I’ve been house and pet sitting since I was a young child. Here’s how I started my own small business of watching other people’s homes and pets.
My first experience of house and pet sitting was when I did so for my neighbors when I was very young. It was great that all I had to do was walk next door to do my “job.” There were three neighbors in my court that I would occasionally house and pet sit and I first started doing so when I was in elementary school. As time went on I would find myself taking care of the houses and pets of some of my friends from school. Since I was still very young my mother would have to drive me to these houses. It was a great experience and I would have these jobs maybe once a month. I wasn’t even making enough money to have to file taxes for but it was a great opportunity to learn how to be responsible for other people’s homes and pets.
At the end of high school and first couple of years of college I stopped house and pet sitting for the most part and held jobs at local stores instead. When I moved away from my hometown I found it difficult to find a new job. I came across the website Care.com and realized that this was how people hired pet sitters, house sitters, and babysitters now. Most of the people looking for these sitters wanted background checks done on the sitters and at the time I couldn’t even afford to get that done. This meant that most of my applications for these sitting jobs through this site were going unseen. It didn’t even matter to some that I stated that I had been in Girl Scouts for over 10 years and had house and pet sit since I was a small child. I finally caught a break when I came across someone wanting a dog walker. I really didn’t think it was that glamorous of a job but this person hired me even though I didn’t have a background check done on me.
It was really scary going to meet the person who wanted a dog walker because I met them through online and really didn’t know what to expect. Part of the reason why I was okay with going ahead and meeting with them is because they lived in a nice area. I did this job for a couple of months but after awhile I realized it wasn’t for me. The major issue that I had was that I would sometimes be walking in the rain and other times it would be severely hot. Not to mention the rising gas prices made it so I was barely making a profit from the job. I soon applied for other jobs through Care.com and was able to use this dog walking job as a reference. It ended up being the stepping stone that I needed.
A busy schedule and breaking away from the website.
Not too long after stopping the dog walking job I started finding clients to house and pet sit for. I started getting referrals and ended up having my own little business. I learned how to time my clients right to save money on gas. I did this by only accepting clients in the town that I lived in as well as incorporating any errands along the way to these houses. At the height of my business I would be doing three houses a day. My schedule would be packed and although I didn’t have to come to these specific houses at a specific time I did have to make sure that I either came at morning or night. Some people wanted me to come to their houses twice a day which made for a long day. The Summer months were especially busy because some of my clients were families that would go on vacations. There was actually one month that I had where I worked every single day of the month. This ended up making me rethink my little business.
Lessons learned from running a small business.
Running your own small business can be a lot of work and you may end up with not getting any vacation time yourself. I found this out firsthand when I ended up having nonstop work. It became clear to me that I couldn’t really schedule any vacations for myself because my clients were counting on me to be available for when they went on vacations. Another lesson that I learned was that it costs money to make money. Mainly I ended up spending a lot of money on gas. Even though I limited my clients to just my hometown it still cost me a lot of gas. I ended up canceling one of my clients because they weren’t really paying me enough to even cover the cost of the gas I was using to get to their home. They were one of my first clients so that’s why they were paying me the least and unfortunately sometimes you have to make these types of decisions of cancelling a client if they aren’t really helping your business.
Over time I started losing clients due to people moving or cutting back on going on vacations. I was running this house and pet sitting business of mine during the time when the economy wasn’t the greatest in America. I felt the economy crisis firsthand when one of my biggest clients ended up foreclosing on their home and had to move. Losing this client meant losing a lot of income for me. I eventually lost all my clients due to various reasons out of my control but it was a great business while it lasted. I ended up moving again and this time around I decided to only house and pet sit for family from now on.
In the end there were too many uncertainties with having the business that I had. The only way that I could have made the business last was if I had a lot more clients and someone else helping me. I literally was doing everything myself which made my own personal life suffer. I never technically had days off which meant I wasn’t free to hang out with friends or family. There was also so many costs that I endured relating to my car. As the gas prices went up my profit went down. It’s things like that that aren’t thought about at first when trying to start your own business. At least that’s how it was for me. In the end looking back I think I did a lot more work than what I was getting paid for but I’m glad I did it all because it was a great learning experience.