Life in the Gig Economy: the guy who talks on TikTok about pet sitting through Rover
Life in the Gig Economy tells the stories of workers in an industry millions of people rely upon. If you’d like to share your story, email staff writer Jessica Bursztynsky at Jessicabursz@proton.me.
Kevin Liu is a 28-year-old gig worker in Austin, Texas, who has been finding work on Rover since 2020. He documents pet sitting on his TikTok account, @itskevinliu, where he has more than 33,000 followers. This is what the experience has been like, in Kevin’s own words. (This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
I’ve always had this history of just having some kind of side hustle. I was kind of feeling nervous and anxious about potentially getting laid off during the pandemic, and at the same time I had a friend go, “Hey, can I leave my dog with you while I travel? I’ll give you $200.” And I said, “That seems only like $20 a day a day, and I don’t know how the dog’s going to be at my place and all this stuff, I’ll do it for $300.” And he’s like, “No, I can find someone cheaper on Rover for $20 a day.”
I went on Rover at that time, and people were offering decent pricing. I was afraid of being laid off; I’ve experienced getting laid off multiple times before, and I didn’t want to experience that again and have that kind of financial insecurity. So I just kind of on a whim signed up, paid the $35 [sign-up fee], and then a month later I started my first booking. It’s been going on since then.
I mainly just house sit. Through the first two years, I’ve realized house-sitting was the one service that was really worth my time without being overly time-sensitive and labor-intensive while having a full-time job where I’m stuck to the computer for most of the day. So if I were starting a gig, I would basically confirm when I would start with a client and then either meet them in person or I will get to their house after they leave and then just unpack and live my life. If it was the last day I would be cleaning up the night before or the morning of and then wait for them to to get home or give me the green light to leave.
I started TikTok I think August of last year. I was doing a 28-day booking, it was the longest I’ve ever actively done for one client. And I had just been thinking about sharing my experience for a while because I always talk about Rover and pet sitting with my friends and coworkers, and I feel like there’s a lack of education and knowledge around the pet-sitting community, especially people that are just casually doing it on Rover. I feel that a lot of people aren’t charging their worth, and a lot of people are also being manipulated into charging really low prices. And I’ve been through it, like when you’re starting out, it’s not worth most people’s time. A lot of people are actually just wasting time and money if they’re not charging a certain amount, so I just wanted to share my experience there and educate people from a business perspective on how to be more successful and be more confident in running their own business or side hustle or whatever. I like talking about business, I worked in consulting before, so those are kind of my interests coming together.
Rover takes up a lot of my time. I think last year I was booked like 260 days out of the year. It’s hard because it limits your social life. It doesn’t kill your social life, but it can limit it if you are super busy and in high demand. The most money you will make will be around holiday seasons; if you’re taking advantage of those days, you’re not taking holidays. I’ve had a few times to reflect and say, “Is this really worth my time?” If I look at what I’ve made over the last three years and also my full-time income in relation to that, my full-time income has grown significantly, which makes my income on Rover almost not as worth my time anymore. The last few years, I’ve made over $20,000, so it’s like, should I continue to fully book myself out just for $20,000 a year and limit my social life a lot?
Will I continue to do it? Yes, I think so, but I think in the long term, it’s more toned down and limited. Over the last few years during the summertime, I was booked like four to five months consecutively without ever going home to sleep. So I’ve made an effort to really raise my prices and also have more discipline in saying, “What’s my limit for this month?”