Last year, I was bombarded with medical bills after a hospital stay. While my husband and I make a decent income, we realized it would take us years to pay off our debt if we only made the minimum payments each month.
We knew we needed to increase our income, but we needed a side gig that was flexible enough to work around our current schedules. Rather than work for someone else, we looked into starting a business ourselves.
We launched a small pet-sitting service, and within a few months, we were making over $500 a month. While we made many mistakes along the way, the business became so profitable that we ended up selling it after just one year, which helped eliminate my medical debt. Here’s how we built this lucrative side hustle and the lessons we learned.
Starting a business
We batted around several different ideas for a business, but as we did our research, we found the start-up costs for many of them were too high.
For example, we considered launching an airport transportation service using our car, but the cost of commercial driver’s insurance was thousands of dollars. Instead, we landed on starting a pet-sitting business.
My husband and I are both animal lovers, so a pet-sitting business sounded like a good idea. We both know how to care for all kinds of pets — from lizards to dogs — so it seemed like a natural fit.
What we liked about pet-sitting was that it was scalable. When we had the time, we could take on as many clients as we wanted. If we felt burned out or had a busy schedule, we could skip a week or two.
Because I work from home, I could easily watch clients’ pets during the workday. I could just bring my laptop to their home and work while keeping an eye on the animals. It was a way to earn money on the side without interfering with our full-time jobs.
Doing our research
Pet-sitting sounds like an easy side hustle to start, but there was a lot we didn’t know about until we did our research. Initially, we considered working through sites like Rover.com because starting a business sounded too complicated. However, those services take a significant cut of your earnings, so we decided to try it ourselves.
Before we got started, we met with successful pet-sitters who lived nearby and asked their advice. Thank goodness we did, because they saved us a lot of trouble with their guidance.
One of the biggest things we hadn’t considered was the need for insurance. It seemed silly to me, but the experts explained how necessary it was. They told us horror stories of sitters who went without a policy.
One lost a client’s house key and his home was robbed; she was held responsible and liable for damages. Another didn’t fasten a dog’s crate properly when she left for the day, and the dog escaped and destroyed an antique carpet. The homeowners took her to court, and she now has to replace a $30,000 rug.
If you work for a service like Rover, they offer insurance, but if you want to work on your own, you need to purchase insurance from another organization. We applied for a policy through Pet Sitter Associates, LLC.
Insurance can be expensive; our two-person policy was about $600 for the year. But it was a necessary investment, and having proof of insurance made us look more professional to potential clients.
Launching our company
We live in Celebration, Florida, a small town just outside of Orlando. We named our business “Your Celebration Concierge” because it was the first thing we thought of and it sounded cute. I knew we needed a website, so I bought a domain on WordPress and set up a bare bones site. I paid $5 for a designer to create a logo for me on Fiverr, and then we launched our site.
When we first started our business, we thought it would be best to serve a broad range of customers in many different neighborhoods. However, that turned out to be a terrible mistake. Getting from one area to another on time was a nightmare, and the extra driving and gas expenses hurt our profits.
After about six weeks, we decided to narrow our services to just the Celebration area. Beyond being our home, we picked it because it’s very pet-friendly. There’s a pet bakery, animal-themed town events, and dog-friendly restaurants. People in Celebration adore their pets and are willing to spend more to keep them happy and exercised.
Focusing our efforts helped our business become more profitable. As we slowly took on new customers, our quick responsiveness helped us gain traction thanks to positive reviews and client referrals.
Marketing our services
Celebration has a slightly older demographic than neighboring communities; 40 percent of the population is over 45. Because of that, we thought traditional advertising, such as ads in the local newspaper, would be effective. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much traction.
Facebook advertisements, however, proved to be a useful tool. The ads are fairly inexpensive, and you can target your ads based on specific demographics, including age, location, and interests. I decided to experiment and ran a $10 campaign. Within 48 hours, we had eight new clients.
Facebook became our primary source of business. Within a month of launching our new ads, we were making over $500 a month in profits. Over the winter holidays, our business spiked to over $2,000 a month. It became a consistent source of income we could rely on, and we were only working about 10 hours a week on it.
Our business made enough money to cover our expenses — including insurance, web maintenance, and advertising — within two months. Everything after that was extra money we could put towards our debt.
Selling the business
Facebook was a game changer for our business. We went from a handful of clients to dozens of regulars. Many of them needed daily care, such as dog-walking or feedings, as well as overnight care in the clients’ homes.
It quickly became too big for us to manage alone. We were regularly turning down new clients so we could continue providing our services to our current customers. But even when we turned people away, our schedules started to get complicated with so many clients.
My husband and I had a tough discussion to make. Our earnings from the business had helped pay off our debt, but we were both overwhelmed by how quickly our side gig had grown. We talked about hiring employees, but that would still require a lot of work for us. Instead, we decided to stop operations and sell the business.
We decided we wanted to recoup our setup costs since the business was already profitable. I posted a for-sale ad on a local small business Facebook page and set a price I thought was unreasonably high.
I listed everything we had spent on the business, such as purchasing an insurance policy, buying a domain name, and paying a designer for a logo and website help. We set our price as that total.
Within a few hours, I had a dozen messages from people who wanted to take over. They were so eager, they were bidding above and beyond the set price. We ended up talking with a business owner who lived and worked in Celebration. She was genuinely nice and well-respected in the community, so we decided to sell it to her.
She was willing to pay our asking price right away. Because the business was small and just a joint partnership, the transition was easy. We transferred the website to her name, turned over our logos and documents, and included recommendations on what worked for us regarding advertising and client management.
Because the business was already profitable, the selling price was a surprise windfall that helped us boost our savings. Our little pet-sitting service turned out to be a powerhouse when it came to improving our finances.
Launching your own side business
Starting your own business can sound overwhelming, but it’s completely doable. It doesn’t need to be a huge production or terribly expensive; you can launch a side hustle with just a small investment and grow it as your business becomes profitable. By focusing on what you’re good at, you can boost your cash flow without a huge time commitment.
For more ideas on starting a small business, check out 14 side hustles that require little or no investment.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 8 lenders of 2020!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.20% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of December 13, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 12/13/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
3 Important Disclosures for Figure.
Figure’s Student Refinance Loan is a private loan. If you refinance federal loans, you forfeit certain flexible repayment options associated with those loans. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would impact your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation alternatives.
4 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Disclosures
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.
2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.
4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
Information advertised valid as of 1/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE (“APR”)
There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.
For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
ELIGIBILITY & ELIGIBLE LOANS
Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).
Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.
All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.
For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.
The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.
The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.
POSTPONING OR REDUCING PAYMENTS
After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.
If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.
6 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.76% effective November 10, 2019.
8 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 12/019/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.59% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
|1.99% – 6.89%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.31% – 7.36%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.06% – 6.81%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.62% – 6.12%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 6.65%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 7.06%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.85% – 6.13%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.90% – 8.59%8||Undergrad & Graduate|