Pet Sitter Confessional Interview on ICs

Interview: Pet Sitter Confessional

I was recently interviewed by Meghan and Collin from Pet Sitter Confessional. What follows is the discussion of a wide range of topics for pet sitters and pet sitting business owners including Employees vs Independent Contractors (IC’s), pet sitting business technology, how to handle price increases and much more.

You can listen to the interview recording by clicking the Play button on the MP3 file. You can also read along with the Interview Transcript below.

Transcript

Meghan:

Hi, I’m Meghan.

Collin:

I’m Collin, and this is a Pet Sitter Confessional.

Meghan:

An open and honest discussion about life as a pet sitter.

Collin:

How do you appropriately use an independent contractor? Have you ever thought about using one yourself? In today’s episode, Colleen Sedgwick, the Pet Nanny, answers some very specific questions about the right ways to use an independent contractor. Many of us are looking for ways to fill temporary schedules and cover more sits during the busy holiday time. Independent contractors may be the way to go for us. However, as always, there are many things to consider. Let’s get started.

Colleen Sedgwick:

I want to say, hi, I’m Colleen Sedgwick. I am the owner of Pet Nanny Coach, and I teach pet sitting business owners how to make $10,000 or more a month in their business. And I’m also the owner of Pet Nanny – Pet Sitters of the Main Line, which is on the main line of Philadelphia, so the suburban area of Philadelphia, and I’ve had my business for 20 years. It was 20 years in June. I’ve been through it, but I’ve created this amazing business that gives me a passive revenue stream, because I leverage myself through my team of pet sitters, my team of managers, and it just serves me and I have a lot of knowledge that I love to share with other pet sitters who want to create something similar for themselves.

Collin:

Yeah, well you’ve been doing this for a long time and I know you’ve got a lot of insights and so I… We’re talking about the difference of using independent contractors appropriately and what that means. I would love to have you define what the difference is between an employee and an independent contractor.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Okay, so independent contractors, in essence, and for simplicity’s sake, they run their own business. And as a pet sitting business owner, if you are going to use IC’s and use that model, you have to understand that you’re contracting their services to service your customers. They do not work directly for you. They own their own business. They’re responsible for their own taxes, paying their own taxes. They’re responsible for providing their own equipment. And the biggest thing is direction and control. As the business owner, you do not have any direction and control over your independent contractors. The client has the control over the independent contractor. And that is a main shift that needs to be made with a lot of pet sitting businesses that are using IC’s. They are treating them as employees because they are telling them what to do. They’re defining what it is that they want, how they want the job to be done, where in essence, it needs to be the client that is directing the independent contractor. And you, as the pet sitting business owner are the connector. You’re the bridge between the IC and the client.

Collin:

Yeah, I think maybe… It is confusing because the job gets done, but it’s all the backend work, I think, the unseen relationship that we don’t think about, that where that real difference is when we’re trying to bring people on and hire staff. There seems to be a lot of changes with IC’s, state, national levels. From your perspective, how has it been regulation wise? What changes have you seen and how they’ve applied to the industry when it comes to using independent contractors?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Oh, they’re just much more stringent now. When I started using IC’s… I use IC’s successfully for 17 years. I now use employees. But when I first started contracting independent contractors to work with Pet Nanny, not for Pet Nanny, working with Pet Nanny, it wasn’t a big deal. The government wasn’t sniffing businesses out, trying basically… You’re going to make more money for the government if you use employees. And they got hip to that and they’ve found these small industries like the pet sitting industry that was using independent contractors and they’re trying to shut it down because they, in essence, want to make the most money that they can from you.

Colleen Sedgwick:

I’m a big fan of IC’s. I loved the IC model. Like I said, 17 years of my business, I used it successfully. I just got a little tired of them hunting me down. So yeah, I went through two audits and they tried to audit me a third time. But by then I just said, “All right, Uncle, I’m just going to switch to employees,” and that’s fine too. I have more direction and control, but it’s a lot more expensive to have employees.

Collin:

Walk us through what an audit looks like. You’ve gone through two, almost were going through a third. What are they looking for? And what do people need to have on hand if they do get audited?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Oh my goodness. Yeah, that was a very scary situation, the first one, but I had everything. I knew what I was doing in terms of how my business was set up using IC’s. You have to make sure that your IC’s are paying their own insurance. You’re not paying their insurance. In essence, they need to be giving you their pay… What would you call it? Their time sheets and their invoices to you, which I did. I was able to utilize through my software, but basically they were submitting their time worked through the software, so I was able to show to the government that I was not… that they were invoicing me. Let’s think another one. So, it was the insurance, it was the… Oh, that they were using their own equipment, that they’re paying their own taxes, that I was not defining when they needed to be at a client’s house, that the client was the one doing that. That I wasn’t providing them with any type of handbook or any type of instructions, detailed instructions on how the job was supposed to be done.

Colleen Sedgwick:

And yeah, the big thing I’m going to say… There wasn’t any vacation time they could schedule. They were in charge of their own calendars by blocking out when they couldn’t work, we call it the Do Not Schedule system. So, the sitters would go in and block out, basically manage their own calendars. And when they were available, the program would know, and we would go ahead and schedule that. Those were the big things.

Collin:

Yeah, well, it sounds like a lot to keep track of and some people may see that and go, “Wow, that sounds like a lot of headaches.” How did you make that work so successfully for 17 years and managing all of that?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Being very, very organized. It’s one of my superpowers. I’m gifted with that. A lot of flaws, but that’s one of my superpowers. You just have to stay on top of it. You have to make sure that your language is in line with what the government wants. And you have to be very careful with… I know a lot of pet sitting business owners are using IC’s and having them wear shirts with the company name on it. Absolutely no, no. No car magnets, no handbooks. You just have to be really diligent about how you’re communicating with them and how you’re presenting them and how everything is organized on the backend. In terms of… and using your software program. The IRS, the two audits, they had no problem with the invoicing coming through the software program. And that was really helpful in keeping track of a lot of this.

