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How to Start a Pet Sitting Business

Editorial Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone.

If you have a passion for animals, then you might want to learn how to start a pet sitting business. Meeting new pets and caring for them can be any animal lover’s dream.

However, starting a business requires more than passion. Even a pet sitting business requires careful planning and a business mindset if you want to be successful. In this guide, we’ll go over the reasons why pet sitting can be a lucrative business, and the steps you can take to ensure yours is successful.

Advantages of Starting a Pet Sitting Business

You may be skeptical that pet sitting can be a profitable side business or that it can replace your full-time job. However, pet sitting can be a lucrative business with several advantages: 

  • Turn your passion into profit: As mentioned before, pet sitting can turn a hobby into a profitable income source. Pet sitting gives pet lovers an opportunity to do something they’re already interested in and get paid for it.
  • Low startup costs: Starting your own pet sitting business doesn’t require much money upfront. You can easily get started for under $500 (we’ll cover expected business expenses shortly).
  • Flexible schedule: Creating your own business allows you to work as little or as much as you want. You can choose which clients you want to work with and whether their needs align with your schedule.
  • No need to rent a space: Rent can be costly if your business requires a physical storefront. Fortunately, pet sitting is often conducted within your own home or at the owner’s home.
  • Recurring clients: Many pet owners need to leave for an extended period, whether it’s for work or for vacation. If you do well with a first-time client, you increase the likelihood that they’ll return with repeat business.

Are you convinced that pet sitting is for you? If so, here’s a play-by-play of how you can start your own pet sitting business.

how to start a pet sitting business

How to Start a Pet Sitting Business: 9 Steps

Step 1: Create a Business Plan

Before you start your business, you need to plan for your business. You have to transition from thinking about this as pursuing a hobby to building a business if you expect to be successful. Creating a business plan gives you a roadmap to ensure you’re hitting the right milestones.

When creating your business plan, you’ll want to include the following items:

Your Target Market

What type of animals do you want to care for? You can choose a niche, like dogs and cats. You can also branch out to exotic animals, like guinea pigs. It’s important to be clear with your target market (or target animal) so you can service that particular animal’s needs. Also, your prices can shift depending on which animals you are servicing.

Where You Will Service Your Clients

Many pet sitting businesses offer their services from their own home. They delegate a section of their home as a pet hotel. Clients can “check-in” their pets and pick them up when they’ve returned from their trips.

If you’re unable to pet sit within your own home, you can offer your services within the owner’s home. This can be convenient for both you and the pet’s owner, since the pet’s usual supplies are already there and they’ll already be comfortable in their environment.

Step 2: Secure Startup Funding

After you’ve chosen which animals you want to service, it’s time to work on your starting and operating costs.

Create a Budget

Capital keeps your business up and running. That’s why learning how to manage your business finances is essential, especially as a small business owner. 

A great place to start is to create a business budget. Calculating your business expenditures helps you estimate how much it would cost to start and run your business. Business expenses you’ll want to factor into your budget include:

  • Transportation and gas
  • Pet supplies
  • Pet food
  • Pet toys
  • Medical supplies
  • Marketing materials (website hosting, business cards, etc.)
  • Business insurance
  • Hiring and training employees
  • Filing legal paperwork (like forming an LLC)

Seek Funding If You Need It

Starting a pet sitting business is an attractive business venture because of its low startup costs. Expect the costs to be even lower if you plan to pet sit within your clients’ homes. You might only require a business credit card to cover your various business expenses.

However, the startup costs can significantly increase if you plan to rent a location and hire additional pet sitters. If this is the route you’re taking, then a business loan can financially jumpstart your business. The first place you’ll want to start is with your bank. 

However, bank lenders can be hesitant about approving you for a loan if this is your first entrepreneurial pursuit. Fortunately, there are other financial options to explore, like starting your own crowdfunding campaign.

Step 3: Register Your Pet Sitting Business

Many people find this step tedious but it can be exciting. This is the step where your business starts to feel official. You’ll need to choose a business entity, a business name, and depending on your chosen entity, file some paperwork. Let’s review.

Choosing a Business Structure

Many pet sitting businesses operate as a sole proprietorship, especially if pet sitting is a side hustle. As a sole proprietor, you don’t need to register any paperwork and you won’t have to pay any business taxes. However, a sole proprietorship does not offer any personal liability protection. 

When your pet sitting business grows from a side hustle to a full-time job, you might want to form an LLC. Unlike a sole proprietorship, LLCs enjoy some personal liability protections and can you can choose whether you’d like to be taxed as a sole proprietor or corporation. Also, affixing “LLC” to your business name adds a professional touch to your business that can attract more clients.

Choosing a Business Name

When choosing a business name, make sure it is unique and available. You wouldn’t want anybody to confuse your business name with another company. To confirm that your business name is available, do a quick secretary of state business search.

If your pet sitting business operates as a sole proprietorship and you choose a business name other than you legal name, then you must file a DBA (“doing business as” name) when registering your business. It’s important to be mindful when researching your state’s DBA requirements, as the process can vary within each state.

When you’re forming an LLC, it is usually required that the term “limited liability company,” “LLC,” or L.L.C” be included in your business name.

how to start a pet sitting business

Step 4: Obtain Permits and Licenses

While there isn’t usually a professional license for pet sitters, if you plan to run your pet sitting business from your own home or a rented space, you’ll need to look into obtaining any permits and licenses required by your state and what’s required to keep up with them. For example, in New York City, if you’re housing or grooming pets and aren’t an animal shelter, you’ll need to get a Small Animal Boarding Establishment Permit, which you must renew every year for $70. 

It’s important you contact your state and local governments to ensure you’re equipped with the proper permits and licenses. Consulting with a business attorney will help ensure that you are meeting all requirements.

