Housesitting is the perfect side gig for remote workers.
Working from a hostel or Airbnb can be a bit of a nightmare—bad wifi, drunk girls giggling and slamming doors at 3 a.m., an uncomfortable twin size bed you spend half your night trying not to roll out of…it’s just not for me.
I’ve stayed in some cool Airbnbs and hotels, but traveling this way can get expensive and you might still be without laundry and a kitchen. Plus, if you’re all by yourself, it can be lonely.
Why not spend a week looking after someone’s fur-babies while enjoying the comforts of a home that’s not yours? Housesitting is a great way to travel and work remotely, and it’s a great service to provide people who don’t want to leave their pets in a kennel. What’s more—it’s free. You might even get paid to do it!
A couple of years ago, newly freed from my office job, I was craving adventure but I was a little broke. At that time, my fledgling freelance career wasn’t earning me enough to jet off to Bali or Thailand. On a whim, I placed a housesitting ad on a classifieds site, belonging to an island about an hour’s travel from my place. Within a week, I had two inquiries, and thus I began my secondary career as a house and pet-sitter.
Housesitting was a natural fit for me. I grew up surrounded by animals and love taking care of them, I have a bit of a green thumb, and I’m totally happy being on my own for a week or so in the countryside. I used to housesit a bit as a kid, too.
Now, I spend about 2 months out of the year (broken up into 1-2 week periods) housesitting on this same island. I love getting away, hiking every day, and getting to know the locals (and their pets!). The change of scene benefits my creative work and it’s nice getting out of my tiny apartment. Plus, since I work from home now my husband (also an introvert) never gets the house to himself for more than a few hours at a time, so it gives us both our space. I find after a week, I’m ready to go home again.
Top Sites for Housesitting
You can do like I did and place a classified ad somewhere close. You can also join a housesitting network and check out locations farther away. Here are some of the top housesitting sites you can sign up on. I recommend just picking one.
Trusted Housesitters (recommended by a friend currently travelling the world and housesitting)
Nomador (mostly Europe)
Housesit Match (mostly UK & Europe)
What to include in your housesitting profile or ad
Trust is the biggest barrier to get housesitting gigs. You need to prove your experience and reliability. Approach housesitting like a job and create a thorough profile with relevant experience and references. If you have pets, include them in your profile picture.
A few things to note that will place you above the rest:
- Do you have experience caring for an elderly or sick animal? If you can comfortably administer medication and carry out detailed care routines, that will put pet owners at ease.
- List every instance of animal care you’ve done. For example, I spent my teenage years on a farm so had all kinds of experience working with everything from chickens to horses.
- Explain how you care for your own and others’ homes. People want housesitters that are tidy and respectful, and who will care for their own house as if it was theirs. Also mention how you’re happy to do extra chores, like getting the mail, watering the garden, and feeding the birds.
The owner may want to meet with you ahead of time. If it’s not possible in person, set up a video meeting on Skype so you can spend 30 minutes getting to know eachother.
Trusted Housesitters has a great FAQ section I recommend you go through prior to applying for your first housesitting experience.
Lastly, you’ll need references and most sites require some kind of ID verification and possibly a criminal record check. Include references who are easy to get a hold of (email is great) and who you’ve helped in the last 1-2 years. The more varied the better. You shouldn’t need any more than 2-3 references.
How to prepare for your first housesitting experience
Some homeowners are very thorough. A couple of my housesitting clients created booklets of information. Some use post-it notes. Prior to arrival at the home, you should go over detailed instructions for caring for the homeowner’s house and animals.
Animals need routine, so expect to have to feed them at the same times every day. Sort out your work schedule accordingly.
You’ll also need:
- Emergency numbers, including vet information;
- Details about the location and transportation. Do you need to get groceries before you arrive?
- The wifi password;
- Instructions for any specialty appliances you’ll use;
- Arrival and departure times, so you can coordinate.
If you’re going on your own, be sure to pack books or have some kind of plan for your off-work time. I like to find local hiking trails, try new cafés, read, and catch up on Netflix or the local news in the evening. When you’re looking after someone’s house, you’ll find you have more free time on your hands because you’re not busy with day-to-day house chores.
Lastly, clean up after yourself! I do a thorough house cleaning on the day I leave, so the homeowners can come home and relax. There’s nothing more annoying than coming home after vacation to a messy house!
Housesitting is a great way to travel affordably and enjoy living in comfortable accommodations with furry creatures to keep you company. It’s easy to get started and you can feel good knowing it’s a huge help to homeowners who otherwise may not be able to get away.
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