As I write this, I am snuggled up on the sofa looking out the window and across the beach, to the gentle waves of the sea. I have a cat curled up beside me and Lenny the Labrador (yes really) snoring at my feet.
I am house sitting on the English coast for three weeks. I pay no accommodation fees, no utilities... in fact, I am being paid to wake up beside the sea, take long walks along the beach and enjoy cozy nights in with my new furry friends.
Housesitting is relatively new to me. But over the last 1.5 years, I have gone from volunteering through a house sitting website for free, to earning £250+ per week. Whilst it is not my full time job, it has created an extra revenue stream for me to invest in to Go Travel and Talk and to book in more adventures around the world. I get to meet incredible people, and enjoy an intimate and locale experience of each place I visit, offering complete immersion into the neighbourhood, town, village or city.
I understand housesitting isn't for everyone. But for those who are interested, it is a great way to save money on accommodation, experience a different way of travel and offer others help in the process. And it isn't just for those who are location independent and able to work remotely. Housesitting comes in all shapes and sizes for all types of travellers. From those looking for a weekend escape to those interested in a month away.
Free accommodation in itself is an amazing thing, but what if you could actually get paid to stay in someone else's house for free?
But how do you get started? And how can you actually get paid to house sit?
From someone who has done it for the last 1.5 years, I want to share with you the exact formula I used, so you can do it too.
The benefits associated with housesitting don't just come in the form of free accommodation.
1. Meet Likeminded People
One of the great things about housesitting is the people you meet. Think about it this way, those people who are willing to open up their home and leave all their worldly possessions in the hands of a stranger, are likely to be open, warm and friendly. And from personal experience, that is 100% exactly how they are. I have had the most amazing conversations and created life long friends through housesitting.
2. It Allows You To Travel Slow
If you are a longer term traveller or a 'nomad', housesitting offers the perfect vessel to slow down and to stay in one place for a little while. It will shift your perspective and give you some much needed time out from being on the road. You can unpack (!), create a morning and daily routine (something I crave when I have been on the road for a while), reflect on your experiences so far and plan your next steps. And you get to cuddle up to your furry friends - what is better than that?
3. More Savings!
Not only will you be saving money on your accommodation, but by having your own kitchen facilities, it is likely that you will save money on food by cooking for yourself. And if you don't feel like doing something one day - you don't have to! Take a day to veg in front of the TV, save some pennies and recoup some energy.
There are lots of different websites out there that you could use, such as:
House Carers: Free to join and upload your profile but you have to pay $50 (£41) for the year in order to contact people. Mainly for house sits in Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada (some Europe).
MindMyHouse: $20 (£16) annual fee. Low joining fee with a good number of house sits but mainly in North America and Europe.
Trusted House Sitters: $85 (£69) annual membership fee but a huge database of house sits all around the world.
First of all, you need to sign up to your chosen website. When reviewing which site you would like to sign up to, choose carefully based on available jobs, where they are located and what is expected in terms of length of sit. Have a little play around on each first, until you feel comfortable with your chosen house sitting website. But the key with house sitting is flexibility - look across different locations rather than being very specific - for example instead of only looking for house sits in Central London, look for house sits across London. You are sure to find some gems that way!
I have only ever used Trusted House Sitters, so with that first hand knowledge and for someone who has been very successful with it, I am going to focus on them.
At the moment, Trusted House Sitters charge £69 for an annual membership to become a house sitter. To learn more
And remember that £69 ($85) is FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR of free accommodation, WORLDWIDE.
So whether you are planning a weekend trip to Europe, two weeks in the Caribbean or an entire month in New Zealand, you could save £1000’s on accommodation, all for £69 ($85)!
A no brainer right?
This is one of the most important steps so make sure you get it right (no pressure!)
The About Me section needs to be personable and memorable
whilst at the same time building trust to encourage the home owner to invite you to sit. Make sure you include details about your profession, your likes, your education, hobbies and any experience you have with animals, personally and professionally.
If you want to check my profile out as 'inspiration' click here.
My key piece of advice is to put yourself in the homeowners shoes: What would you want to know about the person to make you invite them to sit?
The next sections for your house sitting profile include:
Why you want to housesit and your previous house sitting experience.
Again, put yourself in the home owners shoes. What would resonate with them as to your reasons to housesit. Do you like exploring new places, do you work on a freelance basis, are you a digital nomad with a passion for animals, have you welcomed a housesitter before and feel inspired to try it yourself?
For the experience section, don’t worry if you don’t have previous housesitting experience.
