sitting services on a casual, ad hoc basis but if you’re going to turn this into a professional service, you need to consider the business requirements as well as the pros and cons of making this a formal gig.
Understand the business basics
Once you’ve decided if you’re going to be a sole trader or company (perhaps you intend to employ people to help you pet sit), you’ll need to choose a business name. The name of your business should be meaningful, ideally showcasing what it is you do.
To ensure the proposed name is available and not already in existence, check your business name online.
You will also want to check to see if the domain name is available, so that you can set up a web page, and also check out what is available on facebook and twitter as these may be your vehicles for promotion. At the very least it adds credibility to your offering to have a website.
Next you’ll need to register the business with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and set up an Australian Business Number (ABN).
It’s also sensible to set up a ‘business’ bank account that’s completely separate from your personal account.
Know the legal requirements
You definitely do not want to find yourself liable for injuries to a pet or property damages. Public liability insurance is a must but there are other types of cover that you might wish to consider too, for example professional indemnity and personal accident insurance.
Find out more about the different types of insurance available.
Clue up on council regulations
Get in touch with your local council to find out how many dogs you can legally keep on your property and whether you need to apply for a permit.
Develop a robust business plan
If you’re serious about getting your pet sitting business up and running it’s worthwhile drawing up a business plan. the most imporant thing to bear in mind is that you are looking after pets that are considered part of the family by their owners. It comes with responsibility which you need to consider when preparing your business plan. Factors to consider include:
- The overarching purpose and potential of your pet sitting business, including the services you intend to offer
- Your skills and knowledge. Do you know the ‘5 freedoms’ of animal welfare? Do you need additional training or experience?
- The current pet sitting market. Who are your competitors and how will you stand out from the crowd?
- Initial set-up costs
- Your income structure and estimated revenue, including the payment methods you will accept
- How you will market your business and attract new clients.
- The cost of set up. If you have a website, for example there may be design or image costs. Websites can be quite inexpensive to set up – you will need to do your research to see what would work for you. But also consider local advertising – will you need flyers, etc? You may also consider business insurance, such as public liability, if you are running a business with many pets, and you are taking them outdoors. Remember pets can be unpredictable! You should also consider the cost of facilities you may provide, for example, beds, bowls, leads, etc.
- What training you may need—for example, pet first aid would be vital.
- Do your homework and make sure you have everything in place when you start. For example, you need to ensure the pets are secure in your home, and that you have the right training and knowledge to take on the responsibility. A great idea is to get a batch of Pet ID Tags created with your details so if you have pets in your care they are wearing your tag, and if they happen to go walk about, you can be located quickly. You can get great quality Pet ID Tags here – and if you enter promo code INTRO20 you’ll get a 20% discount. (If you’re buying more than 10 you could ask for an additional discount!)
- Most important – you should prepare a budget! As well as the start up costs, know how much this will cost you to run.
Get to grips with the administration
To run a professional business you need the correct systems in place. Have you considered contracts for your clients? If not, you might need legal advice on drawing up an appropriate contract.
Where will you keep your client records and do you have a method for recording reservations? Don’t forget to set up an expenses sheet, which can be easily done using excel, and a system for recording payments.
These office basics can take time, but it’s essential to get them nailed from the outset.
Before you start the ball rolling on your new pet sitting business, take some time to weight up the potential benefits and challenges.
- Low start-up costs with no shopfront required.
- You get to work for yourself and from home (the local park or beach).
- Pet sitting allows you to turn your love of animals into a paid job.
- You have the flexibility to work as much or as little as you like.
- Pet sitting can be a rewarding and sociable job, particularly if you build a good rapport with your clients and other pet owners in the vicinity.
- As with any business, you need to safeguard yourself against a possible accident or emergency. Insurance will protect you from liability.
- It’s not a strict 9-5 job. Clients may require your services on weekends and public holidays. People might also need to contact you at last minute or at an unsociable hour of the day if they require emergency pet-sitting arrangements.
- Not only is a certain level of physical fitness required, what will happen if you get ill or injured and can’t perform your services? Do you need personal accident insurance? Have you got a back up plan if you are not able to fulfil your obligations for a day or two?
- While a love of animals is essential, you also need a certain breadth of knowledge and experience to handle certain animal behaviour and situations.
Disclaimer: This information is provided as guidance and should not replace consultation with a registered business advisor.