This is a guest post by Jo Amos. Jo runs her travel copywriting business, The Wandering Wordsmith, while roaming the world and living a location independent lifestyle. Follow her travel adventures and housesitter escapades on her travel blog, The Road to Wanderland.
Did you know you can travel the world, staying in some amazing places for free, while running your online business or freelancing?
You can experience life as a local in different countries and cultures. You often get to hang out with some cool pets. And if you’re lucky, you might even be paid for the privilege!
Earlier this year, I added housesitting to my digital nomad journey and immediately reaped loads of benefits. (To read more about this, see my first post on the benefits of housesitting for digital nomads and location independent entrepreneurs.)
If you want to try your hand at housesitting but don’t know where to start, this post is for you. I’ve included hints and tips on writing a profile to wow potential homeowners and give you the best opportunity of scoring some wonderful housesits. Even if you don’t have any prior housesitting experience or references.
N.B. I’ve based this article on the profile structure of Trusted Housesitters, as that’s the website I currently use. However these hints and tips can be applied to whichever platform you join.
Your Housesitting Profile
Think of your housesitting profile as the lovechild of your CV and online dating or Couchsurfing profile!
It should be professional, yet personality driven. It needs to show homeowners who you are and what you can do for them. You want to convince them that they can trust you with their precious belongings and beloved pets.
A useful tip to bear in mind as you’re writing is ‘show, don’t tell’. It’s all very well saying that you’re trustworthy, reliable, that you love pets, and are able to cope calmly with unforeseen circumstances. But it’s far more impactful if you show this by telling some interesting short stories and including some meaningful pictures.
I recommend waiting a day or two between writing your profile and posting it. Mull it over, then check and proofread it with fresh eyes the following day. This gives you the opportunity to make improvements and pick up any silly mistakes.
1. Write a Catchy Headline
As entrepreneurs – or budding entrepreneurs – I’m sure you have a strong Twitter bio game. Time to revisit those skills to write a catchy headline for your profile.
A strong headline is a balance between showing who you are and why you’re the prime candidate for the housesit. So words like ‘mature, responsible, animal-loving, non-smoking, reliable, trustworthy’, all figure heavily in successful housesitter profile headlines.
Here are some good examples:
- Experienced housesitters ready to lavish attention on your pets and care for your home
- Passionate animal lovers, professional, experienced and highly recommended
- Reliable, non-smoking, experienced, animal-loving couple
- Mature, professional couple with extensive overseas, home owning and animal care experience
Avoid writing a headline that suggests you want free accommodation, a quiet place to focus on a project, or a free holiday in the Caribbean. These may be underlying reasons for housesitting (although shouldn’t be your top priority), but a positive first impression is crucial. The best way to do this is to think about what homeowners want from you.
2. Housesitting Profile Introduction
The headline is where you capture homeowners’ attention. In the introduction, you reveal a little more about yourself and explain why you’re the best person for the job. This is generally the point when homeowners decide whether or not to read the rest of your profile.
Explain who you are, what you do, and why you’re travelling. I mention that I’m in my early 40s, as people like mature sitters. I confirm that I’m a non-smoker, as this is a popular trait.
I also explain a little about my business and lifestyle. If you’ll be working from home, mention this – homeowners love to know that you’ll be spending lots of time with their pets and that their home will be occupied for long periods in the day.
Briefly describe any previous housesitting experience. Where have you housesat? What sort of pets have you looked after? Which countries have you lived in?
If you’ve travelled and lived in other countries, mention your international experience. This shows you have the flexibility to fit into different cultures, and have experience of living as a local and dealing with problems in different places.
3. Why You Want to Housesit
Whatever you do, please don’t say because you want free accommodation while working on your latest project or bootstrapping a new business! Homeowners aren’t interested in people looking for a freebie; they want to know the person they choose will look after their house and pets as if they were their own.
I adore pets, but my current lifestyle means I can’t have any. So I’m being authentic and genuine when I describe how I love looking after somebody else’s pets as if they were my own.
I also mention that I relish the opportunity of living as a local in different parts of the world. It shows I have a curiosity to explore countries and cultures different to my own. Homeowners tend to love worldly, interesting and interested people.
4. Housesitting Experience
Now it’s time to describe your housesitting credentials in a little more detail. List your housesitting experiences, detailing the variety of pets you’ve looked after, and whether you have experience with specific breeds, rescue pets, or looking after animals on medication.
If you’re new to housesitting, think of relevant experience you can include. If you don’t have specific housesitting experience, is it possible to get some? Can you look after a friend’s place or your parents’ while they’re away?
I housesat for a friend while travelling around New Zealand a few years back, so I popped that in. I also mentioned that I’d spent the previous two years living in Airbnb accommodation, where I built up a reputation for looking after properties and leaving them clean and tidy.
Think about any skills, experience and qualities you’ve gathered over the years from your work, hobbies, travels, or qualifications that might come in handy. My first job as a teenager was working in a boarding kennels and cattery where people left their pets when they went on holiday, so I could talk about caring for upset or sulky animals.
