House sitting means free accommodation around the world.
I’m sure you’ll agree this is a golden ticket for any traveller.
We signed up to trusted house sitters on 17th April 2014 whilst paying to stay in a filthy hotel in Kanyakamuri, India. By June 5th we were on our first housesit in England and by late July we were getting multiple requests to housesit – that we didn’t even have to apply for!
We came from a position of minimal experience. Back in April we knew that we’d be competing against a lot of very experienced housesitters – many with 20 or more references. A daunting task.
We’d heard that single assignments can have over 100 applications. I’ve got to be honest, we thought it would take months to even get our first sit, let alone be sitting continuously in really cool locations.
Why should anyone hire us? Why should anyone hire you?
Fortunately, we came up with a strategy. And it worked. I’d like to share it with you.
The first 8 tips below got our foot in the door and into some great assignments. The last two tips, especially the final one, pushed us to easily getting steady sits and having clients come to us out of nowhere. So, don’t miss those last 2.
If you are new to housesitting, or have been struggling to get assignments, this is the guide for you.
A short introduction to House sitting
For the newbies, here is the lowdown on housesitting.
You already know housesitting = free accommodation. So, what is the catch?
Well, looking after pets and property is often a lot of work. On a typical housesit we spend at least 1 hour per day on chores. On harder sits we may spend 2 to 4 hours, especially if there is a large garden, a pool and big dogs that need multiple walks.
Ultimately, you have to be responsible and take assignments seriously. Given the cost of accommodation in Europe & the USA, the savings more than make up for the time on chores. Also, if you are pet lovers, like us, it’s really fun.
If you get a housesit in a great location, it can be an amazing way to experience a country or city from a local perspective.
So, if you think housesitting is something you’d be up for, the easiest way to get started is to sign up to a housesitting website. There are a few good ones to choose from. More on that later.
For now, Lets get onto the tips that will get you house sitting like a hero in no time. Then you can make new friends like Nicky:
Create a great profile – better than you’d think
This is your baseline. If you don’t have a good profile you’ll be rejected for everything. Your profile is a window to you and to showing the client that you are professional and trustworthy.
But, just throwing up some text about how you like dogs is not going to compete with the thousands of experienced housesitters already online. You need to power up your profile – like big Mario on a mushroom high.
The foundations of a good Profile:
- Have a great headline. It must catch attention and stand out from other people. Take a browse of what other people have written and come up with a corker.
- The first 2 sentences must establish who you are and why you are a safe bet for the client. They often appear in search results and clients may not read beyond them if you don’t sell yourself straight off. So, don’t open with fluff. Make a clear and powerful benefit statement first – what can you do for them.
- Don’t overdo your personal bio. Focus on pet related history with a little bit about you to demonstrate your personality. Most homeowners don’t care that you swam with dolphins in 2002. They only want to know you won’t kill their cat and that you aren’t a loony.
- Explain, honestly, why you want to housesit. It’s not just because you get free accommodation, is it.
- Clearly state what skills you have that will be useful to homeowners. If you are an expert gardener, say it. Pool maintenance? mention it.
- FAQs. Having FAQs achieves two things: Clients don’t have to ask you for much extra info (which makes it quicker and easier for them to choose you instantly). You demonstrate that you understand common concerns of clients and already have answers to them – giving you credibility as a pro. Think: If you were a homeowner on the site, what would you worry about when letting a stranger into your home to look after your beloved pets? Write down a list of questions and then answer them.
Your main photo must “say” you are trustworthy and good with pets
Before a client reads your profile, they’ll see your photo. About 80% of people have a photo which is just a headshot of themselves. Unless you have model looks, having a pet in the photo with you is going to be more appealing.
Stand out from the narcissists by using a cute pet to get attention 😉 Make sure you are smiling in the photo as this makes you look more trustworthy and approachable.
Another tip. The shape of your photo may affect how it appear in search results. On trusted house sitters portrait shaped photos show up bigger in search results. So, check what your chosen sites do.
Get references, even if you have no experience.
The problem for most people starting out is they have no references. This is a real kicker, I know. But references give you credibility and they are essential to growing your profile quickly.
Fortunately, There are two simple solutions:
- Have you ever looked after the home or pets of a friend whilst they’ve been away for the weekend? Think back. Ask them for a reference.
- Who do you know with pets? Neighbours? Friends? Ask around if anyone is going away for a few days soon. Offer to look after the pets.
If these won’t work for you, there is one other option to get you started.
Get character references from friends who have pets. Get them to explicitly state in the reference that you are good with their pets.
If you are using Trusted House Sitters you can request references by email from friends and previous house sits. These all add towards your profile, which we’ll discuss more later.
With house carers they want a digital photo of a written reference. Take a screenshot of an email reference from a friend for simplicity.
Tip: Some house sitting websites allow you to add external references. If yours doesn’t, you can just copy and paste some testimonials into your profile.
Personalise your application emails
You’ve almost certainly received bulk mail outs in the past? Annoying and impersonal, aren’t they?
When you are about to hand your house and pets over to a stranger, the last thing you want to see is some impersonal, template email in your inbox.
However, writing a personal email for every single application can take time.
But, there is a shortcut that is super effective.
Create a general template that can be quickly copy/pasted and then personalised. This doesn’t mean you just change the name at the top – though do remember to do that!
