If you’re looking for ways to make extra money, one of my first suggestions is to start with your hobbies and the things that you enjoy doing. In many cases, it’s possible to make some money with your hobbies.
Incorporating something you enjoy into a side hustle can make the work a lot more fun and less like work.
Are you an animal lover? If so, why not turn that into a side hustle? This article will look at how to become a pet sitter, but there are also a few other options involving pets, like dog walking and grooming.
→ Related reading: 40 Exciting Hobbies That Make Money
You may assume that side hustles like dog walking and pet sitting will not earn you very much money, but you might be surprised. This article features an interview with Lily, a pet sitter who makes $40,000 – $80,000 per year with this side hustle!
With that kind of income potential and the opportunity to work with animals, this is a perfect opportunity for many people. And to make it even better, Lily gets all of her clients from Rover, a website that you can easily join to set up your own profile and start attracting clients.
After the interview, we’ll take a detailed look at the pros and cons of this side hustle, as well as the steps you can take to get started.
Why Pet Sitting is a Great Side Hustle
First, let’s take a look at some of the factors that make pet sitting an ideal side hustle.
1. Good Income Opportunity
As you’ll see in the interview, this is a side hustle with the potential to make real money from home. It could even be a full-time income.
Of course, how much you make will depend on a lot of factors, but as Lily points out, she’s not even trying to maximize her income and she’s doing very well. The potential is definitely there.
2. No Specific Skills are Needed
This is a side hustle that just about anyone can start. The main requirement is a love for animals, but you don’t need a lot of skills or experience. The barrier to entry is fairly low.
3. Perfect for Animal Lovers and Pet Owners
If you’re an animal lover, this is an ideal side hustle. You’ll get to spend more time around animals, and you’ll probably be very good at caring for them.
If you already have a pet, watching other pets may not even add that much responsibility or require significant changes to your routine. It can be a pretty easy way to make some extra money.
4. You Get to Help Others (Humans and Pets)
Many pet owners are too busy to take care of their pets on their own. You can help those pet owners, and also help the animals. You’ll be making money and genuinely helping others and providing a needed service at the same time.
5. It’s Easy to Get Started
Rover makes it easy and quick to get started as a pet sitter. Just sign up through their website and you’ll be able to create a profile so clients can find you. There are not a lot of expenses or steps involved with getting started. You should be able to begin making money pretty quickly.
6. Big or Small
If you want to keep it small and just make a little extra money, you could take clients occasionally. If you want to make more money, you could get more serious and take clients that will provide you with consistent work. It’s really up to you and what you want.
→ Related reading: How to Start a Side Hustle
How Much Do Pet Sitters Make?
If you’re considering this side hustle, the biggest question on your mind is “how much money can I make?” Lily makes $40,000 – $80,000 per year as a pet sitter. As you’ll see in the interview, she also passes up on a lot of potential clients and could make more by watching larger dogs or watching more pets at a time. She also has a small house and property, so with a more ideal setup, she could probably make more money as well.
According to a survey conducted by Pet Sitters International, pet sitters earned an average of more than $48,635 in 2010 (I know that’s an old survey, but it is the most recent that I could find).
If you thought there was no money in pet sitting, hopefully this data has helped to change your mind.
How to Start a Pet Sitting Business
Now, let’s move on to the interview. Lily is an animal lover, and also the blogger behind Merry for Money. She graciously agreed to answer my questions about her side hustle and I think you’ll love what she has to say (I know I was amazed by her story).
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
We currently live in Seattle, Washington, part of the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I was born in China and came here when I was 9ish. Now I’m 27 years old and my husband just turned 31. We have one dog ourselves, and custody of a pet bunny rabbit from a previous relationship of mine, haha.
What do you do full-time?
How did you get started with the pet sitting side hustle and what was your motivation?
My favorite side hustles are all working from home. The keyword here is working from home. Because we know we are planning to have kids, a stay at home career is a must for us both eventually. I want us to both be there for the critical formative years.
I make around $40k up to $80k a year (gross amount) depending on how far I want to push myself. That’s more than good enough for me. I don’t need much.
But unfortunately, we live in a more expensive city. My husband works in one of those tall buildings downtown and his higher salary is a bit muddled by the city we live in. The average salary in the city is $80,000 and the homes are more than $750,000 in an average neighborhood.
I got the idea to open a doggy daycare because it would be smart to take advantage of living in an expensive city. There are a lot of white-collar professions bringing down $200k, $300k, $500k a year. They can splurge on pet sitters full time for their pooches.
