- Rachel Bell is a physical therapist who started pet sitting on Rover, a pet-care platform, in 2021.
- Bell and her wife board pets in their home and fulfill the duties around their work schedules.
- She shares how she advertises her services on Rover, works with customers, and sets her prices.
This is an as-told-to essay based on a conversation with Rachel Bell, a physical therapist in Washington, DC with a pet-sitting side hustle. Insider has provided documentation to back up her earnings. The length and clarity of this essay have been edited.
I am a huge animal and nature lover. I’ve learned a lot from pet sitting. I’ve realized that I can do something I’m passionate about on the side and make money at the same time.
I work as a physical therapist in hospitals full-time. Mariane, my partner, told me about Rover in late 2021 and suggested that I try it. We already had three dogs and a cat, but we thought it would be a fun way to make some extra money.
I responded to customers quickly
I tried to present myself as trustworthy by emphasizing my experience with animals. I grew up around animals and now have my own.
Responding quickly to your first customers, according to Rover, is one of several ways to help you rank higher on the site.
Before being verified on Rover, you have the option of creating testimonials or reviews. I made certain that I had testimonials from family and friends whose pets I had cared for.
I responded quickly to my first messages, and if a customer’s request was reasonable, I accepted it in order to obtain my first reviews.
I’d follow up with customers asking for reviews
After the first few customers, I followed up with them and asked if they could leave a review. They would more than 75% of the time.
I provided dog walking, home visits, and pet boarding at our home. I used to charge around $20 for a 30-minute drop-in, and boarding was around $50 per night. When we reached 100 reviews, we raised our prices slightly. Our boarding rates are now $55 per night and $25 for a 30-minute drop-in to a customer’s home.
Pets can stay with us for as little as one night and for as long as they want. One dog stayed with us for three weeks, which is the longest time we’ve ever boarded a pet.
I used to offer dog walks in a larger radius around Washington, DC, but I decided to limit it to 2 miles. I wanted to make sure we weren’t overburdened.
I listed our own pets in the profile
In the profile, I was upfront about our pets so that people could decide whether their pets would be comfortable with ours.
I also hoped that customers would see how well we cared for our own dogs and trust that we would do the same for theirs.
We have a cat as well, but he gets along well with the dogs. People are sometimes put off by our cat, but it’s usually not a problem.
We once took care of someone’s pet rat. He was surprisingly endearing.
I set up video calls with prospective customers
Before accepting customers, I speak with them in person, over the phone, or via video. It’s wonderful to meet the person and, on occasion, the pet. If someone’s behavior doesn’t seem quite right, it could be a red flag that we should work with them.
When we board pets in our home, our requirements are a little more stringent.
It’s preferable if pets are spayed or neutered, but it’s not required. We just make sure we don’t take on anyone else’s animal at the same time if a pet isn’t neutered.
We fit our pet sitting in around our work schedules
Because I couldn’t do drop-in visits in the mornings while working, my wife and I decided to merge our profiles in May 2022. I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed.
I’d work in the hospital from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then come home to check on the pets. Mariane works from around midday until late afternoon. That way, our pets aren’t left alone for long — only from about 12 p.m. to 4 or 5 p.m.
We prefer a mix of pets in our home, drop-ins, and walking. We prefer a couple of drop-ins in the morning so Mariane can check on them, followed by a couple in the evening.
Working together keeps us from becoming burnt out.
Normally, we have one or two pets at home. We limit the number of dogs at home to two at a time because we wouldn’t be able to give all of the pets the attention they deserve otherwise.
We prioritize repeat customers
Every pet that enters our home is treated as a member of our extended family. Customers have jokingly referred to us as their pets’ “aunties.”
Because we prefer people we’ve already worked with, we occasionally contact our regular customers around the holidays to remind them to book in.
We currently have two puppies at home until next week. We also provide care for three cats through drop-in visits at customers’ homes.
We’ve saved our earnings from pet sitting
It’s never like a job. It’s a lot of fun for us.
We made $25,200 on Rover this year, and $35,400 last year. We haven’t touched the money yet, and we plan to use it to help us buy a house and pay off our student loans.