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taking holidays off for me vs. disappointing my clients


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I have a pet sitting business that I'm in love with. I have no employees and I don't want employees (nor can I afford them). If I ever need time off, I send clients to another pet sitter I know and trust to do a good job but not keep the clients (she does the same for me). She just had a baby so I'm not sure who to send my clients to as many other pet sitters I've spoken to either present themselves as shady or impersonal or money-hungry (you don't get in this job for the money).

 

Anyway, I recently tok 2 weekends in a row off to go out of town. I work 7 days a week and rarely get a day off, though I do allow myself a weekend off here and there. I went home twice in may 2 weekends in a row, one for a wedding and the other to see a friend who was in town. It was a pain to work out who will take care of my clients since the other girl is taking time off for her new baby, so I didn't know who to refer out to. It made me feel flaky and unreliable even though none of my clients made me feel that way.

 

Now I want to go back home for july 4 for another wedding of a close friend. I feel like I'm unreliable again for wanting to take more time off, especially b/c one of my clients who had to hire someone else over memorial day needs me for july 4 and I am scared he'll be upset if I tell him no for july 4.

 

I know I provide a service and I'm not obligated to be there for them at every waking minute but I can't get over the guilt of it. I need to send my rsvp for the wedding like today and I need to tell my client something. I really want to go to this wedding (it's for a childhood friend) but I also need the money and the business.

 

I am moving at the end of the summer out of Atlanta down to Florida. Some of my clients I'm close with know this but I haven't formally made the announcement yet. So on one hand I can say screw it I'm leaving anyway, but I don't want to do that.

 

How bad is it that I want time off to go home and that I have to, yet again, tell a client (or more by then) that I'm taking more time off?

 

Just to add--i don't have one day (not a one) off in june. So I'll be working straight through and I know by then I'll want time off anyway. I'm entitled to that, right? if so, how do I get over the feeling of guilt?

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I mean, I know dogs need exercice on a regular basis but is it really going to kill them just to not be walked for one single weekend?

Honestly, if my babysitter can't babysit that certain day, I need to make the plans to have someone else care for them. My babysitter doesn't refer me to other babysitters etc....

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It's your business. You are both the owner and the employee. Take time off if you need and it seems you need it since you work so hard. You can justify it because you work so hard and rarely have weekends off. Also you are moving from Atlanta soon.

 

Maybe you can work it out with the other sitter that helps you out and she can help you a bit. You aren't going to be gone for that long.

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You can't have both of everything, try to stay or get someone you can trust to hold on for you for the days you will be away, but if this continues, this can prove as a bad business, customers will complaine, about your adbsence when most in need ok. So make up your mind of what you want.

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You need your time off. It's just like any other business--some are just simply closed on certain holidays. You're working straight through an entire month. You need a break too. I'd just explain this to your client and hope for the best. I don't think it's giving a bad image, it's understandable you won't be available every waking second for your clients. Do your best to give a referral, but if you can't oh well. Will you feel terrible about missing your friend's wedding if you choose to stay in ATL and work?

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So I'm not entitled to days off b/c I don't want my customers to complain?

 

I don't just walk dogs for exercise. I pet sit when people are out of town so I go sometimes multiple times a day to feed them, let them out, etc.

 

This one client I'm talking about has a cat. It's just coincidence that he needs me memorial day and july 4, 2 weekends I want to be out of town (he used another pet sitter for memorial day).

 

Why should I have to put my life on hold for others though? I'm burnt out and I think it's reasonable that I get days off. But how do I get over feeling guiltyav

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I used to own and run a petsittng business too. So, I know exactly what type of position you are in. When you decided to go into business for yourself and you established your business, your clients become dependant on you. If they cannot rely on you, they will find someone else. Whenever there arose a time that I could not sit for someone, I would give them a list of other petsitters in the area. Before I even opened my business I contacted all the other pet sitters in my area and we all agreed on our service areas (who covers where) and we agreed to refer people to each other when we couldnt sit for them.

 

regarding July 4th. I think that you should stay put and pet sit. In fact, I would use it as advertising and send a note to everyone on your client list letting them know that although you had to leave town for Memorial Day, you will be in town to take care of their furry kids on the 4th. I would do this when I'd have to take a holiday off. But I have to admit that holidays are a BIG part of this business and you miss out on some great money by not working them.

 

Since you are closing your business, the point is moot. As it doesnt matter if you go out of town or not, because it doesnt matter if you lose clients.

 

I only took off 1 holiday the whole time that i petsat. Usually I scheduled cookouts, family gatherings, etc aroundmy pet sitting schedule. And I stuck to my schedule those days. Half hour visits only, unless they paid for additional time.

