April 4, 2013 By NarpsUK
This month we got the chance to catch up with Antonet Verschuren who runs West London Petsitter. Read Antonet’s interview below and find out how she got into business.
What drove you to start your business? – was it a lifelong dream to run your own business / were you wanting to try something new / or was it the love of animals?
I grew up in the Southern Hemisphere surrounded by a mini zoo of pets – not to mention the incredible wildlife simply in our back garden or encountered in wildlife reserves.
So naturally since early childhood, the only thing I dreamed of was running a business in the pet care industry.
Somewhere along the line, that vision was slightly side-tracked by extensively globetrotting. But I eventually settled in London to study veterinary nursing and start my working career with animals.
Unfortunately I underestimated just how difficult it would be to live a non-student-like lifestyle, based on the income of a veterinary nurse (especially as I was no longer a teenager as most of my working peers were). So I was side-tracked even further with a switch to a career in IT & finance. However, I always still missed my work with animals.
Even though I worked as a volunteer at the RSPCA in Potters Bar on weekends, it wasn’t quite enough. So I eventually returned to animal care by working part time (alongside my full time City job) with an agency specialising in veterinary pet care in a home care situation, when the owners go away on business or holiday.
Though I enjoyed this to begin with, I eventually felt frustrated by the level of control & speed I had in the client communication. As well as the varying levels of professional care offered by other self-employed pet carers via the agency. In time, I strongly felt that I wanted to create a much more bespoke & personal service offering for both the owners & their pets.
I finally realised that the only way that I could truly offer the level of service & care that I envisage and aspire to, was by starting and running my own bespoke pet care business.
What was your biggest challenge when setting up?
I had neither the budget to have a website created for me, nor the knowledge to create one myself.
However going from resigning from my agency work the one day, to having no income the next, was the biggest motivation to create my website.
I had no choice but to learn extremely quickly and as I went along – yet little did I know just how much I was to learn throughout the process. In hindsight, I completely underestimated just how time consuming the setup project would be.
In my optimistic ignorance I thought it might take a couple of days – how very wrong I was! The initial setup project took at least a solid two weeks of work and research, including learning how to build a website and the basics of SEO. It took at least a further month to finally take the shape I had in mind – despite all that hard work and sleepless nights, it’s still a work in progress.
How did you get your first customer? - did you advertise / word of mouth / friend
Was it a daunting experience?
My first customer came from a random phone call at 10am on an idle Friday morning. At first I thought it was a joke as the client (very jovially) explained that he lived on Harley Street, and asked if I could look after his “adoooorable” Yorkshire Terrier for the weekend. He casually mentioned that wanted to go to Paris on holiday…. that night!
Needless to say, I had a wonderful first client & booking. And I guess the little that I learnt about SEO in the previous 2 weeks did the job with the power of Google.
Did you manage to find out all the information you required and advice? What was missing?
Though I had a few friends who gave me business & creative advice (none of them in the pet care industry) I already knew what I could and wanted to offer. However also realised that I didn’t have all the documentation to back up the business side of things and this is where NarpsUK came in.
The wealth of information & customer support available to members was invaluable in creating my own service offering. Before I had access to all the forms and information, I actually didn’t realise just how much I hadn’t thought about – so thank goodness I had fingertip access to all of the customisable documentation.
How did you find out about NarpsUK ?
I heard about NarpsUK via the agency I worked with at first.
What’s been the biggest benefit of joining NarpsUK?
The wealth of information & documentation available to help set up my business. Supported by the friendly and efficient customer support.
What would you do differently if you were setting up in business again?
It’s still early days so I have little to reflect upon. So far I’m more than pleased with how business has taken off and grown.
What advice would you give to other people who want to set up their own pet sitting business?
Join NarpsUK to get access to all the customisable forms and documentation. Not to mention the members forum where there are constant discussions and support that covers all aspects of setting up and running a pet care business.
Unless you have a start-up budget to pay for marketing advice, get as much advice as possible from any friends, acquaintances and relatives who have & run their own business.
Do not fall into the advertising trap – you will soon be swamped by salesmen from all angles trying to sell advertising space in magazines or online. Instead, list on as many free listing websites as possible and learn about SEO and how to market yourself.
Word of mouth is wonderful but that can take a really long time to get into full swing, depending on where you live. Be proactive and be prepared to work very hard on the admin and marketing side of things. You can’t really expect people to just coming knocking on your door if you don’t at least show them where your door is.
Do you have a website and logo?
Yes. My website is www.westlondonpetsitter.co.uk
I decided that I needed a website name that is easy to remember and is self-explanatory. In a market with so many names, it’s sometimes hard to remember something unless it’s really easy to remember.
Not only that, but my business name automatically helps to support and boost my SEO efforts.
I knew that I needed a logo but yet again, didn’t have the budget to have a bespoke logo created. Nor did I want to buy a mass market logo for the bespoke service that I wanted to offer.
Though I had a clear logo concept in mind, it wasn’t until an illustrator friend of mine finally moulded it into the shape that it now has, that it took the shape of a real logo.
