How I made my first $100k in my Pet Sitting Business

I was told for many years that I could not make six figures being a pet sitter. The family told me. Friends told me. Complete strangers told me. I was told by current clients. I was told by everybody that it wasn’t possible.

But, I knew with my deep intuition that I pride myself on that I absolutely could do it. That was the first thing. I had to know, and I had to believe that I was capable of doing it. That was the number one thing. If you don’t think that you can, you certainly won’t.

How I made my first $100k in my Pet Sitting Business


The second thing is I stopped working in my pet-sitting business. It’s a straightforward equation. The more you can serve in your pet-loving community, the more money you will generate in your business.

But if only one of you is trading hours for dollars, you have a cap on the income you can create in your business. You need to leverage yourself through a team of heart-centered pet care professionals to help you serve more of your pet-loving clients.

The more people you serve, the more money you will make, plus give job opportunities to these other amazing people. It’s just a win-win for all that is involved.

So, two points. Number one, you need to believe that you can do it. And I’m here to tell you that you can. I am knighting you. I’m saying, “Yes, go for it.”

And number two, stop working in your business. Stop trading hours for dollars. Step into the CEO role and leverage yourself through an amazing team. That is how you’re going to get there, and that is how it will continue to multiply year, after year, after year. I’m so excited to hear about your journey.

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Sitter Spotlight: Laura Breakstone

Today I have a special guest in my home office, which never, ever happens. My student and friend Laura Breakstone, who’s also a Pennsylvanian, came down to visit me today to record this video in person. Then we’ll go grab dinner and catch up on all the goodness on what’s going on with her business. Thank you for being here.

Laura Breakstone:

Yes, yes, I’m very happy to be here.

Colleen Sedgwick:

So I wanted to shoot this video so you can talk about your experience with Pet Nanny Coach, the Launch & Grow Program and the Multiply Mastermind program. So it could be helpful to see what you’ve gotten from it and help others decide if it’s a good fit.

Laura Breakstone:

Absolutely.

Colleen Sedgwick:

All right, so first, can you tell everybody how you came to find Pet Nanny Coach?

Laura Breakstone:

Yeah, I was browsing YouTube, and I just had a dream in my head and thought, what would it take to run a pet sitting business? And all of a sudden, you pop up, and that’s how I got started.

Colleen Sedgwick:

If you go to petnannycoach.com/youtube, you can go to my channel; I’ve got a ton of videos there, from basic videos on how to start a pet-sitting business to videos about automations and high-level strategies. So you can hit over there or not now, watch this first, and then you can go there.

All right, first question. So before we started working together, what problems and struggles were you experiencing? So you were not already a pet sitter. You were a brand new-

Laura Breakstone:

Yeah, I was completely new to the business idea of it. I was doing pet sitting under the table. I was working as a manager at a couple of retail stores and pet retail stores. And people would come in, and they’d say, “Oh, well, do you know a pet sitter?” And I’d say, “Well yeah, I do some pet sitting.”

So it was just on the side, and I saw the potential for it to grow, especially when I started working for the little mom and pop shop because then you get to know people there, they start to know and trust you, as you always say, and yeah, I saw a lot of potential with that. So yeah, that was a side gig.

Colleen Sedgwick:

All right, good. So how did you decide to, or how’d you come to be enrolled in the Launch & Grow program?

Laura Breakstone:

I just wanted to take everything to the next level. I decided I was ready. I don’t think there was any monumental moment other than I just thought, let’s try it out, because I mean, I wanted to shoot for my dreams and give it a whirl. There was no monumental moment. I think I just thought I was ready.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Good. All right, so the Launch & Grow Your Dream Pet Sitting Business is for brand new pet sitters that don’t necessarily have a business yet or for pet sitters that may be in business for a little bit. Still, they’re not getting the results they want, and what I teach in that program is the foundational pieces you need to get to 3k months, and then we take you to 10k months from there.

So that’s the idea. I have my 3k month framework and my 10k month framework. So Laura started in the Launch & Grow program, the 3k framework, and then she enrolled in the Multiply Mastermind program, and it has been such a blessing to have you as part of the program. You’re such a shining ray of sunlight into my life.

Laura Breakstone:

Thank you.

Colleen Sedgwick:

A+ student just decided to make the commitment and go all in. So what made you decide then to go onto the Mastermind?

Laura Breakstone:

I needed more. I just needed more. It worked out so well, and I thought this program is amazing. What’s the next level? I needed to know that next level.

