scorecardI made an extra $26,000 pet-sitting on Rover last year. It feels like a staycation and gives me security in case I get laid off again.
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I made an extra $26,000 pet-sitting on Rover last year. It feels like a staycation and gives me security in case I get laid off again.

Claire Turrell   

I made an extra $26,000 pet-sitting on Rover last year. It feels like a staycation and gives me security in case I get laid off again.
Careers5 min read
  • Kevin Liu is a 28-year-old project design lead from Texas with a pet-sitting side hustle.
  • Liu lives in people's homes and his clients arrange their vacations around his availability.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Kevin Liu, a 28-year-old pet-sitter in Texas. It has been edited for length and clarity.

When the pandemic hit, I was laid off from my tech job. This was the third time that had happened, and it was outside of my control.

After that, I started to think about how I could diversify my income stream to be more financially secure.

I wanted to make sure that if I ever got laid off again, I'd still be able to cover my basic living costs such as rent and food. And, if it didn't happen again, I'd have some savings.

When I was in college, people were always talking about side hustles

It was during that time that I saw a YouTube video about pet sitting. While I was busy with my studies, I kept it in the back of my mind, because I loved the fact you could be paid for something that was fun.

In June 2020, I joined the pet-sitting app Rover

While some pet-sitting apps are unpaid, with Rover, I would be connected to paid pet-sitting jobs in return for a 20% booking fee, which includes insurance. I wasn't looking at making a career change — I was just hoping to supplement my income, so I decided I'd only work within a 6-mile radius of my home in Austin, Texas.

I received my first booking within a month, which was for a lively puppy in a one-bedroom apartment. While I didn't have any experience looking after pets, I would be staying in the apartment for the duration of the pet sit, and the owner liked that I worked from home and wouldn't be running around town all day.

I soon realized that if I was going to make any money, I needed to rethink my strategy

While it was fun to look after the puppy, my prices weren't high enough. I hadn't packed any meals, so I needed to go to the grocery store to buy lunch. It became clear very quickly that my chosen full day rate of $26 that I'd charged to pet sit that day — $15 after fees and taxes — wouldn't stretch very far.

I slowly started to raise my prices as I got more experienced. I also was quick to respond to messages, whether I could take the bookings or not. Having a good response rate, and response time, ranked me higher in the Rover search results.

I got booked by families going on vacation and young couples on weekend getaways

I enjoyed meeting the people and the pets, and I also got to stay in some beautiful homes. I stayed in five-bedroom homes with infinity pools, slept in cliff-top houses with amazing views, and even booked one three-story mansion with an elevator.

By August 2020, I was working full-time in the tech industry again

Because I worked from home, though, I could still house-sit.

Until then, I'd also offered dog walking services and did drop-in spot checks on pets, but I no longer had time for that. So I started choosing house-sits where I could look after multiple pets at one time so that I could make more money.

Most of my clients had dogs, but I was also booked to look after a snake and five geckos. This was possibly my easiest pet sit — the snake only ate once a week, and the geckos just needed to be misted daily with a fine spray of water.

Last year was my most successful year of pet-sitting

In 2022, I made $26,110 before taxes and fees. I already have bookings for six months ahead.

This won't supplant my tech job, which pays a lot more, but from a side-hustle perspective, it's a pretty passive source of income. Plus, I love helping people out.

The only pet-sitting challenge I faced had nothing to do with the pets

Not every dog is well-trained, which means that I've learned to give other dogs a wide berth on the sidewalks and keep my eye out for squirrels. But my real challenge came when a tree fell on the house.

Luckily, no one was injured. The owner called someone to take care of it.

I learned a lot about pet-sitting from Reddit

But there were still a few things I didn't know back then, such as how to benchmark my prices or what's a good goal for the income. So, a year after I started pet-sitting, I posted a few videos on TikTok about the type of information I wished I'd had.

I wasn't sure if anyone would watch them, but I started with a video in August 2022 about how my first year had gone. It received more than 500,000 views overnight. I had people leave me questions about pet-sitting, and some even offered to fly me to their homes in Los Angeles, New York, or Alaska to pet-sit. Since I still have a full-time job, I haven't done this.

I now charge $170 per day, and clients even book their holidays around my availability

The summer months and festive season are my busiest times. Last year, I was house-sitting nearly every night in the summer. My longest booking was for 28 days, when an owner had to travel for work and I was asked to look after a super chilled, elderly Shih Tzu.

I focus on providing a luxury service and make the whole process as effortless as possible for the customer. When they come back from holiday, they will know that not only has their pet been well looked after, but their home is clean, their plants have been watered, and their Amazon parcels have been collected.

If you're staying in a beautiful home, it can feel like a staycation

That can throw you off the track of your daily routine, especially when you have a day job. Because of that, I try to keep my routine as consistent as possible.

I wake up each morning at around 5 a.m., feed the dogs, and then let them out into the yard to go to the bathroom (although they often want to go back to sleep). Then I'll go to the gym for around 90 minutes, before I go back to the house to take the dogs for a walk. My first online meeting is usually at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., so I have plenty of time.

I work until about 5 p.m., then I'll feed the dogs and take them for another walk. I might go see friends or visit my apartment for a change of clothes or to water my plants. I like the quiet life, so I'm usually asleep by 10 p.m.

While I pay $950 a month for my apartment, I don't want to rent it out. I'm only 4 miles away at any given time, and I still like to have it there to go back to.

The biggest misconception about pet-sitting and house-sitting is that it's easy

Not every customer is going to be laid back, and not every dog is going to be well behaved and trained. I like to be transparent about pricing so that customers know what a realistic price is, and other pet-sitters know what to charge.

It's a lovely thing to do, but it is a job, and you don't want to burn yourself while doing it. I don't look after as many puppies now, since they're like human babies and have irregular sleep patterns. I have a full-time job, so I prefer not to get up in the middle of the night.

If you have a lucrative side gig and want to share your story, email Jennifer Eum at jeum@insider.com.




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