Candace and Paul Coughlin met while training dogs, so it wasn't much of a surprise when they opened their own training company, Companion Pet Services, 10 years ago. He took the venture full time; she kept her day job as administrative assistant. Then four years ago she decided to leave the corporate world and devote herself to the company, focusing on a new component to their business, Pet Care by Candace. "It's scary at first, quitting your job, giving up the security," says Coughlin, 61. "But I really like this." We caught up with her recently. How does someone get started in this business?Research, research, research, Coughlin says. "See if it's something you really like. Talk to other established pet sitters." No state license is required, but Coughlin suggests classes in pet CPR, customer service, animal training, pet law or pet behavior. Many people need pet sitters and walkers on the weekends or during holidays, so you might want to start out part time while still keeping your regular job to make sure this is for you, Coughlin says. Another way to test it out is to take jobs that combine house and pet sitting. If you decide to go ahead with it, make sure you treat the business as a business. That means liability insurance and getting bonded. It means maintaining proper records, keeping a budget, booking clients, networking. "Introduce yourself to the pet community: groomers, vets, pet stores," she says. There are also local and national organizations you can join, which can provide training, referrals and more exposure. (Coughlin is accredited through Pet Sitters International.) What's a typical day like? It's not just about walking dogs, Coughlin says. Being a pet sitter means juggling several clients and coordinating schedules. Some pets are early risers; others like to sleep in. Some need a lot of time to run around; others are happy going out for just a few minutes. Some days, Coughlin is up by 5:30 a.m. to get ready for the first visit. Then there are the lunchtime, afternoon and evening runs. In between, she's at her home office writing contracts, checking e-mails, doing invoices, paying bills. When she knows it's going to be an especially long day, she throws in a nap. What do you like most about the job?"It's my business. I built it myself," Coughlin says. "We've been doing this for so long, it's really who we are. When we're out to dinner, we talk about the business. But it doesn't feel like work because it's something we enjoy doing." And what do you like least?"The paperwork. It's tedious. And that's what I didn't like about being in an office. . . . It's necessary, but I don't enjoy it. I like being with pets," she says. About 25 percent of the job involves paperwork, she says. This job is not for you if . . ."If you don't like working holidays, if you're not a morning person, if you don't like driving in traffic, if you don't like pets — or people!" What's the pay like?The first few years could average $15,000 to $20,000, Coughlin says, but it depends how much time you want to put in. To make more money, she says, you need to go all out, get lots of clients, hire a staff. But Coughlin doesn't want to do that. "Maybe if I were doing this when I was 40. . . . I don't want this to become something where I manage people."
This web site designed by Candace Coughlin July 2007 updated April 2020