You might be a keen gardener or handyman, both of which would be advantageous to homeowners.
When housesitting, you’re living in somebody else’s home. So they obviously want to be certain they can trust you. References are therefore crucial.
If you’ve completed any housesits before, you can request a reference via the housesitting site (which means you can’t doctor or fix it in any way).
In addition, you can request character, employment or landlord references. Think about people who can vouch for you. I requested references from my New Zealand housesit, along with my last landlord and two Airbnb hosts who had pets.
When sending the request, ask them to focus on relevant things, such as reliability, cleanliness, pet care, character, etc.
6. Profile Pictures
It may be a cliché, but a picture really is worth a thousand words. Demonstrate your love of animals by including pictures of you walking dogs, cuddling rabbits, playing with cats, grooming horses or feeding chickens. Pictures from previous housesits are ideal.
Think about including a picture or two that demonstrates your personality too, because housesitting is about a very special type of human connection. Homeowners want to know they can trust the person they’re leaving in their home, but they also want to know that you’re a friendly, fun, caring person.
Ensure all pictures are high resolution and in sharp focus.
Hands up! I’ve resisted video, as I’m uncomfortable in front of a video camera. However, it’s a fantastic way to bring even more personality to your profile and show you interacting with animals. I recommend adding a video if you feel comfortable, especially if you’re just starting your housesitting journey.
Once your profile is complete, you can start applying for assignments. Yay! However, don’t forget about your profile – return to it periodically and update it as you gain more experience.
8. Finding Housesits
If you’re new to housesitting, be as open as possible. I aim to spend most of my time out of my home country and prefer housesits of a month upwards. However, when I joined the platform, I applied to several sits in the UK of varying lengths.
Because the UK has a huge quota of housesits so there were more opportunities. Plus, by applying for local housesits I could meet homeowners beforehand if they wanted. This put their minds at rest, as I was new to the platform.
Once you’ve got a few references via the site, you stand a much better chance of being considered for some of the plum assignments.
Trusted Housesitters sends out a few emails daily with the latest housesits. However, I soon discovered that many had gone by the time they reached my inbox. If you’re keen to housesit in a particular place, set up alerts for that location. You can also follow their Twitter and Facebook feeds, and check the website frequently.
When you find a housesit that ticks all your boxes, get in quickly! Housesits in popular locations easily get hundreds of applications within the first hour or two, and homeowners soon get overwhelmed. Once they have a reasonable choice, they close applications and work through them chronologically. So the sooner you apply, the better your chances of being considered.
Don’t bang off a lazy, generic email asking homeowners to look at your profile. This is an opportunity to let your personality shine and show why you’d be a great fit for that specific assignment. So get personal.
Say why you’re interested in that housesit (and not just because it’s on the Med and has a swimming pool!). Show an interest in the pets – these are usually the prime reason homeowners want a housesitter. Find something of interest to comment on or ask questions about.
I recently bagged a 5-week sit in Brussels with an adorable (though feisty!) cat named Frimousse. Being curious, I looked up the meaning of her name, only to discover it means ‘sweet face’ and is used for the smiley face emoji in French. I commented on this and swiftly received a reply to say that Frimousse had specifically requested me as she loved the fact I’d Googled her name.
Include little things that demonstrate you’ve read the advert thoroughly and are serious about the opportunity. Don’t ask about something they’ve stated, unless it’s unclear in any way.
Most of all, be yourself.
Check It’s a Good Fit for You
Finally, a word of warning. I love housesitting and have always had positive experiences. But that isn’t always the case. Like many things, appearances can be deceptive, so always listen to your gut instinct and if you’re uncertain about anything ask for clarification.
Check the speed of the Wi-Fi if it’s important for your work (people have vastly different ideas of what ‘high speed’ means!). Ask whether it’s a safe neighbourhood.
A friend of mine recently accepted a sit in a developing country. When she arrived, she learned there were wild rabid dogs where she was supposed to walk the homeowner’s dogs, and found the house was much more remote than expected. While she was upset at letting the homeowner down, she understandably didn’t feel safe staying there.
Enquire how the pets have behaved with previous housesitters, whether they scratch or bite, and how long they can be left home alone. If the advert says ‘sitters need a car’, find out whether they’re leaving transport for you or if you need to provide your own. If it’s a long-term sit, check whether you’re expected to contribute to any bills.
Learn to read between the lines. I’ve read ads that sound like a list of demands and rules rather than an exchange. Some homeowners may want you to manage B&B rooms while they’re away. Others may have arranged for work on the property, which isn’t much fun if you need to concentrate or make regular calls for your work.
I always recommend Skyping homeowners before accepting a sit. It’s a great way to get to know each other and confirm that you’re both happy with the arrangement.
Now, it’s over to you… Happy housesitting!
If you’d like to ask anything about my housesitting experiences or want to discuss something I haven’t covered, pop a question in the comments, drop me a message via one of my websites (details in the bio below), or say hi on Twitter @wanderingjoanne.