Within less than 10 weeks of starting up, I have been approached by London’s top 5* boutique hotels to provide pet care services for their guests’ pets.
I am incredibly excited about this new working relationship and cannot wait to see what else the future of my bespoke pet care business holds.
March 8, 2013 By NarpsUK
Four Good Reasons why you can turn down a pet sitting job
Pet sitters are fantastic at many things—from offering trusted advice on pet-care issues to finding unique ways to make pet owners still feel connected with their pets while they are away. But, there’s one skill that many pet sitters & dog walkers still struggle with: Saying “No.”
We know that many pet sitters hold back from enforcing a cancellation policy with a client who forgets to let you know he’s made other arrangements, to the client who’s technically no longer in your service area but you keep sitting for anyway, perhaps you are finding that saying “no” is not as easy as one might think.
While it may be easy to refer a pet owner to another pet sitter if your schedule is booked or they are outside of your service area, there are other times that turning down clients can be more difficult. Professional pet sitters’ dedication to the pets, commitment to their clients, desire to grow their client base and huge hearts may sometimes result in putting up with a lot more than they should. But, it’s important to realize that sometimes saying “no” is a must—not just to reduce your stress level, but also to keep you safe as you perform your day-to-day pet-sitting assignments.
The results below were taken from a survey conducted with pet sitters, these are four top situations that make pet sitters feel unsafe and when a pet sitter should say NO.
In reverse order
4: Aggressive dogs: 18% of pet sitters responding to the survey indicated that an aggressive dog had been reason to consider a job too unsafe.
One pet sitter described a situation she had encountered: “We had a client who had a dog that was very protective of their property. On a walk the dog was fine. At home, however, it was aggressive even when given treats. I was on edge the whole time I was around it. This situation can only lead to catastrophe and possibly injury. We did not take the job and suggested she contacted a dog behaviourist .”
3. Filthy home/client was a hoarder: 22% of pet sitters responding to the survey shared that they felt unsafe or uncomfortable with a pet-sitting assignment when the client’s home was filthy, or when the client was a hoarder.
2. “Creepy” client: 23% of the pet sitters who completed the survey indicated that they had felt unsafe or uncomfortable with a pet-sitting assignment because they simply did not feel comfortable with the client—even if they could not exactly put their finger on what made them feel so uncomfortable.
Pet sitters shared examples of potential clients who did not make eye contact or seemed overly nervous, made flirtatious or sexual comments and seemed more interested in asking detailed personal questions about the pet sitter instead of their pet-sitting services.
1. Unsafe neighbourhood: 38% of pet sitters completing the survey listed a potential client’s neighbourhood as a reason they would feel to unsafe or uncomfortable to take the pet-sitting assignment. This included homes in neighbourhoods that were considered unsafe, as well as clients with homes that were too secluded.
Have you ever had to turn down a job for one of these reasons?
If so, how did you tell the pet owner you were not able to take the assignment? Are there other reasons you have turned down a potential pet-sitting assignment? Share your experiences with us.
Other reasons that were expressed were: clients that would not pay until after the job was completed, large dogs that pull very hard on a lead, very sick dogs or not comfortable giving medication for example injections.
You can get lots of help, advice and guidance on all kinds of pet sitting and dog walking problems from www.narpsuk.co.uk
This is a dog that should be muzzled when on walks
so why not join today
January 29, 2013 By NarpsUK
If you’re considering setting up your own pet sitting or dog walking business you’ll probably have a love of animals and great people skills too. For those that adore exercise, pets, fresh air and the inhabitants of their local community it is an ideal way to make money too. However, it’s because it is usually a local service that involves a caring nature that some overlook the need for a contract between the dog sitter and the owner.
A clear contract is essential as no matter how good your relationship is with your customer, when you become a pet sitter a contract will protect you and them in case of unforeseen events. It is beneficial for both sides and it will also serve as an important document if you ever need to claim on your insurance.
What You Should Include in a Contract
Contracts vary according to the service you aim to deliver, they can be as simple or as detailed as you’d like. When you start your dog sitting business you may want to include questions such as “where is the dog food kept” for your own reference or you may keep it to the essentials.
These essentials include:
Unforeseen circumstances occur and although you may empathise with your customer, you still need to make a living so it is good practice to include details of cancellations, such as:
- 24 hours’ notice to be given before cancelling
- Last minute cancellations will still be charged
If you have allocated an entire week to pet siting you may want to include a clause that ensures you still receive 50% of the payment, regardless of the cancellation date.
If you are pet sitting and your customer is late returning you could lose out on some money. Make sure you have a clear clause that states you expect a phone call and every extra hour will incur a charge.
Injuries to the Pet
You need to know that if the pet becomes ill in your care you can take it to the vet without becoming out of pocket. Many dog walking businesses and pet sitting businesses request the owner leaves a credit card on file with the vets for this reason.
You also need the owner’s permission to be able to seek medical attention for their pet as they can sue you if they haven’t agreed beforehand.
Injuries to People
Most pets are well behaved however some may be rescue dogs or may have a slight anxiety around people. Some may have aggressive tendencies. You need to ensure in your contract that if the dog causes injury to another person or their pet, that the owner is responsible, not you.
