1.     Represent yourself honestly, and love what you do:  If you would rather not sit for a certain breed or type of animal, say so – BEFORE your client is on their honeymoon while you bemoan the Lapso Apso nestled on your lappo 24/7.


2.     Be reasonably flexible, though.   One sitter I interviewed lost the client because she lacked the confidence to water one plant during a one-week assignment! Do extra chores, take in newspapers, turn on a few lights before you leave at night.


3.     Be consistent and upfront with your fees.  Word will spread if you gouge wealthier clients.  If, of course, you offer discounts for those in need, that’s good karma!  If you plan to change your rates, notify your clients ahead of time.


4.     Return inquiry requests quickly.   48 hours is reasonable if the job is a month away, but otherwise, you should return calls within a day.


5.     Arrange a 45-minute meeting with the client and their pet(s) well ahead of the job.  Ask questions – and listen!  Take copious notes about THIS client’s animals, rather than blather on about other cutie-pies you sit for. Put your hand near dog’s nose to see if he’s friendly.  Invest in a printed-up questionnaire that includes your client’s contact information, phone numbers for two other people with keys to your client’s home who can help out if need be, vet and emergency vet info, pets’ names, routines, and special needs.  And in a multiple pet home, get photos of the pets, as well as written descriptions – including collar colors!


6.     Be self-sufficient when your client is away.  Don’t interrupt a cruise or funeral reception to remind your client how cute Mr. Muffins is or how the refrigerator light is out.


7.     But do call your client an agreed-upon number of times during their absence.   If I travel for a week, my sitter calls when she arrives, then twice during the week.  And be honest!   If you miss an animal’s meds even once, for example, let your client (and the vet) know immediately.  Risk getting a little hand-slap – it’s better than letting the pet – and your career – suffer!


8.     Have your client notify you when they’re back home, and have a contingency plan in place if they’re delayed.  Also, leave a thank you note in the home that includes your mailing address, and any balance due.


9.     Be friendly, but businesslike.  You’re being hired to care for pets and homes – not to be a new best friend, personal manager or laundry genie.  Leave the home as clean as you found it, but don’t feel obligated to shrink their underwear.  Trust me, you won’t be thanked.


10.  Along these lines, clients are entrusting you with the wellbeing of their pets, the security of their homes, and the sanctity of their privacy.  You should be bonded, have reliable references, and not be busybody!  When a sitter I once hired launched into a giggly monologue about the “marital aids” she found in another client’s home, she lost my business:  Thankful that I didn’t have similar gadgetry, I nonetheless wondered what the greater L.A. area perhaps DOES know about me…