That’s my job, and it works well! It requires little qualifications, I get to stay at home, and the demand is very high.
I don’t have all the amenities or professional qualifications even but I have no problem getting clients when I need or want to.
The trickier thing is getting constant, great, clients who need consistent care, but that’s going to be everyone’s top goal in pet sitting.
Can you explain more about your side hustle and what it involves?
I’m very picky with my clients, so I take just a few.
Plus our property isn’t 100% geared towards all pets. I can’t handle anything over 30 pounds. It’s an Airbnb. Our backyard is not fully fenced. I’m not perfectly geared for everything but I still get clients. During holidays and peak times I get requests on Rover and I am by no means a seasoned expert. I’m just a girl that likes animals a lot!
I got my first ever dog 3 years ago and when I started on Rover, I had no more than 1 year of experience with pups out of 27 years I’ve been on this planet.
My responsibility is to simply make the dogs feel at home. Having dogs happy and sending their busy, working owners adorable pics of their pooch makes my job extra fun.
I end up forming friendships with my clients and that gets me repeat business in an environment with very, very low upstart cost and lots of easier money.
I get to play with dogs, play photographer, collect and send cute snaps to happy people…and I get paid for it.
The downsides are walking in the rain once in a while and scooping up doo-doo, but it’s definitely not bad compared to the upsides! Not many people know but doggy daycare doesn’t have to include walks. It’s perfectly reasonable to charge extra for dog walks.
Remember, I’m also pickier with my dogs so I try to be careful who I accept. Everyone’s miles will vary. My goal isn’t profit, but I want to make sure the chemistry is good all around in my doggy daycare. When you have stable, good clientele set up – it’s literally the easiest money ever.
How often do you have extra pets staying with you?
I have pets staying with me about 5 days a week or more, sometimes overnight for an extra charge.
Because traveling makes it so difficult for pet owners, I end up with pets up to 2 weeks at a time once in a while. That’s actually the case right now as I’m typing, we have a week-long client staying with us tomorrow. The owners are out of the state for a wedding.
Sometimes they start feeling more like my dogs than someone else’s because the owners are so busy with work/family to look after them around the clock.
About how much money does it generate?
My rates are 20%-30% lower compared to the average of the industry. Typically dog daycare is $30+/day depending on the dog size, breed, age and behavior.
I set my rates low because I prefer “easy” repeat customers. I handle the mellow, older dogs with easy and thoughtful owners.
It’s not about the money or the rate, it’s about making your life easier to avoid burn out.
Do you keep the pets in your home, or do you have a separate area for them?
We have a doggie (Grace), so we’re completely submerged in the woof wuv. Our bed is their bed. Our kitchen is their…begging station. But that is 100% up to the sitter. It’s your house, it’s your rules. If a dog is not responding and the owners are not correcting them at home then it’s better to cut them loose for your sanity.
If you go through Rover, they will provide their in-house full coverage insurance which is straight forward if the claim is straight forward. If you are self-insured then take a detailed look and read all the fine print carefully.
How does the pet sitting impact your life?
It really doesn’t impact our life because I have to walk and care for my own dog, Grace, anyway. What’s one or two more little 20 lb pooches to tag along? 🙂
Sometimes they fight over toys or affection but it’s rather rare. 90% of the time, they’re just curled up and sleeping until their parents pick them up.
My husband and I really enjoy this side hustle. I keep saying I wanted more dogs, my husband can now go, “but you have Poochy 1 and Poochy 2.” I have no defense because we do get part-time dogs…I’m just waiting for a part-time Samoyed client to make my life complete! 😀
Have you had any specific bad experiences with pets that you were watching?
Not too many because I’m very careful. When a dog has chronic health issues or age, I decline because I’m simply not trained for it. For me, the worst is a late pick up by the owners (which happens often) or a potty accident in the house (thankfully not very often).
To be honest, it’s not the pets I have problems with on occasions. It’s the owners. I do believe are no “bad dogs” but there are plenty of “bad owners.”
Sometimes you can immediately tell when the dog is underexercised. They misbehave and destroy things out of hyperactivity, but that’s not their fault. They’ve been cooped up while their owners are at work all day.
This is really bad for me because my own dog is timid, especially to large size dogs.
My dog does well with dogs her age and size or dogs older and smaller.
I just end up telling prospective owners that they’re not a good fit for my daycare because my own dog is picky with her pet pals.
I’m thankful for this because I don’t want to take on troublesome cases. I decline about 4 out of 5 inquiries; I encourage others to be a little more accepting of course.
