After the Holiday Storm – Three New Year’s Resolutions for Pet Sitters

By Elle Peterson of Panda’s Pets. Link here.

Happy New Year!  If your holidays went something like mine then you’re exhausted but your bank account is pretty comfortable.  Riding the wave of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s travel can be a real testament to your pet sitting fortitude.  But now the boarding dogs have all gone home and the bulk of vacation travel is over.  January and February are historically slow months for pet sitters and the transition isn’t always a pleasant one.  If you find yourself asking ‘When will the work pick up?’ and ‘Do I have enough saved to cover the bills?’ then it’s time you started thinking about a strategy for surviving the slow season.  Here are my three New Year’s resolutions for pet sitters to keep you on the right track and make this year even better than the last.  Cheers!

puppy under a blanket

1. Reconnect with Customers

We all get busy and wrapped up in our own lives and work.  There will be phone calls and texts that go unanswered and customers that slip through the cracks.  Sometimes it feels like there is just never enough time in the day…  Well, good news!  Now that you have a lot more free time on your hands you can go back through your phone, through your email (especially the spam), and through your social media.  COUNTLESS times I have found a lost message, a miscommunication, a forgotten follow up and apologetically reached out to find that person is still in need of a pet sitter and happy to pick up where we left off.  (I can also count a few times that I took a tongue lashing over my belated reply but I still think it’s worth the risk and a downright courteous thing to do.)

Reaching out isn’t just for the customers you might have missed but it’s for the ones you haven’t heard from in a while, too.  It’s easy to go through your text message logs and wish a ‘Happy New Year’, check in on pets and people that have been ill, or send some of those adorable pet photos that are piling up on your phone.  For clients with pets that passed away it will mean a lot to get a photo of their beloved furbaby and know you’re keeping their memory alive.  (Going through your phone is also a great time to double check that you’ve thanked all your customers who gave holiday cards, gifts, and tips!)

woman at desk with cat

2. Plan Strategically for the Year Ahead

One of the reasons I enjoy a hands-on, old-fashioned daily planner for scheduling (my personal choice being the FranklinPlanner) is the ability to keep prior years at my fingertips for comparison.  (I know, I know… I need to join the digital age!  If you are using software with great analytics for forecasting future schedules please reach out to me, I would love a personal recommendation.)  Each year added to your schedule inventory will give you a more clear picture of the year ahead.  Identifying trends in travel means you can better prepare for high-volume seasons and strategically book your personal time off when it is least likely to conflict with your clients’ needs.

Two unpredictable and busy weeks to keep an eye on are spring break (since it’s not marked on your calendar), and Easter (since the date varies from March to April).  I have been fooled by spring break a couple times and accidentally booked personal travel over what I expected would be an average week… only to lose a lot of money by being out of town, and really frustrate my own sitters by adding to their already demanding schedules.  The end of your local school year will usually see a boost in travel while the start of the school year typically sees a drop.  The week before the weekend before a major holiday is usually slow and a great time for planning personal travel or appointments that cut into your prime business hours.  Knowing when you’ll likely be busy as well as slow is the start to budgeting your finances so dips in business don’t become financial hardships.  If you’ve properly planned for the down time you will be able to truly enjoy your time off and prevent the dreaded “pet sitter burnout”.

BONUS TIP:  Mass-messages to clients are usually considered a nuisance but I have found that messaging my personal “Travel Alerts” prompts clients to not only book around my dates but also to send their future travel itineraries weeks or months earlier than they normally would and it’s a tremendous help in getting the schedule fleshed out ahead of time.  (I once sent a mass-message in January about a trip I had planned for May and had so many clients respond that they planned to travel the same week, I rescheduled my trip to remain available for their travel.  The five day difference more than paid for my vacation!)

dog holding leash in mouth

3. Picking Up Work

If sitting around and relaxing is not your cup of tea, it’s time to pick up some new business.  Maybe this is an opportunity to refresh your company or your online presence.  Look at the quality of your website and your social media content; is your story clear and are your services well depicted?  Do you have current reviews on all your major platforms?  Don’t be shy about asking your customers for reviews and referrals.  Direct them to the sites where you’d like more exposure.  Most customers will be happy to help you out, but if you need an extra push it doesn’t hurt to offer an incentive in exchange for posting a review.  Make sure you have current, informative, and attractive promotional materials.  (And my own personal struggle: remember to actually put them in your car.)  I often make a new pet sitting flyer multiple times a year with different photos I have taken of my clients’ pets.  Not only are they fun to hand out, but your customer is more likely to share them with their friends and neighbors.  Posting new promotional materials at local pet related businesses and on community message boards around the neighborhood is a very inexpensive and time-tested way to get new clients.

Having time off is a great opportunity for charity work.  There is always a tremendous need for volunteers in every community, but timing can be an issue.  Now that you’re available, try reaching out to local rescues or shelters and see how you can help.  Fostering is an excellent option because not only are you saving the lives of needy pets but you’re likely to pick up new customers as well!  Even if you donate your time (or if you’re working part time) in non-pet industries, the familiar face-to-face interactions with new people are sure to gain you new clients.  Word of mouth and personal acquaintanceships are still more valuable to local service-based businesses than the online presence or even reviews.

Happy New Year and happy pet sitting!

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