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Do Pet Sitters Adjust Fees Based On Client Circumstance? [video]

Here’s a question I want to pose to you…

I received an email service request from my pet sitting business website, and it got me thinking.

DO you ever adjust your fees (give a discount) based on specific client situations?

Watch this quick 1-minute video to see what I mean.

I’d love your take on it in the comments below.

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About Joshua Cary

Joshua Cary is an all around good guy. He is a filmmaker, web builder and business owner. He is a pet sitting business trainer, coach and instructor and has a passion for helping pet sitters build a strong business through a strong website. Joshua is also the co-founder of the Association of Pet Sitting Excellence (you should really check that out).

  • Denig705

    You may get stuck with 2 cats without an owner, because under her circumstances she may not be able to pay, and she may leave them behind. She doesn’t say that she is looking for a special rate; are you assuming that she can’t afford to pay, or did she so as much?
    How about a combo of paying and barter? Can she clean crates? This will help her to have ownership of the outcome.
    I am a softy and I would probably give her a rate, but I would be careful not to become part of her situation.

    • Joshua Cary

      No, this potential client did not mention a thing about
      wanting/requesting a discount.  It’s simply that her email sparked the
      question in my mind.

  • Tiffany

    Wow!  I’m so glad to see this topic come up.  I always consider circumstance.  I have done visits for free for a breast cancer patient who was also caring for her elderly mother, I have left dinner in the fridge for numerous clients when their trips have ended horribly due to medical situations or canceled flights.  I provide free services for several “clients” who foster homeless pets through a rescue I work with.  Every Friday afternoon me and my employees provide free 10 minute dog walks or cat brushings at an assisted living facility in our service area.  I also discount for homes with rescued pets, volunteers/employees of rescue facilities or shelters, and senior citizens. The way I look at it you can never throw too much good karma into the universe and it has all come back to me multi-fold.  Last year I quadrupaled my gross and this year I’m on target to up it another 50% with almost no marketing efforts.  I wouldn’t change the fact that I make a lot of business decisions with my heart rather than my head.  It’s worked for me.

    Tiffany Hammer Manson
    White Rock Pet Services
    Dallas, TX

    • Joshua Cary

      Awesome reply, Tiffany!  I guess the answer for you ‘whatever works for the business owner.’  I totally agree with the Good Karma thing.  If you can afford (financially, time-wise) to give service discounts or provide free service, then excellent.  It truly is about finding what works for you as a person, and what you want from your business.

  • Lesli Whitfield

    This is a great topic! I just opened up my pet sitting business in March and it is really starting to take off. I have actually had a couple situations recently where I was asking myself the same questions. I wear my heart on my sleeve, which is not always a good thing-especially when doing business. You can become too involved in a situation. However, if she had asked for any additional help or discount I would highly consider it. Why make the pets suffer when she is trying to do what is right? That’s how I see it. Also, the way I have my rates set-up, allows me to be flexible with each client. I have a base rate and then adjust it to fit the appropriate needs of my clients. This works for now, but I am sure once my business starts to grow, I may need to change that. 

    Lesli Whitfield
    Wish-Bone Pet Sitting
    Round Rock (Austin), TX

  • http://twitter.com/amandaspets Amanda Carlson

    I don’t offer in-home boarding but if I did, I would be more willing to offer a discount in this circumstance because the pets are staying in the pet sitter’s home so they are not paying gas or spending time traveling to their house each day.

    • Joshua Cary

      Makes perfect sense, Amanda.  So you’ve never been in a situation where you had to decide on a discount for a job in a client’s home?

  • Rani

    I have and will  continue to make allowances and cut a client a break when it is warranted. My main concern
    as a pet care provider is the pets best interest first. It does not happen often but a pet cannot speak on their own behalf. I have given discounts when needed or given extra visits once a vacationer has left for vacation, if a pet is really lonely or there was a bad storm and a pet is frightened. If a pet is suffering or in need that comes first for me. I have always found you get back what you give out. If anything you could always ask for a letter of recomendation for reference which to me is invaluable. Care 4 Paws LLC Parsippany NJ

    • Joshua Cary

      This says it all Rani: “My main concern as a pet care provider is the pets best interest first.”  If that motto guides every action you take, you’ll no doubt find yourself in a very satisfying and fulfilling business.