Collin:

Yeah. Well now, when it comes to hiring, I know hiring is a big topic right now for a lot of people and they’re really struggling to figure out how to hire good people. And if they’re interested in hiring an independent contractor, how do I, as a business owner, set standards, then, of who I’m hiring and not be imposing on that individual. Because they’re an independent contractor, they’re running and operating their own business. They’re going to have their own policies. How do I hire an independent contractor appropriately with the right ad and make sure it’s communicated well?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yeah, well, you’re, in essence, the customer. So, you can pick and choose which service you choose to contract to represent your company. Just making sure the language, like I said, you don’t send a job description. You don’t have an application on your website. You have a questionnaire. Being very careful about the questions that you’re asking on that questionnaire. Second thing is, you do not send them a job description. You send them, what I call my working with Pet Nanny, where basically I’m telling them about my business, what we do, our standards, the services we offer, how they would work with your company through an independent contractor status. And then when you interview them, or I wouldn’t even say interview. When you meet with them to discuss the opportunity, you go over that in detail so that they understand what the relationship is, what their responsibilities are as being an IC. And that’s it. Again, you just want to make sure that relationship is very clear from day one.

Collin:

Yeah, well it sounds like, again, getting back to what exactly it is. It’s two businesses coming together to agree on a set of operating procedures that they both feel suits them best. It’s not one telling the other how to operate and vice versa. It’s going, “Okay, here are my five things. What are your five things? Do we agree on these? Okay, great.” And then we can move forward. And if not, you can’t impose on them. I think that’s, again, where we get this confusion of what exactly that relationship is.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yeah, exactly. You guys have to be on the same page on how the relationships are going to work. What we do, did, I should say, at Pet Nanny, when I was using IC’s. We have what’s called a resource center and it’s basically educational materials that the independent contractors could access on how they can become even better pet sitters. And basically, what that included was everything about my company, how I liked it to be run. And they would go in and read the resources. And if they were in line with the same values and how they were going to provide service, it was a go. And if not, it’s not. It’s not a good fit.

Collin:

Yeah. Again, and not viewing that as a training opportunity, but just, “Hey, do you agree to these terms? Yes, no.” And then move on.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Right. Are we in line together with how we’re going to provide pet care to our clients?

Collin:

Yeah. Have you heard of Time to Pet? Dan from NYC Pooch has this to say

Dan:

Time To Pet has been a total game changer for us. It’s helped us streamline many aspects of our operation, from scheduling and communication to billing and customer management. We actually tested other pet sitting softwares in the past, but these other solutions were clunky and riddled with problems. Everything in Time To Pet has been so well thought out. It’s intuitive, feature rich, and it’s always improving.

Collin:

If you are looking for new pet sitting software, give Time To Pet a try. Our listeners can save 50% off your first three months by visiting timetopet.com/confessional.

Collin:

I have a feeling people listening to this may feel like we’re being very pedantic about the kind of words that we’re using. It’s just all semantics. But as you’ve experienced, these kind of wording and these really help define the relationship and to when people come in and when you do get audited or how you operate, like… All of these ways of operating are extremely important.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Absolutely. Yeah, it was a very stressful situation going through those audits. And if I had been… I guess if I had lost the audit, I guess that’s the way you would put it. I would’ve owed a large amount of money in back taxes for all the year… I mean, I would use over 40 IC’s. I was using over 40 IC’s a year. And if they had been defined as an employee classification, it would’ve been a big deal, which was very scary, very stressful, but both audits, they found that I was using them appropriately. But they just kept coming for me. And I thought, “Nope, I’m just ready to move on.”

Collin:

An audit, is that something that is triggered at tax filing? Is that just a random audit that you happen to get picked up in? Or do you feel like those are more targeted these days?

Colleen Sedgwick:

I think one thing that was triggering them onto my business was that people that were independent contractors were then filing for unemployment. Let’s say they had a full-time job and then they were in IC for my company. And then they would file for unemployment if they lost their job, their full-time job. And that was getting the… having the government notice what was going on. And they came in and they said, “All right, let’s just make sure these people are really independent contractors.” So that’s a very important point when you are working with IC’s. They cannot file for unemployment. And make sure… I mean, crystal clear, because that’s a huge trigger.

Collin:

Right, for you and for them. Again, I think a lot of that is educating ourselves on what an IC is, but also educating the IC on what an IC is a little bit, about that they really are running and operating their own business.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yeah. And that they do also have the ability to work for other companies as well, not just yours. So, that’s another perk of having employees. They can be 100% a representative of only your company. Where independent contractors, they have their own clients. They can work for different companies. Make sure that they understand that as well.

Collin:

Now, when it came to paying them, I know there are different models for paying staff. Are you able to pay an independent contractor per hour or does it have to be per service?

Colleen Sedgwick:

You could do it per hour. I always did per visit. And now that I’m using employees, in Pennsylvania, you don’t have to pay for mileage and drive time. It’s a write off on their state and local taxes. So, I do by visit, but in some states where you have to pay for that time, you might want to do an hourly rate versus the per visit pay model.

Collin:

Yeah. That gets into a lot of things that you are required to cover. When it comes to things as a business, what am I required to pay for, for an IC versus an employee? You’ve made that transition, so what are you paying for an employee versus that you weren’t paying for in an independent contractor?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Okay. Well the biggest things are the employment taxes. I need to withhold. I use Gusto for my payroll company and we withhold their federal, state and local income taxes from their paychecks. We withhold their FICA taxes. We withhold their unemployment taxes based on their pay and we’re also responsible for workers compensation. This really adds up. Now, if you have an IC, you’re just paying them the gross amount of your agreed upon percentage. So, let’s say you’re paying them 50% of every assignment. At the end of every two weeks, we would do a direct deposit. And that would just be the gross number that would be automatically deposited into their accounts. And then, they were responsible for filing their taxes through a 1099. And they were responsible for their own car and their own gas and all of their own supplies. Which, being a self-employed person, that’s a write off for them. So, they need to keep track of all of this.

