How to get started with housesitting

There are many roads that lead to housesitting. You might be looking to travel more, you may love animals, you may be in need of a complete lifestyle change or want to spend your days differently! Whatever your reasons, here we’ll take you through how we became full time housesitters.

Getting pet care experience

Our pet care journey began in the year before we started housesitting, in Brighton – the last place we lived before setting out on our travels! We signed up to a website called Borrow My Doggy to bring some fluffy joy and doggo cuddles into our lives. We’ve written a full review about our experience with Borrow My Doggy, but in short: BMD connects dog owners with people looking to enjoy more time with dogs, to walk them or keep them company. You set your location and the site shows you dog owners in your area that are looking for some extra help.

We took care of different dogs for different reasons as the requirements vary widely from owner to owner, and it’s something you need to discuss each time to make sure the arrangement works for you, too. We had a Pug Staff cross who lived around the corner that we’d check on if the owner would be home late, we had a Greyhound who would snooze at ours while the owner was at work during the week, and two little terriers who we cared for when their owner went for day trips or weekends away. We still pet sit the terriers when we’re in Brighton, three years after first meeting them!

There is a small membership fee for Borrow My Doggy (at the time of writing, it’s £12.99 for an annual borrower membership) but other than that, no money changes hands. We found using the site was an easy and cost effective way to quickly gain dog care experience with a variety of different breeds.

Finding more opportunities to expand your pet care knowledge

A few months into using Borrow My Doggy, we felt more confident looking after other people’s pets and took on pet sitting for friends and locals. We cared for guinea pigs for friends when they went on holiday, took care of our neighbour’s cat, and even found a couple of pet sitting gigs through local Facebook groups.

We tend to take Facebook groups for granted but they are an incredible resource, especially when you’re living in one place. You can find hundreds of local groups to join and get involved with, and searching in those groups with keywords like ‘dog walker’ or ‘pet sitter’ to see if anyone is in need of those services. You could also post directly in the groups, explaining that you’re available to care for people’s pets and looking to expand your pet care experience – you never know what you’ll find! Just be honest and make yourself available for as many new opportunities as possible.

Suze with Missy – a new four-legged friend we made in Brighton after responding to a request for a dog sitter in a local Facebook group

What does housesitting mean to you?

Once you’ve got some pet care experience under your belt, it’s time to get started on your housesitting journey! At this point it’s important to think about why you want to start housesitting, and how you’ll do it. For example, we gave up our flat, our jobs, and a lot of the creature comforts you take for granted when you have your own space, in order to housesit full time. You may want to housesit for a couple of weeks of the year as a way to have a budget holiday, which is great! But you’ll always have to put the responsibilities of the housesit before your travel plans, and if you find yourself with particularly needy animals it won’t be the best way to see the sights. For the purposes of this page, we’ll assume that you’re looking to dive in to full time (or at least majority of the time) housesitting.

When we first signed up to become housesitters, we chose a local Brighton company called Trusted Housesitters. They are by far one of the most popular websites to use, connecting hundreds of thousands of sitters with owners for a mutually beneficial exchange of skills and resources all over the world.

One of our top tips for creating your profile, in addition to writing a good bio, is using a variety of photos. In the run up to housesitting, it’s worth taking pictures when you do look after other people’s pets. If you spend your time actively building up your pet care experience, you’ll have lots of different animals or at least dog breeds to showcase on your profile. Any time we used Borrow My Doggy or looked after pets for our friends, we took lots of cute photos together which we eventually used on our Trusted Housesitters profile. Not only could owners see that we had pet care experience, but that we truly enjoy looking after animals too.

We still update our profile periodically to make sure our photos are current, thinking about what we want to do next or where we want to travel, and tailoring our profile to suit those aspirations. For example: We used to have a photo of us with a horse, but right now we’re not looking to take care of horses – it’s definitely worth considering these things and looking objectively at the vibe you’re putting out on your profile. For more in depth tips for creating a successful profile, read our step-by-step guide.

