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Start a pet sitting business (and quit your job)

How to quit your job to start a pet sitting business

I quit my job at a newspaper in 2008 to start a pet sitting business. Now I offer dog walking in Solana Beach, Calif.

Quitting my job was scary, and it’s not the right choice for everyone. If you are thinking of leaving your job to pursue full-time pet sitting or dog walking, I’m so excited for you! Here are my suggestions to make the process easier:

Start a pet sitting business and quit your job

How to quit your job to start a pet sitting business

1. Establish some pet sitting clients first.

Establish at least two or three regular dog walking customers or five or six pet sitting customers before you quit your job. You’ll want more clients for pet sitting because these clients will be more sporadic for scheduling. Some of your dog walking customers will likely be every day or several times per week. Here are some tips for how to get more pet sitting customers. Give yourself at least three months to start gaining some customers while still working your full-time job.

2. Start saving money.

If you can save up at least two months of normal living expenses before quitting your job, you will be a lot more confident about leaving your job. I understand this is much harder if you’re supporting a family. I only had to worry about myself, but one thing I told myself when I quit my job was this: If you need to pick up a part-time job, you can. You’re an intelligent person, and you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

I did end up taking a part-time job a few months after I quit my job, but it didn’t last long. I realized quickly my time was valuable, and I was much better off spending it promoting my pet sitting business. This paid off in the long run.

3. Look into COBRA continuation health coverage.

COBRA provides some former employees, spouses and dependent children with the right to temporarily continue health insurance coverage under the group rates the employer offers. For me, that meant I could quit my job and still receive the group health insurance rates for the next 18 months which happened to include vision and dental coverage. Even though I had to pay out of pocket, this was an awesome benefit because it was much cheaper than seeking out new coverage on my own, which I chose to do once the 18 months was up.

I also made sure to quit my job on the first of the month so that COBRA did not kick in until the following month. This was a trick the nice human resources employee told me about. (I was going to quit July 31 but she advised me to work through Aug. 1). This was a big deal at the time because it gave me one more month before I had to pay out of pocket for health insurance coverage.

4. Walk dogs on the weekends.

Schedule as many appointments as you can for the weekends or your other days off. Create a waiting list for all other times. You could offer pet sitting visits on the weekends such as Friday evening through Sunday night.

5. Keep a waiting list.

It’s important to keep a dog walking/pet sitting waiting list while you still have your full-time job. Once you’re ready to quit your job, you can contact the people on your list and tell them you will have pet sitting or dog walking openings available starting on a certain date. For example, if someone requests dog walking on Wednesdays but you currently work Wednesdays, you would add the person to your Wednesday waiting list.

You don’t even have to specify why you have a waiting list. Maybe you have a waiting list because you are that busy. This will happen eventually!

6. Start calling yourself a pet sitter.

When people ask what you do, tell them you own a pet sitting business. This is important for believing in yourself and getting in the mindset that you are a successful business owner. I had a tough time with this at first because I did not believe I could actually make it as a business owner. I had to overcome the mental obstacle of believing in myself.

7. Don’t give free pet sitting to friends and family.

You’ve probably been providing your friends and family with free pet sitting. Once you’re committed to starting your own pet sitting business, I recommend you start charging your friends and family at least a little. If you spend all your time offering free care for friends and family, it will take away your time and energy from your paying customers. Paying customers are important to have when you’re thinking of quitting your job!

8. Network within your community.

You need to get your business name out there. Do this as soon as possible while you are still working, because it takes a few months to build up some solid customers. To advertise your pet sitting business through word of mouth, get involved in your community, particularly with pet-related events. Introduce yourself to other business owners, set up booths at pet-related festivals and fundraisers, hang fliers at the dog park and coffee shops. Get your name out there!

Start a pet sitting business and quit your job!

9. Get your web site and social media sites ready.

Sometimes people use the excuse that they can’t start their business until their web site is perfect. That is a mistake. But you do want to get something on your web site. If you have a decent web site, people will take you seriously. WordPress has tons of professional-looking designs you can choose from.

In addition to your pet sitting web site, you should create social media accounts for your business. You don’t have to go crazy and use every single social media site, but at least get a Facebook fan page and Twitter account set up. I also listed my Solana Beach pet sitting business on Google +. Once you have these accounts set up, start genuinely interacting with people and businesses within your community.

10. Leave your job on good terms.

Put in your two-week’s notice and tell your boss your plans to start your full-time pet sitting business. No matter how your employer responds to this, remain positive about your experience with the company. Tell your employer and supervisors you are grateful for everything you have learned while working for them (even if it wasn’t much). It’s important to remain on good terms. Who knows, maybe they’ll recommend your pet sitting services to all the other employees.

Best of luck to you with your business!
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