This was the news in the Fort Worth Star Telegram in an article published last week. Several of you expressed concern about rising gas prices in my survey last week and they are certainly a valid concern when so much of our business is driving to our customers homes. This is cutting into pet sitters profits.

The good news is that the rising gas prices are not reducing the demand for our services. The article predicts that the pet sitting business is will again increase by 7% in 2008.

So what is the solution to higher gas prices? The article suggests that many sitters in my area are cutting their services areas and giving away clients that are more than a 7-10 mile drive. That’s a solution that will cut their gas expenses but these pet sitting businesses spent a lot of marketing time and money to get those clients that they are now giving away.

Some other solutions are:

1) Increase your per visit charge by $2-3. Before you change your rates send out a letter to your clients explaining the reason for your the increases. I have done this twice in the last 5 years and have not lost any clients. Your clients will understand that your expenses are rising and you need to cover your costs to ensure you can provide their pets the same level of care.

2) Put a mileage charge in place only to clients that live outside a 10 mile radius of your home. Explain to these clients that you need to charge them $2-3 more per visit to cover your fuel costs. Again, most clients will prefer the convenience of keeping the sitter they are comfortable with and pay a additional fee rather then having to find another pet sitter.

3) Find and hire contract sitters that live closer to your clients. If you have several clients in one area why not find another pet lover who can service these clients needs and won’t have to travel far from home. If you don’t have enough work to support the sitters work needs then ask if they will help you with marketing to build up your business in their area by handing out flyers door to door or at the local dog park. Give them a bonus per visit for new clients they bring in as an incentive.

3) Trade in your car for a more fuel efficient model. If your car doesn’t get great gas mileage you could think about trading down to a smaller model that you can use for sitting visits.

4) Plan out your daily route so that you reduce your daily travel distance. Use Google maps to schedule visits so that you take the most efficient route.

These are all alternatives to giving away those clients you’ve worked hard to get. Remember that keeping an existing client is always cheaper than finding a new one. If you have no alternative but to give away clients, why not network with other local pet sitters and see if you can trade or swap clients and reduce both your gas expenses.

If you have any other suggestions please share and leave a comment after this post.