Colleen Sedgwick:

It’s much more advanced.

Laura Breakstone:

Yeah, yeah, it’s a lot more advanced because with the Launch & Grow, it’s just getting that initial stuff out of the way, forming the LLC, building a website, all that stuff, so then once you have that down, then it’s like, now what? That was the biggest thing, it’s like, okay, well, I’m started, but now what? That was a scary thing for me, so the fact that you had a program laid out to tell me, here’s what you do, I had to go for it.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Good. And here’s the problem, guys, is that many pet sitters don’t even know what’s next. Let’s say they may jump and start their businesses, lay the foundational pieces, and have clients, but they don’t understand how to scale their business, and they get stuck working in their businesses instead of on their businesses.

And the truth is that there are only so many hours in a day that you can trade for dollars, so you get stuck completely trading hours for dollars and can’t scale the business.

And that is where the Multiply Mastermind program comes in. It’s how to multiply your existing business, where you have a client base, you’re making money, but now we want to take it to the next level where you’re making money with working less.

So the less you work, the more you make, the more freedom you have, and the more impact you can have because of all the clients you’re going to be able to serve. So that’s the difference between getting out and working in the business. So before you joined, what fears, what were you worried about? Were you worried about anything?

Laura Breakstone:

Before I joined Multiply Mastermind you’re talking about?

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yeah.

Sitter Spotlight Laura Breakstone


Laura Breakstone:

I don’t know anything I was worried about regarding the program because that was super laid out. I mean, there’s always that financial aspect of it, too, that you have to consider, but the way I looked at it is like you’re paying for a college class.

And actually, I got to tell you that this is worth more to me than a college class. I’m serious, I paid for four years of college, and I feel like I learned more doing this than I did my entire four years of college because in college, you’re paying for a lot of fluff courses.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Absolutely.

Laura Breakstone:

Let’s be real, I mean, it’s a lot of fluff, and I’m not technically using my degree. Although it applies to this industry, it’s a pre-vet degree.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yeah.

Laura Breakstone:

But this, actually, I learn more doing this.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Wow.

Laura Breakstone:

Because it’s real-world practical experience and knowledge that you’re gaining.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Right, business structure, business advice, online marketing advice, how to find clients, service them. Good, that makes me happy. All right, what are the greatest results and benefits you have received from being in the Mastermind?

Laura Breakstone:

There’s so many. There are so many. How do I even rattle them off? One of the most obvious ones is just revenue increase. I mean, you see that every single month, increase after increase.

But there are business things you learn from this program, but there are also life things you learn from this program too, and both of them were near and dear to me. There’s certain things that you have to overcome a lot of mental hurdles with, like self-confidence issues and things like that, and this program also helps you battle some of those anxieties and fears, which was another great benefit out of this. Especially with the book club, that’s great. Inspirational reading. It’s changed my life.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yeah, I had a student tell me that the book club has been life-changing for her the other day.

Laura Breakstone:

Mm-hmm, yeah.

Colleen Sedgwick:

So the year that Laura joined, I decided to incorporate a lot of mindset work versus just business strategy because that’s what I was known for, and I thought, you know what? What’s missing here is the mindset piece because people get stuck in fear, people get stuck in not wanting to step out of their comfort zone, so I thought, I need to add an element to this program that we work on that, and one of those things is a book club that we do.

We dive deep into the book and do workbooks and exercises based on the principles we learn. So not only are my students getting a lot out of it, I am too. I love it.

Laura Breakstone:

Yeah, yeah.

Colleen Sedgwick:

At first, I was like, I don’t want to be reading a book every month, but they need this, and now I’m like, it’s great.

Laura Breakstone:

Yeah, and the audiobook option also helps because you just read in the car.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Right.

Laura Breakstone:

Well, listen in the car. You don’t read in the car.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Yeah, listen in the car. And it’s not mandatory. I tell all my students that join, “I would love for you to be part of this, but if you don’t want to be, that’s fine too. It’s not part of the core curriculum,” but I think it’s really helpful.

Laura Breakstone:

Yeah, yeah, for sure.

Colleen Sedgwick:

All right, good. All right, so would you recommend the Multiply Mastermind to pet sitting business owners who want to multiply to 10k or more a month through sales, systems, and support?

Laura Breakstone:

Yes, big yes, Oh my gosh, I do recommend it. Any chance I can get I recommend you because it’s just a life-changing program.

Colleen Sedgwick:

Oh, well, thank you. I appreciate you being here.

