Money 101 for Pet Care Providers

How to set your pay scale and keep track of finances.

dog laying down

Whether you're just starting out, working part-time, or launching your own full-time pet care business, these smart tips and tricks for accounting should help you keep your books balanced and your sanity intact.

  • Setting fees
    • While rates will vary based on location, frequency, and the duration of a particular job, a pet care provider may charge from $12 to $25 an hour or may charge by the visit per pet. It is important to know the going rate of pay for a pet sitter in your area.  Boston Pet Sitters have a different rate than Chicago Pet Sitters. If you live in California, compare the different rates in the different cities. For example, San Francisco Pet Sitters may have a different rate than Los Angeles Pet Sitters and San Diego Pet Sitters. Do your homework before accepting a job.
    • Providers who offer additional included services like retrieving mail, watering plants, bathing, grooming, etc., might be able to charge more -- or offer a la carte services on top of their base rate.
    • You can also research the market for pet care in your area by looking through listings on Craig's List, SuperPages, Yelp, or CitySearch. Base your rates on those charged by other dog walkers, pet sitting services, etc., with comparable skills and service offerings.
  • Tracking finances
    • First you need to register as a "sole proprietor." To do so, visit the state department of taxation or business, and your town or city hall. Once you complete the registration process, you'll be assigned federal and state employer and tax ID numbers. If your business grows to the point that you're making more than $5,000 a year, you will need to update your business status to an LLC (limited liability corporation) or other corporate entity.
    • Keep your records safe, and always keep a history dating back at least three years. Store backup computer files at least once a month. Don't let a computer crash ruin your business -- the IRS reserves the right to audit you at any time.
    • Invest in finance-organizing software. Look for programs that cater to small-business owners. These packages provide business forms and templates, and plenty of information to get you up and running. Begin by creating business ledgers, which should include cash-flow worksheets to track your spending, fixed and variable expenses, income, and other financial records. Quicken, QuickBooks, Microsoft Money, and PeachTree are some popular options.
    • Hold on to receipts. Cell phones, computers, equipment, and office space are only a few of the items that can be deducted come tax time. You can deduct dog bags, leashes, kitty litter and more, so keep receipts of all of your expenses.
    • Pay attention to Twitter, Facebook and news articles about promotions and sponsorships for dog food, kitty litter, and treats. The ASPCA and the Humane Society often run promotions on specific brands throughout the year and a certain percentage sold will go back towards the organization's efforts. Since pets are a big part of your life and career, it would be worthwhile to support these organizations and the good work they do. Families will appreciate your knowledge of these events as well. Visit your local chapter to find out their events and promotions!
    • Speak with someone at your local Chamber of Commerce.The Chamber of Commerce has resources to help you set up, run, and finance your pet care business. It can also help you promote your business, and might even lead you to potential clients.

The nuances of small-business tax law are best left to an accountant. The most efficient way you can help, come tax time, is by keeping concise records of all the money you spend and earn. You have to be pretty numbers-savvy to keep from getting tangled in the financial web that's spun when you're running a small pet care business, but with these tips you'll be the right track!

More Pet Care Resources

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Comments (12)
Photo of Carol P.
Carol P.
Appreciate Jason N.'s comment. Gives me a better idea of rates to charge. I was offered a job for 2 1/2 days for care of 8 pets, though 4 were kept in cages. I couldn't decide what to ask as a flat rate. I felt $10 an hour, which translates to #500 flat rate would be much to high for anyone to be willing to pay. I did it where I came up with what would be about $3.30 an hour plus $10 for gas. I was told the family could not afford to pay that much. I wemt down a bit, but still not low enough to satisfy the family. Any opinions about this welcome.
Also is it fair to ask for gas money for a 1 trip to home of family if it is more than 25 miles? Opinions from experienced pet sitters welcome.
Posted: September 13, 2013 at 7:04 PM
Jason N.
It is a very good article; however, I am paid $50 per day (which is still ONLY $50/16-hrs. = $3.13 per hour + the benefits like housing, some food -I am a Vegan and Organic eater as much as possible- and Etc.; however, negatives- like uncomfortable beds, excited peeing by dogs, having to clean very dirty home and very small and cold water shower and bathroom, and being woken up every few hours for sitting sleeping Elderly Grandfather) for sitting companion animals and the house they exist in*, by all but one-set of clients ($25 per day), even though they are the most wealthy clients. This article does NOT also bring out that rate of paid is also determined by what the sitting assignment requires. *I found on a sitting website that $40 is bottom rate, $50 is average rate and $80 is top rate just for Companion Animal(s) Sitting. Given that I was going to increase my rates, after finding out, on long term clients, I stopped at $50. Though almost every client, I sit 1st. Companion Animals and 2nd. Home, and even for one-client (which is family, so discount family rate) I sit 1st. Elderly Person, 2nd. Companion Animals and 3rd. Home.

