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As a pet sitter since the age of 10, I’ve taken care of everything from dogs to cats to gerbils to guinea pigs, and have pet sat at many gorgeous homes with fabulous amenities. One client I worked with even lived right down the street from Oprah! Not a bad way to earn some extra cash, am I right?

Here are six steps to making $400+ a week in your spare time as a pet sitter.

1. Set Your Services and Prices

Pet sitters can offer a variety of services, from dog walking to daycare, daily check-ins, baths, overnight services, and more. When determining which services you will offer, think about your what kinds of pets you are comfortable with as well as how much time you have to spend pet sitting. You won’t want to offer dog walking services if you aren’t comfortable walking large dogs, and you won’t want to offer daycare services if you have a full-time job.

You’ll also need to research how much pet sitters in your area charge for the same services you want to offer in order to figure out how much you should charge. Don’t price yourself too high or too low. Be competitive for your city! For example, in Newport Beach, CA, I priced my services at $60 per night for overnight sitting and $20 per day for daily check-ins. One week of overnight sitting earns me $420, and if I’m able to add in a drop-in client or two, I can earn upwards of $560 per week.

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2. Advertise

If this is your first time pet sitting, start with your family and friends. Offer to watch their pets for a discounted fee so that you can build up your portfolio and reference list. Be sure to ask them for referrals as well!

Another option to find clients is the Internet. A site like Sitting for a Cause (which, full disclosure, I own and operate) can help pet parents in your area find you and learn about the services you offer. You can also create your own website or make a Facebook page to help people find you.

Additionally, you can make business cards and leave them under people’s doormats or post fliers at local dog parks, shelters, or pet supply stores. Leaving your information where pet owners will see it can help you grow your business.

3. Meet Clients in Person

When a prospective client contacts you, find out the details of the job including the type of service they need, the dates of service, and information about their pets. If the job sounds like something that will fit into your schedule, set up a meet and greet!

A meet and greet is your opportunity to meet the client and pets as well as learn more about what would be expected of you while the client is away. Along with the basic information like feeding schedules, exercise and bathroom needs, medical history, and location of all pet supplies, be sure to find out:

  • How well trained the pet is and any commands he or she knows;
  • If the pet is good with other animals;
  • Behaviors you should reward for and bad behaviors you should watch out for;
  • Information about people who will be coming and going from the house (i.e. housekeepers, gardeners, and pool cleaners);
  • If you need to water plants, pick up newspapers, or bring in mail;
  • How to arm and disarm any alarm systems.

If you feel confident a job is a good fit and you can handle all the responsibilities that come with it, accept it! If not, it’s always okay to turn down a job.

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4. Take Awesome Care of Their Pets

This one is simple: just do everything that is asked of you. Feed pets when they are supposed to be fed the exact amount they are supposed to be fed, keep water bowls filled, make sure pets get the exercise they need, scoop litter boxes daily, clean cages as required, pick up poop from the yard, give treats as suggested, bring in the mail and newspapers, water plants as needed, and follow any other instructions from the client.

And, obviously, spend lots of time playing and cuddling with their pets. You were hired to be a surrogate parent while your client is gone, so enjoy your temporary parenthood!

5. Go Above and Beyond

During your job, do more than just the basics. Here are some ideas to help you go the extra mile to make your clients happy:

  • Send updates and pictures;
  • Notify them if their food supply seems low and offer to run to the store to pick some up;
  • If a favorite pet toy looks like it’s falling apart, get a replacement;
  • If your client is celebrating a special occasion, leave some pet-safe flowers and a nice note;
  • Leave the house in cleaner condition than it was when you arrived on your first day.

When you go above and beyond, don’t expect or ask for reimbursement from clients on items you purchased for them. Going above and beyond is an investment in your client and will keep them hiring you for years to come.

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6. Follow Up

On the final day of the job, if you leave a client’s house before they return, call or send them a text a few hours after they were supposed to return (or if they returned late, the next morning) to ensure they are home with their pets. They will appreciate knowing you care enough to check in.

It’s also nice to check in with clients from time to time. A quick email every so often asking how their pets are doing or sending a Christmas card is always a nice gesture that will keep you at the top of their list of people to call the next time they need a sitter. It also increases the odds they will refer their family and friends to you!