Today’s business growth video is a simple mindset shift when you look back on 2021.
Go back to review your goals and the results you have created.
At the time of this recording, it is Christmas Eve, which means it’s that time of the year where you need to reflect on the year that you just had and go back and review your goals.
But the most important mindset shift that I want you to make is to ask yourself, more importantly, “How did you show up for yourself every single day?” what were your income goals? What were your health goals? What were your personal and relationship goals?
It is going back and looking and reviewing those and what outcome and results you have created. The purpose of a goal isn’t the results, and it’s not the outcome. It’s about becoming a better version of yourself. That is why we set goals.
Too many of us are dialed into the outcome, which is not the point.
Look back and say, “How did I show up for myself in 2021?”
The mindset shift, look back and say, “How did I show up for myself in 2021?”
You can either be happy with that, or you could say, “In 2022, this is how I am going to show up. This is the person that I need to become to create the results that I want.”
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.
Hi, I’m Meghan.
I’m Collin, and this is a Pet Sitter Confessional.
An open and honest discussion about life as a pet sitter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Right. Are we in line together with how we’re going to provide pet care to our clients?
Yeah. Have you heard of Time to Pet? Dan from NYC Pooch has this to say
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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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Wow. Now, if you have independent contractors, do you, as a business, get in trouble if your IC isn’t doing those things?
That’s a good question. I’m trying to remember. If they don’t file?
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.
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.
Yes, exactly. I meant to mention that at the beginning. [crosstalk 00:16:30]
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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Did you have any existing staff members that were hesitant to become employees when you made that switch?
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.”
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?
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.
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?
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.
Because again, I know you mentioned this earlier, but again, you were directing that client, independent contractor relationship and focusing on their-
… And you’re just coordinating and matching them together.
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.
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?
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.”
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?
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.
Do you have an example of something that they came to you or not really?
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.
Yeah. It’s too much headache to bother with at that point. And you can move on to somebody else.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Great, sure. And they have every right to do that.
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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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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]
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Absolutely. Anytime, anytime Colin.
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.
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.
‘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.
Below are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Holiday Marketing for Pet Sitters
Customize your website with a holiday theme.
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:
Create a holiday marketing calendar.
Break down everything you will need to implement the calendar, ex. images, videos, email copy etc.
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!
YES! Send Me The Complete Checklist of 125 ways to get more PET SITTING CLIENTS!
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:
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:
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.
Write a Detailed Job Description that you can email to prospects that explains the position and manages their expectations right from the start.
Enter your first name and email address below to download our Team Expansion Tool Kit It’s 100% FREE!
Access your 100% FREE Wildly Successful Pet Sitting Business Planning Workbook below.
When I started my pet sitting business I knew nothing about business. I didn’t know how to systematically get new pet sitting and dog walking clients or how to efficiently manage my business. I pretty much knew nothing, but we all have to start somewhere, right? So how did I learn? I read. I took courses. I went to live events and most importantly I took a ton of action. Learn…implement. Learn…implement. That’s how it went.
Now looking back on my pet sitting journey I have boiled down my 4 top tips for growing a wildly successful pet sitting business.
Tip #1. Create a Mindset for Success
Success is not an accident. It’s something we have to make happen on purpose, day in, day out. It all starts with knowing what you want and conditioning yourself for success, so that you can make it happen. You should fill your brain with positive, motivational books, quotes, videos and podcasts so that you can train your brain to achieve the success that you desire. You need to make this part of your daily routine. I pay for YouTube Red. I listen to all my favorite mentors daily to tune me in and keep me in a positive state of mind. YouTube Red is commercial free and the videos still play even when you navigate away from the app. I love this tool!
Tip #2. Get Really Good at Marketing Your Business
Once you’re focused on being the best version of yourself to create the success you want, you need to focus on what action you need to take. MARKETING = GETTING CLIENTS. A big piece of that action is centered around getting your pet sitting business out there! You need to have a clear message that speaks to your ideal client. Every single day you need to be doing at least one thing to get your business out there in front of your ideal prospects. You need to expand your reach and make them say, “this pet sitting business is the answer to my prayers.”