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I'm burnt out and I think it's reasonable that I get days off. But how do I get over feeling guiltyav

 

I think your feelings of guilt are coming from the fact that you have been going so above and beyond (never taking days off, finding someone else to cover for you if you had to go out of town), that doing anything less than that seems like you are doing a bad job.

 

You just have to understand that it is TOTALLY normal for people in service industries to take time off.

 

As long as you give your clients enough notice, it will be fine. I think it would be nice if you could give them a recommendation of someone they could call when you are out of town, but it's not completely necessary.

 

As for the guy with the cat- give your pet-sitter friend who just had a baby a call. She may be looking for some extra money, and may not mind stopping over to take care of a cat.

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Do you think it's ok to just tell him that I'm working straight through june and will want tha weekend off? He said "will you be in Atlanta?" though so what do I tell him?

He also mentioned that the pet sitter he used came at inconsistent times for his cat (who is used toe ating at certain times--i stay as close to the pets' routine as possible when their owners are away).

 

I like being honest and I've been 100 % flexible for clients for 2 years now, often pushing back trips and social engagments to take care of clients. Many clients get on to me for not taking time off for myself (the ones who use me a whole lot recognize how much I work but sporadic clients don't know how much I do).

 

My friend who's getting married has been a friend since we were babies. The girl he's marrying has been a good friend of mine snce high school. I want to be there and I feel I should be allowed to go to friends' weddings when I want to!

 

I just don't know why I feel guilty about it.

 

Thank you to whoever said that you don't expect your babysitter to refer you to other babysitters. I need to start looking at it that way.

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Thanks CD. I have done all that with other pet sitters--networking and all of that. The girl with the baby has covered many times for me as I have for her so we both get time off. But she's taking a few weeks off for her new baby, which she had while I was ot of town this past weekend.

 

But I'm closing my business down in a few months anyway. Yea I'd like the money over july 4, but I also would like to see my friends get married. I do make a lot of money over holidays but after working thanksgiving and xmas and many other holidays, not getting to do things on new years b/c of work, not etting to have thanksgiving dinner b/c of work, it gets to you. I'm not immune to holiday fun. I'm a pet sitter. I am entitled to holidays like much of america is.

 

But it's hard in this business to break away. It's hard enough to have a social life as it is with thhis business. I just want some time for myself sometimes. Especially since I won't have one day off in june so I'd like to be able to have a day off to look forward to, which just so happens to be a holiday after a month long of straight work.

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I know it's hard to have a social life while you're doing this kind of work. Even on light days where I may only have 3 or 4 visits, I still had to get up early and go out numerous times. It's alot of fun, but it does take its toll on you, especially when you're running it alone.

 

I would go ahead and change your answering machine message to include "I will be attending a family function on July 3-5th and I will be back to work on July 6th, if you need a referral let me know"...that way you go ahead and start getting the word out that you will not be here.

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I'm pretty good at letting clients know my schedule (though it doesn't stop them from calling me or asking when I'm gonna be out of town). I send out newsletters/updates every couple months. I sent one out in march to let them know about memorial day and a trip I took to NYC in april. Everyone got their pets taken care of either by the other girl or by another pet sitter they had to call. No one made me feel guilty. I made myself feel guilty. One client even said he felt like he was cheating on me. That means a lot--it lets me know I'm doing a good job and people value what I do.

 

Yesterday I cleaned up the nastiest mess in the world--client's dogs got in the garbage. I didn't have to but I couldn't just leave it. My client apologized profusely and said I went above and beyond. It feels good to hear that, even though the mess I cleaned up made me nearly barf. So I like going above and beyond but I can't do it all the time. I'm not invinsible. I don't need to convince clients of that; they already know. It's convincing myself that I'm not invinsible and that I don't have to please everyone.

 

I'll be the first to admit I'm not business minded and I started doing this job b/c I didn't want to work for the man (though I also wanted to work with animals). For someone who wants to do her own thing and work at herown pace, this job is great. But I still sacrifice a lot for the chance to sleep in sometimes and have time off during the day that others don't.

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Of course you're entitled to days off, but unfortunately the nature of pet sitting is such that the business is strongest on holidays when people want to go out of town themselves for vacations etc.

 

You don't have to provide a service, and if they are unhappy with your service because you can't cover all holidays, then they can take their business elsewhere. I would just make sure you give them sufficient notice because many holiday weekends will already be booked from other sitters and boarding businesses.

 

I don't think you should feel guilty, but if you were staying in town permanently just work hard to set up a backup person or two. Since you are leaving at end of summer anyway, i would just tell your clients (today) that you won't be available on Jul 4 weekend due to a wedding, and let them make their arrrangements in the next month. If you lose them as a client because they are mad, so be it.

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That's sort of how I see it ("so be it"). So many of my clients are understanding and awesome. I've never had anyone tell me I've done a bad job or that they wish I did something differently.

