Increase your house sitting opportunities
And then Covid hit.
Everyone has a story that ends with that phrase. It echoes the disappointments, dashed hopes and broken wishes that have hurt us all.
Like many house sitters I had more than a year of advanced bookings, mostly international, that collapsed. Unfortunately, I had rented out my home, so without a house sit I am homeless. I’m not going to lie, I was terrified. I was facing destitution square in the eye.
I set out on my house-sitting venture in August 2019, back when the sky was blue, travel was freedom, and the future looked rosy. Between sits I went on bucket list adventures. There was an an epic road trip across Australia and a South African safari holiday . . . and then Covid hit.
This article is about how I managed to keep a roof over my head and re-build my house-sitting bookings. Hopefully my experiences can help you.
You’re no trapeze star - have a safety-net
Look, there is always a tent, but it makes for a hard life. I managed to avoid tent-living after realising that Airbnb hosts would be facing the flip side of my dilemma. That is, a property with no guest, or money coming in. I decided the geographical area I would focus on, then penned a message offering hosts caretaking services in exchange for cheap rent. I had determined I could afford $250 per week for three months.
After sending this message to hosts of suitable properties, I was contacted by several and secured a solid roof over the old noggin for said months with an option to extend. In the end the arrangement was win-win all round, just like house sitting.
Even now, with some restrictions easing I think it is safest to have at least one back-up plan up your sleeve because if 2020 has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected.
Know your place - geographical strategy
Given the recent topsy-turvy border restrictions I have decided to stay local, near friends and family and Airbnb salvation. Our time for further travel will come, but in the meantime let’s rediscover our community and help the local businesses as much as we can.
Apply like a demon
In this new climate we need to cast our net far wider than before. Many house sitters used to use one or two sites to find their sit-gigs, but with so few sits available, this could cause destitution issues. I recommend you join at least three sites and apply for more assignments and consider types of sits that you may have previously avoided. I even applied for a sit that required the bottoms of the four cats to be wiped after toileting. Thankfully, that’s one sit I didn’t get.
We also need to protect ourselves from wobbly bookings. Before you click the apply button double check the listing for clues about the assignment and its security. Avoid applying for any sit associated with international travel, a cruise, and even some interstate travel. The most secure sits I have found are for those folks with caravans. Not only are they secure, they become repeat bookings.
Be the house sit early bird
Not only do we have to apply more widely, but we must outpace our competitors too. I have missed out on loads of recent sits just because I was operating at my usual pace. Often sits would be assigned within just a couple of hours of the ad publication.
I found the best way to speed up the application process is to create and save application/s master template that you can copy and paste within seconds of finding a sit you would like. You could even develop a few for specific types of sits and pets.
Reinvent like Apple
Even after making the short list for assignments I was getting pipped at the post. I realised I needed to upgrade myself, much like Apple products keep developing to maintain the competitive edge. In the new marketplace we need to provide our HO’s with good reasons to choose us over the other 150 applicants. It is a buyer’s market.
Rather than rely on the experience and a few reviews I usually include in my application, I supercharged my profile. I paid for a National Police check. I undertook two pet care courses: an RSPCA approved course through Australian pet sitting network Pet Cloud for $75 AUS and another free course through Madpaws. An animal first-aid course is another highly regarded qualification.
Then I reviewed services I could provide HO’s as well as the service experience I provide, including forms, checklists, interview questions and updates from home options. I also developed a Covid safety plan, outlining limiting personal community contact and property cleanliness procedures.
Market yourself like a Kardashian
This is where the sparkle happens. You’ve got your course certificates, police checks, reviews, list of skills and services you can provide and pictures of happy animals looking at you adoringly, but how do you get all of that across to a potential client without boring them with a feature length essay?
There’s no doubt, this requires thought and some people find it the trickiest part, branding, profile, photos, website.
Branding is how you create the personality of your business and should be true to who you are.
Choose three qualities that would most be admired by potential homeowners and use them to inform every decision you make about your marketing when creating your profile. This includes pictures, captions, profile title, content and profile vocabulary.
For example, if you are a young, single student your best qualities could be your high energy, your ability to stay home with the pets while you study online and potential to become a regular sitter while you save for your first home. On the other hand, if you are a working professional, you could accentuate your home/ pet care experience, reliability and calm confidence.
I recommend going a step further than your profile. Building a website creates a portfolio for you to include certificates, reviews, bios and a photo gallery, to give HO’s the ability to easily get a better idea of my skills, experience and personality. Just include the link to your website in your application. There are many free website platforms to chose from.
As we navigate the rest of this turbulent journey, we should remember to see opportunities rather than threats and strengths rather than weaknesses. We will prevail and be all the better for our fortitude.
guest post - Anastasia tyler
Anastasia Tyler has recently re-fashioned herself from high school teacher to a digital nomad, renting out her home and taking to the road. She works as a freelance writer and photographer as she and her husband wander the world. Find out more at https://CoolFooting.com