So you’ve registered as a pet transporter on CitizenShipper, you say? Augmenting your income by driving around and petting dogs, what’s not to like? Congratulations – sounds like you’ve got it all worked out.
What’s that? It’s more difficult than you’d thought? Huh. As it turns out, you’re not really winning enough bids. Turns out customers want experience, but you can’t get experience without customers, so it’s a catch-22 kind of thing. Turns out you won’t be quitting your day job any time soon.
Well first off, don’t get discouraged. Almost everyone who gets into this business has their moment of doubt at some point. There’s plenty of things you can try to boost your odds of success, so let’s go through them together. We’ll make a pro pet transporter out of you yet.
Cover all the basics
To start with, let’s see if you have a foundation of skills and affinities for working in pet transportation services.
Do you enjoy being around animals? It may sound obvious, but it’s really not. Some people love animals on paper but in practice, they lack the necessary patience and dedication. To be a professional pet transporter, you’ll need genuine emotion and the willpower to see it through. Many of our drivers are pet owners themselves, but that’s by no means a requirement. Some find that moving around a lot doesn’t leave enough time for them to look after a pet full-time. Speaking of which…
Do you like to travel? Who doesn’t, right? But this isn’t about going on vacation someplace fun and exotic. It’s about traveling for work, driving the cross country over and over again. Most pros stick to their established routes, but there’s always room to go off the beaten track and explore. Former homebodies often find it liberating to adapt to the on-the-road lifestyle, but it can take some getting used to.
How good are your interpersonal skills? Sadly, pet transportation services are not just about catering to animals – you need to deal with humans, too. At CitizenShipper, communicating with customers in a professional, forthright manner is a necessity. If this isn’t exactly your forte, don’t worry – you’ll improve over time if you keep working on it.
Can you handle planning and organizing? Being a self-employed pet transporter involves a whole lot of this. You’ll need to schedule your deliveries, plan your routes, and stack your shipments. If you’re not good at this sort of thing, team up with someone who is. Some of our most successful transporters work in tandem with friends or family members.
Spiff-up your profile
Now that we’ve made sure that you do have what it takes, let’s talk about communicating this to the customer.
Initial impressions. Try to exchange messages with a potential customer even before sending your bid. Some beginners just quote a price without an introduction, but pro pet transporters know better. Engaging them on a personal level greatly improves your chances. In your own words, try to relate the following:
- You’re a regular person, an individual, not a faceless corporate entity
- You genuinely care about animals and get along well with them
- You’re a professional pet transporter, dedicated to getting the job done
- You provide a flexible service, adjusting to match any transport requirement
Profile presentation: Once you’ve piqued a customer’s interest, they’ll visit your profile to see what you’re really about. That’s is your chance to shine, so pull out all the stops. Here are some rough guidelines:
- Avoid spelling and grammar mishaps. It’s the easiest way to appear unprofessional.
- Describe the service in clear, concise terms. Don’t waste time on fluff, but don’t be terse either.
- List all relevant details, including your experience, motivation, and the safety of your vehicle.
- Put all your credentials front and center. This is a big one, so see below for details.
– Above all, try to sound natural. The goal is to engage the customer in a way that inspires trust.
Reviews: The key element of your profile are the reviews left by your previous customers. Once you have a few under your belt, you’ll find it easier to win bids. To get there, arm yourself with patience. After each delivery, remind the customer how much their review would be appreciated. Also, check out other pet transporter’s reviews for tips on their customers’ likes and dislikes.
Get certified and insured
Official credentials can also improve a professional pet transporter’s chances of success. None of the following qualifications are required for a pet transportation service to operate, but we highly recommend considering them.
USDA Health Certificates: Under the USDA, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) licenses pet transportation services for interstate travel. Applying for a Class T (Carrier) registration, you’ll find their transport requirements easy to meet. USDA’s seal of approval informs potential customers that you’re a reliable, trustworthy pet transporter.
Pet Transport Insurance: Your standard car insurance might cover damages incurred during pet transportation only to a certain extent. Check with your insurance provider and list what coverage you have on your profile – transparency is always appreciated. If available in your area, consider getting broader liability coverage for pets in your care. These are usually available only to USDA-certified transporters (see above). As an example, check out Pet Care Affiliates.
Pet Care Certification: Finally, it might also be a good idea to become a certified pet care professional. Having this proof of competence in dealing with animals is usually appreciated by potential customers. There are several options available, from NAPPS Certification to Pet Sitters International to IBPSA specialty courses. None are exactly cheap, but if you’re serious about working in pet transportation, they may be a worthwhile investment.
Learn from the best
The career of a professional pet transporter is incredibly rewarding, but it’s not an easy path to follow. CitizenShipper’s community offers plenty of success stories that you can use as guidelines or inspiration. Here’s a couple of quotes from our talks with highly-rated drivers conducted in 2018. The full interviews are available at our blog.
“Your profile is a major tool for attracting customers. Just go through and fill it out with great info and pictures. Make it look professional and get your spelling right. People are catching up to technology, and your image on the web has to be sharp. It’s become more acceptable to trust someone you made a business agreement with online and haven’t met in person. Now people are glad to hand over a dog or a cat and they are happy to see you.”
“There used to be a lot of skepticism, but the web has become very mainstream and interest is not slowing down. The Internet is helping the small businessman, and I’m glad to be part of it.”
“Here in Oklahoma, we’re right in the middle of the country, so that gives us a good base to work from. We’re picking up a lot of repeat business, so there are quite a few routes I know really well, from when we might have picked up someone’s dog to take it to their winter home, and then a few months later in the spring, we’ve done the trip in reverse,”
“On most trips, we include stops of a couple of hours for the dogs to go to the bathroom, and every third stop is a little longer so we can fit in a good, long walk for them. It’s not so important with cats, but each one does have a litter tray in its crate and room to walk around. But Erica goes to the bathroom way more than the dogs do!”
“If you’re totally straight with people, and don’t make a promise you can’t deliver, they appreciate what you do and they’re really glad the service exists to take a load of stress away from them”.
“I just googled ‘long-distance trips to make money’, and that’s how I found CitizenShipper! I thought I’d give it a go, and I signed up, got my security clearance, and started bidding. Once you start getting feedback, that leads to more inquiries, and that’s how you build things up into a viable business.”
“Apart from ensuring the safety of my pet passengers, I found out early on that good communication is absolutely vital. So I spend a heck of a lot of time, firstly, to make sure that my doggy passengers are completely comfortable and settled in their pens or their harnesses, then while we’re on the move, that they always have food and water, as well as enough space to be able to lie down in comfort.”
“I’m doing a job I love, what can I say? I guess these comments bear that out, and from wondering whether I had done the right thing after signing up to drive, I’m now happy to have made this a regular part of my life.”
“Transporting dogs around the country makes me appreciate its beauty and variety – and it makes sure I can continue to enjoy a better life in New York, and still have a whole lot of great experiences outside of it. But as far as the dogs are concerned, I love meeting them all and making friends with them – and then I get the best feeling of all when I’ve handed them over safely at the end of the journey.
Feel free to contact us with any further questions about becoming a professional pet transporter, or consult our Knowledge Base.