Hiring a Virtual Assistant for Your Pet Sitting Business

Running a pet sitting business can be a rewarding venture for animal lovers, but it can also be a demanding and time-consuming task. Balancing the needs of pets, clients, and business operations can sometimes feel like you are herding cats. A Virtual Assistant can help you get things back into balance. Here are a few reasons why considering a Virtual Assistant might be a great idea.

Laptop mockup with border collie by Ayla Verschueren. Published on Unsplash February 9, 2021.
  1. Increased Efficiency: As a pet sitter, your days are filled with caring for a variety of animals, managing schedules, and dealing with client inquiries. A Virtual Assistant can handle administrative tasks such as answering emails & messages, booking appointments, scheduling staff, and maintaining client databases. This allows you to focus on what you do best – providing top-notch care to your clients’ pets.
  2. Enhanced Client Communication: Communication is key in the pet sitting business. A Virtual Assistant can promptly respond to client messages and inquiries, ensuring that messages are answered in a timely manner. A VA can also follow up on appointments, gather feedback, and send personalized updates about the pets in your care. This level of client care and responsiveness can set your pet sitting business apart from the competition.
  3. Appointment Management: A Virtual Assistant can manage your schedule efficiently, ensuring that you don’t overbook or miss any visits. They can also send reminders to clients, reducing the likelihood of forgotten bookings and last-minute cancellations.
  4. Social Media and Marketing: Promoting your pet sitting business is vital for growth. A Virtual Assistant can handle social media management, create engaging content, and schedule posts to keep your online presence active. They can also help with marketing efforts, from creating promotional materials to reaching out to potential clients.
  5. Cost Savings: Hiring a Virtual Assistant is a cost-effective solution. You don’t need to provide office space or equipment, and you only pay for the hours worked. Also, a Virtual Assistant is usually an Independent Contractor, so no having to pay employee taxes and insurance or minimum hours. This flexibility allows you to scale your Virtual Assistant’s workload according to your business needs.
  6. Work-Life Balance: By outsourcing administrative tasks to a Virtual Assistant, you can reclaim valuable time to spend time with family and friends, your own pets, and enjoy your interests while still growing your pet sitting business.
  7. Flexibility: Virtual Assistants are available to work at times that suit your business. Whether you need someone during peak pet-sitting hours, weekends, or holidays, you can find a Virtual Assistant to accommodate your schedule.
  8. Specialized Skills: Depending on your needs, you can find a Virtual Assistant with specific skills that align with your business. Whether it’s managing your pet sitting software, social media management, customer service, or data entry, you can hire a Virtual Assistant who is well-versed in your niche.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant for your pet sitting business allows you to streamline your operations, enhance client satisfaction, and achieve a better work-life balance. By outsourcing administrative tasks to a competent assistant, you can focus on what you love most. So, if you’re a pet sitter juggling a busy schedule, consider making your business even more successful by working with a Virtual Assistant.

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Pet Sitter Safety

Pet Sitter safety is a very important issue and should be at the forefront of a pet sitter’s plan. The nature of the business requires sitters to enter strangers’ homes. Steps should be taken to assure your safety and the safety of your employees.

First and foremost, listen to your gut instincts. When speaking to a potential client on the telephone, take care to pick up on cues that might send up red flags. If the caller seems strange, rude, or offensive in any way, it’s best to turn the person down. Also, if the person lives in an area that is considered unsafe, it may be best to turn them down or require visits ONLY during daylight hours.

silhouette photo of person holding door knob
Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

When going on an initial visit/interview and you have any suspicions whatsoever, it’s a good idea to carry a cellphone, and maybe bring a friend or employee along. A cellphone should be with you at all times, whether on an interview or a regular visit.

Stay alert and aware during the initial interview. Be aware of your surroundings, and use common sense. If something doesn’t feel right, or if the person seems threatening or weird, make up an excuse to end the interview as soon as possible and leave.

