Sunday, October 25, 2009

'Tis almost the season for pet sitters!

Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season. The stores are already full of Christmas decorations; Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The weather has cooled (thank goodness!) and days are shorter.

Pet sitters are gearing up for their busiest months: November and December. Many of you are already filling up with holiday bookings. What steps should you take right now to make the holidays easier on YOU?

Contact clients: Find out who is planning to book you for the holidays and hasn’t yet. Warn them you will fill up and want to get your regular clients scheduled first before you take on new ones. Even if they can’t give you the exact days, they will have a good idea of when they will be traveling.

Figure out how many visits you can do in a day, and don’t over-schedule yourself. Leave time for you to enjoy the holidays with your family too. I have decided that 13 visits is the max I can do, and even that makes for a long day.

Fix your car: Change the oil, check the tires, set up your hands-free cell phone. Update your maps and first aid kit, your car kit and supplies.

Food: Stock up on groceries before the busiest week. Cook some items, such as stew or chili, ahead so you’ll have something you can warm up when you don’t feel like cooking.

Beware of the fast food curse! If you don’t have anything good to eat at home or to carry with you, you will spend a fortune on burgers and fries, and gain weight as an added insult.

Laundry: This sounds silly, but it really does help: make sure you have at least a week’s worth of clean underwear and clothes so you don’t have to spend your free time doing laundry. This is one week when you will want to simplify your life and eliminate chores.

Christmas Cards and gifts: If you give holiday gifts to your clients or send cards, it’s not too early to get organized and start addressing envelopes or ordering items. You’ll be too tired and busy when December arrives.

Update your files: Are your records in good order? Are there software glitches that need attention? Piles of receipts all over your desk? Get organized NOW. Invest your time in straightening out any clutter or issues so you can find things and your systems will work when you are in a hurry.

Calendar: Order and set up next year’s booking calendar. Christmas pet sits will overlap into January. I already have a booking for February.

Marketing: If you aren’t fully booked yet, visit kennels in your area. This is the time of year when they are filling up (way before the holidays) and they will appreciate being able to refer their clients to you. Take cards, brochures, and even cookies, and get to know the staff.  They are not just competition, they can also be your friends. There are several kennels I trust and refer clients to when I am full, and they return the favor.

Another great source for clients is other pet sitters. Network with the people in your area so you can refer clients to each other. Get to know others in your business. You feel more confident when you are referring to someone you know.

Web site: Give your web site a tune-up. Make sure it is search engine friendly, you have a holiday message on there (“Still accepting bookings for Thanksgiving & Christmas! Schedule Now!”), and that all of your links work. Freshen it up with holiday graphics or new photos.

Advertising: If you are going to run ads in local papers or buy adwords on the Internet, figure out your budget and get everything scheduled now. Have your display ads built and ready to submit. You’ll make mistakes if you wait until the last minute.

Happy pet sitting! May your holidays be profitable and pleasant!

As you see, I had so many cute photos of Desi, my wirehaired Dachshund, modeling his Christmas outfit that I just had to use them all!

©2009 Terry Albert. All rights reserved.


Vicki Holt said...

Great suggestions, Terry. Christmas always sneaks up on me in spite of the retail reminders. I like to make holiday cards for my clients with their pets' photos and that takes a lot of time, so with your good nudge, I'll get busy on that now!

Terry Albert said...

I thought about making bookmarks with my clients' pets on them. Custom gifts take time, but are especially appreciated!

Val Pegg said...

Great article! Thanks for helping me know how to prepare! Cooking some chili, catching up on laundry and pre-addressing envelopes are great ideas.