Professional cat ladies. Dog nannies. Pet whisperers. And those are just some of the names people have used to describe what I do. As a traveller, chances are you have heard of house sitting before, but what exactly does it entail?
For those of you who don’t know, this is house sitting in a nutshell: you look after a home and one or several pets in exchange for free accommodation while the home owners are away. Sometimes there are also some other easy chores that you do during your stay such as watering plants or mowing the lawn.
As a “professional” cat (and dog) lady myself, house sitting has made such a drastic difference in my travel life. It is a great way to save on accommodation costs and looking after pets is just fun in itself if you’re an animal lover.
You can also easily combine house sitting with so-called digital nomad jobs. I provide linguistic services online which, fortunately enough, allows me to work location independently. I’ve been “homeless” for over a year now, just hopping from one house sit to the next, with the odd Airbnb or guesthouse every now and then.
House and pet sitting has allowed me to go to so many new places, meet a ton a new people and of course meet some lovely pets. But I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy in the beginning, and that’s a question I get from a lot of fellow travellers: How did you get started?
Home owners obviously want someone who has a fair amount of experience with animals and someone who has references. Basically someone who knows what they’re doing. More often than not, they are looking for a house sitter who already has done sits in the past and who has been reviewed by other home owners. But don’t worry, once you get your first review, it’s gonna make such a difference and it will be much easier to score your next house sit.
Which Platform to Choose?
When you Google search “house sitting”, you will find that there are a ton of different online platforms where you can create a profile and find home owners to house sit for. There’s Nomador, Housecarers, MindMyhouse, Trustedhousesitters, etcetera. I know, this can be overwhelming. Which platform suits you best mostly depends on where you wanna go. Some websites such as Housecarers have lots of house sits in the US and Australia, while a website like Nomador offers a lot more house sits in France.
I personally prefer Trustedhousesitters, just because there are a lot of house sits being added every single day from all over the world (with most of them being in the US and the UK).
TIP: Use the code RAF266498 to get a 25% discount on an annual membership at Trusted Housesitters!
Building Your Profile
When I first created my profile on TrustedHousesitters, I browsed through other house sitters profiles, and I noticed that the more successful house sitter profiles had almost an excessive amount of information on them. Other profiles, that had no or barely any reviews, usually only had one or two lines in the introduction. Conclusion: the more information, the better.
What you want to convey is a sense of trustworthiness, and they more information you share with home owners about yourself, about your life, your hobbies, the more they can get to know you.
You also have to have a nice profile picture. This is essential. It’s one of the first things home owners see. It’s important to take some pictures with animals (obviously), especially the animals you want to look after. So if you want to look after cats, take a picture with a cat, if you wanna look after some sheep, take a picture with sheep. Also take a photo of something you enjoy doing, so have someone take your picture while you do sports or go to the park for example.
Something else that’s vital to include in your profile are references, especially when you just get started and don’t have reviews from home owners yet. These references can be written by your previous landlords, an old teacher or even your best friend. These references show a glimpse of who you are as a person, of your personality, and it’s a perfect way for home owners to get to know you better.
Writing an Email to Home and Pet Owners
So one day you’re browsing through the website and all of a sudden, THERE it is: The perfect house sit. Now it’s time to get to work and craft an email. And this is easier said than done. You want to show your enthusiasm but, at the same time, assure the home owners that you are a calm, patient person who will be responsible enough to take care of their pets.
TIP: Use exclamation marks and expressions such as “I would be thrilled to do this house sit” every now and then, but don’t overdo it. (!!!)
Applying for house sitting opportunities is kind of like applying for a normal job. So if you just copy and paste the same email and send it to everyone, people will notice, and disregard your email. I usually try to mix some of the more standard sentences (for example a paragraph in which you introduce yourself or talk a little bit about your job or your travel plans), with more personal sentences that directly refer to their ad. It’s also always good to call the pets by their name instead of just calling them “the pets” or “your cats and dog”. This just gives it that extra personal touch.
You also have to be quick to respond to the listings cause there’s a lot of competition for the really nice house sits in popular countries such as Spain, Switzerland and Italy. I usually check the website once a day, just so I can be one of the first sitters to respond to the listing. On the Trustedhousesitters website, you can see how many sitters have already applied to a particular house sit, which I find very useful. So when you see that 15-20 candidates have already applied for a house sit in a popular city like London or Paris, you might want to keep searching for another house sit and not waste your time on this one, at least not when you just started out.
How To Schedule House Sits
If you’re a digital nomad and you’re on the road full time, planning your house sits can sometimes be a bit tricky. When I’m in a certain country I usually try to get house sits that are not too far apart from each other, but sometimes there is a three-day gap or a four-day gap or even longer.
For those gap days, I sometimes book a hotel room at least one month in advance through websites such as Booking.com cause they have rooms with very flexible cancellation procedures just in case my travel plans change. Another option is to get an Airbnb. On Airbnb you can also get discounts if you stay longer at someone’s place. These discounts you often get when you stay for a week or a month.
Another website that you can use is Couchsurfing. If you’re not familiar with this concept, Couchsurfing is a website where you can message people from all over the world to ask to stay in their home, usually for one or two nights. These hosts love meeting new people and therefore don’t charge you for the accomodation.
Something else you have to take into account is that some home owners want you to arrive on the day before the actual house sit starts. This way, they can show you around, you can share a meal and get to know each other better. Whether or not they would like me to come the day before their trip is one of the first questions I ask once the house sit is confirmed.
Some Final Tips
I hope you are really excited right now and thinking: YES I want to be a house and pet sitter!
But what if you don’t have that much experience with pets yet?
Here’s what you could do. Offer to look to after your friends’ and families’ pets and homes for a while. To beecome a good house sitter, you need the experience, especially if you want to look after farm animals or horses. So why not volunteer at a farm first? If you’d rather look after cats or dogs, you could also volunteer at an animal shelter. This way you’ll learn to be more comfortable around animals and it’ll give you the confidence you need to convey that feeling of trust to the home owners.
And that is one thing that’s important to remember: it’s all about trust. You have to create a feeling of trustworthiness, so that the house owners know that you, a stranger from the Internet, will be responsible enough to care of their fur babies. So get in touch with them. Skype, text or call if you have to. In my experience, letting people know that you’re willing to keep in touch regularly is a great way to reassure them of your trustworthiness.
Happy house sitting!