Step 5: Get Business Insurance

If you want to start a pet sitting business, you’ll definitely want to want to consider some type of liability insurance for your business. When pet sitting for a puppy, you can probably imagine the destruction they’ll reap on your furniture or their owner’s furniture. Even if you’re looking after a well-behaved pet, accidents and medical emergencies can still pop up. Business insurance helps you stay protected. Fortunately, there are insurance policies specifically for pet sitting businesses, like Petcare Insurance and the Business Insurers of the Carolinas.

Step 6: Set Your Pricing

When starting your pet sitting business, it can be difficult to establish a price point that is competitive without scaring away clients. According to Indeed, a pet sitter within the United States can expect to make an average salary of $38,402 in 2019. However, this number can vary, depending on your experience and which animals you service. Here are some points to consider when determining your price point for your pet sitting business:

1. Research the Competition

Within your local community, there should be other pet sitting services within your area. It’s a good idea to research their hourly or flat fee rates to establish a starting point for how to price your services.

Start researching ways you can offer more value to attract more clients (and potentially charge more). For example, you can offer additional pet services like grooming and obedience training. Or if you’re pet sitting from the owner’s home, you can offer light housework, like watering the plants and getting the mail.

2. Vary Your Prices by Your Charges

Some pets require more care and attention than others. For example, a 2-month-old puppy would require more care than a 50-year-old tortoise. Therefore, you should charge more for the puppy. Also, there are exotic animals that can command a higher rate, like chinchillas or some reptiles.

3. Factor in Your Experience

You can expect your rates to scale with your experience. Pet owners want to know their non-human family members are well-taken care of. Your past experience, especially with non-traditional pets or exotic animals, should attract higher-paying clients.

how to start a pet sitting business

Step 7: Market Yourself

Effectively marketing yourself helps you grow a successful business with loyal clients. Some tactics you can incorporate into your marketing strategy include:

Build Your Brand

It’s difficult to get your business noticed in a competitive market. With other pet sitting services already available, your brand identity can differentiate you from the competition. Also, your branding will solidify who your target client is and which services you offer.

Make Business Cards

Even in this digital age, business cards can still elevate marketing efforts. Since your client base will largely be within your local community, business cards will make it easy to pass around your business details and contact information.

Visit Vet Clinics

If you want to find clients, go to where your clients already frequent. One location is the vet clinic. Ask your local vet clinics if they have a board where you can post a flyer or leave your business card.

Visit Pet Stores

Another great location to meet potential clients is at your local pet stores. Talk with the store owners and see if they’ll agree to let you post your marketing materials in their store.

Visit Gated Communities

Gated communities often have bulletin boards (usually by the community mailbox), where the apartment managers or the homeowner’s association post updates. Try contacting someone associated with the community to see if you can post a flyer of your services for the residents to see.

Word-of-Mouth

Word-of-mouth marketing can be your secret weapon to growing your pet sitting business. A glowing testimonial from a satisfied client can be all you need to get client referrals.

Build Your Website

Building your small business website will help you establish an online presence. Your website will further advance your branding and positive testimonials from satisfied clients will boost your reputability. Also, ranking for keywords within your local area will make it easier for your pet sitting business to get found.

Step 8: Create Intake Sheets, Conduct Interviews, and Close With Contracts

Before meeting with potential clients, you’ll want to complete an intake form that includes the pet’s information (here’s an intake form example from Pawshake). Within your intake form, you’ll want to include the following:

  • Contact information
  • Emergency numbers
  • Pet information (breed, color, health history, allergies, date of birth)
  • Primary veterinary information
  • Pet routines (like feeding and exercise schedule)
  • Medication

If you review an intake sheet and decide you’re interested in working with this client, schedule a meeting. Pets are family members in most households and a meeting ensures that you’re the right fit to take care of their pet.

If the meeting goes well, you’ll want to close the job with a pet sitting contract. This contract will confirm in writing what services you are performing, the agreed payment amount and method, cancellation policies, and more. 

Within your contract, you’ll also want to include a veterinary release form. When the owner signs this form, they permit you to take their pet to the vet and will cover any incurring bills. This is critical, especially if the owner will have limited contact during their absence.

When all documents are signed, make a copy for your client and save a digital copy with the original for yourself.

Step 9: Keep Business and Personal Finances Separate

Even if you’re a one-person small business, you’ll still want to separate your business and personal finances, especially if you registered your business as an LLC.

Co-mingling your business and personal finances can make it challenging when filing your taxes. Also, it can compromise any personal liability protections offered by your LLC.

If you want to practice good business finances, you’ll want to open a business checking account. Also, having a business credit card will help you keep your business expenditures separate.

How to Start a Pet Sitting Business: Final Thoughts

Whether you’re pet sitting for dogs or for reptiles, starting your pet sitting business can be a deeply rewarding venture. However, starting a business can be an overwhelming task, especially if you have zero business experience. Hopefully, however, this step-by-step guide to starting your pet sitting business will help you bridge the gap between passion and profit.

Sally Lauckner

Sally Lauckner

Sally Lauckner is the editorial director at Fundera and the editor-in-chief of the Fundera Ledger. She has over a decade of experience in print and online journalism. Previously she was the senior editor at SmartAsset—a Y Combinator-backed fintech startup that provides personal finance advice. There she edited articles and data reports on topics including taxes, mortgages, banking, credit cards, investing, insurance, and retirement planning. She has also held various editorial roles at AOL.com, Huffington Post, and Glamour magazine. Her work has also appeared in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and Cosmopolitan magazines. Sally has a master's degree in journalism from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English and history from Columbia University.  Email: sally@fundera.com.