In the body of the text have places where you can name the pets individually. e.g. “I’d love to look after Spot the boxer dog, he looks like quite a character”
Don’t talk about how awesome you are, clients can read your profile for that. Talk about how much you like the types of pets the client has. How much you’d like to look after them. That you already have experience caring for that type of pet (if you do). It doesn’t have to be from housesitting, it could be hanging out with a friends’ pet.
Essentially, you tell the client that their assignment is important to you.
By showing you care about them, they will normally be happy to read your profile to learn about you. And, as you will already have crafted an excellent profile, you’ll be onto a winner.
Apply promptly. Get alerts.
I mentioned earlier that some clients receive over 100 replies to ads. Sometimes within a few hours of posting. If you are serious about getting high-profile sits in good locations, you need to be on the ball.
If the website you use allows you to set up alerts, do it. You’ll get an email the minute a new sit goes out for your chosen location. If you have your email template ready to edit, you can reply even quicker.
Sunday night is typically peak time for new assignments to get posted. So be online.
Offer Skype interviews
Some people want to meet you before they offer you the gig. Unless you live locally, Skype is the next best option to meeting in person. Offer Skype in your profile as well as in your application email.
Remember, people like to talk about themselves and their pets. Listening first is the best way to know what concerns a client has about handing you the keys. Then you can put those concerns to rest.
Choose the right site, or sign up to multiple sites.
We have signed up to 3 paid services. They all have their pros and cons. So here they are.
Trusted House sitters
Great reference system
Can add video to profile
More housesits than other sites (but also more competition)
Cannot put weblinks in your profile
Great for Australia & USA/Canada (not so good for Europe)
The dashboard needs modernising but the main website looks good.
Established company that has been running since 2000.
Mind My House
Cheaper to join
No reference system
Allows web-links to videos or your blog.
Another alternative is Nomador. We haven’t used this service yet but we can see it has quite a good selection of housesits in France.
We’ve had the best results from trusted housesitters. They have the most housesits but the most competition. Of course, if you implement all the tips in this article then you should be able to trump the competition.
Signing up to multiple sites was definitely worthwhile for us as some really interesting sits come up on the other sites. The more things you can apply for, the higher your chances of getting something.
When it comes to your first sit, you may have to take something less interesting to get you started. Those first references are invaluable.
Do you want to find out the last 3 tips? Including the one thing that supercharged our profile so that we started getting multiple requests from clients without even applying?
If this article has been useful to you, do us a solid and give us a like, tweet or +1. Then read on to the premium tips.
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Set your location to where you want to sit next.
A lot of clients do a local search for housesitters in their area. Don’t set your location as your home/current location, set it to where you want to housesit next so that you come up in those local searches.
Get up the ranks
One of the other reasons we like Trusted House Sitters is that your profile completeness pushes you up the ranks in searches. Plus, if you have 20+ stars on your profile, it makes you look awesome.
After completing your profile and adding your photos, the easiest way to get up the ranks quickly is with character / employment references from non-members.
Most people on the site have less than 10 references. So, as long as you know more than 10 people, you’re set.
Contact as many people as possible and ask them if they’d be willing to leave you a positive reference. Don’t be shy. If you look at some of the profiles with 30+ references, most of them are not for house sitting – they are character or employment. I even saw one guy who had got his mum and dad to leave a reference each! I’m not suggesting something that lame, but friends and colleagues are a good start.
Note. Once you do start getting official references from other users of the site, these are more heavily weighted than the character reference. So, make sure you follow up on your first couple of housesits to get the references asap.
Another thing that pushes you up the ranks is having a video…
Have an awesome promo video
The day we uploaded our promo video we started getting multiple requests from clients. Quite literally, an overnight success.
However, simply having any video is not the reason for success. It is the persuasive content of the video.
Watch it and judge for yourselves.
It was simple and free to make. Anyone can do this with a camera phone and a computer.
The reason this works is:
- It’s unexpected. It starts off as a regular meet and greet and then shifts to being quirky and fun.
- It appeals to emotions. Pet lovers like to see animals doing fun things.
- It builds credibility without us needing any. Pet testimonials are completely made up, clients know that, but subconsciously it feels like they are real testimonials. (The real testimonials are on our profile)
- It’s short and simple. 1.30 minutes. Short enough that most viewers will watch the whole thing. We use simple statements to introduce who we are and why we will be good for the client. That is all. No fluff.
These points make it memorable and persuasive. That’s all you need for clients to shortlist you.
Trusted house sitters lets you add a youtube video to your profile (which directly contributes to your rank too). For other sites you can put a link in your profile – highlight it so clients will definitely see it.
It took us less than a month to secure our first housesit. Within 3 months we had a full calendar and more requests than we could handle. It’s not a miracle, it just took a little work and YOU can do it too, easily.
- Sign up to housesitting right now
- Get your profile together.
- Start applying.
Follow our tips above and you’ll be housesitting like a hero in no time!
Do you want to start housesitting? Do you have any questions? Leave us a comment, we’ll try to help you out.
Tommo & Megsy are available as housesitters.
- With thanks to Tanya at Magic Travel Blog who gave us a massive kick start with setting up our housesitting career!
Disclaimer: We are proud to have Trusted Housesitters as the sponsor of our 5 Dollar Planet Travel Podcast. All opinions remain our own – as always. We also receive a small commission for each affiliate sale