I certainly didn’t, not in a professional capacity anyway. Think more about your experience with animals. Have you been brought up with animals? Have you volunteered with animals? Have you helped a friend out with some dog walking? Are you a keen horse rider? Are you THAT person who can’t walk passed a dog without bending down to stroke it? (I know I am) Or perhaps you have grown up with cats?
And if you haven’t had experience with animals, DON’T LIE. Be honest and say, ‘whilst I have never own a dog/cat/pet because of circumstances (always travelling, not enough space at home etc), I am loving, caring, kind etc'. Just keep in mind, ‘What would you want to hear if you were leaving your pets in the hands of a stranger?’
Photos for your house sitting profile are a must.
I have 6/7 photos uploaded on my profile, so people get a good idea of me as a person and what I am all about. I talk about hiking and loving the outdoors in my profile, so I have photos from trekking in South America. I make reference to my parents dog and cats, so I have included a few of those. I am a keen horse rider, so I have included a photo of me riding. Make sure your profile picture shows your character - no pouting, or back of the head shots please. Remember you are trying to build trust. A nice shot of you smiling will do just fine.
Once you have all those details plugged in and your photos uploaded, you need to do some verification steps.
Step 1: Basic Verification. This involves your email address, telephone number and a reference. I asked my sister to do one for me for looking after her dog when she was away on holiday. This will be shown on your profile so make sure it is someone who can vouch for your character and even better, someone who’s house or pet you have looked after.
Step 2: Standard Verification: ID check. This involves verifying your ID with a driving license or your passport. It isn’t shown to anyone, it just gives you another tick in the verification box.
Step 3: Enhanced Verification: Criminal Record Check. This isn’t actually available on Trusted House Sitters at the moment but it will be soon. I don’t have this and I have never had any problems getting housesits, but I am sure it would encourage more people to get in touch if they can see you have Enhanced Verification.
Other things to add to your profile if you wanted to; a video of yourself and your availability calendar.
Once you have completed all of these steps, you are ready to find your first housesit!
Again, this is a really important step and it can be really hard at first because you don’t have any house sitting references.
But write a memorable introductory message and you are half way there.
*Be speedy! If you see a house sit you like the look of - get in contact with the owner straight away. Chances are, if you like the look of it, plenty of other people will too!
Go Travel and Talk Top Tips For Writing That First Message:
--> Read their profile first and use their names and the names of their pets in your introductory message.
--> Tell them about yourself. Your experience, your education, some background. Remember they have no idea who you are, so make it easy for them. Give them some context.
--> Tell them about your skills and characteristics. Are you kind, reliable, trustworthy? I hope so!
--> Offer to meet them beforehand, or if they are not close by, you would love to set up a Skype or Facetime to speak further.
--> Sign off with a nice sentence; ‘I hope to hear from you soon, Best/Kind Regards’.
To help you, here is the exact message I send out to homeowners when I am looking for a house sitting and I have a near 100% success rate.
I have just seen your advert to house sit and look after (insert name of pets) and I would love to apply.
I work remotely running an online travel platform, so I enjoy the variety of house sitting and I am a huge animal lover.
I have always had cats and dogs growing up. My family currently have two Bengals who I love to pieces and a bouncy retriever who loves long walks and snuggles. I am currently in X but I would love to FaceTime to talk further, please let me know when works best for you.
I am very reliable, respectful, trustworthy and I will always keep you updated with how (insert pets name again) is doing if that is what you would like me to do.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Save your introductory email to your notes so all you have to to do is copy and paste it when you are messaging prospective housesits - don't forget to personalise it for each message you send. The message section on Trusted House Sitters is not great because the keyboard is not very responsive. To avoid sending a message that is incomplete or has spelling mistakes in it, always write them in your notes!
Obviously you will need to change the message and personalise it accordingly, but you can see how I have given some background about me, added in some of my experiences and what I think are my best traits. I have also told them where I am at the moment and offered to have a Skype / Facetime call to talk further.
Another important step on your house sitting journey and yes, first impressions do count.
If you are doing your interview via Skype or Facetime, make sure you are in a well lit and quiet room. If you can, don’t hold your phone, prop it up somewhere, it looks much more professional that a shaky camera.
Make sure you do your prep. Read their profile and remember their pets names. Ask good questions. For example, if it is a dog. I ask about their routine, feeding times, what they are like on the lead, how many walks they like, are they good with other dogs. As the conversation flows, you will get a sense of them as a person and owner and adjust your questions accordingly. I love to snuggle with dogs on the sofa and sometimes in bed, so I ask if they are allowed on the furniture / upstairs.