Collin:

Wow. Now, if you have independent contractors, do you, as a business, get in trouble if your IC isn’t doing those things?

Colleen Sedgwick:

That’s a good question. I’m trying to remember. If they don’t file?

Collin:

Yeah.

Colleen Sedgwick:

I don’t recall ever having an issue with that, but that is a really good question. I also want to just mention, Colin, that to everyone that’s listening, I am not a lawyer. I am not an accountant. And I just want you to all definitely… If you are trying to decide between which business model that you should implement in your business, definitely talk to a lawyer and an accountant in your state. I’m just giving you my experience with having IC’s versus employees.

Collin:

Yeah, exactly. I think that’s a really, really good point to note, is that not just at the federal level, but at the state by state level, there are very key distinctions on what we can and can’t do and what we should, and shouldn’t be doing with our staff members. So, while we can get some general direction from talking with other people, it really does behoove us to go and talk with local business groups in our tax and in our attorney, for sure.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yes, exactly. I meant to mention that at the beginning. [crosstalk 00:16:30]

Collin:

Better late than never. It’s always good. In your mind, who should be using, or in what capacity should independent contractors be used in pet sitting? Is it a model that can work for people or should we really be focusing more on employees?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yeah, this is where people are going to be like, [inaudible 00:16:53]. In the pet sitting industry, people have such strong opinions about this. I don’t understand why. If you like using IC’s, great. If you like using employees, great. I love the IC model. I would’ve used IC’s forever if the government was not hell bent on me switching their classification. With the last audit, when they tried to audit me the third time, I had five years safe harbor after winning the audit the year before. And my accountant said, “You’re not able to audit her again.” And they said, “Well, she needs to… We don’t have any record that we audited her last year, so she needs to prove to us that she was audited.” I mean, have you ever heard of something so crazy? So my accountant had to go to the basement, pull out all of the information and literally deliver it to the IRS office.

Colleen Sedgwick:

And I thought, you know what? They’re just going to keep coming for me. So anyway, that was my point. I love IC’s. You can use them legally like I did. And probably not have a lot… if you don’t have a ton of people like I do, you’re probably not going to… they’re not going to be sniffing you out. But you have to be very diligent on how you’re using them. Everything that we went through, if you’re willing to do all of that, great. If you want more direction and control, if you want them wearing shirts, if you want them wearing car magnets, if you want to have team meetings, if you want to have in-depth trainings with them, that’s an employee relationship. So, it just depends on what kind of relationship you want with the people that are representing your company.

Collin:

Yeah. Does it matter to your clients how you communicate who your staff members are? Or did you ever communicate to your clients, “This is an independent contractor for me versus an employee model.”

Colleen Sedgwick:

No, that was not told to my clients, I don’t believe at any time. When we did switch to employees, we did frame it as these are the benefits now. “We are switching from using independent contractors to employees, and this is why this is so great for you.” Basically saying we can have more direction and control. We can monitor them much more closely. So on and so forth. We sold it to our clients when we made the switch, that it was a good thing.

Collin:

Did you have any existing staff members that were hesitant to become employees when you made that switch?

Colleen Sedgwick:

At first, yes, but we had a team meeting and I had graphs and I had all the explanation of how this was going to go and at the end, because they weren’t paying self-employment tax, they would actually net more at the end of the year. It may look less paycheck to paycheck, but by the end, when all is said and done, they were actually going to net more in income. And they were like, “Okay, that’s fine. That’s great. More money, that’s better.”

Collin:

Now for you though, it did require absorbing some more costs. Was that switch associated with a price increase or did you just bite that a little bit and move on?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yes, we definitely did a price increase. I have a whole plan that I teach my students for those that are switching from IC’s to E’s. But I had a whole plan where I was able to… From what I implemented, it was not as big of a hit as I had anticipated. I still look at that every month, I look at the payroll reports. I’m like, “Ouch.” I mean, it’s expensive. It’s expensive, but you can raise your rates. You can negotiate the pay with the employees. There’s lots of things that you can do to offset the costs of bringing on or transitioning to employees.

Collin:

Yeah. Again, finding out what’s going to work best for you and seeing where those numbers line out. I think procedurally, we’ve mentioned that with employees, you can direct them a little more. You have more control over their schedule. And I do want to talk about that for just a little bit more, because I feel like that may be something that people get hung up on, is how exactly do I schedule my independent contractor? I know you’ve mentioned you had times where they would list they weren’t available, but it sounds like an awful lot. I’ve tried to schedule a meeting with three people before, and it took nine months to find dates that worked for everybody. How did you ultimately make it work scheduling wise and make it consistent for your clients?

Colleen Sedgwick:

I just utilized the calendar in my software program. So, they would just go in and block out whenever they couldn’t work, and then you would go in and say, “Okay, Collin [Funkhouser 00:21:23] needs three visits a day tomorrow.” And I would go and pick the IC, and if it said unavailable, I would move on the next IC. And if they were unavailable, you’d go on the next IC. And in terms of them meeting with clients and such, I really stressed the relationship between the sitter and the client. So, “Your Pet Nanny will be calling you within 24 hours,” and then they would find a convenient time. I didn’t really micromanage that process in terms of registration meetings, pre departure meetings, meet and greets, all of that.

Collin:

Because again, I know you mentioned this earlier, but again, you were directing that client, independent contractor relationship and focusing on their-

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yes.

Collin:

… And you’re just coordinating and matching them together.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Correct. I always… and something else that I always… We have a primary sitter. So, if you’re the independent contractor that was assigned to this client and that relationship was created, I always would try to schedule that IC first based on their availability. And then I would move down the down the list if they weren’t available.

Collin:

Did you ever have an independent contractor come to you with changing their policies or how they wanted the relationship to work for you, that you then had to let them go because they wanted to operate in a different way?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yeah, absolutely. And then it’s just, “Okay, well, thank you very much for your service. I will no longer be assigning any jobs to you.”