Be very friendly and communicative. People LOVE their dogs, it’s sort of like rejecting their kids. You have to go easy.
I had my own dog denied being sat by lots of other sitters and it always hurts because we love our dog and think she’s perfect.
How do you find your clients?
I get all of my clients from Rover and I use them for my own pet sitting needs. Our local dog boarding kennels are awful, overcrowded (back to high demand), and completely without personal attention. Attendants are there to break up fights and scuffles, not exactly to walk or care for the dogs.
How do you determine your rates?
I undercharge and pick great owners with small, mellow dogs. I think I end up better off in the end because it’s just me running the show — I’m only 100 lbs myself! I know I can make more but I don’t want to push it – it’s about the joy – it’s a fun side hustle right now.
What would you recommend as the first steps for someone who is interested in pet sitting?
Niche down! If big dogs is a specialty then you can make 3x the money I do. There are dog sitters in my city full time making 6 figures. A lot of sitters don’t take on bigger dogs than 60 lbs. Lastly, form a close bond with the dog owner so you can get more repeat business.
What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about this side hustle?
It’s sad when a client moves away and you know you’re not going to see them anymore. The owners get a new job or new house across town and it’s no longer convenient anymore. Plus, pet sitting is not exactly recession proof! Watch out for that!
Sometimes dogs get sick or eat something unsuitable under your care and you just feel awful about it. I haven’t had a bad case of it but it does happen. The worst was when a dog snuck up the table when I was in the kitchen and ate my lunch that had garlic in it. He was fine, but man, some scary scenarios pop up in your head. There are products (like hydrogen peroxide) out there that induce dogs to vomit whatever they ate so it’s good for sitters to keep stock (ask the owners first.)
My favorite things are just about everything else about taking care of dogs that I mentioned above! They’re a simpler version of kids that never grow up. They do funny new things every day.
Walking the dogs also means you’re getting paid to keep fit and it’s not much different since we have to walk our dog anyways. Oh, related to that, they tire each other out too so I don’t have to worry about my own dog ever being bored or under-exercised at home. They play romp and it’s so hilarious because they expect ME to join in (and I do!)
Finally, all dogs have their own personalities like people; it’s cute to discover their quirks. I have one dog terrified of thunder, one night, I woke up with him squeezing himself between the bed board and the top of my head!! Argh ahaha!
Complete this statement: Pet sitting would be a great side hustle for someone who…
I must say, although it can be a great money maker, being in it for the money is not the way to go.
Pet sitting would be a great side hustle for someone who has natural love (yet firm) relationship with animals; have a stable, controlled home environment. Want a dog or have a dog of their own so it’s not too much “extra” work. It’s, of course, good for someone who wants to work from home.
After hearing about Lily’s experience as a pet sitter and running a doggy daycare here are a few key takeaways.
1. Rover is a Great Resource
Lily gets ALL of her clients through Rover. It’s impressive that one website can be responsible for producing that much income. Rover is definitely a site that you’ll want to check out if you have an interest in making money as a pet sitter or dog walker.
2. Being Selective is Key
As Lily mentioned, she’s very selective with the pets and clients that she accepts. You’ll want to consider things like the size of the pet, age, health, and behavior.
But remember, as Lily pointed out, you can make more money by being more aggressive in these areas. If you don’t mind watching large dogs you can charge more.
3. Location Matters
Lily does very well with her pet sitting business, but she does benefit by living in a major city and being surrounded by people with disposable income. The amount of money that you’re able to make will be influenced by where you live. However, if you’re not in a city, you may benefit by having less competition. Just keep in mind that location will have an impact.
4. Your Home and Property Don’t Have to Be Perfect
As Lily told us, her house is small and the yard is not completely fenced in. Despite this, she’s still able to get clients and make a really nice income from her side hustle. Don’t think that you need to have the perfect setup and a huge fenced in yard to get clients.
5. Low Barriers to Entry
Starting a pet sitting business or doggy daycare is fairly easy. As Lily told us, there aren’t many requirements for the job. If you want to get started, visit Rover and set up your profile so potential clients can start to find you.
Want to Learn About Other Side Hustles?
If you’re looking for a side hustle, you may also be interested in these articles:
- Poshmark vs. eBay vs. Mercari: Which is Best for Sellers?
- How to Sell Used Appliances for Cash
- Best Transcription Jobs for Beginners and Pros
- Flipping Furniture for Profit
- The Best Apps That Pay You to Walk