Last updated on July 6th, 2019
How do we, as a group, refer to house sitting in general?
Is it an industry? A community? A business? A lifestyle? An occupation? Or a profession?
All of these terms come with particular definitions, and a Google search can quickly take you down a rabbit hole of hair-splitting specifics.
Let’s just take a look at the word “profession”, as this is the one which causes the most online controversy – at times outrage – when applied to house and pet sitters, in the ever on-going paid/unpaid debate.
The main bone of contention is this:
Can you call yourself “professional house sitters” when not being paid money for providing a service?
Let’s consult the dictionaries:
a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification
– hmm, paid?
a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation
– a calling? specialized knowledge?
1) a vocation requiring knowledge of some department of learning or science
2) the body of persons engaged in an occupation or calling
– ahh, now we need to look up “vocation”, “occupation” and “calling”
an occupation founded upon specialized educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested objective counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain
– occupation again, and specialized training again
– direct and definite compensation?
See what I mean about the rabbit hole?
OK. Lets try again with “occupation“:
a person’s usual or principal work or business, especially as a means of earning a living; vocation
Wikipedia doesn’t have a page for the word “Occupation”, but does have this to say:
Occupation or job: one’s role in society, often a regular activity performed for payment
Their definition of job is: A job, or occupation, is a person’s role in society. More specifically, a job is an activity, often regular and often performed in exchange for payment (“for a living”)
OK… so lets look at a few aspects of being a professional…
1) Getting paid for house sitting
When we get down to specifics, a job is “often performed in exchange for payment”, but this would suggest this is not always so. The idea of being “paid” is a slippery one too. Does that just mean cash?
If a job includes a company car, the tax man sees this as a taxable benefit… a part of the salaried package – in other words, a payment. But it isn’t a cash payment… it’s a benefit. In the same way, surely being given free accommodation in return for pet and house sitting services rendered, is a form of benefit… or payment?
In fact all we’re doing is cutting out the middleman – cash – from the equation. When we have a “proper job” (as my mum would say!) we earn cash from our employer. One of the main uses of this cash for most wage earners is to pay either rent or a mortgage.
So… one of the primary goals of having a job / occupation / profession, is to cover our accommodation costs !!
I think house sitting ticks this box.
2) Specialized knowledge
I don’t think this particular hoop is hard to jump through.
Dogs, cats, horses, sheep, fish and more. Swimming pools, power systems, solar. Travel, visas, language barriers. Becoming a good house sitter is an ever on-going process of learning and personal improvement.
Specialized knowledge? Tick.
Although house sitting is not yet at the level of “formal qualification” or “intense academic training”, there are courses you can take, offered by house sitters with a wealth of practical experience gained over years of house sitting. It is a skill you can learn and develop through training.
3) Your role in society
Under both “occupation” and “job” Wikipedia talks about one’s role in society. When someone asks, “What do you do?” and your cheerful answer is “We’re house sitters!” then I think this would qualify as your role in society, in the same way “I’m a dentist” or “I’m an electrician” does.
So, if we aren’t paid ?
One final point I’d like to make in response to the “you have to be paid money to be considered a professional” argument is this:
“So if I’m not paid in cash, what would you call me… an amateur?”
Even if the very narrow “paid in cash” definition is accepted as true, then it is still quite possible to have a very professional approach to what you do.
And I would argue, “Who is the most dedicated to their “profession”? Someone who does it to earn a cash income, or someone who does it for the love of the pets and the lifestyle?
At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter if you are paid in cash, or paid in kind (in the form of free accommodation)… if your “Number One” concern is to do a great job for both the home owner and for the pets, then you are a true professional.
Paid or unpaid, say it loud, say it proud…
“I’m a professional house sitter!”
Yeah! High five!
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