House sitting has fast become one of my favourite ways to travel. I’ve lived in some amazing locations, left pieces of my heart in several different places (leaving pets can be soooo difficult), made new friends, and saved a ton on accommodation.
I recently explored the benefits of house sitting for long-term travellers and digital nomads (though it’s a great experience for anybody who loves travel and pets). If that’s inspired you to give it a go, you may be wondering how to get started.
Here’s my guide on how to set yourself up for house-sitting success – even if you don’t have any references or prior experience. I’ve based this guide on the sections in Trusted Housesitters, though you can adapt the basic principles to whichever platform you choose.
Setting up Your House-Sitting Profile
Your profile is your opportunity to shine. It’s like a CV and couchsurfing profile rolled into one. It should be professional, yet filled with personality. This is your chance to show homeowners the real you; convince them why you’re the perfect candidate to look after their precious belongings and beloved pets.
First, some general pointers:
- Don’t tell people that you’re trustworthy, reliable and adore pets. Show them. Tell stories that demonstrate your experience and ability to deal with problems.
- Remember, it’s not about you. The homeowner doesn’t want to hear that you need free accommodation while you write a book. They want to know what you can do for them. So think about what they need to know.
- Proofread carefully before posting. Sloppy mistakes make a bad first impression.
Attract Attention with Your Headline
Your headline can determine whether or not homeowners want to read the rest of your profile. While you’re technically selling yourself, homeowners want to see why you’re the best candidate to entrust with their house and pets. Hence words like animal-loving, non-smoking, mature, responsible and trustworthy all feature heavily in successful house-sitter profiles.
- Experienced house sitters available to love your pets and care for your home
- Trustworthy animal lover, caring and conscientious, non-smoker, and highly recommended
- Reliable, non-smoking, animal-loving woman with heaps of experience and great reviews
- Retired, professional couple with extensive overseas, home owning and animal care experience
Once you’ve captured homeowners’ attention, it’s time to introduce yourself and give an overview of your experience.
Explain what you do and your reasons for travelling. I mention that I’m a mature sitter and a non-smoker – two traits that are highly regarded. I also explain a little about my business and lifestyle. This is a good place to mention if you work from ‘home’, as homeowners love to know that their pets will have lots of company and their home will be occupied for long periods.
Summarise any previous house-sitting experience, such as the sort of pets you’ve cared for and maintenance of homes and gardens. This is also a good place to mention your international experience, detailing the countries you’ve lived and worked in. This demonstrates your flexibility to adapt to different cultures and deal confidently should any issues arise.
Your Reasons for House Sitting
For the love of all that’s holy, please don’t say you want to house sit so you can save money while working on a project. Homeowners don’t want people who are looking for a freebie; they want to be confident that sitters will love their pets and take great care of their home and garden.
I adore animals, though my lifestyle means I can’t have any. But I’m being authentic and genuine when I say I look after animals as it they were my own – which is why I’ve left sits with a tear or two in my eye more than once!
I also mention that I love the opportunity to experience life as a local in different cultures and communities. It demonstrates my curiosity about the world and shows that I’ll interact with neighbours and immerse myself in local life.
Your House-Sitting Experience
Time to go into more detail about your house-sitting credentials. Talk about the animals you have experience of looking after, and mention whether you have knowledge of specific breeds or unusual pets. I also use this space to highlight anything special I’ve dealt with, such as giving medication to pets or looking after animals that have been unwell or injured.
Your ability to maintain a home and garden is also important – homeowners don’t want to return to a messy, unclean property. Show that you’ll take care of their home, and mention if you’re a keen gardener or handyman.
If you’re new to house sitting, include any relevant experience. I talk about the pets I’ve had growing up and mention my first job – working at a boarding kennels and cattery, which gave me lots of experience in handling different breeds of dogs and looking after animals that were sad at being left.
What’s your experience of looking after pets? Have you owned or rented a property? Perhaps you’ve rented Airbnbs and have rave reviews for cleanliness. Or looked after a friend’s house and pets when they’ve been away. It all counts towards building trust in your abilities.
Reviews & References
All house-sitting websites include a space for homeowners to leave ratings and reviews for you at the end of a sit. But what happens when you’re just getting started?
Trusted Housesitters has a separate section where you can request references from friends, colleagues, landlords, or people you’ve sat for elsewhere. So think of people who can vouch for you. I asked a previous landlord, a couple of Airbnbs hosts who had pets, and a house sit I’d done privately.
