Starting up a pet-sitting business isn’t as difficult as it may seem, but there
are several things to take into consideration. Time, commitment, and professionalism are at the top of the list. Essentially, you will be a small business owner, regardless if you hire employees or go it alone. Keeping that in mind, where does one begin in regards to starting up a business? Here are five things to consider before taking the leap.
Filing the Paperwork
Business License and/or “Doing Business As” (DBA)
Filing for a business license can be a daunting task for many, but it’s not as scary as it seems. Check with your state whether you need a business license to legally operate a pet-sitting business. They will let you know what paperwork to file to get your business off the ground.
Do you want to use your own name, or a business name? (ie. Pam’s Pet-sitting vs. Walk in the Park) If you choose to name your business, you’ll need to register that name with the appropriate authorities. This process is known as registering your “Doing Business As” (DBA) paperwork. Registering your DBA is done either with your county clerk’s office or with your state government, depending on where your business is located.
Insurance vs. no insurance
What if, while in your care, Fido bites another dog or a child? Or you accidentally break a client’s favorite antique? As a business owner, you’re liable. Accidents happen, so it’s a good idea to protect yourself. Pet-sitting insurance covers general liability, personal property, and employee accidents or dishonesty. There are several insurance companies that offer pet-sitting insurance. The cost will vary, but it’s worth it.
Keeping track of business finances
Personal checking account vs. business account
Using a personal account for your business finances affects your legal liability. If you’re a sole proprietor and combine business and personal expenses, it can be difficult for the IRS to determine if you’re a viable business. If you choose to operate from your personal account, make sure to keep track of your business and personal expenses. If your business is an LLC, partnership, or corporation, it’s crucial to have separate accounts. Failure to separate business and personal expenses can result in the owner being sued for business and corporate liabilities. Check with your bank to see what they offer in terms of small business accounts.
Privacy and professionalism
Business phone vs. personal phone
Business contacts who have access to your personal phone number can create privacy concerns. Having a separate business line gives you the ability to answer the phone and return calls in a professional manner. You can also set up business hours (although if you’re taking care of someone’s pet, I recommend being available to them at all times). If you decide to use your private number, be prepared. Clients will treat the number as a business number, and may be calling at all hours. Make sure your voice message states when you’ll be returning their calls.
Advertising & Branding
Logo, website/domain name, business cards, and flyers
Having a local and online presence is important. If you aren’t tech savvy, find someone who is that can help you. It’s also a good idea to check out your local pet-sitters to see how their websites are designed, and what they offer their clients.
Logos: Design a logo to represent your business. Your logo will brand your website, business cards, online advertising and flyers. Make sure your images aren’t copyrighted or you could be sued. You can use clip art or search for Creative Commons images online. From there, find a photo editing/designing program (PicMonkey, Fotor) and create something memorable. The possibilities are endless, have fun with it!
Website/Domain name: Depending on your business needs, a website/domain name can be free (Weebly, WordPress, Blogger) or paid (Wix, iPage, GoDaddy). Pay careful attention to introductory web hosting prices, as they will most likely increase after the first month. Again, if designing a website isn’t your thing, find someone who can help you.
Business cards and flyers: Leaving business cards and flyers with your local veterinarians, pet shops, animal-related events, shelters, and dog parks is a great way to spread the word about your business. Don’t forget to advertise in your local online directories.
With some thought and planning, starting up your own pet-sitting business is a wonderful venture. Getting involved with a pet-sitting organization to learn from others and network is a step in the right direction. Good luck!
For more in-depth information and helpful advice about starting a small business:
SBA US Small Business Administration
Clarissa Johal is the bestselling author of paranormal novels, Poppy, The Island, Voices, Struck, and Between. When she’s not writing and listening to the ghosts in her head, she runs her own pet-sitting business and volunteers at the SPCA. Author website: www.clarissajohal.com