If you want to scale your business you need to get systems and processes in place. This is a crucial step! Things can really become a mess if you don’t nail this step. Your systems need to be replicable, documented and delegated. The system is what runs the business and the person runs the system. Check out my article on how to Multiply your pet sitting business here.
Tip #4. Grow Your Team
Don’t wait for five years (like I did) to grow your team. Building a team of talented pet sitters is a must. The more sitters who are on your team, the more ideal clients you can service. The more ideal client you can service, the more revenue you will generate. The more revenue you generate, the more you can invest in marketing which will in turn attract more ideal clients. And I didn’t even mention the freedom it creates in your life. That was my WHY. I crave freedom!
Enter your first name and email address below to receive our Wildly Successful Pet Sitting Business Plan Workbook
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. Yourbiggest 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:
Send out a Warm Letter
Create Referral Partnerships
Write a monthly Ezine
Attend Networking Events
Post to Social Media
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. Yourbiggest 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!
Today we’re talking to the multipliers, those who are at the stage in their pet business where they have laid the foundation, have the website, the profit plan, the clarity, and all of the goodness in place. They have clients.
But they’re working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year in their business. They are doing the pet sitting, the house sitting, the dog walking, the scheduling, the emailing, the sitter management (if they have them), the client resolution, and everything that goes along with running a pet business.
This is where most of us get stuck. This was where I majorly got stuck. I had no idea how to get out of this grind of the day-to-day working constantly and not understanding what I needed to do to multiply my business. I was stuck at an income level. I lived a life that I was not happy with, working way too much, and didn’t know what to do.
So I took the first step, and I decided to go for it. I hired private mentors, joined mastermind groups, coaching programs, attended seminars. I read books. I learned. That’s pretty much what anybody can do. Because you don’t know what you don’t know. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
After years of studying and implementing, I saw my income start to increase drastically. Years later, I found out that my income level is at the top of the pet-sitting industry. So people started coming to me and saying, “Oh my gosh, Colleen. How did you do this? And can you teach me how to do it?” And I was like, “Well, I’m not a business coach.”
I started thinking that if I can help other people, I’ll give it a shot. And that’s where Pet Nanny Coach came from. At that point, I taught many pet business owners how to multiply their businesses to six figures and beyond in 12 months or less.
That’s what I’m here to talk to you about today. What needs to be done in your pet business so that you can multiply to six figures and beyond, get yourself out of the day-to-day, and start enjoying your life? When you have a business, you’re not meant to work in it seven days a week, 365 days a year. That’s more of a job, and that’s not a good job. I’d rather go work for someone else, and have my weekends and nights free, to be honest.
So the eight steps in my Multiply Formula are:
Step 1: You need to learn how to effectively manage your time so that you get more done in your business.
Everybody I talk to says: “Colleen, I don’t have the time.” Well, guess what? You need to make the time. It’s not just going to happen magically. A business wrapped in a nice big red bow is not going to be left on your front doorstep.
You have to take the time to learn about all of this stuff and implement the strategies to make it happen. So that’s step one. It would be best if you learned how to manage your time effectively. That’s going to be step one in getting you out of the business of constantly working in the business. You need to start working on the business.
Step 2: You need to put your marketing on autopilot so that you are consistently attracting a pipeline of new clients to your business.
Some pet business owners do feast or famine marketing; some don’t market at all. It’s impossible to maintain your business with that. People move. People have babies. You may have clients you no longer want to work with.
There are reasons why you need to be generating new business. And it would be best if you had a marketing plan and a marketing calendar, implemented and on autopilot so that you were consistently bringing new clients into your pet business.
Step 3: Design amazing customer experiences so that your customers refer you all over town.
Most of the sitters that I talk to pretty much are doing the basics. They answer the phone, they set up clients in the scheduling software, go to the meet and greet, have them sign the papers, and do the visits. And that’s it.
So think about what a fantastic customer experience is for you. Have you ever flown with a particular airline that’s just been amazing? And you’re like, “Oh, this is so great.” Or you’ve been to a hotel where you feel like you’re like a prince or princess. Think about things you can do to really wow these new customers of yours and make them raving fans.