Collin:

And was it just as easy as that to fire somebody? Or how do you even term firing an independent contractor? Is it the same process?

Colleen Sedgwick:

It wouldn’t be firing, it would just be the end of a business relationship. So again, I’m not their employer, so I can’t fire them. I just will no longer assign any jobs to them, contract any work to them. And that’s it, and that’s just the end of the relationship.

Collin:

Do you have an example of something that they came to you or not really?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Their availability. So, basically, you have an expectation of availability. I say that to all the people that I meet with, employees or independent contractors. “I don’t want to waste your time. You don’t want to waste my time. This is when the clients are going to need service. If you’re available, great. But if it’s going to be here and there and you’re never available, I don’t want to waste your time, don’t waste my time,” type of thing. If it gets to a point where they’re constantly changing when they’re available and they’re never available to work, I mean, I just call it a day.

Collin:

Yeah. It’s too much headache to bother with at that point. And you can move on to somebody else.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Exactly, exactly. And that’s the biggest sicking point I could think of, in terms of anything that happened with independent contractors. I’m trying to think. I mean, gosh, 17 years, I’m sure I have some great stories, but I’m drawing a blank.

Collin:

What about pricing? Because if they’re their own independent business and you’re your independent business, if they decide to raise their rates or have an expectation of higher pay, how do you handle that?

Colleen Sedgwick:

I have never had that situation because we had the agreed upon percentage and they signed the agreement. And if they did want an increase in pay, that would be a discussion. And if they were an amazing sitter that I was willing to do that for, then I would consider it. And if not, again, I would call it a day.

Collin:

Right, because again, we’re looking at from their position too, they’re an independent contractor. They could go and find another company to partner with other than your yours to charge higher rates for and see… kind of like placing out bids for the pet care, to see who can get the best rate for them.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Great, sure. And they have every right to do that.

Collin:

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Collin:

So, because they have every right to do that and they have managed that client relationship, many people who are hiring are concerned of their staff member stealing clients or bringing them under their own. Was that something that you could manage with an independent contractor? Or how did you go about making sure that they didn’t run off with a client?

Colleen Sedgwick:

I was hit hard by this. I had an independent contractor once who worked for me for years and years, who I trusted implicitly and then found out that she was stealing clients behind my back. It ended up being about $5,000 a month in revenue. It was a really big deal. And then, I was going to bring her to court, and then I found out that my independent contractor agreement, that had a non-compete clause in it, would never hold water in court. So basically, non-competes don’t work because it takes the right of work away from somebody. And Pennsylvania is a right to work state. So that was a big learning lesson through that experience. Moving forward, basically, whenever I am onboarding a new sitter, I would just make it perfectly clear that they would sign a non-solicitation clause versus a non-compete.

Colleen Sedgwick:

And the difference is, if you ever want to start your own pet sitting business on your own, by all means, I wish you the very best of luck, but you cannot do it with Pet Nanny clients. That would be against your non-solicitation clause. If you do, I will take you to court and you will be charged $2,000 for every single client that you solicited from my business. And I had a lawyer. I mean, when I tell you the amount of money I spent getting this independent contractor agreement updated after the first experience, and I’m serious, I’m a hundred percent serious. So, I let them know, “Do you understand?” “Yes.” And I had them actually initial right there on the clause. And then at that point I let it go. I really don’t stress about it. I used to make up the most crazy systems where I would be checking on these people. And I just don’t stress about that anymore.

Collin:

Yeah. You brought somebody on to help you, so you didn’t have stress. And then to spend your time sitting there stressing about them is a little silly. You need to build your processes, make sure that agreement and that relationship is good and you’ve agreed upon the same conditions. And then you do have to step back and go, “Okay, I got to trust this, and know that I’m protected if something does happen.”

Colleen Sedgwick:

Right. And here’s the thing, you’re a business owner and you’re a human being. Things are going to happen. Not everything is going to go perfectly, but I always try to look like that experience with the first IC I just told you about. What can I learn from this to make it better? What system can I create from this to make my business better? If you have that mindset with your business and pitfalls happen and road blocks come up, but you can take something away from everything that happens, you are going to create an amazing business.

Collin:

Yeah. Mindset is so huge regarding everything that we do, whether from the big things, to the small things, hiring staff, and then our own relationship that we have with our clients too. If we are approaching problems or even opportunities with the wrong mindset, we’re not going to get to where we ultimately want to go.

Colleen Sedgwick:

No, no, exactly. I try to keep a positive mindset. I pull one of these cards every day. What’s today’s? “When I’m tuned into the energy of abundance, I become abundant. I just put it right here on my desk. I try to stay positive every day. [crosstalk 00:29:27]

Collin:

Yeah, you’re just trying to… We talk about the power of words in our life and the mindset that it gives us. The words that we speak when we speak abundance, it’s not like we are necessarily magically manifesting anything in our lives, but we look for more abundance. We look for those opportunities. We look for things that we have agency and control over, and that just changes our entire outlook.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yeah, exactly.

Collin:

Well, so reflecting on 17 years of working with independent contractors, what’s some advice that you would give, maybe that we haven’t discussed, that you would really recommend somebody do or somebody use before they enter into that relationship with an independent contractor?

Colleen Sedgwick:

I think meeting with an accountant is really important. Understanding exactly what you can and cannot do as the business owner, while contracting IC’s. Making sure that you have everything documented. Making sure that you have an iron clad independent contractor agreement with that non-solicitation clause. Making sure that you’re making everything perfectly clear to the IC as they’re being onboarded with your company. So, basically, information, getting organized and making sure that you understand exactly what you can and can’t do.

Collin:

And again, because that does… that’s going to depend on states and that’s going to depend on how you want to operate your business. I think that too, of what do you want your business to do and how do you want to be operating it?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Exactly. You can create any result that you want in your business. What do you want your business to look like? Clarity equals power. So, write it down. If you could create your dream pet sitting business, what exactly does it look like? And then from there, you can decide, what relationship you want with the team that you build.

