Most of you know that Paul and I have been caring for properties and pets across the US for just about three years now. We sold Paul’s house in Colorado, along with most of our belongings in 2009 . Since then, our sits have consisted of a year in Cape Cod, MA, two weeks in Cambridge, MA, six months on Signal Mountain, TN, three weeks in Lake Charles, LA, and three months in Portland, OR. We liked Portland so much that we ended up renting a small house and have done several short-term local sits since then (October marks one year of living here on NE Wygant Street).
As Caretaking Couple, we have had a total of (almost) four months off between/during sits. The majority of that time has been spent on the road (visiting over thirty states), with the exception of one delightful month in an old Victorian just seconds from the Atlantic Ocean in Provincetown, MA. I have posted just about all of our travels in the past three years right here on this blog. You can enter a place in the “Search” box to the right and if we have been there, there will most likely be a blog post about it.
A lot of people ask us where we find these sits and how we end up being chosen for the job. This has been mentioned before here on the blog, but since it is such a popular question I figured I would bring it up again and go into more detail. The following is a list of my top ten suggestions on finding house and/or pet sits:
1. Subscribe to a couple of websites that match people who need help caring for their properties and/or pets with people looking for properties and/or pets to care for. The two sites I chose were Caretaker Gazette and Housecarers. Since then, I have tried different sites, but these are the two that I keep going back to (I do the research and then run the interesting opportunities by Paul).
2. After spending some time perusing opportunities on the sites listed above, come up with an ad (Caretaker Gazette), or profile (Housecarers), of your own. I made sure ours conveyed our personalities and let people know the basics about us and what we have to offer. It doesn’t have to be long ~ a paragraph or two at the most. Be sure to add a picture as well if that is an option.
3. Compile a list of references. You will be asked for one 100% of the time. When we were just starting out, I included sits I had done on my own over the years and personal references that could vouch for our character (friends, business associates, and neighbors). A written reference is great ~ ask for one. We haven’t received written references from everyone we asked, (some people are busy, some aren’t big into writing) but all have given permission to be contacted via phone/e-mail.
4. Go after interesting opportunities instead of waiting for them to find you. Especially in the beginning (like any business, it can take a little while to get established). Let everyone know what you are up to – word of mouth works wonders : ) Try not to take it personally if you aren’t given each and every sit you go after…just keep looking for that perfect (sit) fit. And don’t just take anything that comes along…if you are afraid of Chihuahuas, don’t commit to a sit that includes them just because you have been offered it.
5. Start a blog and post on it on a consistent basis. This is a great way to get a name for yourself in cyberspace. You can get a free account with WordPress. This will make you so much easier to find, connect you with like-minded people all over the world, and establish you as an expert (just be sure to post relevant information).
6. Answer all inquiries, whether interested or not. Sits come and go constantly and matching sits with sitters can be tricky. Communication is key (i.e. nobody likes to be left hanging).
7. Print up some business cards. We are currently using Moo and get compliments on our cards all of the time. Most people are online these days, but cards serve to remind potential clients where to find you.
8. Let everyone know what you are looking for. For example, we are now interested in finding a long-term sit in Northern California, and I am putting out an APB (All Points Bulletin). You never know who might know someone who is looking for someone just like you!
9. Join a professional house and pet sitter organization. We recommend National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. Establishing a rapport with other sitters is interesting and fun, and you will learn about your field ten times faster than going it on your own.
10. Get bonded and insured. I suggest you do this through a professional organization like NAPPS. Most homeowners will make sure you are covered in their policy but it is worth the $ to have that extra piece of mind. We have had no problems and you probably won’t either but I have heard a few horror stories and am not willing to risk it.
*Bonus Suggestion* Go old-school and place ads in local papers where you want to live. Disclaimer – we are doing this for the first time. We just placed an ad in the Carmel Pine Cone as we are both hoping to find something in that part of California (the Oregon/California coast is calling to us both).
If you would like me to go into more detail on any of the above suggestions, just leave a comment here on this post. Best of luck in finding your next sit, and be sure to keep us posted on your progress!