Credits By: CNBC
A 29-year-old paralegal generates an additional $3,750 monthly through her dog-sitting side venture, likening it to a supplementary income source. In 2021, Alison Chan sought a flexible secondary occupation while preparing for the bar exam. Presently, she earns $3,750 monthly by looking after dogs.
Alison Chan, a recent graduate from law school, confronted a situation two summers ago where she was advised to quit her full-time job to enhance her chances of passing the bar exam. However, it was more feasible to relinquish her income. She needed more funds to cover her regular expenses, encompassing her car payment, Chicago apartment rent, and costs for her adopted papillon chihuahua mix, Addy – including food and vet bills.
Chan, who was already using the pet care platform Rover to hire others for walking Addy, recognized the potential to earn extra money by boarding dogs in her South Loop residence while studying for the bar exam. She joined the app, setting up a profile to care for unfamiliar canines.
With three years of experience in dog care, Chan amassed $32,000 from Rover in 2022, per documents scrutinized by CNBC Make It. This year, she’s on course to average $3,750 per month.
A portion of her earnings, approximately $250 monthly, is allocated for dog food, treats, and bedding. Chan maintains that offering these amenities enables her to charge more than her competitors in the South Loop.
This side gig allowed Chan to retain her full-time job and earn additional revenue during her bar exam preparations. At present, she works as a remote paralegal on a full-time basis, channeling her Rover earnings toward her monthly obligations and depositing her salaried paychecks directly into her savings account.
Reflecting on her tax returns from the previous year, Chan, aged 29, realized that her side hustle effectively functioned as a second salary, as she told CNBC Make It.
However, her dog-sitting enterprise didn’t rapidly transform into a lucrative endeavor. Here’s how she built a reputation and clientele on Rover, all while balancing this supplementary pursuit with her full-time job.
Defining Boundaries Growing up around dogs and cats, Chan spent about a year and a half refining her business model. Initially, she charged around $35 for overnight stays, yet she swiftly realized her rates were lower than those of local competitors.
Furthermore, much of her earnings did not convert into profit. She had to cover costs like food, dog beds, and toys out of her pocket. According to its official site, Rover also deducts a 20% service fee from each transaction involving sitters.
Chan also learned to establish boundaries through experience. Once, a client’s dog chewed through its enclosure and made a mess in her apartment. Before boarding a new pet, she poses a series of queries to the owner. These include whether the dog is crate-trained, exhibits aggression, and can be alone for extended periods.
Developing a Routine After screening the animals, they can roam her apartment while she works. Chan dedicates up to 40 hours per week to dog-sitting, but a portion of this time is passive, particularly during typical work hours. The dogs can rest, engage with toys, or interact with each other while she continues her duties as a paralegal.
She has established three two-hour windows for drop-offs and pick-ups: one early morning, one during lunch, and one after work. This ensures that her side gig doesn’t disrupt her full-time job. During these breaks, she interacts with the pets and sends updates to their owners.
Chan now comprehends that she can set her own rules and expectations with her clients, which has aided her in establishing a routine, forming client relationships, and raising her fees. Her strategy has proven effective, nearly doubling her Rover earnings between 2021 and 2022, with her monthly income increasing this year.
Presently, Chan charges around $80 per night and accommodates up to three dogs in her apartment, excluding her 8-year-old Addy. She also provides dog-walking services, lets dogs out at their homes, and even “nannies” them during clients’ weddings via Rover.
While the supplemental income and flexible schedule are appealing, the bonds she’s forged with both the dogs and their owners motivate Chan to continue her side venture even after successfully passing the bar exam, which she’s retaking this month. She emphasizes that her clients and their pets have become like family to her.