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how to start a pet sitting business

Starting a pet sitting business is a great idea for anyone who loves pets and would like to earn some money on the side, or even start their own small business.

This guide will help you:

  • Get your business licensed and registered
  • Get business insurance
  • Get your business bonded
  • Prepare for taxes and business expenses
  • Market yourself as a pet sitter

License and Registration for a Pet Sitting Business

Every business needs to register with the state in order to conduct business legally. This requirement includes pet sitters. Not all states require pet sitters to be licensed, although a pet sitting business must be registered with the state.

Check with your state government’s website to determine whether you need a business license to run a pet sitting business, as well as the correct type of license to apply for. You’ll also be able to find any required supporting documentation.

Business registration and licensing are often confused as being the same thing. Business registration establishes a business with the state or federal government as an official operating business. A business license is a piece of paper that legally allows operation of a business that sells goods or services and poses a risk to the public.

If a license is needed, be aware that part of the license application process includes a background and credit check of the applicant. Licensing fees are also charged by the state government. The fee information will be provided by the state at the time of application. Each business license is different with its own set of standards.

SBA’s page on how to start a business is a great resource to use before taking any crucial steps with a small business.

Check out Small Business Budget Template from Quickbooks. 

How to Get a Business License In the USA

  1. Go to Business USA, a helpful tool to find business licensing requirements.
  2. Use the “Start a Business” wizard and follow the prompts to answer questions about your business.
  3. You’ll get a list of business licensing requirements for your state, county, or city. Follow the links to read the instructions from your local government’s website.

Each local state, county, or city will have its own forms and rules. All licensing fees should be paid to that local government agency.

Choosing the Correct Type of Business License

There are multiple forms of business licenses since there are so many different types of businesses in the United States. Since there are hundreds of business license classifications, choosing the correct type of license is key to completing and submitting the correct paperwork. A small business license is logical for a pet sitter since the business will most likely be privately owned without employees.

The first step to choosing the correct type of business license is to decide what type of business will be operating under the license. Once the license is achieved, it must be posted at the location(s) of business where it can be seen easily by the public. For a pet sitting business, the business license should be displayed where clients can easily view it when dropping off or picking up their pet. Displaying the business license in plain view allows the public to know that the business has taken the necessary steps to be properly licensed. Even though not every state requires a pet sitter to be licensed, a licensed, bonded, and insured sitter will be more reputable and attract more clients. A client will hire a licensed sitter over one that is not licensed.

Business Insurance

The goal of business insurance is to ensure coverage of any legal or financial damages if they are to ever arise. Pet sitting insurance is inexpensive since there is not too much risk for insurance companies to cover. The most important small business coverage includes Business Property, Business Liability, and Business Income. Business insurance is important when the small business can pose risk to other’s property, which, in this case, would be your client’s pet(s) or property.

There are countless insurance companies that offer small business insurance, so it’s a smart idea to shop around to get the best possible price for insurance. Business insurance is not the same thing as bonding insurance, since a bond includes three parties while business insurance only includes two parties. Also, insurance comes with expected losses, while bonding insurance does not. For that reason, surety bonds only have a one-time premium while insurance has a monthly premium.

Pet Sitting Surety Bonds Explained

One of the requirements for a business license is for the business owner to post a surety bond. The local, county, state, or federal government requires a surety bond to be posted in order for a business license to be granted.

A license cannot be obtained without a surety bond because the bond is a legal guarantee that the business will abide by state and/or federal rules and regulations. If a pet sitter is bonded, that means that they have taken the necessary steps for proper protection for all parties.

All surety bonds are made up of three parties: the obligee, the principle, and the surety company. The obligee requires the principle to be bonded while the surety company underwrites and ensures the bond. For a pet sitting bond, the obligee is the state government that requires the principle (the pet sitter) to be bonded. The surety company underwrites the pet sitting bond and will pay out the bond if a claim is taken against it. In that case, the pet sitter would then have to repay the surety company for the paid claim.

