Creating a website for your small business is rewarding, fun, and easy to do. Think of it as a business plan, but with puppy pictures. For pet sitters, most of your business derives from word of mouth, and a website enables potential clients to consider you when they search online. A professional looking website adds to your legitimacy and displays your dedication as a pet caregiver in a variety of ways. After a rundown of basic site components, I’ll cover web hosting and web builder information and costs towards the end of today’s recapitulation.
Humans are curious creatures and like to know everyone’s business, but potential clients REALLY like to know about their pet sitter. An intro or “about me” section conveys why you like pet sitting, how long you’ve been sitting, and a little bit more about yourself and your pets.
Rates and Services
Most clients will be looking for a daily dog walker, or someone to watch their dog while they are on vacation. Your “services” section lets them know whether you also care for cats, birds, snakes, or other pets. Be sure to include your service radius, and other functions like administering medications to pets, house sitting, grooming, doggie day camp, trips to the dog park, et cetera.
Posting your base rates is a good idea so people know what you charge as a minimum, and have a ballpark figure to work with. Developing a chart to capture innumerable permutations of possible fees and services is not recommended. A chart this size is difficult to read, and you won’t catch every eventuality anyway.
I wish I began blogging when I started my business and my website 10+ years ago. Even if you prefer not to share trade secrets, sharing tips and funny anecdotes about pets keeps clients engaged and informed.
I had a contact form but potential clients seldom used it. However, it does serve as a way for them to send you a message while you are on their mind at that moment. My theory on contact forms is that they’re better suited for larger companies to efficiently sort large numbers of inquiries. Your phone number and email will be all over your site anyway. Build it, and they will text.
This is the section where you can finally (and politely) let folks know all of your pet peeves. Things like cancellation fees, late pickups, and 11th-hour reservations are covered here. You may also present important rules regarding keys, entry codes, third parties, and arrival confirmations. A recurring nightmare for pet sitters is the situation where we are instructed to leave a dog at home without knowing a client’s return flight was canceled.
Badges! You may prefer to dedicate one section to these, or you can paste emblems throughout your site. First aid & CPR training, pet sitting group memberships, and other organizations like the Better Business Bureau confer badges to qualified entities. Other info to provide may include privilege licenses, insurance and bonding information, or a listing of business awards.
Social Media Links
Websites are useful, but your clients and friends probably won’t go to your website when they’re bored at work. They will, however, be checking their Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and other platforms quite frequently. Be sure to link to all your platforms and update them with content so compelling, no one will ever want to go back to work!
Website Hosts and Builders
Every website requires a host service to store your website files and make them accessible to pet owners online. Websites have two online addresses: the domain name and the IP address.
Puppy pictures on your website must be stored on physical servers. Web hosting providers invest in expensive physical servers and the real estate required to locate those network facilities.
They also hire entire platoons of nerds who know how to manage them and make sure conditions in the server storerooms remain optimal.
The top recommended website hosting providers include:
Hostinger – Most reliable web host overall
Bluehost – Best web host for beginners
Dreamhost – Most affordable month-to-month plan
Hostgator – Best for minimal needs
GreenGeeks – Best eco-friendly hosting
SiteGround – Best speed and security for WordPress
WPEngine – Best managed WordPress hosting
Nexcess – Best for e-commerce hosting
Web hosting providers typically charge about $10 per month, but they may pull you in with promo rates as low as $1.99 per month. Even so, be prepared to shell out at least 100 bucks, because they charge for a full year (sometimes two) at the get-go.
The website builder is a software tool that makes it easy for anyone to create a website. Website builders nowadays include an incalculable number of pre-designed website templates to choose from.
At least one website builder will be included in what you paid to the host provider. Additional tools like email, visitor statistics, layout themes, anti-spam, and some plug-ins may also be included. Upgrades to these tools, along with additional components like search optimization or additional URL designations, can be provided at an additional cost.
A website is an outstanding way to support your small business, but I recommend spending the time to research web host provider reviews and speaking to people who manage a site. Depending on your goals regarding an online presence, it is possible you may only wish to utilize free social media platforms.
Websites have great flexibility since business owners can always edit or improve them as service conditions change over time. They may also be monetized or converted into e-commerce sites to significantly increase your income.
Featured photo – Nitro at a Mecklenberg County dog park in the summer of 2011.