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House Sitting in South Africa – Easy Home Business to Start on a Budget

If you are cash strapped and thus don’t have the funds to setup shop or make a large capital layout for a business consider a house sitting business in South Africa.

What you Do
You take care of people’s houses while they are on holiday or perhaps only on a weekend break.  The house sitting service offering includes watering the plants, taking out the dustbin on the relevant days,  switching lights on and off at specific intervals, removing doggy poop from the lawn, and taking care of the animals.

You can also offer add-on services such as:

  • Answering the phone and taking messages.
  • Checking that the garden service provider comes at the prearranged dates.
  • Cleaning the pool.
  • Keeping the driveway clear of plant debris.
  • Mowing the lawn.
  • Walking the dogs.

Of course, in South Africa, house sitting services are usually offered in the cities, but few people are willing to do farm sitting. Now considering that you can ask travel money extra and most probably won’t have to deal with garden services or cleaners, farm sitting can be lucrative. Your duties may or may not include, taking care of farm animals and watering vegetables.

Marketing
First design a business card, flyer/brochure, and create a Facebook page. You can even create a free website with one of the website building services such as Wix.com. As alternative, register a domain and host with a service provider that gives you a control panel and access to website templates. Wordpress is pretty easy to install and use.
In terms of the Facebook page, like it from your personal page and share the page on the personal page. Invite as many people as you can to like the Facebook page. Now link it to your website. You can make use of Google Adwords to push traffic to the website. Also use your Facebook page to do the same.
Write articles about garden maintenance, security, holiday tips, dog grooming etc. for your website to attract search engine traffic. Be sure to post to your Facebook page once a week. Do not just post ads. Post funny pictures, fun stuff, security alerts and tips, which are likely to be shared by other users of Facebook.
Join Facebook groups relevant to your particular neighbourhood or town. Advertise your services on these pages and post a link to your website and Facebook page.

Distribute your house sitting business cards and brochures/flyers in the following ways:

  • Doctor’s rooms (ask if you can place a few brochures/flyers and business cards).
  • Vet rooms and animal hospitals.
  • Community boards.
  • Post boxes of homes in your neighbourhood.
  • Corner shops.
  • Pet shops and pet accessory stores.
  • DVD stores.

You can also become a bit creative with business cards. Create key rings with your business card on the one side and the services on the other side.  Hand the key rings out wherever you are.
Place ads in the online classifieds such as Gumtree, Junkmail, OLX, and more. Also place ads in your local newspaper and be sure to check wanted ads at house sitting or classified sites and other websites.  You can furthermore place an ad at Errandworld.

Minimise Costs
Reduce your costs by offering the service in a particular radius from your home. Once your business starts booming, get a few friends or students in to help and expand your radius and service offerings.

Pricing
Request quotes from house sitters for particular periods. Compare their services and prices, and be just 5% cheaper than most, but provide one extra service included not offered by others. Now, list the services and provide prices. You can charge more for places located outside your service area. Do not ask more for the holiday season. You want people to use your house sitting services any time of the year. Asking a peak period fee is thus not recommended.
You can ask more for sleeping in and for being on the property for 24 hours a day as you will not be able to also house sit other properties during the period.

Pricing for house sitting in South Africa can look something like:

  • House visiting with two hours presence at house per day to water plants, care for pets, take out dustbin etc. – R150 per visit.
  • Night time– no pets – R240.
  • Night time– with pets – R340.
  • 24 hour service – no pets R390.
  • 24 hour service with pets – R440.
  • Key collection & drop off – R90 per trip.
  • Booking fee – R100.
  • Cancellation fee (must cancel at least 48 hours before date) R100 booking fee lost, as well as 50% of deposit.

Deposit and paperwork
Have forms online and already printed available. You want to list terms and conditions of service and MUST include a clause to protect you against claims for damage resulting from break-ins or natural disasters.  Make it as easy as possible for someone to select the period and level of service required.
Ask a booking fee and 30-40% deposit  with the remainder payable upon return of the client. If you thus ask R1000 for the period you will require minimum R300 on the day that the house sitting starts with the remainder payable when the client returns.  Also stipulate that the pet food and equipment required for the period must be supplied on the day when your house sitting commences.  You can also charge more if you have to stay in for the entire period and have to provide your own food for the period.
If you don’t stay in, you will obviously not need food. The client must provide you with two emergency numbers of friends or neighbours, as well as the neighbourhood watch or the armed response and must notify the armed response service that you will be staying there. They also need to provide the numbers of their vets or the animal clinic where they normally take their pets.  They are to pay for vet costs should their pets fall ill. Ask them for a plumber and electrician’s number for emergency repairs.
Unless you are swamped with requests from day one do not charge an urgent fee yet. Only once your house sitting business has gained ground in South Africa, should you have a short-notice fee.

Costs
As with any type of business in South Africa there are costs involved in house sitting. Your initial layout will include expenses for:

  • Business cards (design and print).
  • Letterhead design (you can create your own).
  • Business registration (if you want a limited liability company).
  • Bank account setup fee.
  • Brochure/flyer design and print fee.
  • Post box registration and annual fee.
  • Domain registration (if you do not use Wix or Google blogs).

Operating costs include:

  • Liability insurance.
  • Vehicle maintenance and fuel.
  • Cellphone and/or landline.
  • Annual renewal of the post box.
  • Office rent if you are renting space/ otherwise run from your home.
  • Domain hosting.
  • Domain annual renewal.
  • AdWords monthly.
  • Facebook ads.

Get quotes on the above costs where relevant and work out a monthly budget. You can start house sitting as a part time business and eventually make it your full-time income.
The above information should be enough to get you off the ground. Do a bit of homework, create the stationary and start marketing!

 

Isebell Gauche (2018)

Get an extra income. Start your own Business.
 

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