How on earth do you get started as a sitter?

Hello Sitters. I have just joined the site and we have started looking for our first sit. We are a small family of three with not a lot of pet experience, but we are kind, respectful, responsible and adventurous.

My multitudes of questions about how this actually works? I have put in 5 applications so far. 4 have been totally ignored, the 5th was a last-minute application and she got in touch to say she was concerned about the amount to learn at short notice, then declined the application (even though it was put on at the last minute). I’m guessing we just didn’t look experienced, which is true enough.

But how to get experience if nobody wants you due to lack of experience?!

Also, is there any point at all applying for a sit if you’re not the first one to do so? All the ones you want tend to have a few applicants already. Are there just loads more sitters than houses to sit? Should I just apply for a couple in my hometown first and do I need to be super on to this, applying for sits months away? I’m a forward planner, so if this is what is required then up for it, but is this really what is needed?

Tons of questions, but quite honestly I’m starting to wonder if it’s worth it! On the other hand, I’m reluctant to give up without having the real experience, as in theory, it is a good idea and I’m going off AirBnB with what they are doing to local rental markets

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Hi @Freebs A warm welcome to the forum and our many experienced and helpful members. I am sure you will get some great advice here.
I would like to suggest that you start by doing some sits locally and to also look out for those last minute sits to help. Once you start to gain some lovely Reviews, you will be well on your way.
I would also add to your profile, some lovely photos of your whole family interacting with pets, as this gives pet parents a lovely sense of who you are.

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Volunteer! If you’re not that clued up on pets, why not see if you can volunteer at your local animal shelter? You’ll learn a lot, be lending some very welcome support, and you’ll have something appealing to put on your profile. :slight_smile:

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I agree with @Therese-Moderator : go for local sits first, so you can get those all-important reviews. (2-3 great reviews is enough to get you started)

Take pics of you and the kids interacting with animals and if you don’t have any, ask a friend to borrow a dog/cat/… :wink:

We all had to start off somewhere, and while it might take a while, you will get that first sit!!

As for being the first. Ads get paused after having received 5 applications, so it is important to be within the first 5. Set up notifications in the app for the dates/locations you’d like and send your application straight away. (A lot of us have an “example letter” saved on our phone, that we quickly copy/paste, but make sure to adapt it to the specific pets, owners, ad of course!)

Good luck, you’ll get there!

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Welcome @Freebs
I had a look at your profile and would add that as you are both of working age and have a child your opportunities may be more limited than some sitters. I don’t know your circumstances and your availability may be restricted to school holidays/work commitments etc.
You may be able work remotely or home school but if that is the case I would mention your flexibility in your profile and if at all possible update your calendar to show your availability.
I agree it’s a good idea to do a couple of short local sits to pick up those all important reviews.

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Thankyou, that’s helpful

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Thanks for the constructive suggestion Pips. Unfortunately I don’t have spare time for that, but will remember it for my retirement!

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Thanks Twitcher that’s helpful

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Families seem to have it harder than others. I’m not a HO on THS but I would also be concerned about safety for the children and liability (e.g. if they open an unsecured cupboard and something falls on them).
We’d recommend to apply to newer listings (within ca. 12 hours), unless they have less than 3 applicants. Your first sit will be the very hardest to get. Try to apply to less attractive sits and during peak holiday seasons. Our first sit was in Italy during Christmas with two out-of-control dogs ;).
PS: Just had a quick look at your profile: I would exchange the first photo with one of you / your family smiling. We would also not really mention Airbnb (except as a reference since you also get reviews as guests).

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Welcome @Freebs. Getting your first sit can be the hardest. It took me 23 applications to get my first sit. So persistence is key. Also try going for local or less popular location sits to begin with to hopefully build your feedback. Good luck.

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Hi @Freebs Welcome! And definitely don’t give up before you’ve started! We all have to start somewhere and all it takes is that lovely first host to give you a break! Our first hosts were also first timers! And we booked that sit from Bali for a month in Australia over Christmas. The hosts were heading to India to get married so we all took a big risk to rely on each other! But it worked out great and we’ve never looked back (now on sit 55!)
A very good idea is to gather a few references together from friends or family- this will help support your profile until you get the first THS review.
We too had no real pet caring experience before becoming housesitters- i only had a gerbil as a kid!!!:rofl::heart_eyes::rofl:
The new 5 applicant pause does mean you have to be rather quick off the mark to get your application in but don’t let that deter you!
As others have suggested- applying for a few local, weekend, sits- where you can perhaps pay a pre-sit visit to the host with your family can also help you get started.
Good luck!!! :blush:

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Definitely agree with Pips.

I needed to get some experience as the only cat I knew was my own so I volunteered at a cat shelter.

I also asked my friends if i could take their dog for a walk a few times.