This is a great way of building trust when you’re new to the platform. Always check with the referee that they’re happy to provide a reference, and advise them of the sort of thing it’s useful to mention, such as your interaction with animals, cleanliness, etc.
Photos & Media
Showcase your love of animals with some fab photos. Dig out some pictures of you playing with cats, walking dogs, grooming horses, and of course lots of cuddling! Your love of animals should shine through.
You could also include a couple of pictures that highlight your personality. Show them you’re a fun, friendly, caring person – though leave out the party pics! Make sure the photos you upload are in sharp focus and a high resolution; you don’t want people squinting at the screen.
Trusted Housesitters also invites sitters to upload a video. I’ve resisted this, mainly as I’m uncomfortable in front of a camera, but it’s a great way to add even more personality to your profile, especially if you’re just getting started.
And that’s it! Your profile is complete and you can start applying for sits – hooray! However, don’t forget about your profile. Keep it updated as you get more experience.
Searching for Housesits
All house-sitting websites have listings of available sits, which you can narrow down to search via location, date available, length of sit, etc. If you’re new to house sitting, be as open as possible.
I started out looking for local sits, partly because the UK has a large quota of sits available, but also because homeowners could meet me first if they wanted. By getting a few local sits under your belt, you can start to build your official reviews, which gives you more weight when applying for the plum assignments. (Though don’t let that put you off – many homeowners go by gut instinct and are willing to take a risk on a new sitter.)
Trusted Housesitters sends daily newsletters advertising the latest sits. However, I soon noticed that the really good assignments often get snapped up before they reach the newsletter. So if you really want to find something, check the website regularly throughout the day (I find most sits are added in the early evening local time, when people generally return from work). You can also set up alerts for particular dates or locations, and keep an eye on social media feeds.
When you find a suitable sit, get your application in quickly. Longer sits and sits in popular locations get inundated with applications within the first hour or two, so they often close applications and work through them chronologically. If you waste time, you could be at the end of a very long list or miss out completely.
Don’t whizz off a lazy, generic message directing homeowners to your profile. Make each application specific to the sit you’re applying for. Get personal, let your personality shine, and show why you’d be a great fit.
Show an interest in the pets – they’re often the main reason for the sit. Comment if you love that particular breed or if they remind you of a pet you had growing up. Ask questions about them, show an interest and curiosity, and demonstrate you’ve read the profile thoroughly by acknowledging any special requirements, such as giving medication or dealing with rescue animals.
One of my earliest sits was five weeks in Brussels with an adorable though feisty cat called Frimousse. I looked up the meaning of her name before applying, only to find it means ‘sweet face’ and is the name of the smiley face emoji in French. I used this in my application and had a swift response that Frimousse had specifically chosen me because she loved that I’d Googled her name.
If you know the location or have always wanted to visit, mention that too. Along with any interests you have that the area is renowned for, such as birdwatching, art galleries or outdoors activities.
Discuss the Sit with the Homeowner
Once the homeowner has waded through their applications they’ll get in contact with suitable sitters, usually requesting a chat. This is a great opportunity for you to sound out whether you’ll be a good fit for each other.
The homeowner wants to get a feeling of who you are as a person and how well you get on – which is super important if they’re going to invite you into their home. Sometimes they’ll have specific questions or things they want to follow up on from your application.
But it’s also your opportunity to see if the sit right for you. Check the wi-fi speed (people have very different opinions of what constitutes a fast connection!). Ask about the neighbourhood. If it’s marked ‘sitter needs a car’, check if they’re leaving a vehicle or if you’re expected to provide one. Ask if the pets have been left with sitters before and how they got on. See if the animal has any quirks, likes or dislikes. Having just completed a sit in a dirty home, I would recommend asking to see pictures of the house if not included in the ad or maybe a quick tour over Skype.
Read over their ad again before hopping on the call, and learn to read between the lines. Some homeowners reel off a list of demands which sounds like a job ad rather than a mutual exchange, or have arranged for work to take place while they’re away. Others want you to manage Airbnb guests while they’re gone. Make sure you’re happy with the arrangement, and always listen to your gut instinct and ask for clarification where necessary before accepting.
Once you’re both happy, you can confirm the sit, arrange your transport, and get ready to fall in love with some animals!
If you’d like to ask me anything about house sitting, preparing your profile or finding good sits, just drop a comment below – I’d love to help.
A version of this post appeared on Natalie Sissons’s The Suitcase Entrepreneur. I’ve rewritten and updated it for my site.