Also important is to pay attention to the pets that you will be caring for. No matter how nice and likable the owner is, sitting for a very aggressive dog (or another animal that can cause major harm) may not be the best idea. If the animal has a history of aggressiveness, or the owner has problems controlling the animal, it may be best to suggest a kennel. If you feel a trial run is in order to make sure, schedule a “trial visit” when the owner is away from the house. If the animal is very aggressive without the owner present, it’s best to turn the client down. It’s impossible to care for an animal that won’t allow you to enter the house, and it does no one any good if you are bitten or mauled.

Make sure the owners let you know everyone who has a key to the house, and if anyone will be visiting the house while you are. There is nothing more frightening than walking into an “empty” house and coming face to face with a total stranger! When on visits, do a “walk-around” on the property and in the house. Notice any differences. Was the gate open on your last visit? Did you open a window? Was the light on before? If there are any signs of a break-in, DON’T ENTER THE HOUSE! Leave and call the police immediately, and have them check the house. If there was indeed a break-in, you should contact the homeowners immediately and let them know.

Remember that your safety is first and foremost, and never take any chances. React calmly and professionally, follow your instincts, and enjoy pet sitting!

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Horse Sitting Basics

When most people think of pet sitting, the first animals that come to mind are dogs and cats. But horse sitting is also a much needed service. Many horse owners travel rarely or never, because they can’t find people who are able to put in the time and work to care for their horses. If you have expertise in horse care, and live in a horse-friendly area, you might want to consider adding horse sitting to your pet care business services.

Horses require specialized care, as they need to eat at certain times of the day, and a certain amount of food to stay healthy. Feedings should be scheduled at the horse’s regular feeding times, and the amount and types of feed vary from horse to horse, so keep detailed instructions for each. Also ask about what and how many treats can be given. Horses love eating yummy snacks like carrots and apples, but too many can lead to an upset stomach.

Fresh, clean water is also very important. It should be available at all times both in the stall and in the turnout area/pasture. In the winter, freezing can be a real pain, so ask the owner about water heaters.

Brushing and hoof picking may also be a daily chore, so make sure you ask where the brushes, halters, lead lines, picks, and other items are located. Have the owner show you how to halter, tie, brush, and pick the hooves, and try it yourself, as some horses can be a bit tricky.

The horses may need to be handled to be turned out to graze or stretch their legs, but riding and longeing is usually not required. If more involved care is requested, you may want to adjust pricing for this, as it will take more time.

Stall cleaning is one of the less glamourous parts of the job, and is a bit more involved than cleaning a little kitty litter box. For shorter sits of a few days to a week, you probably won’t have to do a full stall cleaning. Just scooping up some “road apples” and the wet bedding and replacing it with fresh, dry bedding is sufficient. Longer sits will require a full stall cleaning, which can take a lot of time for multiple stalls.

Knowing the signs of injury and illness is very important with any animal. In horses, immediate care for many problems is essential. Any changes in behaviour, eating, moving, swelling, breathing, etc. should be given a serious second look. Have emergency care items and 24 hour veterinary telephone numbers handy.

When meeting with the owner, be sure to ask lots of questions and keep detailed records. Also, have some horse care books handy, especially ones for recognizing and treating horse illnesses and injuries. Two great books to have handy are A-Z of Horse Diseases & Health Problems, by Tim Hawcroft. (ISBN# 0-87605-884-5) and Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook, by James M. Giffin & Tom Gore. (ISBN# 0-87605-606-0)

If you feel confident that you can handle all the above and love horses, then horse sitting may be for you!

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Five Strategies to Organize Your Work Day

To Do List

Organizing your work day can seem daunting at first. But keeping an organized day will reduce stress and increase productivity. Here are five strategies you can do right now to keep your day running smoothly.

1. Make a To-Do List.  At the beginning of the day, make out a list of tasks you would like to get done. List the most important and time sensitive tasks at the top, in order of importance. Keeping the less important tasks, or tasks which can wait for another day, at the bottom will become less stressful if you find time running out near the end of the day. You can create your To-Do list on paper, a dry erase board, in a document or spreadsheet, or even write them individually on Post-It notes and create a physical task board. Online Task Boards, such as ClickUp or Trello are excellent organizing tools, as well.