  • Crittersitter49

    While I don`t offer boarding services (all my trips are to the client`s home), I will discount in special circumstances.  All jobs are not equal and stuff does happen.  Clients appreciate the curtesy and it does indeed pay off in the long run.

  • Charlie

    Hi In this case  there was no request for a discount, I would quote our normal price.  Now if it went to the interview and she was in bad financial circumstances I might lower our rates.  I n the past er have done this.  A mother who was going with her son on a trip supplied by “Make a Wish” We also had a elderly woman that was in the hospital and had very little money.  We just never sent her a bill( we bill after the sits).  In this case she kept calling asking for the bill we kept saying its coming. in this case it did not work she just sent us a check. bottom line it never hurts to help some one out that needs the help

    Charlie
    Country Animal tender, Ltd
    Deerfield NH

    • Joshua Cary

      You know, it’s amazing to hear all these stories in this thread!  I’m always reminded just how loving, caring and considerate pet sitters can be.

      It must have made you feel like a million bucks to care for the pet while the mother/son went on the Make A Wish trip.

  • Kenny Williams

    Likewise.  I will take circumstance into account.  Not only is that the “right thing to do” (it is!), it’s also good business.  Reasonably modelling your prices and services after individual client needs and preferences is key to client retention.  But don’t let yourself get taken for a ride!  

    Kenny Williams
    The Fan Sitter
    Richmond VA
    http://www.fansitter.com

    • Joshua Cary

      Kenny,

      That’s right, as long as you stay in control (‘don’t let yourself get taken for a ride’ as you say), you can adjust your business practice accordingly.  I always tell my clients that every one of our services are specific and customizable to each individual client’s needs.  That gives us the ability to consider each request individually and go from there (all while remaining profitable).

      Side Note: You certainly have your website created to perfectly reflect your target market ‘Richmond’s historic neighborhoods!’  Nice job.

  • Belinda Bowman

    I listen to the client circumstance and take in to account their history. Last thanksgiving one of my clients had a parent pass away. They drove from Texas to Georgia with a 1year old. The man in the couple had lost his job but, was actively looking for a new one. The woman’s mom lived alone and couldn’t take care of arrangements. So I only charged them $5 a visit and have made a customer for life. The visit was 3 weeks long. They were very appreciative and he currently has a new job that is great. I would do it again gladly.

    • Joshua Cary

      Feels great, I bet, to be able to actually offer that arrangement, huh?!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1237348751 Dixie Duncan Osborn

    I have a set fee but always make adjustments for clients needs.  I had a client who almost lost her dog when her other dog attacked it, when she went back to work I did free checks on her pup to help her with her peace of mind.  I also offer free petsitting and training to clients who adopt animals from rescue.  I also volunteer for a rescue group by taking hotline calls and have a few times given free training lessons to people calling in thinking they needed to get rid of their dog due to a behavioral issue.  I do this job for the animals and my heart is always in it.

    Dixie’s Critter Care
    Yucaipa, CA

    • Joshua Cary

      Awesome, Dixie!  Is that free pet sitting and training you offer to clients who rescue ongoing (for life?) or for a certain length of time?

  • Tracey

    Hi

    As a newly set up Pet Care business I would give her the normal rates to open up discussion then I offer her a discount inline with the number of cats (2 reducing it slightly), the length of time (reducing it further). If this was too much I would always consider in the back of my mind her and the cats sad situation and what if I was in the same circumstance…so I would then make allowances depending on what she could afford, if indeed money was an issue.

    Tracey
    Isis Pet Care (UK)
    http://www.isispetcare.com

    • Joshua Cary

      Welcome, Tracey. I see you are working out of the UK. Do you find the information I provide is valuable for your business outside of the USA?

      • http://www.isispetcare.com Tracey

        Hi Joshua

        Yes I do find your information really useful, especially as I am trying to build a business in a town where there are many animals but unfortunately where I know others have failed to get their pet care business off the ground.

        I have left a senior management position in a large corporation to start my own business doing something I love and although this career change may be seen as an ‘easy life’ to my ex-colleagues, my business mind hasn’t stopped ticking. I’m just as eager and determined to be successful in another field – I just need to break the culture here to let me in and all of your literature, hints, tips and conversations help.  Thanks

        • Joshua Cary

          I’m so happy to hear you recognize the ‘business side’ that must be achieved in order to make this a successful career and venture.

          Like you pointed out, on paper (or in conversation) most people may not realize ALL that’s truly involved to make this business work.  The false assumption is “Oh, you watch pets? I can do that!”

