12 Best Tech Tools for Pet Sitting Businesses
It’s no secret—pet sitters who adopt technology scale their businesses faster than the competition. Many old school pet sitters have been slow to leverage new tech, and that can be a big advantage for new pet sitters and dog walkers coming into the business.
Easy to learn technology can help you:
- Communicate with your team
- Collaborate remotely on content marketing or graphic design with contractors from upwork or skilled members of your team
- Get days off and eliminate burnout by setting up a business phone system to route your calls to an easy to hire office admin who can handle customer calls while you get some R & R
- Get more clients by building a web presence that shows up on the first page of Google
The Top 12 Picks For Pet Sitter Technology
Let’s dive in!
12. Online Scheduling & Invoicing Software
When I first started my business, I kept track of everything manually. I just used the Apple calendar to track my visits and created invoices in Microsoft Word. I used Square to accept credit cards, and asked clients to leave a check at the first visit if they wanted to pay that way. I had a number of paper forms with visit details that I kept in a big folder. This is perfectly acceptable when you are first getting started.
But, as my company grew to more than a few clients, my first investment in technology was a pet sitting CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. I chose Precise Pet Care, but Time To Pet is also very good software. All of the pet sitting CRMs are similar and provide the same type of options. They also usually come with free 30 day trials, so try a couple out and pick one that works with how your brain works.
A pet sitting CRM is incredibly helpful in keeping things straight. They make it easy to:
- Create home and pet profiles that keep all the details straight
- Invoice clients
- Keep track of medication details
- Enable clients to schedule visits through an online portal
- Manage a team of sitters or walkers
- Pull reports for payroll and accounting
- Communicate with your clients
- Send visit updates
- And much more
Just remember, every CRM has its problems. No matter which CRM you choose, it will not have every feature you want. The key is to find little workarounds, or adjust your procedures to fit what works in the CRM.
Payment Gateway & Merchant Account
In addition to pet sitting software, you will want to accept credit cards. Look at authorize.net for your payment gateway and First data as your merchant account. You will need both to get your pet sitting software to accept credit cards. You can talk to the fine sales people at authoize.net to figure out how to get all of this working. I prefer using a gateway and merchant account rather than using Square, because it is cheaper to run cards.
11. Accounting Software
Keeping a close eye on your finances is key to running a successful pet sitting business. I use Quickbooks Online because it is the standard accounting software for business. I use the Essentials subscription because that level includes detailed reporting. Meaning Quickbooks Online Essentials can generate a profit and loss statement that is broken down month by month. This makes it easy to see the seasonality in your business which really is important information.
If you are just getting started and can deal with having less detail in your profit and loss statements, check out Wave apps. Nowadays, many pet sitting companies use Wave apps because it is free.
There are many small business accounting software packages out there, if you feel Quickbooks or Wave Apps is not right for you, check out this list of accounting software.
10. HR Management & Payroll
Once you start hiring employees, I highly recommend using payroll management software like Gusto. HR laws, tax rates, and other regulations change all the time. Gusto makes it easy to ensure you are completing your payroll according to the law. If you mess up this part of your business, you can face hefty fines.
To run payroll using Gusto, you need to enter in the number of hours your sitters worked during a pay period, then enter the dollar amount for their mileage reimbursement.
I understand it can be a little tricky to figure out how to figure these numbers for your business, because many sitters pay per visit. To simplify the payroll process, some pet sitting companies are moving to tracking mileage with something like MileIQ, and paying sitters per hour.
I still pay my sitters per visit, and use an average drive time and mileage to calculate hours and mileage. I offer individual consulting to help pet sitting businesses figure out these numbers. Please contact us if you would like help with this.
9. Cloud Based File System, Collaboration Software, and E-mail
If you want to start working with virtual assistants, graphic designers from Upwork, or if you want to enable your team members to help with various tasks within your business, Google Workspace is key to tying a remote team together.
I keep my entire file system in Google Workspace. I manage which folders my team can see and I restrict which folders they can edit. I keep all of the files my team can see “view only,” but allow team members to copy files into their own personal folder where they can update and make edits to files.
Once their edits are finished, I copy the updated files back into the locked down “view only” portion of my Google Workspace file system.
I also recommend managing your email through Google Workspace. It’s a good idea to decouple your email from your website hosting service. Running your email through your website host might seem to make logical sense, but if you need to upgrade your website host as your company grows, you will be stuck figuring out email settings for the new server. If you manage your email through Google Workspace, everything just works.
