Nine Ways to Grow Your Pet-Sitting Business

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Growing a pet-sitting business to keep up with the demand for the service is a matter of translating that love for pets into a timely service that's top-of-mind for today's pet owners.

The business was founded on, and starts with, providing a service from a base of knowledge and experience combined with a love of animals

As a business, pet sitting enjoys tremendous growth potential, with the largest percentage of U.S. households ever experiencing the joys of pet ownership. For professional pet sitters, growing that business involves getting into the mindset and routines of those pet owners and creating a service package that fits into lifestyles and consumer trends.

According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA), 63 percent of U.S. households own pets, the highest level ever. Catering to these 69.1 million households has become a rewarding independent business for the 7,900-plus members of Pet Sitters International (PSI).

"The business was founded on, and starts with, providing a service from a base of knowledge and experience combined with a love of animals," says Patti Moran, president and founder of Pet Sitters International, the world's largest educational organization for pet sitters. "With a professional pet sitter, you can leave your pets in a comfortable environment --their home -- and have peace of mind that they will be loved while you're away."

Growing a pet-sitting business to keep up with the demand for the service is a matter of translating that love for pets into a timely service that's top-of-mind for today's pet owners. PSI offers these nine tips for pet sitters to grow their businesses while maintaining the high level of service and reliability that the leading industry group expects of its members.

  •     Tip one: Market to your current customers. Keep them informed about what you do for them and the standards to which you conform. Leave checklists and "report cards" after each pet-sitting assignment. Create referral programs to encourage them to pass along your information to other pet owners. Thank your customer with handwritten notes, e-mails and calls. Finally, ask them how you can improve, realign and expand your services to help them even more.
  •     Tip two: Consider giveaways and free trials. Offer your services to newcomers in the areas you serve. If emergencies arise and pet owners have to be away, offer your services to help them out and to demonstrate the basic reason the pet-sitting industry exists. Moreover, it's just a nice thing to do.
  •     Tip three: Form and develop alliances with others who serve the same type of customer. Work with veterinarians, pet store owners, groomers, pet daycare and canine cafe operators to co-promote through advertising and formal programs as well as word-of-mouth referrals. Help them and they will help you.
  •     Tip four: Let the world know that pet sitting is serious and that you mean business. Talk about your affiliations, commitment to continuing education and the insurance and bonding that you carry. Consider expanding by using independent contractors and growing your business through volume within targeted geographies.
  •     Tip five: Create a grassroots Internet presence. Develop and promote a Web site that demonstrates your love for the profession and helps the public understand the value of hiring a professional. Participate in blogs and forums to offer your expertise and to promote your own Web site and business. Help educate people on pet-related issues and the rewards will come back to you.
  •     Tip six: Expand your services and constantly add value. Do your clients need you to take their pets to the veterinarian or groomer while they're away? Are you offering plant watering, mail and newspaper retrieval, or turning on lights and opening and closing curtains as value-added services? Expanding your business model and service offerings--both for profit and free of charge--can add value to and increase demand for your services.
  •     Tip seven: Become an evangelist. At every opportunity, talk to your local media and to municipal organizations, civic clubs and other groups in your community. This is a great way to promote quality pet care while supporting animal adoptions and local Humane Societies.
  •     Tip eight: Watch the competition and learn from them. The market is expanding, not contracting. There is room for alliances and the sharing of great ideas. Lift up the profession and everyone will benefit.
  •     Tip nine: Remember why you are in the business. Do not lose sight of what attracted you to pet sitting. Do a great job and the fun, fame and fortune will follow.

About Pet Sitters International

Established in 1994, Pet Sitters International (PSI) is the world's largest educational association for professional pet sitters, representing more than 7,900 independent professional pet-sitting businesses in the United States, Canada and abroad. PSI prides itself on its ability to provide its members with access to affordable bonding and liability insurance and educational resources such as PSI's Accreditation Program, The WORLD of Professional Pet Sitting magazine, The Pet Owner's WORLD magazine and PSI's annual Quest convention.

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