Life in the Gig Economy tells the stories of workers in an industry relied upon by millions. If you’d like to share your story, email staff writer Jessica Bursztynsky at Jessicabursz@proton.me.
Connie Xu, 22, has been finding work on pet-sitting portal Rover in Austin since March 2022. This is what the experience has been like, in Connie’s own words.
I moved to Austin from New Jersey about a year ago and I missed having a dog around, because I grew up with a dog in the house. I saw Rover as a way to have a dog around and make some extra cash on the side of my 9-to-5. When I first started, I didn’t envision that I would be on the platform for too long, but I ended up having such a great experience with the first dog I ever booked that I just kept coming back to the platform.
I work as a software engineer, so any money I make on Rover is really my fun money. The great thing about dog-sitting is that usually it doesn’t require a lot of hands-on work. Most people just want to drop off their dog to someone who will provide a safe and caring environment while they are gone, and this offers me a ton of flexibility to do other activities. I feel comfortable leaving a dog alone for a few hours to go and hang out with friends or go to the gym, so picking up this extra gig work with a 9-to-5 didn’t make me more busy.
[The schedule] really depends on if I host a dog at my own apartment or if I go over to a client’s house to watch their dog there. If I am at a client’s house, it is usually just for a few days and I will either sleep on the couch or sleep in a guest bedroom. Just from my own personal preference, I don’t like to cook at a client’s house, so I will prepare meals before going over and bring my own food to avoid that situation altogether. When I house-sit, I typically only take bookings that are close to my apartment so I can swing back and forth if I need anything easily. The nice thing about having a fully remote job is that I can work from anywhere and all the clients that I book for house-sitting have a place for me to work during the day. If I host at my own apartment, there is really no change to my typical schedule—just that I get out of my apartment more often to take the dogs for walks!
When I first started booking clients, I was charging $25 per night. I would get a few booking requests a day at that rate, and it quickly became overwhelming. I raised my rates and I now get a few requests a month. I am able to be really picky about the clients that I book. I am surprised that I am still able to book clients at the rates that I offer, but I think it makes total sense, because if I had a dog myself, I would want to get them the best care possible, no matter the price.
My 12-year-old sister loves that I do Rover because every time I have a dog over, I FaceTime her and her reactions are so pure. She loves dogs, too, and I imagine one day she will also want to dog-sit. It is always fun to have a different dog over so when my friends come over, they are pleasantly surprised by the company. I don’t think I would be friends with someone who would be unhappy with a dog around.
I have known for a long time that I want my own dog, so I will probably be on Rover until I can get my own. I know that there are people who have their own dog and still do Rover, but I think that has a lot of risks involved; I would not want to stress out someone else’s dog or my own.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.