One of the biggest “side hustle trends” of the last few years is tapping into the growing “sharing economy” or peer-to-peer businesses.
A few months ago a friend of mine sent me a note, mentioning that he and his girlfriend had made $2000 the last 3 months dogsitting. So when Jill Russell, the Senior Manager of Content for DogVacay, reached out to me asking if she could share some success stories, I was all for it.
In fact, putting together this post made me want to give it a shot myself! Since I’m working from home anyway, maybe a little extra company would be nice!
Would you quit your 9-to-5 at Goldman Sachs to watch dogs out of your apartment?
That’s exactly what Michael L. of Queens, NY did a couple years ago when he happened upon DogVacay.
The site, which launched three years ago, is often described as “Airbnb for dogs”—people who want to watch dogs create profiles and set their own nightly rates, and pet owners can find local sitters with a few clicks of the mouse.
It’s a win-win for everyone. The sitters are all experienced animal lovers hand-screened by the company; the pups get to stay in a cozy home while their owners are away instead of getting holed up in a kennel; and the owners can relax knowing their beloved dog is in the best hands possible.
Because DogVacay handles everything from scheduling (there’s a convenient calendar interface) and online payments to customer support and insurance, independent sitters are signing up in droves. Among the some 20,000+ active dog “hosts” across the U.S. and Canada are artists and creative freelancers looking to supplement their income, students, retirees, and even those who’ve turned sitting into a full-time gig.
Michael is one of the latter. He charges $60/night per dog and hosts up to six pups at a time in his Queens apartment, which he shares with his wife, Julie, and their Goldendoodle, Toby.
Nick’s notes: Wowzas! Up to $360 a night, for watching dogs??
Here’s a closer look at Michael and two more DogVacay hosts who are making good money doing what they love.
Name: Michael L.
Location: Queens, NYC
Bona fides: 100+ reviews on DogVacay, with an average rating of 5/5 stars. Has booked an estimated 300 reservations to date. Owns one dog, Toby, a Goldendoodle.
See Mike on DogVacay
On how he got into dog sitting:
“After working at Goldman Sachs as a programmer for more than five years, I was tired of the office politics so I left, planning to either join a tech company or work on building mobile apps. I just happened to come across Dogvacay and decided to sign up as a host because I had lots of free time, and because it seemed like a great chance to get to play with dogs and get paid for it, too.”
On how dog-sitting has changed his life and the lives of his clients:
“My wife and I both love dogs, but neither of us had one growing up. When we were dating, we’d literally go to the dog park to watch dogs play, hoping one would come up to us. After we moved in together, we finally got our dog Toby—still, the idea of getting to play with all different types of dogs was a dream come true.”
“When I decided to make hosting with DogVacay my full-time career, I went to dog trainer school to formalize my education. When I saw the changes I was able to make in some dogs and the lives of my clients, I really felt like I was making a difference.”
On the secrets to success:
“Before getting Toby, I obsessively watched The Dog Whisperer and read Cesar Millan’s books. It helped me understand dog behaviors and how they communicate.”
“But honestly nothing compares to the learning experience of raising a puppy. Going through that myself gave me a better understanding of all the typical mistakes dog parents make, and helped me see things from the perspective of my clients.”
“Aside from the training that I do, it’s really important—whenever a dog is staying with me—to keep the owners updated with photos and videos. My dog guests are like children to their owners.”
Nick’s Notes: I can totally relate to this. When Bryn and I travel, we LOVE to get pictures and updates about Mochi.
On how he uses his DogVacay earnings:
“Since I do this full-time, it’s my entire income.”
The Creative Freelancer
Name: Marie D.
Location: Redondo Beach, CA
Bona fides: Booked 25 clients in her first year as a DogVacay Host, including 10 repeat clients. Has 40 years of pet care experience.
On how she got into dog sitting:
“While trying to build a fine art photography business, I was working part-time as a caregiver for elderly people, which was very rewarding, but being the animal lover that I am, I really wished I could take care of pets. I couldn’t get into pet sitting companies at first because they all wanted you to commit to a certain availability every week, and I couldn’t do that while working on my photography.
