Starting your own pet sitting business is a great idea for any animal lover, because you’ll get to spend your days doing something you enjoy. But before you dive in, there are a few steps you need to take. These include legal concerns like registering your business, operational issues like setting up an organized booking process, marketing tasks to attract clients, and financial areas like managing booking and payments.
Here’s all you need to know to set your business up for success.
Laying the groundwork: registering your pet-sitting business
To get your pet sitting business up and running, the first thing you need to do is register it with your state. Most states allow pet sitters to operate as a sole proprietorship, which is the simplest business structure and low cost to set up. But if you prefer, you can register as an LLC, or limited liability company. This protects you from personal liability if anything goes wrong with your business, and gives you more tax flexibility, but it’s also more costly and complex to set up.
Depending where you live, you might need to obtain proper licenses or permits for pet sitting or dog walking. Most places just require you to register as a business and get a general business license. This usually involves choosing a business name and submitting articles of organization. You’ll also need to obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS for tax and banking purposes. This establishes your business as a legal entity, and allows you to legally operate under a business name.
It’s also generally necessary to get business insurance. Business insurance, like general liability insurance, protects you in case a pet gets injured or causes damage. You should also ask clients to sign a contract or service agreement to establish policies, fees, and release you from liability.
Now you’ve taken care of the legal side, you’ll need to think about the business side of things. Decide what services to offer, like dog walking, cat sitting, boarding, and pet grooming. Think about pricing and set your rates and payment policies upfront, so that customers know what to expect as soon as they get in touch.
Streamlining operations with pet sitting management software
As a pet sitter, you’ll be juggling a lot – scheduling visits, handling payments, marketing your services and more. It’s best to start off on the right foot by using all-in-one pet sitting software that can handle all these tasks for you and keep your business processes streamlined. Here are the main ways that a pet sitting management solution can help your business run more smoothly:
- An online booking system with a booking widget for your website allows clients to schedule services 24/7, saving you both from the back and forth of agreeing on time slots.
- Payment processing software enables you to accept credit cards and ACH payments online. Include a payment link in your invoices so that customers can pay straight away, without any hassle or delay.
- Invoicing software that makes it easy and quick to generate professional invoices and send them via email. The software should also track what clients owe, and send automatic reminders about overdue payments.
- A CRM that stores client and pet profiles in one place. This way, you’ll always have all the details of your regular and one-off clients at your fingertips, along with all their preferences and their pets’ needs.
- Integrated marketing features to simplify the process of preparing and sending email campaigns and newsletters, curating your social media presence, and delivering personalized special offers and promotions to the right person at the right time.
- Business analytics that provide actionable insights into key metrics like top clients, popular services, and revenue sources, so you can make better business decisions based on data, not gut instinct.
For a sole proprietor just getting started, all-in-one pet sitting software is an easy, cost-effective solution that has everything you need to manage your pet sitting business with ease. Once you build your client base, you can always switch to a more advanced software.
Creating a marketing plan for your pet sitting business
Part of starting your own pet sitting business involves working out how to promote it, make sure that everyone knows about it, and attract new customers. To do that, you’ll need a solid marketing plan. Here are some essentials to include:
Build a website
A website is crucial for any modern business. It allows potential clients to learn about your services, check your availability, and book appointments. You can use easy website builders like Wix or WordPress to create an attractive site. Be sure to highlight what makes your business unique, include your contact info, list all your services and prices, and add a booking widget.
Leverage local media
Take advantage of free exposure in your area. Drop off business cards at local vets, pet stores, and animal shelters. Post on community Facebook groups and Nextdoor, and send a press release to local media and bloggers to let them know about your new business. Getting featured in local publications or on TV and radio shows is also a great way to raise awareness.
Ask for referrals and reviews
Don’t be afraid to ask happy clients for reviews and referrals. Send a quick email after a job thanking them for their business, and politely asking if they’d be willing to leave a review on Google or Yelp, or refer you to friends. Positive word-of-mouth and online reviews are essential for building trust and gaining new customers. You can even offer a discount or free visit in exchange for successfully referring a new customer.
Partner with complementary businesses
Reach out to local vet clinics, groomers, dog trainers, and pet stores to build partnerships. Ask if you can leave business cards, post flyers, or be listed as a recommended pet sitter on their website or social media. Offer to cross-sell their business to your clients as well. Building a support system within the pet care community can be invaluable.
Cross-sell your own services
If you already offer services like dog walking, grooming, or training, be sure to promote your new pet sitting business to your existing clients, and vice versa. Try bundling services together into a single discounted package that covers all a pet owner needs. Clients who use multiple services are more likely to become long-term, loyal customers.
Think about additional markets
If you live in an area that attracts a lot of tourists, you should market to them as well as to permanent residents. Think about promoting your services to local hotels, motels, vacation rentals, and campgrounds. Offer discounts or bundled packages for longer stays. Diversifying your client base by engaging tourists will help fill gaps, especially during off-seasons.
Scale your pet sitting business with CRM software
Once your pet sitting business has gotten off the ground, you’ll be ready to think about how to scale and grow. As your business expands, customer relationship management (CRM) software will become essential to keep things organized and running efficiently.
Keep client details at your fingertips
CRM software like vcita allows you to store all your client and pet information in one place. You’ll have details on services provided, vet info, feeding schedules, exercise needs and any other notes to ensure high quality care for all your furry clients.
Save time on bookings and invoicing
An online booking system makes it easy for clients to purchase additional services at any time, like walks, drop-in visits or overnight sitting. Send automatic email reminders before scheduled visits, and then use the software to automate invoicing clients and managing payments.
Access data driven insights
Get reports on sales, most popular services, and busiest times of the year, so you can make data-driven decisions to improve your business. Use your CRM to track all your marketing efforts, so you can see what’s working to get new clients.
Manage expanding staff
As you take on more clients, you’ll need to hire additional pet sitters and dog walkers. The CRM software helps you keep tabs on your team by storing contractor profiles, availability, skills, and performance reviews. You can also seamlessly integrate scheduling so you have oversight of all visits.
Your new pet-sitting business is just around the corner
Starting a pet sitting business is challenging work, but with the right information and business management software, you’ll be set for success. Keep looking for ways to streamline processes, improve the client experience and continue growing your passionate team of pet care professionals.