          But they don’t then consider how to get clients, how to keep clients happy, what forms are needed, what to do in emergencies, what insurance is required, etc. and on and on.

          • Tracey

            I totally agree, and getting clients in a notoriously difficult town such as Bourne (UK) then I’m going to need all the advice I can get!

  • Fosternpets

    Circumstances must be considered in this business. This is a service that anyone could provide. This is howerver a great topic for discussion and debate. It seem that if your not flexable in this bussiness you could break. I am learning more about this bussiness daily. I love the challenages and the owernship that has allowed me to be flexable. It is all about ministry and caring for people and there pets. But, hey business is business….and no to be taken personally.

    • Fosternpets

      Reid Foster
      Foster N’ Pets llc
      Montgomery, Alabama

    • Hillcountrypetcare

      I have to agree with you mainly because of where I live. The area I provide service to is Rural and therefore most clients are about 10 miles from me. That is 20 miles both ways…multiply that by 2-3 times a day…that is a lot of gas and time for that matter. I don’t currently have enough clients to expand my team, but I will get to that point. Perhaps if it was someone very close I would be happy to assist. If I didn’t have to drive..I may consider as in this case, but if I had employees I wouldn’t expect them to discount their rate, so I still probably wouldn’t. I volunteer at several local pet shelters and organizations, especially with the wildfires of late in our area. I give of my time, but I can’t afford to give of my own money for long term assignments especially. Tough one, it would definitely depend on may factors.

  • June OHearn

    Great discussion! Normally, I would be very cautious about adjusting my fees due to my emotions for a person’s situation. But lately, a new client inspired me to do just that. He is disabled and unable to walk his large dog. When I first met them both, I quickly realized they were both very special and they had a bond that I rarely see between human and dog. And despite never being walked, this dog was very well mannered, very intelligent, met other dogs on the walk without incident, and immediately knew what I expected of him without my having to say a word. Within just the first two 30-minute walks, I knew that this dog needed more. Being disabled and on a fixed income, I knew the owner would not be able to afford more. My way of helping without compromising our business relationship – when I have play dates scheduled with my dog, I just stop by and pick up his dog as well. No extra time or expense on my part since I was going anyway. We still walk for part of the visit, and in addition he gets to socialize with other dogs, and have great fun while he’s at it too! It’s a win win for everyone. The client never even suggested I offer more, but is deeply grateful that I’ve offered.

    • Joshua Cary

      Amazing, June!  That story is truly inspirational.  That is just another way that a professional pet sitter is genuinely concerned about the well-being of a client’s dog.

      If you haven’t already, I would ask the client (if possible) to jot down a testimonial that you can use on your website regarding this story.  It’s just so heart-warming and telling about you as a person.

      Who wouldn’t want to work with you (over another pet sitter in your area) after reading that?!

  • Shannonspetsitting

    I’m a “Special Needs” Pet sitter – meaning I deal
    with the pets specialize in areas of pet sitting that include pets with
    behavioral problems, medical needs, and senior pets.

     

    But I’ve seen so many other sitter services nickel &
    dime pet owners for every little thing from the consultation if they don’t sign
    the contract at that moment, extra cist time in 5 minute increments, additional
    pets, taking out garbage, closing blinds, bring in the mail.

     

    As a pet owner I took the approach that it looks like they
    are just out for the money when I see that. Therefore I do not charge extra for
    tasks that I can easily get done in my 30 minute visits such as taking out the
    garbage, grabbing the paper or simple medications such as pills, injections
    etc. These tasks only take me a few minutes or even seconds to do.

     

    When do I charge extra? When I have to do tasks that are
    more time consuming & take extra work. These include subcutaneous fluids,
    walking & caring for more than 2 dogs, or special meal preparation. When I
    explain this to pet owners they are usually okay with it. The most common is a
    pet owner with 3 or more dogs. My reply – Do you know how much work & time
    consuming it is to walk & care for 3 dogs? 
    The best reply I get is “Well I don’t walk them I just let the out in
    the yard real quick.”  I know right there
    the pet owner isn’t of the caliber I want. I pride myself on the high level of
    clientele I have. They want the best for their pets & find my prices to be
    reasonable & fair. They aren’t trying to barter price with me.  