I got a break over the holidays when I answered an ad from a dog walking company for extra help. It worked out very well, and they let me stay on as a ‘floater,’ and I was able to begin to board dogs for them as well.
I absolutely loved boarding, but unfortunately, two of my very steady pups both passed away within months of one another. I realized if I went out alone as a sitter, I’d be able to do more of what I love—boarding—and get more clients, too. Yet I really didn’t like the idea of being totally on my own. When I saw an ad for DogVacay, I thought it was absolutely the perfect way to go so I signed up!”
On what she loves most about being a DogVacay host:
“As a creative professional, I’m able to earn a living doing something I love from home, where I can still work on my art! It’s really difficult to work on your art if you’re working for others in an office all day. Getting to spend time with the dogs has been a win-win for me and for the pup parents. We’re all happy peas in a pod. My guest dogs lay around watching me create stuff, and then we take walks or play in the yard during breaks.”
On how she uses her DogVacay earnings:
“It pays the bills and allows me to work on my art. Even when I do become a successful artist, I’ll always want to have doggy boarders as my companions while I create. The difference being, I won’t be charging for it, as I dream of taking in as many foster dogs as I can and help them to find homes.”
On the funny things dogs do:
“I had an elderly dog over who couldn’t walk very well. She would wander over to the watering hole (a big bowl on the ground). She went to drink and then I heard a big splash. I turned to see what was up and she was sitting with her rump in the bowl. She just looked so funny, sitting in the bowl like it was no big deal. I had to help her out and get her on her way.”
On having support in her work:
“I highly recommend DogVacay for those who love animals and enjoy being able to make money from home. Forget about stuffing envelopes and making puppets (my own horror story for another time). I like everything about DogVacay.
The website they provide for you as a sitter is excellent. I love the fact that all your conversations are there. It’s nice to get an email first instead of a phone call. It really helps me to review the situation and what the client wrote about their dog so I can prepare before talking to them.
Sending an invoice is easy, getting paid is prompt and easy, and you don’t even have to ask the client for payment—DogVacay does that. I like knowing I have someone to call in case of an emergency. I like the insurance coverage.
I like the fact that your client wouldn’t be stranded should you get sick or injured. They’re already in the DogVacay system and can be matched up with someone else based on the notes we write about our experiences with the pet.
I see a lot of advertising for the site, something I don’t have to do, although I do place my own postcards here and there. I’m very happy and grateful to have this service.The staff is very friendly—and for all they do, they don’t take much of a percentage.”
Location: San Francisco, CA
Bona fides: Hosted more than 30 different dogs over the past seven months. Owns one dog, a 2-year-old mixed breed, Cola, and has 10 years of pet care experience.
On how she got into dog sitting:
“A friend of mine is also a DogVacay host, and she recommended it to me as a way to get extra income while I’m in school.”
On the flexible schedule:
“Doing this, I get to make my own schedule, which is perfect for students. I work when I have time, and I see playing with dogs less like “work” and more like a small break from school.”
On the secrets to her success:
“Yes! The tips are keeping the calendar up to date everyday, respond to the guests right away, do a meet & greet before accepting the offer, keep guests updated with pictures, videos, and messages, read the guidelines carefully on DogVacay, and call DogVacay right away if you have any questions — even if it’s a tiny one.”
On how much some of her guest pups love her:
“Once I took care of a lab named Moose for 16 days. He’s a playful and needy dog who requires a lot of attention. One day, he saw my boyfriend sitting next to me on my small couch, and he literally tried to push my boyfriend off because he wanted to sit next to me. SUPER cute!”
On how she uses her DogVacay earnings:
“This job covers my rent and daily expenses, and leaves time for school.”
Related: The Best Side Hustles for Seniors
Could Dogsitting Be Your Next Side Hustle?
What do you think about this opportunity? Might be a fun one to test out :)