Be prepared to talk about yourself and you know what they say, ‘fail to prepare and prepare to fail’. Make sure you can talk about yourself and your experiences succinctly. Remember, you are a complete stranger to these people, so you need to come across as warm, professional and most importantly, trustworthy. Finally ask them if they have a welcome pack (which most home owners do) with contact details of vets, family and emergency contacts and details of walks, alarm systems, TV, cooker etc. If they don’t and you have the time, you could create one whilst you are completing the sit - Bonus points right there!
If you are meeting in person, same advice as above applies. Ask questions, be prepared to talk about yourself and if the pet is around, take interest, remember, you are going to be looking after that pet whilst their owners are away, so they will want to see that you connect with it.
Before you leave / finish the call, ask them if they have any questions and if they can’t think of any, tell them they are welcome to send you a message at any time. Make sure you arrange timings and offer to meet / speak to them again if they would like to, to build trust.
If they are new to housesitting, it can be a really scary process.
It is your job to instill confidence before they go away. Therefore, I suggest, offering to arrive the night before they go away to spend some time with them so they can get to know you and feel confident in leaving their pets with you.
After your Skype session or meeting, make sure you follow up with an email or text message saying how much you are looking forward to looking after X and if they have any questions until you see them, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Again, building that rapport with them before they welcome you into their home.
Every homeowner will do this step a little differently. On some occasions I have stayed with the homeowners the night before so they can get to know me; on other occasions I have turned up after they have left. Be open to both.
I love meeting the homeowners beforehand so they can show me around and again, they feel a little more confident in leaving their pets in my hands. It is also less stressful for the animals, making it a smoother transition when it is just you and them.
Some of my housesit homeowners have now become very dear friends and that is because I have spent time with them the night before, having dinner, sharing stories and getting to know each other. It has been wonderful.
Make sure you arrive at the time you have told them, no one likes tardiness.
Again, every homeowner is different in terms of what they expect from you. Some pet owners love updates, photos and videos of their pets whilst they are away, whereas other people prefer to just catch up with you when they get back.
Ask them before they leave what they would like from you and make sure you do what was agreed.
Be respectful when you are in someone's home. No snooping, keep the place clean (I strongly suggest whipping the hover round before they return home), look after their pets as if they were your own, be polite to the neighbours, absolutely no parties (unless pre-agreed of course!) and do not have people to stay, unless you have checked with the owners first - that is really really important.
Most homeowners will say help yourself to anything in the fridge and cupboards which is lovely. But please do not eat them out of house and home. I always replace what I have used, because I feel uncomfortable eating food that is not mine, unless I know it is going to go off before they return home.
For bonus points; stock up on milk and bread before they return home, so they have something to come back to.
I also strip the bed and if there is time, I wash the sheets and any towels I have used whilst they have been away. It is one less job for them when they get home.
Make sure the place is spick and span before the homeowners return home and you have replenished anything from the fridge that you have used whilst they have been away.
Give them a nice little round up of your time there and tell them how the pets have been. There have been a couple of occasions when I have accidentally broken something in the house. If this happens to you, please be honest and tell them. I accidentally broke a salt jar once. I did super glue it back together but I told the owners and thankfully they were very understanding and in fact said it was already broken (phew).
When you leave, follow up with a nice message. And if you leave before they return home, message them when you leave and give them a nice little update on what you have done, i.e I have set the alarm, the dogs are in the kitchen, post on the table and sheets drying outside.
Once the house sit is over, it is then over to you to leave a review of the homeowner and house sit. You do this via the Trusted House Sitters website (or app) and I would strongly advise doing it as soon as you can. Because once you have done that, the homeowner can then leave a review for you as a house sitter. If they don’t, it is OK to follow up and ask them if they would mind leaving a review for you, as it helps with future house sitting applications.
Remember the more positive reviews you have, the better and easier it is to find future house sits. And if you follow my tips outlined in this article, I am sure you will receive a glowing review.
When you complete a housesit, I would also suggest sending a follow up message saying, "if you need me again, please just text me " and keeping the lines of communication open as much as possible. Perhaps you might want to check in around key holiday times and offer your services again. I do this, and so far, 100% of my previous house sits have been back in touch with me.
I now have a really strong personal relationships with at least 10 different homeowners and families which means regular housesits and new friends!
This step is easy. Armed with your first review, you can start to look for another housesit. Or why not apply before you finish your current house sit to keep you mobile. In your initial message to the new homeowners, make sure you tell them you are currently housesitting in XYZ looking after XYZ and you will be available from the XYZ.