*- When companion animals or Human sitters are left alone in the companion animal's or Human's home for more one-period of one-day, then companion animals or Human sitters should be paid also for Home Sitting.
Posted: September 06, 2013 at 3:34 PM
Photo of Leslie L.
Leslie L.
This article is quite good. Very helpful and informative. Definitely gave me some direction to follow once I have enough jobs to let go of my current job. So far I am doing pretty good. If it keeps up I will be solely doing pet care in a matter of weeks.
Posted: August 20, 2013 at 9:31 AM
Susan W.
I am new to the Care.com site and have been grateful to have so much advise at my fingertips. I have read many of your articles that have helped me to be informed in the pet care and housesitting areas. I look forward to having my first opportunity to be interviewed and hired. Thank you for the the available of support that you provide. It has been encouraging while I continue to seek employment.
Posted: August 15, 2013 at 3:40 PM
Member Care
Hi Cheryl,
We re so glad to hear that you have been enjoying the site, and that you have been taking advantage of the many resources and articles we provide! Our hope really is to help care providers and families seeking care to connect with each other and find the best possible fit. We are glad to have you on board and wish you the best in your search!
Posted: July 16, 2013 at 4:30 PM
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Cheryl D.
I am just getting started with Care.com and I have learned alot from this website. I appreciate the Care.com team and all the helpful information that I have read on this website. Thank you Care.com for really caring and being such a great help.
Posted: July 13, 2013 at 2:02 PM
Photo of Erin M.
Erin M.
I have nothing but positive experiences through care.com! Whether I'm applying for a job posting or searching for helpful information. This article provided a new resource I never had considered: The Chamber of Commerce. I'm wondering if this is something that will cost, but I will never know unless I check it out. Thanks care.com for the great article!
Posted: April 06, 2013 at 2:15 PM
Dlon S.
I am learning more and more each day from the Care.com family. I am getting ready to launch into a full time career with working for myself and pet sitting..Good tip on the upgrade to premium..Thank you...
Posted: March 20, 2013 at 10:04 AM
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Jasmin F.
This is a fantastic article! I am just getting started in my business, so articles like this are very helpful. Care.com truly does care! (:
Posted: October 18, 2012 at 8:12 PM
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Carmen K.
I'm very impress with all the helpful information you provide. Keep learning more everyday getting me ready to provide the best service to families with pets. Thank you
Posted: April 18, 2012 at 7:28 PM
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Mary S.
I just joined Care.Com about a month ago and they are the most wonderful people I think I have ever worked with. They are so patient and so detailed in getting you through things you don't understand. And, I am one they have had to spend a lot of time on!! Believe me!!!! They just hang in there with me and get me through it. I have no reservations in recommending them!!! You join for free but can upgrade your membership to "Premium" for only $10.00 per month - I highly recommend doing this. It is well worth it and includes a free background check well as a lot of extra leads on finding jobs. Mary S. San Antonio, TX
Posted: November 06, 2011 at 2:28 PM
Photo of Barbara D.
Barbara D.
your care.com team really has much knowledge, about The Caring of Family Pets.for Care Providers and Owners. I read many sites and your up with Good Info.on loving Pets and What you can Do for them as well. Barbara D.in Hemet,ca
Posted: July 04, 2011 at 11:38 PM
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