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Money 101 for Pet Care Providers

Tiffany Smith
April 13, 2007

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

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!

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