Pets are expensive, but animal lovers have plenty of opportunities to cash in on their skills and passion through side hustles. Part-time animal jobs can be a great way to earn extra income to fund future goals or pay down student loans.
Jobs involving animals can also provide a creative outlet and a chance to try something new. In fact, one side hustler we spoke with managed to turn her part-time business into a full-time job, while another used it to pay off her student loans and save for a condo.
If you love animals, give these ideas a try:
5 creative jobs with animals
1. Make products for pets.
Online marketplace Etsy has tons of shops selling handmade animal and pet-related goods. Minnesotan Cristen Breuer was working as a registered nurse when she started her first Etsy shop in 2012.
Breuer grew up on a dairy farm and noticed her dogs liked to play with the black rubber tubes used for milking cows. She upcycled the tubes into handmade toys called Mootugs, and sold them on Etsy. In 2014, she started a second Etsy shop called BadTags, which sells dog tags with sassy sayings on them.
As the business took off, balancing the demands of business and nursing proved challenging, so last year Breuer quit her job to spend more time on her business.
“The best advice I can provide is to not expect overnight success,” she says. “If you work hard and have that passion, you’ll be able to have a good product and make some good sales.”
2. Paint, draw, or photograph animals.
By day, Austin-based Bryce Dishongh is a graphic designer. By night, he works on his pet portrait business called Coat and Tails, which creates customized digital paintings of animals dressed up as generals, pirates, detectives, and other characters. Dishongh discovered this niche when he was asked to do pet caricatures at a pet show and discovered a market opportunity catering to proud pet owners.
Once a month, Coat and Tails does a fundraiser selling T-shirts to benefit pet rescues. “People are more willing to purchase from somebody who has that kind of moral compass,” he says.
The pet rescues help promote him on social media, often leading to additional sales. He’s also started selling the work of other digital pet painters through his site. Pet photography is a related niche for those seeking jobs with animals.
3. Teach an animal-related skill.
If you have an animal-related skill such as horseback riding or dog training, consider teaching it to others.
Oregonian Kirstin Kelley supplements her freelance writing income by teaching individual and group horseback riding lessons at a small local barn a few days a week. She’s been riding horses most of her life, so after grad school she volunteered to help out at a barn and heard about a beginner instructor’s position. The barn has the horses and equipment, so she keeps her overhead low and gets to split the cost of lessons with the barn.
If you’re interested in these types of animal jobs, Kelley suggests doing an apprenticeship or working as an assistant trainer first.
“One of the things I’ve really found challenging is that I don’t have a lot of people that I can ask in the moment how to do something,” she says. “[By doing an apprenticeship or being an assistant trainer] you’ll walk away with more skills.”
4. Walk neighborhood dogs.
Austinite Chantelle Wallace started her dog-walking business Skyline Pet Care in 2009 to help pay off graduate school debt. Since then, she not only paid off her loans but also saved up enough for a down payment on a condo.
Her debt-repayment secret? “I only ever treated the money that I made from this as debt money,” she says. “I only budgeted for my actual salary from my day job [as spending money].” That kept her focused on debt repayment or down payment savings without blowing the extra cash on lifestyle expenses.
Word-of-mouth referrals have been invaluable for Wallace and her business. She landed her first dog-walking client after someone at the pet rescue where she volunteered saw her dedication to the dogs and asked if she’d be interested.
“I primarily specialize in people who have big, strong, sometimes untrained, dogs,” Wallace says. “When people feel that you can handle that, they will tell all their friends who have rambunctious dogs.”
Wallace started her business and built up her client base before apps like Wag! and Swifto (in New York City) came on the scene, but those apps might be worth investigating if you want to get into dog-walking now.
5. Pet-sit in your spare time.
Pet-sitting is often lumped together with dog-walking, but if you’re more interested in caring for cats, bunnies, and other animals, pet-sitting might be more your speed.
I’ve hosted animals through DogVacay (like Airbnb but for dogs and cats), and I like that the platform provides insurance and processes payment for you (in exchange they take 15 percent off the top).
It helps if you have a yard, but if you’re in a city with a lot of other hosts you may need to do some of your own marketing to attract guests. DogVacay hosts can also charge extra if they’re able to administer medication, provide grooming, or offer pickup and drop-off services. Rover is a similar service for dog-sitting, and Wag now offers dog-sitting, too.
With jobs like these, you don’t need to own a pet to have fun with furry friends. Turn your interests into income-earning jobs with animals, and you’ll be well on your way to paying your debts down faster.
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