I have been housesitting now for 1.5 years and I have loved every minute of it. Whilst I have yet to go international, I have stayed in beautiful London mansions, country retreats in the Cotswolds, beach side villas in the South of England, beautiful escapes in Lyme Regis and a stunning period estate on the Norfolk coast. It is a great way to explore and see the surrounding areas, all whilst enjoying lovely home comforts.
Whilst Trusted House Sitters is a voluntary service, 9 times out of 10, the homeowners have offered me a little money as a thank you, or they have stocked the fridge full before my arrival. One house sit, even gave me the use of their car - which was actually a little scary in terms of responsibility.
Through Trusted House Sitters, I do not expect or ask for payment and neither should you, it is just a nice little bonus.
Whilst I still use Trusted House Sitters from time to time, I now also run my own house sitting business where I charge clients to look after their house and pets. For me, this is the perfect side hustle because I love animals and meeting new people and of course, I love exploring new places. But it is not for everyone.
If you are really interested in setting up your own house sitting service, you must be committed and rather than be driven by money, be driven by wanting to help people. Put yourselves in their shoes, they are entrusting you with not only their pets (their babies) but their home and all their worldly possessions.
All the things mentioned above still apply but even more so when it is your job. Make sure you go above and beyond to put your clients at ease. That might be visiting them for a ‘meet and greet’ before or doing multiple Facetimes, until they feel comfortable. They might want to see reviews, your insurance policy and have you to stay with them the night before they go away on holiday - which I highly recommend as it is less stressful for the animals when the owners go away and a new person is in their house.
There are a few things you need to put in place before you start house sitting as a paid job. Such as insurance and you might want to look into a CRB check as well. These things will cost you, but it is worth having the reassurance for yourself and your clients.
But how do you get your first client?
For me this is why it was so important to start off with Trusted House Sitters, to get those all important reviews and testimonials. Once you have a couple under your belt and you have sorted out your insurance, now it is time to get yourself into business.
An invaluable source of prospective clients. I don’t have a website, I just have a Facebook page with photos from previous sits and I am turning away clients at the moment.
And the best part - it is completely free to set up and use.
1. Do your Research
Are there other pet sitting services close to you - what are they doing, what are their prices, do they have a website, what is their Facebook like etc.
2. Choose a Searchable name
A name that people are most likely going to search for. ‘House sitting’, ‘House sitters in London’, ‘Pet sitting UK’, you get my point. Problem is, a lot of those names are taken. For example my name is ‘House and Pet Sitting For You’ I had to add in the ‘For You’ bit because all other names were taken. But my page is easily searchable because it has both house and pet sitting in it. Think about what people will likely be typing into Google - will they be area specific? Do you need to add a location to your title?
3. Build a Connection
Make sure your 'About Me' section is warm, personable and connecting. Remember people know nothing about you at this stage, and add those all important hashtags - yes they do work on Facebook
4. Add Reviews
Add your reviews and testimonials - ask people you have sat for previously to follow your page and write a review.
5. Include Photos
Photos are super important for your house sitting Facebook page. Have a nice selection before you start promoting your page.
6. Market Yourself
Invite friends, work colleagues and family to like your page and share it on their Facebook profiles. Ask everyone you can think of. This really panicked me at first, because I didn't want to be annoying. But if your friends and family care about you and your new business venture, they will want to support you.
There is a huge untapped market for paid house sitting gigs in your local area. So join Facebook groups for house and pet sitting and join your local area groups / noticeboards. Become active in them and then once you have built up some trust, promote your page.
I haven’t needed to do this but if you want to promote even further, create a Facebook ad. I do this as part of my job in social media, so if you need help creating one, just let me know.
9. Cross Promote
Cross promote on your Instagram and other social media as well as in paper form - putting notices up in cafes, in your local newspaper etc.
For me, house sitting has been life changing. To think just over a year ago, I was stuck in the 9-5 grind, commuting in the middle of London, struggling for air on the tube.
Now I spend my days adventuring with four legged friends. Don't get me wrong, there are some not so pleasant moments - like being brought dead mince by an overly affectionate and needy cat. Or chasing a run away Labrador as he goes after a bunch of sheep across a farmers field. And that is not forgetting the time I had to clean up dog mess from the kitchen floor after stepping on it in the dark.... But I can assure you, all of that is completely outweighed by the chance to meet amazing people and the opportunity to stay in beautiful homes across the world.
And now I get paid for that privilege (I just had a huge 'pinch me' moment).
If you are interested in house sitting, for free or as a paid job, and have some more questions, please get in touch, I would love to help you along your journey. You can reach us on Instagram, Facebook or via our Contact page.