Hi guys! I’m excited to share the second post in my “side hustle” series. I’ve mentioned before that frugality only goes so far – we can scrimp like crazy, but at a certain point, it’s impossible to save more money. This is why making more money is a crucial part of the “getting out of debt” equation.
In addition to increasing income, side hustles also enable millennials to gain valuable work experience and follow their passions. I hope that this series inspires you to find a side hustle that you love! Our guest today is my friend Heather, who blogs over at Simply Save, works in HR, and pet sits on the side.
How did you become interested in pet sitting?
I’ve been an animal person for as long as I can remember. People have been calling me a “crazy cat lady” since high school! (Even though I only have 2 cats.) In the past I volunteered at a local cat shelter as a way to get my cat fix instead of adopting 30 cats. And to help out of course, but let’s be honest, I mostly wanted to hang out with the cats!
Because of my cat lady reputation, I’m often asked to check in on my friends’ cats when they’re out of town, so when I unexpectedly lost my job last summer I thought, “Why not see if I can get paid to hang out with some animals?”
My cats won’t really let me have other animals stay at our house, but being temporarily unemployed gave me the flexibility in my schedule to go to other people’s houses to check in on their pets. I started by placing some ads on Care.com, Sitter City, and Nextdoor and I was in business!
What is most rewarding or enjoyable about pet sitting?
Hanging out with the pets is definitely the most rewarding and enjoyable part! I love animals; I’m the girl at the party who is always off trying to make friends with the cat. When I travel I appreciate the peace of mind I have knowing someone is going to check on my pets and give them attention, so it’s great being able to provide that for someone else. It’s especially rewarding when a shy animal starts warming up to me.
Pet sitting has given me the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, get to know people in my community, and hang out with some of the sweetest cats and dogs…and a bunny.
Getting paid to do this is just a huge bonus!
What is most frustrating or difficult about pet sitting?
When I first started pet sitting I assumed it’d mostly be for cats and that I could choose what time of day to go over and visit with them, check the food, litter etc. I could sleep in a little bit and structure my day how I pleased while I searched for a job. I was surprised that I was primarily asked to sit for dogs! Taking care of dogs meant a set schedule with early morning, midday and nighttime visits.
Going into a stranger’s house late at night was a little nerve wracking! There are unfamiliar shadows and sounds and I got a bit spooked sometimes. It helps when the client tells their neighbors that they will have a pet sitter coming and going, so that there are no startling situations.
What is the most funny or interesting thing that has ever happened to you while pet sitting?
I can’t really think of anything too crazy. What’s been most interesting is just getting to know the pets and their personalities. It’s enabled me to meet some really cool animals! My dog is a rescue and a mix of probably many breeds, so sometimes I get a little tired of people asking, “What is he?” He’s a dog, a happy dog!
But I did sit for the coolest dog where I actually did have to nicely ask what breeds he was: picture half basset hound, half yellow lab. He was the most chill dog though. I’d go over in the mornings and sip my coffee and read a book outside while he enjoyed the fresh air. It was a great start to the day! His brother the bunny, on the other hand, wasn’t really happy about having a stranger feed him…
What advice do you have for others who are interested in pet sitting?
- There are websites like Sitter City and care.com where you can create a free account, but I had the most success with the Nextdoor website. A bonus of using Nextdoor is that my clients were all in my city, so I never had to go far or deal with traffic for those early morning visits. This may not be quite as ideal if you live in a small town though.
- Write a detailed ad and profile. What all are you comfortable doing? Would you administer medication? Would you be open to caring for reptiles? It helps to answer these questions on the front end because sometimes people are looking for a sitter at the last minute and won’t want to deal with the back and forth questions. They’ll go with the person who already has all their questions answered. Also, go the extra mile and include other tasks you might do to help while someone is gone, such as getting the mail or watering plants.
- Include personal touches in your ad and profile. For many animal owners, their pets are family. They’re looking for someone they can trust and that can give them peace of mind when they’re away. If you have pets, mention them on your profile and consider including some photos!
- Keep organized. There was a period where I had several clients at once and it really helped to keep notes on each client such as pet names, address, schedule, price agreed upon, and any other tasks you’ve committed to doing (watering flowers, getting the mail.) I also included some of this information in my phone contacts because out of the blue 8 months later, you might be contacted again for your services!
How do you balance your day job with pet sitting and any other side hustles?
It’s important not to over commit. For me, my day job comes first and I pet sit when I have time. Sometimes this means saying no instead of taking on too many pets at once. It’s important to be honest with yourself about your time and how you’ll really feel about early morning and late night visits on work days and weekends.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Hang out with my pets of course! I have a dog Max and cats Mikko and Milo. Max and I love going to the dog park with friends, taking walks, or going on little adventures together. I also like to spend time curled up with a good book (and a cat or two), hanging out with friends, or writing on my blog, Simply Save.
Other stuff you might like:
Side Hustle Series No. 1 – Freelance Graphic Design
3 Reasons to Find an Online Side Hustle
Coping with Job Loss as a Millennial
Frugal Tip: Review Your Paychecks
How to Write an Awesome Resume – Tips From a Former Recruiter