    Shannon ColeShannon’s Pet-Sitting”Quality Pet Care in the Comfort of Their Own Home”                                                       PHONE: (847) 987-4322WEBSITE:   http://www.shannonspetsitting.netFACEBOOK:   http://www.facebook.com/shannonspetsittingTWITTER:   http://twitter.com/ShannonPetSit

  • Joanne

    I too consider circumstances.  I just cant see charging everyone the same rate.  How can I charge someone with a cat that lives a mile from me the same as someone with a dog that lives 8 miles from me?  I charge by distance and number of pets.  I find that if I am willing to work with a client, then when they do pay me, there is always a nice “extra” included. 
    This does, however make budgeting a little harder, but in the end, my clients are happy and that’s what counts as I am just over a year in the business but very close to needing to start hiring help.
    Joanne Rogden
    Home-aide Pet Sitting Services, LLC
    Hampstead, NC

    • Joshua Cary

      “How can I charge someone with a cat that lives a mile from me the same
      as someone with a dog that lives 8 miles from me?  I charge by distance
      and number of pets.”

      Joanne, I get what you are saying there but have additional questions for you.  In the example you gave, one client has a dog and one has a cat.  While we, too, have different pricing for clients with dogs vs. cats, we do not adjust based on distance.

      So, with your current structure, if 2 clients have the identical situation, needs and pet, but one lives 1 mile away, and the other lives 8 miles, you still charge them both a different rate?

      What will you do when you hire staff?  You’ll have to calculate fee based on the current location of who fulfills the job?  Just wondering how you work these situations.

  • Dogtrainer

    Hey Josh. With the inquiry re the client in a domestic violence situation with her pets I would definately call her. If the e-mail was legit I would do whatever I could to help her whether that meant trying to band together with other pet sitting services etc. I could only imagine how horrible a.domestic violence situation is let alone trying to keep pets safe.

    I most definately have adjusted my fees for special circustances. 1) A 5 day per week dog walking client’s rescued Beagle came down with a paralizing spinal condition. The costs for his.treatment became prohibitive with him eventually needing a $10,000 surgical procedure. I dropped him off at the vet in the morning and picked him up in the late afternoon for his acupuncture treatments and only charged for 1 dog walk. After the surgery he needed to go out twice a day and I only charged for once a day. 2 ) A senior citizen fell and broke her ankle and was hospitized for a total of 10 weeks. For the entire 10 weeks I walked and fed her dog twice a day and spent half the night keeping the dog company and only charged the client for two very discounted dog walks per day. 3) A client lost their beloved cat leaving the 16 year old dog very lonely. They then rescued a dog from a municipal shelter. The adjustment in walking both dogs initially took an extra half hour per walk which I did not charge them for.

    I will bend over backwards and sideways for any dog rescued from a shelter or in any situation in which money can interfere with meeting the needs of a pet and client with special circumstances. If I were in this for the money I’d go back to corporate America.

    Adrienne

    • Joshua Cary

      Wow Adrienne,

      Thanks so much for sharing your stories with us!  This is what I love about working in this industry.  The majority of us are true, genuine animal lovers that we will bend over ‘backwards and sideways’ (as you put it) for clients in need.

      Tell me if a friend or neighbor will go through such lengths.

      Adrienne, do you share some of these stories when appropriate with potential clients?  Or on your website?  I’m sure pet owners researching your business would love to know some of the way you go above and beyond for your clients.

    • http://www.isispetcare.com Tracey

      Hi Adrienne

      Reading your reply has made me happy that there are others in this for the love too – as my business has and gone from strength to strength in the last 3 months in what has been a historically diffcult town for pet carers, the feedback I have received is because I’ll go the extra mile (literally) even if the time this takes is cost prohibitive for some of my clients. I’ll never go back to corporate UK, just grow Isis Pet Care with the same ethos I have nurtured my fledgling business…the animals come first :-)

  • Kcritterkare

    I think thats the one of the best things about working for yourself. You can  adjust a fee if you feel like you want. I always pride myself in being there for the pets nit just the money and sometimes I rearrange fee stucture accordingly. I have given free to low cost visits for an elderly woman who was back and forth in the hospital. As well as boarding a 2 yr. old yorkie for 10 moths for a woman who was doing her best to keep her pup and not give it away. You know in your heart what is right and if they are on the up and up. Its hard to rehome a pet and have the pet as happy as before so I am up with doing what you can if you are financially able. Besides it might come back in other ways like referrals.

