Start a Pet Sitting Business

The First 8 Steps

Do you love animals? Are you dreaming of a business you can run the way you choose? Pet Sitting may be the answer you’re looking for. As with any business, the first step to being successful is laying the proper groundwork. It takes much more than having a good idea or having a passion –it takes preparation to beat the odds.  Some of that preparation should include the creation of legal documents and service contracts, obtaining proper insurance coverage, conducting research and learning more about the industry. While there is no single way to guarantee success, the following are the vital first 8 steps to get you started in the right direction.

 
1.         Develop a business plan
Preparing a business plan is the first step of starting a successful business. A business plan acts as a road map for your business. It outlines your goals and identifies specific financial projections. A good business plan should help you define your target market, identify your competitors, project start up expenses, illustrate how to allocate resources and give you a realistic timeline. If utilized during your initial business set up it will keep you on track and make you successful in achieving your goals.
  
2.    Decide on a legal structure for your business
    1. Decide how much personal liability protection you need
    2. Decide how you want your business to be taxed
    3. Research the various types of ownership structures
The choice you make will have a large impact on how legal issues are handled. 

 3.   Choose a name for your business (and a domain name)
Choosing the right name for your business is very important and can impact the overall success of your new venture.  A worthy name should:
1.       Leave no doubt about the industry you support –it should directly relate to your service
2.       Be easy to say, spell and read
3.       Be memorable
4.       Suit your business 5-10 years from now
5.       Set you apart from competitors If you plan on including a website with your new business, you should also consider that when deciding a name for your business. 

4.   Register your business
Every city, county & state has specific requirements about doing business within its jurisdiction. Call or visit your local offices to see what particular requirements & fees exist in your area.  

5.   Obtain Insurance
– Investigate the types of insurance you will need to get your business started. Auto insurance, liability insurance and bonding policies are a must for pet sitters. Often times clients will request to see proof of coverage prior to the first sit.

Auto Insurance – Commercial auto insurance is necessary to protect your business against potentially devastating liability costs resulting from an accident involving your vehicle while conducting company business. Typically, time spent conducting company business is not covered under a personal automotive policy. Check with your agent to see if you need to make additions or changes to your current policy.
 
Liability insurance – Liability insurance will protect you in the event that unforeseen circumstances arise. Lawsuits occasionally follow events such as dog bites, property damage in a client’s home or a pet passing away in your care. A good liability policy will protect you in such cases. It is a must have! 

 Bonding – “honesty insurance” ensures clients you are trustworthy, and if they prove otherwise, the insurer provides them compensation. Bonding policies are necessary for any business where an individual is entrusted with valuables, like the key to someone’s home and all its contents. There are several Bonding companies throughout the country; each providing a different level of coverage. You can locate many of them by performing a Google search or asking your local insurance agent. 

6.    Establish website/email account and telephone line      


 
Website presence - Establishing a web presence is a must in today’s high-tech world. A website can set you apart from competitors & open your business to a much larger market. Customers will be able to get information about your service 24/7 (even when you are not available). Having an email account linked to your business site is a convenient, low-cost way to communicate with clients.

Telephone Line - It’s a smart idea to invest in a separate phone line for business use only. Purchase a reliable voice mail plan & use it effectively. Your phone is a very important business tool if used properly. Your outgoing message should be professional, include any pertinent details & identify your business to the caller immediately.                          

7.    Prepare Service Contract and Important Forms


 
Service Contract - A written service contract is a necessary tool. It outlines what services you will provide to the client, what fees you will charge for those services, what is behavior is expected of the client &/or pet, when payment is expected & what happens if payment is not made in a timely manner. A service contract formalizes the client/sitter relationship & ensures you have a shared understanding of the services you will be providing. Do NOT provide any service without a signed contract.

 Veterinary Release Form - This form serves as written permission for you to seek medical care for a pet in your custody when a client cannot be reached during a medical emergency. Important document you won’t want to do business without. 

8.     Advertise
Advertise, advertise, advertise!!!! It is the key to success! Advertising promotes your business to a wider market. Advertising allows you to build your company’s brand. The more familiar your target market becomes with your brand, the more credibility your business establishes. The more trusted your brand, the more clients you’ll attract. Following these steps will start you on the road to success – the rest is up to you!

 Lee Anne Emig is the founder of The Pet Sitting Institute. She owned a successful pet sitting business and is the author of several pet care articles. The Pet Sitting Institute offers proven, easy to use products to help people start the business of their dreams and succeed in pet sitting. Visit http://www.PetSittingInstitute.com  for more information.