Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pet sitting price increases and the cost of gasoline

A pair of hound mixes (look at those tails and tucked up tummies) Lela and Kona

My gasoline expense this month was $290. Some days I drove over 100 miles and never left Poway. With the huge increase in gas prices, I’m sure you are experiencing similar sticker shock. So what can you do about it?

A few years ago, one pet sitter I know increased her prices temporarily, $2 per visit, to cover the increase in gas prices.  When prices settled down after the summer, she dropped the surcharge.

I have limited my service area. I used to cover Rancho Bernardo, which was 8 miles or more each way. Since I live in the far southeast corner of Poway, CA, I charged $20 per visit. In the Poway city limits, I charge $17. I still cover my existing clients in Rancho Bernardo, but am not accepting new ones. I refer to fellow pet sitters who are closer to that edge of town.

Poway is pretty spread out, and I soon realized that some of my Poway customers are also more than 8 miles away. A good rule of thumb is to limit your service area to a five-mile radius. My problem is that less than 1 mile south of me, there are no more homes, so there is no radius to serve, just sagebrush and coyotes. So I chose “city limits” as my service area.

If you live in the country, you will naturally have to serve a bigger area in order to have enough clientele to make a living. You may also have to care for farm animals.  

Jilly, golden retriever
You can’t charge more than the market will bear. In other words, if all the other pet sitters in your area charge $12 a visit, you’ll price yourself out of the market at $15. Do a price survey at least once a year. Network with other pet sitters; they can be your friends as well as your competition.

When did you last increase your prices? If it’s been three or more years, your clients will probably not object. If they love and trust you, they will understand and be happy to pay.

Whatever you charge for visits, provide above–standard service. Go the extra mile. Clean up the yard even if they didn’t ask you to. Wash out the pet’s dishes so they are spotless when the client returns. Make your pet sitting service worth the extra two bucks.

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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.


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