    • Joshua Cary

      What a wonderful response to the post!

      “You know in your heart what is right and if they are on the up and up.”

      That quote of yours make the most sense.  I love that as pet sitters, we always have the pet’s best interest at heart and we know instinctively what to do.

      “Besides it might come back in other ways like referrals.”

      This is also so very true.  What goes around, comes around.  Thanks for stopping by…

  • Cindy

    I am in the process of building my client base and desparately need the business, but with the economy the way it is and my circumstances I truly understand how people are struggling, so yes I do adjust my rates and I feel this will also help build my business. It’s the little extra things we do for each other that really matter. I also give extra quality time to clients’ pets at no charge if I have some extra time between appointments and they really appreciate that.

    • Joshua Cary

      Hi Cindy, I do the same thing: putting in extra time (going above and beyond) when possible and it makes all the difference. People will come to appreciate that so much.

  • Jade

    It does depend on your circumstance. I believe in doing what you can, you’re always going to sleep better at night because you did something good than if you took that extra $20 from that elderly customer when you didn’t need it. However if you can’t afford it, you can always look at different things you can offer.

    For example if they pre-book for 5 dog walking sessions, they can get 2 free. That way you’re securing that client for a longer period of time, but can still offer them a discount. The cost of our services can add up quite quickly and a lot of people can struggle to come up with the cash for them. Consider it an investment in marketing by word of mouth. Plus it gives you lots of material for your social media page or blog!

    • Joshua Cary

      I couldn’t have said it better myself, Jade. I love it.

  • Pet Sitters of Mt. Prospect

    Ordinarily, a client’s fee spring’s from varied factors: distance, no. of pets, circumstances, & even last minute reservations. Though, truth be told, turning a blind eye to any number of rules & regulations of my own creation, are tossed to the wind, occasionally.

    Practically 15 years ago, out of the blue, a cry for help came from a woman in a county jail. Could I come to the rescue of her Guinea pigs? A full week passed before she summoned me. Why? Beats me.

    Long story short… determined to take advantage of the moment & charge hefty fees were quickly deep sixed as I walked over the threshold of her rented rooms. Her apparent lack of proper life skills and life choices drove her into an , undeniably, self destructive life style. My heart just sank to the pit of my stomach.

    In time, she shed light on the grounds for the incarceration. The first two DUI’s were just a slap on the hand. The third DUI, the court rejected further probation & her punishment was eight weeks in jail.

    She seemed to genuinely fee remorse for her choices. As matter of fact, through our conversations on the phone, she appeared to be quite intelligent, articulate and a moral inidividual.

    In the end, the charge was $75 for the six weeks. I went on faith that she’d pay as promised, and sure enough, a money order arrived in short order.

    The classic question one might ask: “Would I venture into such an agreement, once more?” In honor of the Greeks — thumbs down!. Translation: Yes, yes and yes!

    Daily, I draw breath from this old adage: “There but for the grace of
    God, go I”.

    • Joshua Cary

      Wow, what a heart wrenching and inspiring story. It’s true that you never really know people’s intentions out of the gate and it’s always a good idea to give people the benefit of the doubt before you have the full picture. Thanks for sharing this story.

  • Lanette Yingling

    I do look at people’s circumstances and sometimes change fees. For example, I have 2 elderly ladies that are on a very fixed income and don’t charge as much for boarding as I would any other client.
    I also had a situation where my son’s girlfriend’s parents (follow? LOL) were on vacation and I was taking care of their dog. They did not prepay…I said we will catch up with payment when you get back. They were only gone for about 5 days. Well….their 7/8 yr old Cocker Spaniel had congestive heart failure and was on all kinds of medication. Visits were going fine and he was doing ok. However, the day before they were due to come home he wasn’t acting quite right and I prayed that he would at least make it until the next day when parents were coming home. So I got there the next morning (the return date) and he was NOT good. Long story short….I had to take him to vet, they consulted the owner, and the decision was made to put him down :(.
    Needless to say, I bawled all the way out the door!! When they came back and tried to pay me, I wouldn’t take it….I just couldn’t take it. And, even though this happened last fall, I still don’t regret making that decision. So….I totally adjusted my price on that one.

    • Joshua Cary

      Aww wow, Lanette, that story is heartbreaking. So sorry to hear about the poor cocker and the position you found yourself in :( thanks for posting and sharing it here. Hope the owners are doing as good as expected.

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