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I recently spoke to a home owner who had applications from families for her sit. I think that in itself is a potential limitation for some sits, as there is more space needed, more potential for breaking things etc. The home owner also said she looked for pictures with animals, which is understandable since home owners need to know they are leaving their pets with people who are responsible animal lovers and have experience. I would suggest perhaps adding some pictures to your profile along these lines, and gaining some experience, as others have suggested. Also, it might be worth mentioning why you want to be a house/ pet sitter since you don’t have experience with animals. I think this is quite unusual and if I was a home owner, I’d want to understand your motivation. I don’t mean to be a downer, but I’m not sure house sitting is the best place to start getting this experience, as people are trusting you to look after their animals and want to know you are capable of doing so. Therefore, I think it would be best to gain some experience beforehand, if possible.

I do think that for first sits, it is best to remain fairly local. Travelling for sits comes with its own considerations, such as trains being cancelled and not having met the owners beforehand. If you could minimise those things and gain some experience initially through short, local sits, this could stand you in good stead. As others have said, it just takes one sitter to give you an opportunity. Good luck!

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I just looked at your profile, and I would suggest changing some things. Your first mention is that you want to housesit because of cost reasons and housing. If I were you, I would replace that with your love for animals and wanting to let your child be exposed to more pets before potentially getting your own. You might also delete or change the mention of being too busy to keep your own pets currently. I think the combination of busy/family/budget travel without much mention of how much you love pets and what value you can bring to a homeowner might appear a bit off-putting. Not to say that your intentions are wrong, just that there might be a more appealing way of phrasing things.

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Hi @Freebs - welcome to the group and the wonderful world of petsitting! getting accepted for your first sit is always the most difficult and, as a family sitting opportunities are fewer - but don’t worry, it is far from impossible and I am sure that elusive first sitting opportunity will come soon.

My advice would be to think of your applications as a job interview so only to concentrate on the positives, and never mention the negatives. Don’t say " we don’t have much experience with pets," Your character reference says that you have looked after a dog so you do have experience looking after dogs. Have you or your husband ever had a pet, if so, mention this too.

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Many thanks @Harris2 this is interesting and insightful. I’ve perhaps been too honest!

As a home owner we would not personally choose a family of sitters. Not because we have anything against kids but because it greatly affects our cat and her routine. Whenever we have people over she hides. The length of the period she hides depends on the number of visitors and their age. She definitely does not like kids as they display too much energy and activity. And they usually try to find her and pet her and she likes to do things at a time of her own choosing. She’s always been used to peace and quiet and so if there are kids around she will hide all day and only come out during the night to eat, drink and go to the litter. That’s why we choose only adults that we know will behave exactly the same way as we do and keep her living space peaceful so as not to impact her routine. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thanks @anon80172330 Very good point about needing to include more pictures with us and animals in the bio. We need to go out skipping around the fields with our friend’s dogs a bit more :slight_smile:
I would query the assumption that it is unusual to want to house sit if you haven’t had any pets yourself? Surely this would be a very common and good reason to house sit? If you had your own pets, then you would be a Pet Parent and not a sitter!

In terms of not being capable of looking after somebody’s pets, can you explain what you mean by that a bit further? What are the actual skills that people are looking for here that we potentially don’t possess because of not owning our own pets? If I knew that maybe I could think about our transferable skills for my bio, in the way that you do when you write a job application! It sounds as though you don’t think we are capable, so just interested if this is likely to be an actual stumbling block.

Thanks so much for your time
Deborah

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When I first got started, I made a point of applying to local sits and offered to go over and meet the home owner(s) as well as the pets prior to booking the sit for a quick visit. This is often very reassuring to home owners as they then feel like they know you that bit more. By doing a few local sits, I then was able to build up some good references as well as more photos for my profile. Once I had those reviews under my belt, I’ve been able to go a lot further afield and now I’m in a position where I sometimes get invited to some great sits. I hope you stick with it but I do understand why it can be a bit overwhelming and disheartening in the beginning as I felt that way too. This strategy really paid dividends for me so it’s well worth a try.

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Hi @Freebs,

Just to clarify, I felt it was unusual to want to house sit if you haven’t had experience with animals, rather than owning pets, though I see where you’re coming from about wanting to use this platform to gain such experience, and agree it will certainly provide you with that.

I wasn’t suggesting that someone who hadn’t had experience with animals wouldn’t be capable at all. However, from speaking to home owners, I am aware they would prefer to leave their animals in the care of someone who has experience of animals and know they are capable of doing so as a result of this experience (again, not to suggest someone who didn’t have this experience wouldn’t be capable, but as with any line of work, it is usually preferred that someone has some experience in the field before taking on a new role). It’s not necessarily an easy role and some animals can be very demanding and push you to your limits. It took me a while to be able to assert myself with dogs as, in my early days, I was too gentle and got walked all over! That’s the kind of thing I’m referring to and just trying to see it from the perspective of a home owner in order to help shape your profile.

I’m not making any assumptions regarding your own capabilities. As far as anyone here is aware, you may be wonderful with animals. However, on paper, when choosing between someone who has experience with various animals and used to adapting to their idiosyncrasies, routines and behaviours, and someone who hasn’t had this experience, I imagine the average pet owner would prefer to leave their pets with someone who has this experience. Hence, someone that doesn’t have this experience would likely have to demonstrate they are indeed as capable as someone who has gained this experience in order to appear as attractive to home owners. I hope that helps clarify what I meant!

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