Collin:

I know you are a big reader. And so, I did want to ask you what book that you’re reading and what recommendation you’d have for people for more resources?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Oh my goodness, yes. We do a book club with my students every month and the book that we just actually scrapped this month’s book, because it was terrible. I’m not even going to say it. It was called The 5 AM Club and it was just bad. So we’re like, “All right, we’re going to get rid of that.” So, we’re actually reading, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza. It’s all about meta-physics and your brain and creating the reality that you want. I mean, it’s some deep stuff, but I love all that stuff. And I loved You’re a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. I thought that was one of my favorites. I have the audio book and she just makes me laugh and she’s hilarious, so listening to it. And then she also has a workbook that goes with it. Filling out the workbook in the morning was something that I really enjoyed, so I highly recommend that book.

Collin:

Awesome. I really appreciate those. It’s something that I feel is a very simple step that we can do in our business, is just read and read broadly and get connected with more ideas because that’s going to help us be, again, have more clarity and understanding of what we want. Whether we are running with IC’s or employees and knowing those distinctions. And then, just being able to think outside the box in some scenarios too.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yes. Two more. I’m going to say, [inaudible 00:32:38] my head. Absolutely a staple for businesses, small businesses is The E-Myth Revisited. That’s talking about how as the business owner, you’re not supposed to be the technician in the business and creating systems so that the system runs the business, the person runs the system. Huge. And then the book Traction, we also did that with my mastermind a couple months ago. I mean that was gold for any business. So Traction, The E-Myth Revisited, You’re a Badass at Making Money, are my top three right now.

Collin:

Perfect. Colleen, I really appreciate you taking time today to break down some misconceptions about using independent contractors and how to make it work for us and make sure it’s what we want in our business. But I know it’s a big, big topic in that you’ve got a lot of resources and knowledge on it. So, how can people get connected, pick your brain and start looking at all that you do?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Okay, well you can go to my website at petnannycoach.com. There’s tons of free resources there. I also have a bundle created for your listeners today, Colin. If they go to petsittingfreebie.com, they’re going to get three resources. The first is the COVID Recovery Report. How to Get Your Pet Sitting Business Back and Multiply it After COVID 19. Then we have 35 Marketing Strategies for Pet Sitting Businesses and 37 Systems for Pet Sitting Businesses. So again, that URL is petsittingfreebie.com. And then, also if anyone’s ever interested in chatting with me about your businesses and coming up with an action plan, you can go to meetwithcolleen.com.

Collin:

Perfect. And I will have all of those links in the show notes so people can click right to those, get those resources and start learning from all that you have to share. Again, Colleen, I really appreciate you coming on the show today. Thank you so much.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Absolutely. Anytime, anytime Colin.

Collin:

My biggest takeaway from my conversation with Colleen, is the fact that terms and conditions matter, who knew? When we don’t understand what kind of control we want to have and when we don’t communicate that effectively to those that we’re hiring, we can wind up in trouble. When Colleen outlined all of the things that you can’t do with an independent contractor, you really have to make sure that what you are looking for is an independent contractor. For one off jobs, temporary positions, or filling in last minute booking, they may really work out well for many of us. The problem is, is that most of us tend to have bigger plans beyond that, or we get stuck using them and it just becomes something about what we do and we look up and we might get audited after a while.

Collin:

You can still legally use them and we think there are places where they are still totally appropriate. Let us know if you’ve ever used an independent contractor and what does it look like for you? We want to thank our sponsors, Time To Pet and Pet Sitters International for making today’s show possible. And we really want to thank you for listening and for all the work that you’re doing out there and getting ready for the busy holiday times and making your business the best that it can be. We’ll be back again soon.

How To Go From Being An Independent Pet Sitter to Hiring

Going from being an independent pet sitter to hiring your first pet sitter can be a tricky, but with a simple mindset shift and a couple tips I am going to make it much easier for you!

STEP 1: Create an Ideal Pet Sitter Profile

You must be crystal clear on who it is you want to attract to a pet sitter in your business. You need to write it down so that you can imprint it onto your subconscious.

Get crystal clear on who u want to attract to work with your pet sitting biz and clients. Click To Tweet

In short, you want to target people who don’t need your business as their sole source of income. It’s just not going to be enough for people to live on. If you do hire these individuals, you can expect a large amount of turnover.

Ideas for people who have other sources of income:

  • Freelancers
  • Writers
  • Graphic Designers
  • Have another part-time or full-time job that won’t interfere with their pet sitting duties.
  • Teachers make excellent summer pet sitters.
  • Stay at home Moms or Dads
    • Depending on how old their children are. Those with very young children don’t usually work out.

 

STEP 2: Manage Their Expectations by Writing a Detailed Job Description

  • Write a written detailed Job Description explaining exactly how the position works.
  • In the Job Description make note of who the position IS a good fit for.
  • In the Job Description make note of who the position is NOT a good fit for.
  • Reiterate all of the points of the job description during the face to face interview.
  • Ask them point blank:
    • Do you understand that I can not promise you a certain amount of business?
    • Do you understand that you will be building your book of business by absorbing the new business that is coming into the company and that we do not have a crystal ball that will tell us how quickly that will happen?
    • Do you have the availability and flexibility to be a part of a team like this?

So there you have it. Two simple tips that will help the process of going from an independent pet sitter to hiring that much easier of you!

TIP: If you would like some more step-by-step information on when to hire your first pet sitter and how to do that exactly click on over here. This video and post will help you.

Your Homework Assignment:

  1. Create an Ideal Sitter Profile so you can become crystal clear on the type of pet sitter that you want to attract to your business.
  2. Write a Detailed Job Description that you can email to prospects that explains the position and manages their expectations right from the start.

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What to Do First: Market or Hire?

Are you confused about which step you should take next in your pet sitting business? Should you market or hire?

First, you need to identify what stage you are in with your business and then you’ll know which course action you should take to move to the next level of success.

Are you a “Build-Up Betty” or a “Build-Up Bill”?