Laura Breakstone:

Yes, absolutely.

Colleen Sedgwick:

All right, guys, any questions about the Multiply Mastermind, you can go to applytomultiply.com. On that page, you’ll get all of the information about the program and what’s included, and you can apply on that page. We’ll hop on a call to discuss to see if we are a good fit to work together, and we’ll go from there. All right, but if you are interested, go to applytomultiply.com, and hopefully, we’ll be chatting soon.

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Work ON Your Dog Walking Business, Just Not IN it

If you’ve been following me, you’ve probably heard me say a gazillion times, “Stop working in your business and start working on your business.” This was the major shift that completely changed the trajectory of my career and my life with my dog walking business, and where I learned this was the E-Myth Revisited.

It was the first business book I read that had a major impact on my life. It’s just like bells went off in my head, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, “I am doing this business thing all wrong.”

So what the E-Myth says is that entrepreneurs are people that understand that going into business is something that you do. You’re building a business that runs without you having to do the work to create the revenue and the income.

The problem is that most small business owners are technicians. They’re like myself and most of the students that I work with. We go into the pet industry because we love and adore animals and want to provide amazing pet care. But then we decide that we want to grow the business, and we don’t know how to do that because we are technicians. We’re not entrepreneurs innately, as the word would define.

So that is the big shift. You have to start thinking differently about your business. If you had a hundred different locations, you would not be able to service a hundred different locations, be the manager, be the pet sitter.

Work ON Your Dog Walking Business, Just Not IN it

 

You would have to think about your dog walking business differently in terms of creating systems and processes that are easily replicable between all locations and that it is running without you being the person that is doing all of the marketing. You’re not the person that’s doing all of the admin. You’re not the person that’s doing the pet sitting. You’re not the person doing the database, the hiring, and all of the stuff that goes into it.

Start thinking of ways to remove yourself as the bottleneck.

You have to start thinking about yourself from a place of removing yourself as that bottleneck in your dog walking business so that you can create these processes so that you’re able to grow your team and you’re able to service more customers and, therefore, make more money.

You have to get out of the technician mindset and move yourself to that entrepreneurial mindset of working on your business and not in your business. This creates freedom in your life, which makes money in your business. It’s such an important shift if you want to grow a lucrative dog walking business.

 

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The Mindset that is Keeping Most Pet Sitting Business Owners Stuck

Today our topic is the mindset keeping most pet sitting business owners stuck. I have the honor every week of speaking to pet sitters from all walks of life. People in the United States, people in other countries, people at all different levels in their business, and one common theme that I have identified is keeping pet sitters stuck came across in an application on my desk.

I had a session with the pet sitter yesterday, and she just put it so perfectly on her application, where it says, what are the biggest obstacles stopping you from taking your business to the next level? This business owner wrote “To work all of the time because I don’t want to pay for help. And two, I don’t trust others to do an awesome job.” So what happens with this type of mindset? This business owner gets stuck working in their business. So I’m here to help shift those with a similar mindset.

The people you hire are hiring to make you money.

Your pet sitters, your team, dog walkers, and cat sitters on your dream team are generating revenue for your company. You can service so many more customers because you have that support team in place. That’s the first thing. It’s not money out the door. They’re creating more money for you.

The trust issue is a story that your brain is telling you.

It’s the story that we tell ourselves, I certainly did for many, many years, that my clients only want me to do the pet sitting. They will not want to use my service if I hire or contract the work to somebody on my team, and I don’t think they’re going to do as good of a job as me.

Here’s the bottom line, it is a story. This is a story that your brain is telling you, and your ego is telling you to keep you small, to keep you safe. I said to myself that for way too long, and it took me forever to start hiring, and I was stuck for a long time.

Many people out there will take amazing care of your client’s pets.

Pet Sitting Business Owners are often hesitant to hire support.

How you find them, you need to set up your attraction system, you need to set up your assessment system, and you need to set up an excellent onboarding system so that by the time they go out to work for you, they are going to be such valuable members of your team.

You may have some clients that say, well, you’re not going to be doing it anymore, then no, I’m not going to use your service. But I’m telling you that is such a small, small percentage. Listen, I went through it myself. Every week, I work with pet sitting business owners to tackle this mindset and make that leap into hiring.

I know they had the same experience. One, maybe two clients decide not to continue, but truth be told, most of the clients are happy for you and that you are growing your business and that you have found amazing people and sell the benefit of it. This is so great. If anybody gets sick, if an emergency happens, and a sitter gets stuck on the road, we always have a backup for you and your precious pets.

