Back in January 2018 we gave up our jobs and rented flat to begin a whole new life as full time nomadic pet sitters! Since then we’ve built up a wealth of knowledge about pet care and house sitting, and figured out more than a few hacks along the way to help with the smooth-running of this fur-filled lifestyle. Here we’re sharing our top tips to help you stay organised and have a positive experience at every pet sit you complete, from the time you arrange the sit, during, and after the pet owners arrive home. If you find these tips helpful, comment below and let us know!

Prepare questions to ask the owner

It’s important to have all the information you’ll need for a pet sit so you can confidently carry out your duties, and to minimise the time you’ll need to ask a pet owner questions while they’re away. On our pet sitting business website, our enquiry page has a form for new clients to fill out basic information about their pets, which lets us know roughly what to expect. We then follow up with a video call to expand on the information given, which gives us a good foundation for knowing if the sit is right for us. Once the sit is confirmed, we will then send our list of questions that includes everything we’ll need to know while on the sit – from pet feeding times to emergency contact numbers, and home information like the WiFi code and rubbish collection days. Owners can either reply to our email with this information, or print the list for us to refer to while on the sit. This way we’ll have all our questions answered, and we won’t need to disturb the owner to remind us where the dog poo bags are while they’re on their holiday!

Don’t be afraid to say no

If you’re chatting with a pet owner about the responsibilities you’ll be required to carry out on a sit and it doesn’t sound like it’s for you, never feel that you have to agree to be their sitter! We’ve heard pet sitters and owners alike say ‘Oh we weren’t sure about it but we went ahead anyway’, only to have more stress further down the line as everyone agreed to the sit even though they didn’t feel comfortable with the situation. We receive hundreds of enquiry emails asking us to carry out a wide range of responsibilities (one of the most questionable to date was someone asking for a quote for us to ‘sit’ their 16-year-old son as well as their dog…) In these circumstances we politely decline and explain our reasons for doing so, even if it’s only that the responsibilities fall outside of our services.

This is especially important if you’re a solo sitter. For example, if a pet sit at a smallholding sounds like too much work for you to comfortably complete by yourself, don’t feel forced into accepting the job just because an owner wants to book you. Remember, responsibilities sometimes only seem easy to an owner because it’s their ingrained day-to-day routine. After so many years of back-to-back pet sitting, our guts tell us when something’s not right, and we recognise when a desperate last minute enquiry for the following week is being played off as ‘not that much work’. With every new booking request it’s important to weigh up all the information and make sure that you’re gaining something from the sit that’s in line with your values – whether it’s a high-earning job or the chance to secure a friendly new client in an area you love.

Stay organised

As we sometimes book in pet sitting jobs months in advance, we always get in touch with the owners close to the start date of the sit to double-check what time they would like us to arrive. Even if nothing has changed, this shows that you’re organised and proactive, and gives the owner the chance to update you with any recent information ahead of the sit. It should go without saying to plan your journey to the house well so that you arrive promptly, reassuring the owners that you’ll be able to stay on top of the routine with their pets and home. If you made notes in the discussion stage of booking the sit, or have asked owners to complete a list of questions for you, refer to these before you arrive so the information is fresh in your head. We often move from sit to sit on a weekly basis, with dozens and dozens of clients on our books, so we find doing this prevents us from repeating questions at the handover.

Set up on-sit reminders

This is one of our favourite hacks for pet sitting! We used to constantly refer to written notes while on a house sit just to double-check timings relating to the routine each day. Now we create a shared Reminders list on our iPhones so we both receive alerts throughout the sit for pet feeding times, what days cleaners or gardeners are arriving, or house responsibilities like when to water certain plants or put out rubbish bins for collection the following morning.

For short sits, or those with fewer animals, it may not be necessary to make a list if the pets don’t have a set routine – but we like to make one anyway just in case we lose track of time. This is especially important if pets take medication! At one repeat house sit in East Sussex, Golden Retriever Fred has multiple pills for epilepsy that need to be administered at specific times every day. Having a Reminders list shared on both our phones means we’ll never miss a reminder, even if one of our phones is out of battery or in another room. (If you have an iPhone, you can also link Reminders to an iPad or MacBook!)

Talk to locals

We love to chat to people we meet while pet sitting, especially when we’re looking after dogs. We’ve been recommended so many great local dog walks, cafes and events just by talking to people we bump into in the park while walking the dogs. Dogs are a fantastic ice breaker if you’re not confident approaching strangers – more often than not our dogs will introduce themselves to theirs and we’ll end up talking to the owners about what breed their dog is or how old their pups are. We’ve also had dog owners ask for our business card after we mention that we’re pet sitting. You never know where chatting to locals could lead! Even if you’re pet sitting animals that don’t need walking, just taking the time to get out and chat to local people helps you get to know a place better from the people who know it best.

Keep in touch

One of the questions we always ask pet owners is how often they’d like us to update them on how things are going while we’re at the sit. Sometimes owners have never used house sitters before, and enjoy daily updates for reassurance that their pets are well and happy! We find videos are always gratefully received, as owners can see their pets having fun or relaxing.

Equally if the owners are travelling for an event and don’t want to be disturbed, it’s good to be mindful of that and not send too many unnecessary messages, or at least choose your timing wisely. You don’t want to send a picture of a snoozing dog only for the owner’s phone to ping in the middle of a wedding ceremony! We always consider the time difference if an owner is travelling abroad too – a quick check on Google can verify a local time if you’re unsure.

Ask for a testimonial or review

Once a pet sit is complete, we keep the momentum going by requesting a review from the pet owner. The best way to grow your pet sitting business and client list is by gaining genuine testimonials from existing happy clients. When browsing your profile or website, glowing reviews give prospective clients reassurance that others have trusted you, and you’ve executed the job well. If you’ve completed a sit for the first time and aren’t going to have a handover when the owners arrive home, leave a business card at the house for the owners to refer to in the future. 

Don’t be embarrassed about asking for a review! We always ask politely and explain that it really helps us grow our business. Word of mouth is the best way to find new clients as it’s basically free marketing! We love receiving enquiry emails that mention we’ve been recommended by a previous client. As well as uploading our testimonials to our pet sitting business website, we send owners a link to review our business on Google for verified testimonials. The more ways a new client can find you, the better!

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