Don’t just do the bare minimum. Go above and beyond and make these customers raving fans. That is how they’re going to refer you. They’re not going to refer you if you’re just kind of like, “Okay, I’m going to do the bare minimum and then roll out.” It doesn’t work that way.
Step 4: Build a team of heart-centered pet care professionals who will take stellar care of your customer’s pets.
This is another spot where sitters get stuck. They’re like, “It’s all about me. I am the reason that all of my clients love me. They’re not going to use my pet business if it’s not me doing the pet-sitting.” And I just got to tell you, you have to get that thought out of your brain because it’s not true.
It’s a story that you’ve made up in your head. And yes, if you decide to hire for the first time, you may have some customers jump ship. But I guarantee they’re not the customers that you love and adore working with. The customers that I loved and adored working with when I made this leap into building a team were happy for me. They understood that I needed to build a team to even be in business and make ends meet in this industry.
It can’t just be any team. You can’t just pick any Joe Schmoe off the street and send them out to your client’s homes. You need to find heart-centered pet care professionals who will love and adore your clients just the way you are. So what does that mean? I’ve talked about this before.
You need to have an attraction system, a hiring system, and an onboarding system that will create these amazing team members who will create unforgettable experiences for your customers. It’s no easy feat. Team building is one of the hardest things you’re going to do in your business. Learning how to do it right and building an incredible team makes life so easy, fun, and great. And you’re going to start loving your business again. It gives you the time to start enjoying your life.
Step 5: Create systems and processes in your business.
You should be documenting every single thing that you do in your pet business, more than once. So many people have their businesses in their heads, and they run it by saying, “Okay, what are we going to do now? What’s next?”
You should have everything documented, A to Z. What does every single thing in your business look like? It needs to be documented somewhere. Then it’s super easy to delegate. You don’t ever want to be the only person that knows and understands your business. If something happened to you, somebody on your team or a family member could jump in and know what to do.
Step 6: Organize your business finances and generate greater profitability by creating a Profit First financial system.
This is where I fell short for entirely too long. I was like the worst with my finances. And until Profit First by Mike Michalowicz came into my life, the more money I made, the more money I spent.
Setting up a Profit First financial system starts with organizing your finances with at least a business checking account. I can’t even tell you how many people I talked to who don’t even have business checking accounts. Everything’s being funneled into one account. By the way, there’s no judgment because I did that for a lot of years. I’m just saying there are easier ways to manage your money and create a more profitable business by getting your finances in order.
Step 7: Hire a powerhouse manager to run the day-to-day operations in your business, and you can focus your time and your energy on business growth.
Sitters sometimes say, “I’m still working in the business. How am I going to hire a manager?” This doesn’t have to happen immediately, but this needs to be a goal of yours.
The first goal is building a team of sitters. Then you remove yourself. You become the manager. When that becomes a full-time job, that is when you have to hire a powerhouse manager. I have three exceptional managers work for me, whom I trust to treat my clients well.
I call them my client’s happiness managers, and my clients love that too. But that frees up your time to focus on business growth, which is marketing, getting clients, streamlining, and systematizing so you can multiply.
Step 8: Automate as many of the manual tasks in your business to save time and increase efficiency.
You got to get on board with the technology. Not every phone call, email, the text message has to happen manually from you.
You can set up marketing campaigns where people go through funnels on your website, where the goal is for them to become buyers and customers. You can streamline your whole hiring system using automation.
You can send lockboxes and cards and all sorts of cool things using automation. Automation rules, and it’s super scary for a lot of you. I get it. I’m a tech person, so it’s not frightening for me, and I’ve embraced it. Automation and technology are here to free up your time and make you money. So if you take the time to learn it, you are going to benefit significantly from it.
To make a substantial income in this industry, you need to leverage yourself through a team of heart-centered pet care professionals who will take stellar care of your client’s pets. You have to do all this.
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There are so many new pet sitters out there that have a smaller pet sitting business, and they’re not sure if scaling to the next level is a good fit. So I put together a mini-training for you guys today. We’re going to walk through what exactly is needed to scale your business. Then you can make a decision and see if this is the right path for you.