If you are in the building stage of your business, you are most likely in the first few years of your business. You may be pet sitting part-time and want to transition it into a full-time career, or you may be doing it full-time, but need to increase your consistent revenue. Your biggest need right now is getting clients and bringing them in consistently. 

If you are a Build-Up Betty or Build-Up Bill, you need to market your business first!

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  1. Send out a Warm Letter
  2. Create Referral Partnerships
  3. Write a monthly Ezine
  4. Attend Networking Events
  5. Post to Social Media
  6. Offer Promotions

Are you a “Multiply Mary” or “Multiply Mike”?

If you are in the multiply stage of your business, you have an established business. You have clients, you’re making money, but you do everything yourself and have no time to grow your business substantially, not to mention having any time for yourself. Your biggest need right now is leverage. You need to start building a team and create systems and practices to multiply your income and work less.

If you are a Multiply Mary or Multiply Mike, you need to hire first!

Follow the steps below to get started:

  1. Watch this video blog on When To Hire Your First Pet Sitter.
  2. Write a job ad to attract your ideal pet sitter.
  3. Post your ad on job boards and websites.
  4. Send your ideal prospects a detailed job description.
  5. Interview the candidates that are still interested in the position.
  6. Send an offer email to the qualified candidates.
  7. Run your new hires through a systematic “onboarding process.”

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4 Tips for Hiring Pet Sitters During the Pandemic

4 Tips for Hiring Pet Sitters During the Pandemic

I have four tips for hiring pet sitters to represent your business during/after this pandemic.

I’ve received a flood of questions from you guys saying, “Colleen, oh my gosh, I have more clients than I know what to do with,” as probably you’re experiencing. You’re seeing that people want to go away. They want to vacation, and they need their pet sitter.

The problem is with companies like myself that employ a staff of sitters, many people are being paid not to work by the government. So people don’t want to come back to work. They’re going to make more money on unemployment than they are than coming to work.

So it’s been challenging. And part of this problem too is that part of the process for them to stay on unemployment is that they have to apply for X amount of jobs. So I’m sure you’re receiving a ton of applications through Indeed or Craigslist because that’s part of the process of being able to keep their unemployment. So you think you have all these excellent prospects, and then none of them pan out.

So I decided to get creative and think about ways outside of the box for hiring pet sitters for my business.

1. I reached out to all of my friends, family, and current pet sitters and asked them to post for me inside their Nextdoor apps.

We have a large service area. So as you know, if you have the Nextdoor app, you can only utilize the app if you live in that area. So, my friends and my family all offered to go in there and post for hiring pet sitters for me. Awesome.

2. Reach out to past pet sitters and inquire if they want to come back.

I reached out to all of the past sitters that I loved working with and said, “Hey guys, we are hiring pet sitters. Do you have any interest in coming back?” We got a few interested parties from that one email.

Reach out to the current customer base and inform them you’re hiring.

All the clients that have come to work for me have always panned out to be the best pet sitters on my staff.

4 Tips for Hiring Pet Sitters During the Pandemic

 

So I reached out to the current customer base saying, “Hey guys, we’re hiring. This is why we’re so awesome. This is why you would love to join our team.” And we got some interested parties that way.

Go to local Facebook groups to post for pet sitters.

This is one of the easiest ways to find people. I found a girl in my neighborhood that’s going to do house sitting during August.

Go to Facebook, type in your service area, look under groups and all the different groups that have your service area name in them. Join them and ask the admins if you can post for pet sitters.

Some will say no, and that’s okay, but there will be some that will say yes. And then make that a regular part of your recruiting plan—a great, great way to find sitters.

I also want to let you know this is coming to an end. All of this unemployment stuff will be coming to an end shortly. I know in Pennsylvania, it’s going to happen in September. I can’t wait. So just so you know, it’s coming to an end, but in the meantime, try to get creative, try to think outside the box, try these four strategies. And I wish you the best of luck.

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How to Hire the Right People for Your Pet Sitting Business

How to Hire the Right People for Your Pet Sitting Business

I work with many petpreneurs looking to scale and multiply their pet sitting business to six figures and beyond. One of the steps in the multiply formula is to hire a team of heart-centered pet care professionals to take stellar care of your pet sitting clients.

Hire a team of heart-centered, pet care professionals.

Now there is something really important about that step, and it’s the heart-centered pet care professionals that are going to take stellar care of your pet sitting clients. You do not want to hire people who will go out and take poor care of the clients obviously or miss visits, but guess what? This happens all the time because you are not hiring the right people, and you don’t have the right systems in place so that you’re attracting and onboarding the right people to your pet sitting business.

Years and years ago, before I had all of this thought out, I had some real losers on my team. I could bore you for hours with some stories. I seriously should write a book about some of the things that have happened on my watch by people I employed.

I’m not saying that I’m absolved of all sin when it comes to this, but I do want you guys to learn from my mistakes. It would be best if you started with mapping out a system where you’re going first to attract the right people to your business.

Map out a system to attract the right people to your business.

Think about your attraction system. What are you putting out there to get people to apply to work with you? Do you even have an ideal sitter profile where you have written down all of the attributes you are looking for in a pet sitter?

If you already have a roster of sitters, think about your A+ ones. Who do you love, and what makes them great? Write it down; this is a manifestation tool.

How to Hire The Right People for Your Pet Sitting Business


Then in all of your marketing, your Facebook ads, your online ads, or anything you’re using to get the word out about the opportunity to work with your company, this is the language you want to use to attract the right people to your company business.

Prepare questions & expectations to know if they are a good fit for your company.

Then is the hiring system. The whole process of when you meet and interview them. What kind of questions are you asking them to find out if they will be a good fit for this company? And are you setting expectations about what you’re looking for in the people?

It’s not just about, “Are they going to be a great fit for the company?” It’s also about, “This is how we do business around here. Are you okay with this?”

