When Michael Magnuson wanted to earn a few extra bucks outside of his full-time job, he turned to Wag. This animal care app gave him the ability to make $15 a half-hour, doing things he loves — exercising and hanging out with animals.
“It’s really easy to pick up a walk during your lunch-hour or after work,” he says. Dog-walking is also a natural fit with his day job. Magnuson is a sales manager for Party Animal, a gluten-free vodka company that gives a portion of every sale to animal shelters and other animal-focused charities.
He’s among a growing number of side hustlers who are cashing in on American’s love of their pets. Online platforms that provide pet-care jobs are thriving and expanding rapidly. In the process, they’re providing increasingly attractive options for side hustlers.
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Wag’s main competitor, Rover, for instance, once focused on simply providing overnight care for dogs when their owners went on vacation. The site still provides that service, but has since expanded to offer dog-walking, cat care and a variety of other services.
New pet grooming service
Now Rover is testing a pet-grooming service, too. With pilot programs operating in Seattle and Austin, Rover hopes to take pet-grooming nationwide over the coming year. And the company sees this as part of an evolution that will ultimately address all pet-owner pain-points, from training to veterinary care.
“Everything that can make people be better pet parents with less stress is something we want to have available on the platform over time,” said Aaron Easterly, Rover’s CEO, in an interview with SideHusl. “Our high-level impulse is to focus on areas that are burdensome for cat and dog owners. Vets and training are logical areas for us to look at.”
Rover’s expansion won’t happen overnight, Easterly adds. The site takes its time testing new services, hoping that this methodical approach will provide a better experience for both workers and clients.
“We like to do things really well rather than being all things to all people,” Easterly said.
Jordi Montes, a long-time dog groomer based in Seattle, says Rover’s expansion— both launched and planned— is good news for people who want to work in animal care.
“I’ve been able to work less hours and make more money with them,” says Montes, who has been involved in Rover’s grooming pilot project for the past nine months.
From a groomer’s point of view, Rover’s advantage is a simple one. The site charges a lower commission than most pet salons, so the groomer takes home a higher percentage of the grooming fee. Specifically, if you pay $40 for grooming at most pet salons, the salon will keep $20 and give the groomer $20. Rover ’s commission is just 20%, so, in this example, the groomer would walk away with $32.
Experience and tools required
That said, Rover doesn’t provide training, where some of the big pet stores, such as Petco and PetSmart, do. Moreover, groomers are expected to have their own equipment. Montes says she spent about $500 buying a portable grooming table, dryer and other necessary supplies before she started.
Rover is also still working out some kinks with its pricing. For instance, in order to give clients a clear idea of what they’ll pay in advance, the site has a simple fee schedule that is based on the weight of the dog. But a 75 pound Husky is arguably far more time-consuming to groom than a 75-pound Labrador. And some dogs come in relatively clean, while others are matted and require far more work.
The site also doesn’t yet offer one-off services, such as nail clipping, that can be purchased a la carte elsewhere. Why? Pricing is tricky given that it’s a relatively small service. But the groomer could be spending a significant amount of travel time getting to the client.
Easterly is confident that the pilot programs will allow the site to work out these minor kinks and start opening the platform to seasoned groomers all over the country.
In the meantime, dog lovers like Montes and Magnuson, say there is no shortage of work in animal care.
“If you want to work seven days a week, you can do that,” Montes says. “You would make a lot of money.”