Here at Pet Nanny Coach, We often get asked, “Should I scale my pet sitting business? Or should I stay where I am?” This is an excellent question. One that I asked myself so, so many times. I’m somebody that’s been at every level in my pet sitting career.
At one time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do either. I was utterly lost. So first, many of you have heard me talk about getting very clear on your what and your why. What do you want your business to look like? And why do you want it?
If you’re brand new to the pet sitting industry or have been in the pet sitting business for a while, but don’t have a clear understanding of where you want to take your business, here’s my first piece of advice.
Get clear on your what and your why because clarity equals power.
What do you want your pet sitting business to look like, and why do you want it? For me, I came to this realization in kind of a backward manner. I got clear on what I didn’t like: working seven days a week, 365 days a year. I wanted a team that could do the client work while I focused on the business’s strategic position. Let me be very clear. I did not come to this realization for many, many years into my business. I stayed stuck for a long time because I wasn’t clear.
Why did I want this? My why wasn’t the money. It was so I could have a freedom-based lifestyle. When I first started my business, I did it because I was teaching special education. I taught seven-year-olds with Down Syndrome, and I was in a classroom all day, every day. That ended up being an added perk.
I worked really hard, but all I would do is look out the window and think, “Oh my gosh, I wish I could be outside. I wish I could be playing sports.” I’m a little jock. I couldn’t stand being cooped up in the room. So when I started my business, that was why I wanted freedom back in my life. I did not want to be pigeonholed and stuck in a room all day, every day. So some of you are probably saying, “Yeah, but I don’t know what I want.” I’m here to tell you that indecision leads to inaction, which is the killer of dreams.
Figure it out.
I would even challenge most of you who say, “I don’t know what I want.” I’m going to challenge you and say, “I bet you do.”
We all have those little voices in our heads speaking to us. It’s hard to tune them out. I bet you guys know what it is you want. You may be thinking, “I may want to scale my business, but I don’t know what’s involved.”
Today, I’m going to tell you what you need to do. Then you can decide if scaling your business is the right path for you. To scale your pet sitting business, you need to leverage yourself through a team, systems, and automation.
First, you need to systematize everything in your business so that anyone could replicate it. The system runs the business, and the person runs the system.
Two, you have to hire pet care professionals to do the client work: pet-sitting, dog walking, house sitting, et cetera.
Three, you need to use your now available time to focus on business growth activities like marketing your business to get more clients and have your current customers book from you more frequently.
Four, you then hire more pet care professionals to absorb the new business that you get from your business growth activities.
Five, you automate your marketing systems and manual tasks to create efficiency, which produces the ability to continue to scale. This is your recipe for scaling success.
Now, this is easier said than done. I get it. You’re probably asking yourself, “Well, how do I systematize? Or what does that even mean?” You’re probably wondering about finding good people and then trusting them to do as good of a job as you, or you’re probably like, “Business growth activities? What are those exactly?”
Some of you are saying, “Automation, that sounds scary to me.” These are all extremely common and understandable thoughts. You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s like anything else. You need to learn and then implement. I certainly had no idea about these things when I decided to go all-in with my business, but I learned.
So currently, in my business, I staff 40 plus pet sitters and three managers who run the day-to-day operations of my pet sitting business. The business requires only two hours a week of my time. My business generates a consistent 50 to 75K per month in passive income, passive meaning I don’t have to do the work to receive the income.
Now I’m not saying this was easy or that it happened overnight. But it’s possible. It took a lot of work, study, and trial and error to get where I am today. I had to learn about team building, systems, and automation before I could get there. And I know because I’ve done it.
Now I’m sure there are some of you that this doesn’t interest. You may have a small book of business, and you’re doing all the visits, or perhaps you have one or two people that help you out, and you may be very happy.
You guys, I say, “Keep doing what you’re doing and follow your bliss. There is no shame in your game.” But for those pet sitters who do want to scale, my question for you today is, “What’s holding you back?”
This is where I’m going to get deep on you. Those who know me or have followed me for a while know that I’m all about mindset and thought work. Because it’s the integral piece that so many business owners are missing. So I ask again, “What’s holding you back?”