For example, you are setting the expectation of availability. Yes, this is a great job, yes it’s flexible hours. Yes, if you’re an IC, you create your schedule. However, we do expect availability. If you take off every single weekend and every single holiday, this isn’t going to be worth your time or mine.

If you tell me that you’re available 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday to do mid-day walks and then two weeks after starting, you tell me you’re not available or only available for an hour of that time, you’ve now just wasted my time. I could have passed up an excellent candidate.

So right from the start, this is what is expected. This is the position that you’re applying for; this is the expectation of availability. Plus other expectations of what you’re looking for.

Then if they go onto the onboarding stage, what’s the process? You need to have a system in place where you’re evaluating them. Does it take them two days to return an email? That isn’t going to change after you hire them. They’re going to show you right from the get-go how they communicate. Trust me, it’s not going to get any better.

So map out a system. What are you going to have set up in place that will allow you to evaluate how they’re going to be as pet sitters when you hire them?

Have a system in place to evaluate them.

Finally, when they are hired, how are you going to manage them? How are you going to see if they’re happy? Do they have too many visits, or do they not have enough visits? What is your stay in touch system that warns you if they have one foot out the door?

Nothing is worse than a sitter calling and saying, “I’m giving you no notice, and I’m leaving tomorrow.”

Keep in touch with your sitters. Make sure you have a communication system in place, so you know and are evaluating, “Is this person happy? Are they happy with the position?” Because if they’re not, you want to make sure that you have your eyes out and look for another great person to replace them.

I’ve had some real doozies in my pet sitting business over the last 18 years, but I can tell you now, since I have learned all of this and I have created an attraction system, a hiring system, an onboarding system, and a management system, I have a fantastic team of pet sitters. I’m not even kidding.

Yes, here and there, some less than stellar people have slipped through the cracks. I have about 40 pet sitters on staff, so that will happen from time to time. But I would say, for the most part, I have an amazing, stellar team of pet sitters.

Howdy, Pet Lover! Do you want to have all the pet sitting clients you need? This resource is 100% FREE and is my gift to you. Enjoy!
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How Marketing and Hiring Work Together

How Marketing  and Hiring Work Together

My mission in 2021 is to help as many business owners get their pet sitting clients back after COVID and multiply them to consistent five-figure months. I will be coming here to share some tips, tricks, strategies, mindset stuff because 2020 was a rough year. I want to give back, which is how I’m going to go ahead and do it.

Yesterday, we had an excellent question in the group from Jen Smith. Jen said asked, “Age-old question, do you hire or contract first, or get the new pet sitting clients first? Due to COVID-19, I’m personally working extra jobs by necessity, my kids and bills don’t pay for themselves… what do you do?”

Evaluate where you are in the business.

If right now you were at the Build-up Bill or Build-up Betty stage, the Launch and Grow stage, your focus needs to be on marketing and getting clients.

If you’ve lost a ton of pet sitting clients due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you want to get the marketing back up and focus on filling your client book, and then you want to switch the focus over to the hiring.

Now, when you’re at the Multiply stage, which is there are no more hours to trade for dollars, you are the bottleneck in your business, you’re the one that’s doing everything, you want always to be focused now on hiring and marketing at the same time. They work hand-in-hand.

If you don’t have pet sitting clients and marketing systems in place, don’t focus on hiring all the time.

You need to get to a certain point. You need to get all of these marketing systems and sales systems in place to have the work to give over to your sitters.

You need to have your sales, systems, and support in place.

Refer back to the video at the top of this blog post. You will find there my Multiply Formula. That’s my framework. I teach my students how to multiply their businesses to $10,000 or more a month in revenue.

When you do that, you will have more money, impact, and freedom in your life, but you need to have the three main components all working together. You need to have your sales, systems, and your support. Support is not only a team of pet sitters, but also your admin support and tech support.

How Marketing and Hiring Work Together

 

Have your marketing plan on autopilot.

With your sales systems, you need to have your marketing plan on autopilot, so every week, you have it mapped out, your marketing plan on your marketing calendar, and how you will attract new clients to your business. You always want a pipeline of new clients signing up for your service. You want it systematized, and you want it scheduled, and you want it planned out.

Then you want to wow your customers when they come to your business, really knock their socks off to show them that you are the most outstanding company that they’re going to write great testimonials for and refer you all over town.

Nurture the pet sitting clients already in your client list.

Let them know how much you love and appreciate them and incentivizing them to book service more frequently, and increasing their transaction amount for each invoice by offering different, amazing add-ons and such.

When you have your sales system going, and it’s on autopilot, you go on your networking meetings, meet with your strategic alliances, have your email campaigns going, and have your direct mail campaigns going, etc. You have all of the plans and mapped out; there’s always going to be business coming, there’s always going to be bookings.

Have your recruiting, assessment and onboarding systems in place.

Then you’re also going to have to have the sitters that will be able to handle all of the business. You need to have your recruiting systems in place and attract high-level talent to your business.

You want to have your assessment systems in place. A way to assess these people coming into the pipeline that you’re recruiting, how they will be as sitters once they get started, and then a fantastic onboarding system, which also the assessment kind of goes into the onboarding.

It doesn’t stop after the assessment, but having these unique onboarding systems in place so that by the time they are finished, your sitters are going to go out into the field and do a fantastic job.

You need to define and document your systems and build business hubs to delegate easily.

The idea is the system runs the business, and the person runs the system. You should not be the system in your business.

That’s the problem with most entrepreneurs and pet sitters. They are the system. Their business is in their head. If anything were to happen to them, the business and systems would disappear. You need all three of these pieces working in conjunction for you to be able to consistently create five-figure months, $10,000 or more a month.

Getting back to Jen’s question, you need to build up the client list. When you get to that point where there are no more hours to trade for dollars, we need to focus on the Multiply Framework, which is where your sales system and your support systems will work hand in hand. You have to do the sales part to hire the sitters. You don’t want to bring on many sitters and then not have the work for them.

Manage new pet sitter expectations.