2. Organize your workspace Clear your workspace and desk of all unnecessary items to help keep focus on the tasks at hand. Keep your current tasks on your computer or actual desktop, and file away or send out tasks as they are completed. Watching your task pile shrink throughout the day is very rewarding.

3.  Schedule and set goals As you are listing and organizing tasks, give yourself a time-table in which to complete these tasks. Minimize distractions so that you can concentrate on your current project and get everything you need completed within your scheduled times.

4. Take breaks As the saying goes “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. To bolster your creativity and to avoid burn out, take a break several times throughout the day. Get up and walk away from your desk, take a walk, grab some water, or just stretch. 

5. Delegate tasks Take advantage of help when you can get it. Delegate some tasks to others who are able to help, especially if the tasks are a team effort. Outsourcing regular tasks to a Virtual Assistant is a great way to organize your workload and will allow you more time to concentrate on bigger tasks which need your attention.

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Blogging, Image Copyrights and You

This scene happens every day all over the internet. A blogger comes up with a great topic, writes their blog post, then hops on over to Google Images to find that perfect photo to add to the post.  But did you know that grabbing a random image off the internet can end up costing you big bucks if the image is copyrighted?  Google Images is a great way to find a certain photo or graphic, but the vast majority of these photos are owned by someone and not available for use by others.  At best you may get away with using the image and no one knowing. At worst, you can find yourself contacted by a lawyer informing you that you now owe their client upwards of a $1,000 for stealing a copyrighted image!

Using random images from the internet is not something to be taken lightly. Owners of the image can and will legally demand payment for use of those images. So what can you as a blogger do to make sure that you don’t end up as an “image thief?”

There are sites available where you can find just about any image you need, and allow you to use them within certain restrictions. Some websites are pay sites, which may charge you a monthly fee to download from their image archive, and some which charge by the image. Be sure to read the Terms, as some images may be a one time purchase, and some may have an expiration date on their length of use. If you have a limited image on your blog and it expires, don’t be surprised if you are contacted to pay to continue its use or be requested to remove the image.

There are also websites that host totally free images. Some have restrictions for personal use only, and some allow business use.  Some images may also require the user to link back to the website you downloaded it from, or may require you to state somewhere on your blog or site who owns the copyright to the image.

Always be sure to read the fine print and look over the Terms and Conditions of the websites where you find any images you plan to use.

Shutterstock.com – One of the best and most popular of the stock image sites. Images are not free, but are affordable. Currently the site is offering a free 10 image, one month trial. Once the trial is up, it is only $29 for the year to get up to 10 images per month.

scx.hu (formerly stock.xchg) – Lots of great FREE stock photos available here.  *Please Note: when searching for a particular subject, make sure the photo you download is under the “Results for “XXXX” on SXC.hu” heading. Some of the results are Premium photos from iStockphotos.com and they are NOT free for use.

iStockphoto.com – A great premium stock photo site with a very large collection of high quality photos.  Prices depend on quality and size. You can pay for your purchases individually or buy credits to use toward purchasing images.

Gettyimages.com – Purchase stock photos, royalty free photos, videos, and music to use on your blog or site.

There are many other great sites on the web to find free images to use on your blog. But always remember to read ALL the fine print, the Terms for using any images, and follow the rules.

Article originally published on February 25, 2013.
Links and info updated for August 2, 2021.
Copyright © 2013, 2021 Lily Plasse / TygerLily.

All rights reserved.

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Why Hire a Virtual Assistant?

A Virtual Assistant allows you to concentrate on the part of your business that is most needed, while other necessary tasks are taking care of as well. With a virtual assistant, the benefits include:

  • Get help when you need; a few times a week or a month, or even once in a while for special projects or very busy times of the year.
  • Know the tasks are being handled by someone who knows what needs to be done and how it is done.
  • No worry about dealing with taxes, benefits and hours that are necessary when hiring a full or part time employee. Virtual assistants are Independent Contractors, not employees, and are responsible for our own taxes.
  • Get help with the oftentimes confusing world of online presence and social media.

