How to Earn Extra Money as a Pet Sitter

One woman explains how she supplements her income by taking care of cats and dogs.

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After writing about ways to earn an extra $500 for the holidays, we heard from a lot of skeptics. Commenters noted how hard or even impossible it can be to find a paying side-gig; some argued that any activity would pay so poorly that it would not be worth the extra time and stress.

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To counter that pessimism, we spoke with another successful side-hustler, Tara Heuser, a Washington-based office worker, freelance writer, and pet sitter. She first launched her pet-sitting business after getting laid off from a job at a custom framing company. After living off of unemployment for 14 months while hostessing at a restaurant part-time, she posted an ad for her pet-sitting services on Craigslist.

Heuser, 33, graduated from college with an art history degree, and she says her dream job would be to write about art full-time. For now, she’s juggling her new full-time office job along with pet-sitting and freelance writing to generate enough income make ends meet. We spoke with Heuser about just how she does it. Excerpts:

How did you get started as a pet sitter?

I had some experience watching a friend’s two cats and my little business grew from there... Getting laid off from my framing job is definitely what prompted me to start pet-sitting. I like dogs and cats and figured it would be an easy money-making job. This job was definitely more enjoyable than hostessing and required less work. It was an easy money-making gig and easy to get referrals.

Do you earn a solid side-income from it?

The pet-sitting jobs definitely offered more flexibility than hostessing, since I had the power to accept or decline, and I made more money. I only got paid $13.50 per hour hostessing and didn't work that many hours a week when I was also working a full-time job. I now charge $55 to $65 per night for pet-sitting. When I got my current job, working as a publications and exhibits coordinator for an association, I kept the pet-sitting gig because I still don't make much money. Most pet-sitting jobs are on the weekends and I have weekends off with my office job, which is 9 to 5.

Do you do anything else to earn more money on the side?

I also write articles for a D.C.-based website called The Pink Line Project, another part-time gig. This is what I would love to do all the time. I enjoy writing and love art. I write articles on art gallery openings around the city, promoting emerging artists and small galleries. I only write one to two articles per month and get paid $50 per article, but it is my favorite job by far.

What are your future plans for your side gigs?

I do plan on expanding my two part-time jobs as much as possible. I now have six pet-sitting clients. My current job is pretty boring. I sit in a cube all day and stare at the computer. I don't really like the idea of having an “office job” for the rest of my working career. Eventually I would like to go to grad school and get a masters in creative writing and possibly get a job working for a magazine or doing freelance writing, but since I don't make much money now, that poses a problem.

Looking for more side-gig ideas? Check out 10 Ways to Start Earning Extra Money Now

Twitter: @alphaconsumer