 

I've traveled outside my area if a client has moved but wants to use me. I've left social engagements early to go work. I have gone grocery shopping and run errands for clients. I've bathed their dogs if they smelled awful b/c they got into something. Cleaned up messes that my own dog doesn't make. Spent more time with some of their pets than I have with my own.

 

But my job is so rewarding. I get paid to play fetch with dogs or have a cat love on me. I've gotten all sorts of gifts fro happy clients. The best greeting in the world comes from a dog so happy tos ee you that it spins in circles.

 

One client wrote me the other day to say he's going to see his dad over fathers day. He wrote "I'll need you 3x a day all weekend". No assumption that maybe I'd have plans with my own dad on fathers day. That sort of got to me. He's the client I'm closest with (we just hang out sometimes--weve become friends instead of just client/pet sitter). Yet I feel like the assumption that I wouldn't see my own dad that day was wrong. I wrote him and told him I'd like to have plans that day and see if he could get someone (he has close relationships with his neighbors) tos top in tht afternoon and night for his dog. He said he would look into someone else for his dog for those 2 visits. I don't like the assumption that I'm working instead of being asked. Am I being unreasonable for that?

 

My sister is coming in town at the end of june for our dad's bday. I'm working all weekend. Sorry, pregnant sister who I never see--i have to workt hat weekend and can't spend a lot of time with you. It sucks. I'm sort of glad I'm giving up the business to get away but I love my job so much too. It's hard to make these decisions.

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It was the hardest decision for me to give it up. I had had a miscarriage in February and my bf and I were talking about trying to get pregnant again. It got me thinking. I needed a steady income, health and dental insurance, life insurance, and all the other things that cover you in the event of injury or illness. So, I had to decide what was more important at that time. My business in which I was constantly taking care of other people's homes and pets instead of my own, missing time with my bf and family OR having a baby, establishing a home with my bf and having a steady income to support us. I thought about it for months and finally in April, I sent out the letters and referral list of other sitters and closed the business. I dont regret it. I loved what I did, but it was time to move on to another phase of my life, and now I'm a mommy!!

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I think you're just discovering why so many people take on either an employee or a partner for this business, so they can trade off holidays etc. It's really something you never get away from if you try to do it on your own perpetually.

 

It's a good job if you can build up enough of a cutomer base to hire someone else part time to take the overflow or holidays.

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Thank you for that, CD. How much advance notice did you give them when you were shutting down? I want to leave by september out of Atlanta but don't even know if I'll have enough money to do so. But part of me wants to give it up now, get a waitressing job somewhere and save up that way.

 

I just got to a client's and saw "are you available m-f next week?" (I usually only go there t and thurs). I am available but I can already look at my schedule and see how full it is next week b/c of the pet sitter who just had a baby whose clients I'm tking for the next few weeks. It's going to be one of those weeks where I barely see my own dog but see others' pets more.

 

One client just moved to a place out of my normal area. She moved to a part of town that is a huge pain to get to and I told her I'd stick with her. But I'm reconsidering--when she will need me will be heavy traffi times for that area and I know it'll take me about 35 minutes to get there, so it's not worth it really. I don't want to charge extra for travel time--id rather just have her get someone else. Plus the weekend she needs me is when my sister will be here, so I'd rather let it goanyway. I just don't know how to go about it.

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I just sent out letters, a list of petsitters in the area and I returned everyone's keys by mail. I had a HUGE mailing that day, lol. For the clients that I took care of on a weekly basis (my permenant clients) I wrote them a more personal letter and left it after one of my visits. I would give them at least a 2 month notice. And you will have tons of phone calls from your client wanting to know what's going on and who do you personally recommend, etc. I took alot of these calls, but then I had to start screening after a while. It wouldnt be a bad idea for you to close it a month or two early and give yourself some time to work a waitressing job and just de-stress. It was a big emotional hit for me to close my "baby" my business. But as I said before...no regrets!!

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Oh and the client out of your service area--give her the name of someone who covers her area and say that you are too booked to have time to drive out to where she is. You're sorry, but you feel that so and so could provide her pets with the care that they need on a more timely basis.

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It sounds like you really go out of your way for your clients which most will really appreciate and forgive you when you want to take off. There will always be people though that if you don't meet their every demand they will take their business elsewhere no matter how much you do for them. With that being said, it really doesn't matter in your situation since you are leaving so definetly go to the wedding.

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Thanks everyone.

 

I'm wondering if I should just say I'll only do midday walks for now and waitress at night but give up vacation clients. That way I'd still be doing this job but getting some much needed time off to decompress.

 

I think I will write that one girl and tell her I can't take care of her b/c of her new area even though I told her I'd stick with her. But I think if she just had a cat who needed like one visit a day, I could do it. But traveling 8 miles (my coverage area is no more than 6) in heavy traffic two times a day just won't be worth it.

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