Let them know this is not an overnight thing. This is a slow process. We’re going to bring you on. We’re going to see how you do. We’re going to do this very slowly. We’re going to get feedback from customers, but we will build your book of business within eight to 12 weeks. That is the expectation.

Then also makes you put skin in the game. If you bring these people onto your roster, you need to do your job as the marketer and CEO, as the person that’s meant to get clients for this business to fill your sitters’ schedules.

I used to have all these same concerns. I was like, “Oh, when do I hire? I don’t want to have people sitting on the list.”

When you do all of this, you do not have to worry about it. It all works beautifully together. Market your business consistently, hire consistently, build out your systems, which is my answer to Jen’s question.

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TITLE - What To Do When a Pet Sitter Services a Client Without Your Knowledge

What To Do When a Pet Sitter Services a Client Without Your Knowledge

One of the downsides of building a team of pet sitters is when one of your sitters provides service for one of your clients behind your back. I can’t tell you it is not going to happen. It’s more of when it will happen. Here are ways to handle it.

First, evaluate how you feel about the pet sitter.

If this sitter is a good hire, who you enjoy working with, provides fabulous service to your clients, and you don’t want to lose them, I suggest having an in-person meeting.

If they’re an independent contractor, make sure you have their independent contractor agreement. If they’re an employee, make sure you have their signed employee handbook.

Then have a sit-down and go over their job description, expectations from them, and how they breached the contract, what lengths you can go if you decide to pursue this, whatever is mentioned in the contract. Mention you love working with them, and you didn’t want to do this, and that you must come to an understanding.

If this person is not someone you trust and don’t want to work again, have a meeting via Zoom or in-person and let them know what is in the contract, what they breached, and what you’re going to do because of it. At this point, you can decide whether you want to take legal action or not.

QUOTE - What To Do When a Pet Sitter Services a Client Without Your Knowledge_ver03


Don’t go to the client.

You might want to let the client know, in a nice way, “Listen, this is how my business works. It is against our company policy for clients to subcontract pet sitters.”

Thus, you need to decide if this client an ideal client? Is this somebody that you want to continue working with? It’s all about the decisions that you need to make about the people they are.

I wouldn’t like to work with this client again. If this is a client that you usually wanted, maybe you were out of town, maybe there was a reason and extenuating circumstance. They contacted the sitter outside of the company, outside of you, perhaps then you’ll have a different decision. Take note of it on their client record inside your pet-sitting software, and be aware.

Communicate expectations with the sitter.

Tell the sitter what is expected of them, what they signed, and what lengths you can legally go to if you decided. Remind the client kindly about your policies and leave it at that.

Have a system.

What are you going to do when you find out that someone on your team breaches their contract? Have it all mapped out to know exactly what to do, and you don’t have to guess. You’re just following the company protocol.

All right, guys, I hope this helps.

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5 Things I Would Have Done Differently In My Pet Sitting Business

Tips I wish I had known when I started my pet sitting business

It’s hard to believe but it’s been 19 years since I first started my pet sitting business! There have been ups and downs, but I’ve learned a lot along the way and today I want to share with you the five things that I would have done differently (if I knew then what I know now.)

Hopefully, you can learn from these tips and do them differently in your pet sitting business, so that you can get where you want to be much faster.

One: Have a clear vision of the results you want to achieve

The first thing I would have done differently is to have a clear vision of the results I wanted to achieve in my business versus just flying by the seat of my pants, which is pretty much what I did.

I had no plan, I had no vision, I had no idea what I wanted to create, I had no idea what I wanted to make each month.

It took me a long time to get to where I am now because clarity equals power, and I didn’t have any clarity. Be clear on what you want to achieve, and you’re going to get there much faster.

Two: Hire help as soon as possible

If your business depends solely on you, you do not have a business, you actually have a job. I know because I did this.

I had a job for many years. I created a large job for myself. As my business was ramping up and I started getting all these customers, and I was booked out all the time, I worked 12 to 15 hour days, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

I had no idea how I could stop being the sole person that was managing the business and doing all the client work. When I finally learned how to do it, and I built a strong team, things started to happen really quickly. I created a balance in my life and my work, which is just so important.

Your business is supposed to add to your life, not to make you miserable, exhausted, and burned out.

5 Things I Would Have Done Differently In My Pet Sitting Business

 

Three: Use technology to expand your business

The third thing I would have done differently is I would have leveraged technology so much sooner.

If you are still doing everything manually it is going to be hard to grow your business successfully. There are tools out there now which can save you time, energy and in the end help your business to bring in more money.

There are online scheduling systems, automation tools for your emails and social media marketing which will make running your business so much more efficient and profitable.

Creating processes and systems that happen automatically through the use of technology was a game changer for my pet sitting business.

Four: Understand the lifetime value of your customer base

Your lifetime value of a customer is how much a customer is projected to spend with you during their lifetime with your business. It costs way much more money to acquire a new customer than it does to incentivize your current customers to book from you more often, this, my friends, is a game changer.

I should have been nurturing the relationships by staying in touch with these customers instead of just assuming that when they needed pet sitting or dog walking that they would call me. That’s an assumption you don’t want to make.

People forget who they work with. People want to do business with people. They want to know that by you staying in touch with them that you care about them, that you care about their pets, and they’re going to easily remember to book with you each time they need service.

By staying in touch with them you’re also going to create raving fans. It’s not just enough to have customers in this crowded marketplace. You want your customers to be raving fans who use you all the time and are going to spread the word about you and your business.

Five: Hire a business coach 

I waited way too long before I hired my first business coach. Back then, there really weren’t any pet business-related business coaches, so mine was not in the pet field and yours certainly doesn’t have to be either.

If you find someone who runs a business that you admire, that has the results that you would like in your business, that has the business model that you want to follow, go and hire them. Ask them to help you to get you to where you want to go. It’s a shortcut. You don’t have to try to figure all these things out on your own.

So, these are the five main things I wish I had known back when I started my pet sitting business. I hope they help you to design and run the business you are dreaming of.

 

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