Is it fear of control? Thinking, “Oh my goodness, nobody is going to be able to service my clients as good as I do?” Fear of the unknown. “What does this look like? And do I want to learn all of this? And I don’t know what’s involved with that and automation technology. That sounds scary. And systematizing, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
So I stay in inaction—fear of success. “I don’t need to make that much money taking care of animals. I’m all about loving animals. I don’t need to make that much money and be that successful to be important and important to the animal-loving community.” Guess what? The more successful you are, the more that you can give back to the animal-loving community.
Fear of failure. “What if I try and I go all in, and I fail. I will be judged. My family will look down on me. My peers will judge me.” Fear of failure is a real thing, guys. Oh, fear of judgment. “I don’t want to put myself out there because I don’t want to be judged.” I dealt with this at every level of my business. I still do. It’s a tough one, for sure. Fear of not being good enough. Thinking, “Well, she can do it because of X, Y, and Z, or he is successful because of X, Y, and Z. But I don’t have what it takes.” I am not special. There’s nothing about me that I have that you don’t have. And this is a lie that so many people tell themselves because they don’t want to put themselves out there. And the fear of, “I won’t be good enough, so I’m not going to succeed.”
By the way, there is no judgment if you have any of these fears, because like I said, I had every single one of them, and I still deal with some of them today. After almost 20 years in business, I still deal with these fears after all these years. Let’s do some mindful thought work. And this is where I get intense. This is like my favorite stuff here.
Step one, you need to identify and connect with the emotion you are feeling.
I’m going to run you through a quick thought model so you can see how these negative thoughts can hold you back from accomplishing your dreams. So here’s the model.
Thoughts equal your feelings, which equal your actions, which equal your results. Your thoughts create your feelings, which propel your actions, which give you your results. If your thoughts are fear of judgment, that will create a sense of anxiety, which will result in your inaction, or you not putting yourself out there, which will produce the same result of you working in the day-to-day grind of your business. But you see how it all started with the thought.
Now let’s try to do a new mindful thought. So your thought is, “I can do anything I put my mind to. I can create a pet-sitting business that generates 10K a month, 20K a month, 30K a month, 40K a month, 50K a month.”
Whatever it is, you can be very specific. That’s the thought you’re going to think, and I can do it. This is going to create a feeling of excitement for what’s possible. The action it’s going to propel is you working on your business growth, and the result will give you more clients, more money, more time, and more freedom. Do you see the difference of the thought instead of, “I don’t want to put myself out there because I’m fearful of being judged, or I’m fear of not being good enough, or I’m fearful that people won’t take as good of care of my clients like me.”
Thought work is so very important. It gives you your feeling, which keeps you in inaction, which provides you with the same result. But if you change your thinking, you change your results, and you change your life. It’s as simple as that.
When we’re feeling these negative thoughts, it’s important to recognize them and create a new positive idea. I’m going to be the watcher of my thoughts. Like anything else, this takes work and practice. I work on my thoughts every single morning. I do. I do a thought download.
I write down everything that I’m thinking. It’s like cleaning your house. You want to clean your brain. And you want to think these negative thoughts, that you might not even realize you’re thinking these certain negative thoughts until you write them down, and then you create your new positive thoughts.
Step two is you need to take massive action despite this fear you’re feeling.
Fear is okay. We all have it. It’s our primitive brains trying to keep us safe. The idea is you don’t want to let it hold you back. This is what your brain was designed to do; it wants to keep you small and to keep you safe.
It thinks it’s helping you, when in fact, it’s holding you back from great things because magic happens outside of your comfort zone. “Okay, I’m fearful of the unknown, but guess what? I’m going to change my mind. I’m going to change my thought. I’m going to act despite this fear that I’m feeling.” When you’re uncomfortable, that’s when great things happen for you.
Growth happens when you decide to move forward in spite of fear. Expansion happens in the scary place of the uncomfortable unknown. All right, to sum up.
Fact: you can scale your business without sacrificing the quality of your service. There are amazing people out there who will take great care of your client’s beloved pets.
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