My Side Hustle: Pet Sitting!

IMG_0155I’ve alluded to it in a few previous posts, and now I feel established enough to talk about my side hustle. I’m a pet sitter! And it’s been awesome! I get paid to play with kitties and puppies, can set my own schedule, and have the opportunity to stay in different neighborhoods around the District.

Deciding on a Side Hustle

When I was on the hunt for a side hustle, I was searching for an opportunity where I could make a decent side-income, set my own schedule, and do something I liked. I didn’t want a data entry job because I sit and work at a computer all day. I also didn’t want a retail job, because I didn’t want to put myself in the situation where shopping would be even easier. Dog walking is an extremely prevalent service in the District, and there were plenty of services that had openings, but trying to fit that into my Big Girl 9-5 schedule was next to impossible. Additionally, I didn’t want to have to clear leave requests with two bosses. However, I was really intrigued by the idea of pet care. I love dogs, owning one just doesn’t fit my lifestyle right now. I work long hours, live in an apartment that barely houses me and my 2 adorable, but asshole cats, and I travel a lot. However, taking care of other people’s pets when my schedule allowed seemed like a great gig. Additionally, I get to snuggle with puppies, perform the job in my home or travel to the dog’s home, and get some built-in exercise.

Getting Set Up with Rover.com

When I came across another sitter’s Rover.com post on Craigslist, I decided to investigate. After reading through the site and liking what I saw (clearing 85% of your earnings, ability to donate a portion of your earnings to animal-centric charities, setting your own schedule, excellent customer support), I set up a profile to see how it went! Despite not putting much effort into my first go at setting up my profile, I had my first inquiry within 24 hours! Rover advises that it could take up to a month to get your first job, so I was caught off guard at how fast I had been contacted. I shouldn’t have been – DC is a full of dog owners, and we were entering the summer months. Throughout my first week of having a live profile, I received 10 inquiries, booked 2 of them, and went on several meet-and-greets for potential future clients. Once I sat down and put some time into creating my profile, I began to consistently receive inquiries.  I also posted my profile to Facebook and Craigslist, and passed out Rover business cards to local pet businesses such as Wylie Wagg and the local vet.

My Clients

In the 4½ months I’ve been dog sitting, I’ve had a wide variety of clients. I’ve sat a Boxer, a Shiba Inu, a Pug, a Frenchie, a Hound, and Lab mix, and numerous other breeds. I’ve sat cuddlebugs and nervous nellies. I’ve traveled all over the District, and hosted dogs in my apartment (at 500sqft, this occasionally gets really cozy). So far, I’ve only had one client that I would not consider as a repeat client.

Through the rest of 2015, I’m pretty booked on the weekends between confirmed bookings and my own personal stuff. So unless a job too good to be true comes my way, I’m probably going to stick to repeat clients (don’t involve the time to conduct a meet-and-greet) and cat care bookings (the meet-and-greet is usually to pickup keys and be shown where food and supplies are) until the end of the year. Once 2016 starts, I am planning to ramp my advertising back up and take on more bookings.

Income

One of the great things about Rover is the ability to set your own schedule and your own rates. When I first started out, I undercut the sitters in my area by $10 per night to attract interested pet owners and build up my client base. Once I began receiving consistent inquiries, I gradually raised my prices.  I am still charging less than many sitters around the area, but I am considering raising my rates but a couple of bucks again on January 1. To date, I’ve made around $2,000 of side income (including officially booked stays through the end of the year), which is more than I expected to make when I started. And considering I’ve had to decline a large number of requests for various reasons (availability, dog not a good fit, inconvenient locations), I could have cleared double this amount. I’ve been using my side income for a smattering of different things, but I recently decided to make it the source for my Travel Fund since my Minimergency Savings account is officially fully funded. With some trips on the horizon, having a constantly growing travel fund puts my mind at ease!

Downsides to Rover and Pet-sitting

There are, of course, downsides to everything, and there are downsides to pet-sitting and using Rover as well. I’ve listed some of them below:

  • Turning down jobs: I’ve had to turn down many jobs for various reasons. These include the dogs not being a good fit (this is mostly related to how they react to my cats during the meet and greet), the location not being convenient (ex. there being severely limited public transportation options to get to work when acting as a traveling sitter), or availability issues. I had a very hard time saying “no” when I first started, but have gotten much better at it as I go. Additionally, you would be shocked at how many pet owners wait until the night or two nights before departure to inquire about sitting their dog, which is not enough time to conduct a meet-and-greet. Saying no is always hard, especially since the pet owner mostly likely chose you above all the other pet-sitter available.  It’s especially difficult when you know that pet owner is in a bind.
  • The Rover System isn’t Super Intuitive: If you offer sitting services both in your home and in the client’s home, the calendars are not connected, meaning you have to manually update the other calendar once you’ve made a booking. I understand why they do this, but its super frustrating to get inquiries when you are not available. There are numerous other quirks, like you cannot issue refunds yourself, and its a PITA to adjust a stay after it’s booked.  That being said, they are continuously making upgrades for the better, such as an auto-pay setting, and additional services.  They recently added more service options to their system, meaning you don’t need to do creative accounting for anything that isn’t a straight forward dog sitting booking.
  • Poor Pet Parents: I have had to deal with some terrible pet parents while pet-sitting. This includes parents who lie about their dog’s behavior issues, who don’t send enough food for the duration of the stay, who don’t leave a note with pertinent information, and those let their pets just roam all over the place while on the leash. Even if I like a dog, if I get weird feelings about the owners, I will turn down the job.

Overall, I think pet-sitting is a great side-hustle. It teaches patience, time management, shows you are responsible, and provides a beneficial service to pets and pet owners.  Plus you get paid to play with puppies! I’m even considering including it when I next update my resume since it demonstrates you have a wide variety of skills.  If you already have a full-time job and prefer to freelance, Rover is a great service to use. Getting set up is easy, and their customer service is great when you are having issues. I can see myself being a pet-sitter for the foreseeable future.

What is your side hustle?

If you are interested in trying out Rover.com for your side-hustle, I invite you to sign up using my referral link. If you complete 2 stays in your first 90 days, I will receive a small Amazon gift card as a referral bonus. 

If you are interested in using Rover to find a sitter for your pet, you can use my custom discount code, MELLY250820, for $20 off your first stay. Your sitter will still get their full rate, and I will receive a $10 referral bonus.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner!

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