I also love Google Workspace because it enables me to be able to work remotely. I have my entire file system with me no matter where I go. So, I’m no longer tied to my home office. I can go on vacation and still have access to all of my files, just in case I need to take care of something while across the country from my team.
Google Workspace is the new name for Google G-suite. From what I can see so far, Workspace is better integrated across the large number of tools they provide.
8. Random Number Generator for Lockbox Codes
I use the pretty random app to set lockbox codes for clients. When clients can’t come up with a code on their own (at least one that is not also their ATM pin), I pull out this app and generate a random four digit number. This helps my clients know we take their security seriously.
7. Automation Software
Although this is a pretty advanced setup, Zapier was actually easier to use than I expected. Zapier can automate actions based on a trigger, such as an email. Say your website can generate an email, you can make that email trigger other actions—like creating a trello card or even giving you a call.
I use Zapier, along with Twilio to call my phone system. When a new sales lead fills out an information request form on my website, that form on my website gives me a call!
Here is how it works: The form on my website sends an email to Zapier (and also one to Zendesk) and that email triggers a “Zap!” in zapier which initiates a call in Twilio then it reads the subject of the email to me over the phone.
When we get a call from Zapier, I know to check zendesk for the sales lead and we can get back to the client right away.
I found when we call the client within 20 minutes of the web form being submitted, we closed almost all of those sales calls.
It’s a little complicated and it takes some maintenance to keep it working, but it’s cool and it makes me lots of money. Just be sure to have twilio set up to call a dedicated and different phone number in your phone system, so the automated phone call does not get stuck in your phone system’s menu. Also, set up rules in your phone system for any calls on that dedicated number. Make those rules route the call to ring through to anyone on your team who is handling sales calls.
6. SEO Optimization Software
If you have been struggling to get your page to rank on Google, it might be time for SEMrush.
SEMrush will tell you exactly which keywords you need to include in your content to rank for certain keyword searches. They do this by indexing pages that rank well in Google and analyzing the words in those highly ranked pages. The software is expensive at $199 per month, but you can usually get by with using it for just one month, then shutting it off.
It’s not a magic bullet—you still need to have a good content marketing game and content that is written to help people. But, SEMrush might give you the edge you need to convince the robot side of google to rank your page above your competition.
5. Team Chat
I use slack as a team chat app. It is so helpful to have a dedicated, private communication channel other than text messages. You can also set up channels for specific information.
Here are the channels we set up:
- cute pics for social media
- daily summary (for office use, a daily summary of everything that happened that day to keep office members in the loop)
- medical concerns at visits (Very helpful to know if there are problems at a visit)
- visit notes and updates (Used whenever something is new at a visit we need to take note of. A virtual assistant copies these notes into the office-only portion of Precise Pet Care.)
- visits went over time (Alerts the office if the client did not book long enough visits)
- meet & greet sheets (For sitters to post a picture of their meet & greet sheet)
This is also a great place to tell a team member “Thank you!” for doing a great job. Slack works great for coordinating day-to-day operations. Slack has become critical infrastructure for our business.
4. Automated Appointment Scheduling
Has this happened to you? A client calls. You are at a visit and miss the call, then play phone tag for three days. Once you get in contact with the client, they already hired another sitter.
Calendly fixes this problem.
Calendly is an automated appointment scheduling software that makes it easy for clients to schedule a phone call with you. Clients use your Calendly link to see the times you are available, and easily schedule a time that works for them.
Now when I miss a call from a client, I send them a prewritten email from Zendesk which includes a Calendly link, and an explanation of how to use it to schedule a time for us to set up pet sitting service.
I created a separate email, email@example.com that forwards Calendly appointments to both me and my virtual assistant. This way my virtual assistant can add the sales call as a pet sitting visit in Precise Pet Care.
I like having all of my appointments in Precise Pet Care so I don’t accidentally book a visit or another meeting during a scheduled sales call. Also, this way I only have to look at one calendar. Precise Pet Care communicates back to my work calendar, which is connected to Calendly. So, Calendly blocks out times that are already booked in Precise Pet Care, again preventing double booking.
3. A Website
No matter what you hear about word of mouth being your best marketing tool, your website will be the number one way you get new clients. You need a website. You can also use your website to privately store training guides a virtual assistant or office admin can access to run various processes in your company—such as invoicing, onboarding clients, and the hiring process.
If you want a website builder that is easy to use right out of the box, I recommend Square Space. If you want to outsource your website completely, I recommend you hire Barketing Solutions. They will do a great job and will get you a great website.