Taking the leap

When you’ve got some initial pet experience and put together a fantastic profile that makes you shine, it’s time to consider the shift in your lifestyle you’re about to undertake. We don’t feel like we were completely prepared for the change, nor do we feel that you could really ever be totally ready, so we’ve put together a few points to think about that’ll make the leap of faith go a bit smoother. Some things to consider:

Reducing the amount of ‘stuff’ you own

Starting with the big one first: It’s time to take a few weeks to Mari Kondo your life and really take a look at the material possessions you own. When we moved from our flat in Brighton, we boxed everything up and moved it into Suze’s childhood bedroom at her parents’ house. This created a weird dumping ground full of an entire flat’s worth of joint possessions, mixed with memorabilia from Suze’s childhood. As months and years have gone by on our housesitting adventure, we’ve found ourselves clearing out more and more ‘stuff’ each time we visit Suze’s parents. It’s amazing to realise how little we need to be happy, but it would have been great to reduce the amount of things we had to go through just by taking the time to do so before setting out on our travels.

Planning at least a few weeks for this process gives you the chance to live with your things, really notice how much or little you use them, and start to clear out any unnecessary clutter before you travel. You might not know whether you’ll need something or not – coming back to our pile of boxes after a few months on the road, having not missed a lot of it, gave us great clarity on what we truly needed. It’s ok to keep stuff in a maybe pile as long as you have the storage space. Even once you’ve decided what to get rid of, it can take a while to clear things out; making trips to charity shops, waiting for items to sell on eBay, giving things away. Again, local Facebook groups came to our rescue and we managed to shift quite a few things before we moved out of our Brighton flat.

Thinking about your hobbies

This is along the same vein as de-cluttering in that it involves thinking about what’s really important to you. If you’re the kind of person who goes to the local gym every morning, it might be hard to keep that routine once you’re on the road. Is there a way you can buy membership for a chain of gyms across the UK? Is it worth investing in travel-friendly equipment that you can use wherever you housesit? You might be SUPER into rollerskating everywhere you go – fantastic! If you’ve gone through all your stuff and decided it’s a passion that’s non-negotiable, by all means take it with you! Suze travels with a bowling bag stuffed with sewing materials to run her Etsy shop remotely, and Chris brings backpacks full of camera equipment wherever we go – if you want to keep it in your life, find a way to make it work.

Suze working on a new handsewn item for her Etsy shop while caring for Agghia, the mini pug, at a housesit in London

Trying it out

If you’re feeling a little unsure before you set off, it could be worth completing some local housesits first to familiarise yourself with the process. Depending on your area you may have a lot to choose from – especially if you live in or near a city. There are ways to have a somewhat easier experience on the whole, as you can search for sits that only last a couple of days, or ones that only have one pet to care for. As we housesit together we have an advantage as there are always two sets of eyes on however many pets we’re caring for! We wouldn’t have been able to take on half the housesits we have up til now, without the support of each other – especially ones that have a lot of demanding pets with varying needs. You could see if a friend will join you for the first leg of your housesitting adventure until you feel more confident going it alone.

Talking to people that are already doing it

Just like Facebook, Instagram is a never-ending resource! This platform is AWESOME for finding like-minded people and you can easily search using hashtags – try ‘housesitters’ or ‘petsitters’ to get you started. We’ve never once asked a question to a housesitter on Instagram who didn’t go out of their way to give us the most informative answer possible. There really is a lovely community of full time housesitters on Instagram, all willing to share tips and inside knowledge to help you have the best experience possible. We’ve made some fantastic online friends through the platform, even meeting up with a few in real life, and we hope to keep making more connections as time goes on.

At Clissold Park, London, where we met up with fellow housesitters George and Shell a.k.a. @TheRealHousesitters

Having a back up

When we first set out, we arranged back-to-back housesits spanning almost three months. When the dates didn’t line up exactly, and we found ourselves with a few days in between sits, we found a budget hotel or AirBnb to stay in to carry on exploring while keeping costs down.

You’ll find once you hit the road and travel full time that you can easily find cheap deals, as you might be staying mid week or off season. The first hotel we stayed in during our travels was over New Year’s Eve in a Travelodge by a motorway, and it was completely empty. (We felt almost embarrassed as the staff waited on us, and only us, in the deserted hotel restaurant!)

Stay organised on the road and always leave yourself time to find somewhere to stay should a housesit suddenly get cancelled or the dates change. Being as flexible as possible helps, and we no longer book housesits too far in advance to prepare for any changes to the schedule. You can download a template of our housesit planner to help you keep organised!

We hope you’ve found this page informative! If there’s anything you think we’ve missed, or if you have any questions, you can get in touch with us directly and we’ll be more than happy to help! Be sure to check out more of our Pawsome Guide to Housesitting for useful resources and tips.