A Professional Assistant who works as an Independent Contractor instead of an Employee can save you time and money.

  • You can retain services just when you need help. Year end or busy times, just a few hours a week or month. The work can be done at the assistant’s home office or your office when needed.
  • Concentrate on the parts of your business you need or want, and have a knowledgeable assistant take care of the necessary office work, paperwork and computer work.
  • No worries about needing to deal with employee benefits, such as workers comp, taxes, insurance and vacations as you would with a full or part time employed assistant. An independent contractor is responsible for their own taxes and insurance.
  • Know that the person you are hiring is knowledgeable in their work and can get things done in a professional and timely manner, and keep your office organized and running smoothly.

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Keeping Less Common Critters

Dog and cat ownership by far make up the largest groups for pets owned by U.S. households. Their numbers in 2012 ranked 36.5%  and 30.4%, respectively.  Fish, birds and horses trail behind, but are still popular pets.  But what about the rest? For those who are thinking of adding one of the more exotic or different pet, there are many to choose from for all types of households. There are many factors that should be considered before adding any pet to your family.

Pink Toe Tarantula
Pink Toe Tarantula

One of the most important things to consider is proper housing. This can range from a simple enclosure for a tarantula or mouse to a large and elaborate enclosure for a monitor lizard or large livestock.  Remember, that baby Savannah Monitor, Green Iguana or Burmese Python that started off happy in a 20 gallon aquarium will grow to a large animal which will eventually require a very large enclosure. “A reptile will only grow as large as its enclosure” is a HUGE myth, and entirely untrue. They will outgrow their small tank, and they will need a lot more space. Make sure you can provide this when the time comes.

Another thing to consider is environment. Some exotics live in very temperate climates with specific humidity requirements. A cold and dry house might make keeping the proper humidity and temps quite a challenge. Make sure you will be able to meet those requirements in your pet’s enclosure no matter the temperatures of your home. Also remember this could be an added expense that you might not have considered. If you don’t want to have to worry about higher electric bills, look into pets that are already adapted to the type of environment that doesn’t need many extras and can easily be emulated in your home environment.

Bantam Dominique Chicken
Bantam Chicken

Feeding is another big consideration. If you are squeamish about feeding animals to other animals, a carnivore like a snake or monitor is probably not the pet for you. If you don’t like bugs, then you might think twice about getting that cute leopard gecko, who loves to eat them. There are quite a few exotics that are largely vegetarian, like many lizards and tortoises. Pets like rodents, rabbits, chickens, goats and pot-bellied pigs are also happy to eat pellets, hay, and veggies also. (Note: although chickens are happy to eat chicken feed, they are by no means vegetarians, and having a well-rounded diet that includes insects and other proteins will help to keep them healthy and happy.)

Commitment is a biggie also. Some insect pets will live just a few months, and many tortoises will most likely outlive you with proper care. Make sure you have the means and desire to stick it out to the end. A pet is a commitment to the end of its natural life, and not just a fad, tossed aside or moved along on a whim. A lot of animals end up in bad situations because the owner got sick of them or got in over their head.

Another important consideration is medical care. It is a good idea to find out what veterinarians in your area treat exotics or farm animals and get to know your vet. There may come a time when you need veterinary care for your pet, and many regular dog and cat vets don’t have the desire or expertise to see your reptile, rodent or livestock animal.

Ball Python
Ball Python

Most importantly, before getting any animal… research, research, research! Find out all you can about the pet you are interested in getting before you get one. There are many great online forums full of knowledgeable owners and breeders online, and always check multiple sources, because there is a lot of misinformation online, also. Check Amazon   for recommended books on your pet of choice, and read as much as you can. That way you can make an informed decision if that pet is right for you and if you can meet all the requirements to give that animal a long and healthy life.

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