For a pet sitting business, the surety bond will guarantee the pet sitter will follow all state rules and regulations. These rules and regulations are set in place in order to protect the owner of the animal(s) and the general public. One particular requirement may be that the pet sitter will pay all taxes in full and on time to the state and federal government. Or, if the pet sitter hires employees, the bond may require the pet sitter pay them a legal wage and provide legal working conditions.

Each state requires its own form of a pet sitting surety bond. In order to find out the exact bond type, contact the state in which the business will be operating.

How to Get A Pet Sitting Bond: Step by Step

Surety1 is licensed throughout the United States. Applying for a bond is simple and free. After applying, you’ll typically receive your bond within 1-2 business days. There is only a one-time premium, which is the price of the bond. The bond premium is a small fraction of the bond amount.

To get bonded with Surety1:

  1. Fill out a free online application for a business service bond.
  2. Speak with a skilled bond agent and supply any supporting documents.
  3. Pay for the bond.
  4. Receive the bond.
  5. Turn the bond in to the obligee.

Once the bond is turned in to the obligee, the pet sitter may begin taking care of animals.

Taxes and Business Expenses

Pet sitting is more than taking dogs on walks or practicing pet behavior training. Just like any other small business, there are business expenses for pet sitters. Even if a pet sitter earns a small amount of money, they still need to claim earnings on their personal income tax return. Since pet sitters are independent contractors, money is not taken out of a weekly or monthly check for taxes as it would if they were to work for an employer. Instead, you must set aside money for tax payments, which are made to the federal and state government on a quarterly basis as “estimated payments.” In addition, if a client pays you more than $600 in one year, they can report your business fees as their own business expense and send you a 1099 form, which you must report on your own tax return as business income.

In order to ensure enough money is available for tax payments, it’s a smart idea to open a separate checking or savings account to set aside money for taxes. This money should be used to pay your quarterly estimated payments. You can also build up an extra cushion of money in case you owe more than expected at the end of the year. Once you’ve paid your taxes for a couple years, you’ll have a better idea of how much you usually owe.

Make sure every business expense is tracked and noted for when tax season comes around. These expenses can be a write-off for you, as long as you itemize them. Business expenses can include pet food, pet treats, fecal bags, training tools, home cleaning products, or even dog and cat shampoo. If the pet sitter uses a phone or their car for business necessities, mileage and the phone bill can also be a write-off. Business expenses that occur for a pet sitter can be subtracted from the yearly revenue to determine the sitter’s taxable income.

QuickBooks and Quicken are each excellent tools to use to track business expenses electronically. It is also not a bad idea to hire an accountant to take care of the business taxes so the sitter can focus solely on caring for the pets.  Check out Small Business Budget Template from Quickbooks.  Additional tax and business expense information can be found at SBA’s official website.

How to Market Yourself as a Pet Sitter

One of the best ways for a small business to market its services is by having excellent references and getting referred by word of mouth. Once you’ve insured and bonded your business, you can advertise as a “bonded and insured” pet sitter, which will give your clients a great deal of peace of mind.

Inexpensive ways to market a pet sitter include:

  • Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter
  • Traditional methods such as hanging up posters and asking people to spread the word
  • Online advertising with Google Adwords (paid) or Craigslist (free)
  • Car signs, business cards, posters/fliers
  • Attending local events for small businesses
  • Create your own website with a service like WordPress or SquareSpace

Create a company logo and slogan, and keep them consistent throughout all of your marketing efforts. This will look professional and your clients will recognize your small business year after year. Pet sitters must be able to sell themselves as trusting, caring, dependable, and intelligent. Clients want to be ensured that their furry animals will be cared for and will always be safe during the sitter’s care.

Visit the SBA website to learn more about advertising and marketing laws.

Apply for Your Bond

Surety1 provides all bonds for business, licensing, construction, permit, and court purposes. To get started, apply online for a business service bond.

1. Complete an online application. Choose “business service bond” as the bond you want.
2. One of our surety experts will call and email you with the firm quote and an agreement to sign.
3. Provide payment and your signed agreement, then you will receive your bond!

Get More Help

Call us toll free at 877-654-2327. We have live surety bond agents available Monday – Friday, 8:00 – 4:30 PST. We’re glad to help!