You also need to state the terms you need in the event that the dog bites you as you may not be able to work or it may alter your perception on your career.
There are other facts to consider such as payment terms (up front or via invoice), allocation of keys and so on, however these are the essentials.
When become a pet sitter, you may feel a little mean presenting this contract to a customer however, although you love the animals you care for, you are a pet sitting or dog walking business after all. Your customer will also feel grateful that there are clear guidelines to follow for both of you, your professionalism will impress them and reassure them that you take the health and care of their pet seriously.
We’ve done the hard work for you!
We understand that you would rather be caring for pets than writing contracts so we have constructed a contract that our members can use which includes everything to keep you and your customers covered. See our member’s benefits page for details.
December 17, 2012 By NarpsUK
Do you want to become a Dog Walker by starting your own Dog Walking Business?
Do you want to become a dog walker or start your own dog walking business – dog walking is a great career for dog lovers. Dog walking is becoming big business in the UK and a very popular career choice among dog lovers, being a dog walker means that dog lovers can earn extra money by doing something they love, imagine what fun it would be taking four dogs for an hour long walk and being paid up to £60.00 for doing so.
Is starting your own dog walking business as easy as being an animal lover and going for a walk?
Of course not, you are talking about starting your own business and with that comes responsibilities too.
You don’t have to visit the gym every day to be a good dog walker, but you certainly have to be in good health. You may be dealing with large, strong dogs that need several walks a day. You should take care of yourself so that you are able to handle any animal you might be called upon to take care of. In the event that the animal becomes ill or injured, you may have to transport it to a vet, or arrange for a pet taxi to collect them. You also need to be able to control more than one animal at a time if you are walking dogs in a group. Remember, you have to be able to remain in control at all times.
A good business owner has to have a variety of skills in order to keep a business running smoothly, make money and keep clients satisfied. Organisational and marketing skills are essential, together with some understanding of basic record keeping, scheduling and general business practices. If you aren’t yet familiar with some of the technical aspects of running a business, the NarpsUK Pet Sitting & Dog Walking Business Course will give you the knowledge to be able to set up standard business systems to help make your business a success. The key is to have the ability to learn.
These characteristics are all key to success in any type of pet caring business:
- Love of Animals
- Good Health
- Business Skills
- Genuine Concern
- The will to succeed
- Good communication skills
Evaluate yourself honestly and talk to others. Ask them for their insights into your strengths and weaknesses. If you are still excited about the prospect of working with animals and are confident that you have what it takes to be successful, read on!
You will have Animal Welfare responsibilities The Animal Welfare Act 2006 (Animal Health and Welfare Act Scotland) places a legal responsibility on everyone working with, or caring for animals, for the duty of care of animals in order to meet their welfare needs.
The five welfare needs of animals are:
- Environment – the need for a suitable environment (place to live)
- Diet – the need for a suitable diet
- Behaviour – the need to be able to express normal behaviour
- Companionship – the need to live with, or apart from, other animals
- Health – the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
You will need to consider how your actions and services may affect the welfare needs of the animals you work with but remember by providing a reliable, professional service you will help the pet owner to meet their animal’s welfare needs.
Now you have given some thought to things you must consider to become a dog walker you will also need to think about acquiring pet sitting insurance and having a criminal record check done, both of which can be arranged through NarpsUK.co.uk along with getting your forms and contracts in place and much more.
December 4, 2012 By NarpsUK
What is a Dog Sitting Business?
A dog sitting business is another name used for a dog home boarding business or a pop-in service where the pet sitter will go to the client’s home and sit with the dog/dogs. The way dog sitting works is that a dog owner who is possibly be going on holiday may type into the Google search bar ‘dog sitter London’ and the search will retrieve details of many pet sitters or dog sitters in London, the pet owner will make contact with the dog sitter and arrange to go along to visit the dog sitter with their dog, providing both parties are happy with the arrangement the dog owner will turn up on the agreed date to drop off her dog to be cared for by the dog sitter for the agreed dates.
When seeking a dog sitter a dog owner should ensure that the dog sitter has certain credentials in place before using them. They should be licensed by their local authority if home boarding and should also hold a certificate of insurance, if they are coming to your home you should ask to see a copy of a current criminal record check. You should get references either by looking at feedback on the dog sitter’s website or from independent review sites or ask if you can call and speak to one of the dog sitter’s existing clients. Visit the NarpsUK pet owners page for tips and advice.
Also if home boarding ask if there will be any other dogs boarded with your dog while your dog is there and also check the garden is secure.
A professional dog sitter will ask you to fill in the relevant forms and contracts and leave an emergency number as well as veterinary details and a copy of your dog’s vaccination certificate.
Once you are satisfied that your dog is in good hands you can go on your vacation reassured that your dog will be well cared for and happy while you are away.
You can find a professional pet sitter by going to the NarpsUK website and typing in your postcode, (click here to go to the NarpsUk website) or to www.findalocalpetsitter.co.uk who hold a list of registered dog sitters throughout the UK