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Create a Meet Your Pet Sitter Automation

One of the first things that I teach my students in my Launch and Grow program is the importance of creating the know, like, and trust factor with your pet sitter prospects and your customers.

People like doing business with people. In the in-home, pet sitting industry, you are going into clients’ homes, or your team of pet sitters are going into clients’ homes. These people need to fully trust you and your team before they’re going to raise their hand and say, “Yes, let’s do this.”

I have each pet sitter record a video introducing themselves.

One of the easiest ways I’ve done this when I grew my team is I have my pet sitters record a video of themselves, introducing themselves. They share why they join the Pet Nanny Team and explain what their pet care values are.

When I assign the pet sitter to a client, they receive an email with the video and a full writeup before their registration meeting. So that will immediately create the know, like, and trust factor with their assigned sitter and break the ice before the sitter even rings the doorbell for the meeting.

Create a Meet Your Pet Sitter Automation

 

Sign up for an automation tool.

You want to sign up for an automation tool like Active Campaign or MailChimp or Infusionsoft/Keap which I use. There are lots of different options out there for creating automations. We go deep into that in my multiply mastermind program. I give six of my most used automations, three of my best marketing, three of my best hiring automations in the program.

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The #1 Mistake Pet Sitters Make When Expanding Their Territory

The biggest mistake I see when pet sitters want to expand is today’s topic. I coached my multiply mastermind group last night on this topic. I go through the 12 steps they need to do when they are ready to expand.

Before I even started teaching the expansion formula, I let everybody know that the biggest mistake that I see is pet sitters getting excited about the opportunity of expansion, but they haven’t done the work that they need to do on their current territory.

In the multiply mastermind program, I teach you the seven activators that you need to have to create consistent results in your business, generating $10,000 or more a month. Everything is running like a well-oiled machine. When that is running consistently, you can duplicate it into different territories.

Most pet sitters expand too fast, and they haven’t done the behind-the-scenes work that they need to get done on the current business and their current territory.

It never turns out good. Then they get disappointed in the results, and then they stay where they are.

Create a business machine that consistently brings you new clients daily.

You are consistently building your support team. You have a manager who can help you with behind-scenes, scheduling, administrative tasks.

The #1 Mistake Pet Sitters Make When Expanding Their Territory



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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.

Holiday Marketing for Pet Sitters

‘Tis the season, pet sitters! Have you thought yet about your holiday marketing and how you can maximize your profits this holiday season or are you just dreading the arrival of the holidays with no plan in place?

My guess is that most of you are in the second group of pet sitters who haven’t planned any holiday offerings, sales or discounts. Let’s change that with some ideas for Holiday Marketing for Pet Sitters!

This is a great time of year to attract new prospective clients, show appreciation to our current customers and ensure a profitable New Year, which will be here before you know it.

This is a great time of year to attract new prospective clients, show appreciation to our current customers and ensure a profitable New Year. Click To Tweet

Below are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Holiday Marketing for Pet Sitters

  • Customize your website with a holiday theme.
    • Holiday logos
    • Holiday banners
    • Holiday videos
    • Holiday plug-ins
    • Holiday countdown timer
  • Create holiday infographics for your pet-loving clients
  • Write holiday blog posts
  • Create a holiday email series
  • Holiday posts on Facebook
  • Holiday Facebook Ads
  • Create a time-limited saving offer
  • Design a holiday-themed Facebook Timeline image
  • Run a holiday contest
  • Run a direct mail promotion
  • Thank your current customers with a gift

Here are Some Examples of our Holiday Logos:

Tip: You can have these created on www.Fiverr.com for just five bucks!

Here is our Christmas Video

Here are Some Examples of our Holiday Email Templates

Your Homework Assignment:

  1. Create a holiday marketing calendar.
  2. Break down everything you will need to implement the calendar, ex. images, videos, email copy etc.
  3. Put your plan into action and watch the sales roll in.

 

Howdy, Pet Lover! Are you struggling with attracting new clients to your pet sitting business? Would you like to have a consistent pipeline of new clients coming to your business? Well, wait no longer, my friend. Grab my FREE report, 125 Ways To Get More Pet Sitting Clients. This resource is 100% FREE and is my gift to you. Enjoy!
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YES! Send Me The Complete Checklist of 125 ways to get more PET SITTING CLIENTS!

 

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