If you want complete control over your website, or you want the most powerful website possible, WordPress is the way to go. You can build your website on the cheap in about one month of working on it off and on. The easiest way to learn wordpress is to take an online class from wp101.com
WordPress can seem a bit daunting at first, because it requires a number of different softwares working together to make your website work. But really, to get WordPress up and running you only need three main things:
- A website hosting service (SiteGround)
- A theme (Astra)
- A page builder (Elementor Pro)
I have used these three services to build multiple websites with great success and a high rank on google (including this website). Let’s cover the details a little bit.
For hosting I recommend the SiteGround – Grow Big account because they have fantastic technical support and top notch servers that will make your page load quickly. You install WordPress on the SiteGround host.
Don’t overthink which theme you need. Go with Astra. It’s free, it’s a solid theme, and works great.
You don’t need to know how to code to build a website on WordPress. Instead, use the drag and drop page builder Elementor Pro. It makes WordPress just as easy to use as squarespace, plus you get the benefit of all of the plugins available to WordPress. Elementor is great and way better than Divi, just saying.
I do recommend buying the pro version of elementor because it has good tools for making your menus look great.
Also, there are a ton of youtube videos out there that show you how to use elementor to build your website. Check out WPCrafter and Ferdy Korpershoek to get a good start.
A few other plugins I install on every one of my wordpress sites are Astra Hooks (to set up Google Analytics), RankMath SEO, Duplicator, Official Facebook Pixel, SG Optimizer, Under Construction, and Wordfence Security.
In addition, if you want your site to show up on google, you will need to submit it to Google Search Console.
A Quick Note About Graphic Design
Often, the biggest hurdle to building a website is developing the graphic design. Canva makes it easy to design assets for your web page. You might also consider hiring a graphic designer from Upwork.
For years I muddled through creating my own graphic design, and my sites looked terrible. One day, I decided to hire a graphic designer, and it was the best choice I ever made. Even though I thought I was an awesome graphic designer, a graphic designer I was not.
2. Ticketing Software
Zendesk is a ticketing system that is often used for customer support teams. It can also be used to manage your sales process and your hiring process.
If you have ever tried to hire pet sitters in a town of more than 150,000 people, you probably found your email inbox stuffed full of 100 – 300 emails from job applicants. It’s incredibly hard to manage your hiring process if all of the applicants are flooding your email inbox, all at different stages in the hiring process. This is even true if you are using dedicated hiring email like firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zendesk is amazing because it sorts emails into different “views” that you can organize. For example, every applicant that is in the phone interview stage of your hiring process can be kept in a single view.
Another main advantage of Zendesk is that you can create pre-written emails and send those emails to an entire group of applicants in one click. Once the email is sent, Zendesk will again organize those emails based on rules you set up.
We have prewritten emails for our entire hiring process and our sales process.
We also created separate views for our customer service emails, hiring email, emails generated from Precise Pet Care, and our sales channel.
We no longer lose track of sales leads, and we no longer lose good job applicants to bad processes. Plus, I was able to hand off the entire system to my office admin. Zendesk is awesome, but it takes time and some effort to set up.
I recommend getting as far as you can with the software, then hiring a Zendesk Admin from Upwork to help you with any problems or questions you still have. I needed to hire a Zendesk Admin for two hours, and he straightened out my mistakes. He cost $75 per hour, but that is not much compared to a stable sales and hiring process.
1. Business Phone System
Before I invested in a business phone system, the number one thing that was holding my company back was not being able to route phone calls to a team member who could take care of the day-to-day operations.
Your new clients and current clients need to get in contact with you, and if you are the only person in your company who can answer your phones, you are never going to get a day off. You will never be able to delegate the key functions that make your company grow, such as sales, hiring, and customer service.
Once my company reached a certain amount of volume, my phone rang constantly. Plus, it was often difficult to know if the call was from a current client, a new sales call, a salesperson, or a hiring call. It got to the point that I was hearing the phone ring in my sleep!
Investing in a business phone system such as Ring Central changed all that. It automatically routes calls to the right person in your company at the right time, based on a predetermined schedule.
The graphic above shows how I set up our phone system. We do it all with three extensions.
You can also send sales calls and hiring calls straight to voicemail after hours. On my days off, the calls go to my office admin. During the days I am working, customer service calls and new sales calls ring through to both me and my office admin. The hiring calls route to another phone with the ringer turned off, and I check it once per day.
The emergency line rings to both me and my office admin. If one of us picks up an emergency call, we will notify the other person by calling their cell phone and/or messaging on slack.
I can also forward voicemails to my office admin and she can take care of those calls too.
Without a business phone system, at some point, your company will not be able to grow. So, it is one of the best investments you can make.