- Rick Powell and his wife make $3,000 a month using Sniffspot to rent their yard out as a dog park.
- The Powells started in 2021 hosting dogs and their owners in their Oregon backyard.
- They spend 10 minutes a day managing bookings, and Rick loves the income security it provides.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Rick Powell, a 53-year-old IT manager from Tualatin, Oregon, about his dog-park side hustle. It has been edited for length and clarity. Insider has verified his revenue.
I’m a senior manager for an application-development team, but working in IT can be a feast or famine industry. I’ve lived through the dot-com bust, and I’m watching the mass layoffs happening at tech companies. Because of that instability, I’ve always looked for ways to supplement my income.
In 2019, I worked for Adidas. I was the senior manager for the North American network and connectivity. It did a restructuring, and I wasn’t happy with it. I quit and took the five-month severance package they offered.
I thought I’d be able to get another job quickly because I’d job-hopped easily in the past, but eight months later, I was still unemployed.
I discovered Sniffspot on Craigslist
I was burning through my savings, so I began researching ways to make money. I found a Sniffspot ad on Craigslist.
Sniffspot is an Airbnb-like service for people who want to rent their backyards out as dog parks. If someone has a fenced-in yard, they can list it on Sniffspot, and dog owners can rent it by the hour.
We have a 5-acre backyard in Tualatin, Oregon, that’s completely fenced in, so I signed up. There’s no minimum land requirement, but Sniffspot suggests unfenced land of less than half an acre doesn’t perform well on the platform.
I went to the “become a host” page, read the information about being a host, and signed up for free. I answered the standard questions about my backyard and uploaded our listing photos.
I was registered but didn’t start accepting guests
Shortly after registering, I landed my current job as a senior application manager.
We held off on Sniffspot because we weren’t sure we wanted people renting our backyard. But when COVID-19 hit, some friends mentioned they had no place to take their dogs because the dog parks were closed.
That made me think about our backyard and how much of a need there could be for dog owners.
In March 2020, my wife and I went live with our listing and made $20 that first month. In April, we made $329 from word-of-mouth referrals, and my wife, a first-grade schoolteacher, and I were happy.
The dog owner is 100% responsible for cleanup
As hosts, our only responsibility is to ensure the renter knows how to access our backyard after booking. Only the people on the reservation can show up with their dogs, and Sniffspot provides $2 million of liability coverage. We charge guests $15 an hour to rent our backyard.
We slowly gained traction on Sniffspot via positive reviews and referrals.
In October 2021, we created a membership program through Sniffspot for repeat guests. The memberships meant we could rely on consistent revenue each month.
The memberships start at $30 a month, and members get two hours each month. We have two other packages that give people a discount for booking more hours. They can book four hours for $66 a month and eight hours for $120 a month.
In December 2021, we crossed $1,100 a month while working less than 2 hours a week on the side hustle
We started making little investments to improve our listing and increase revenue, such as purchasing a pavilion because it rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest. We put in more gates so owners could drive into the backyard, close the gate, and let their dogs run wild.
We also met guests to build rapport. While it’s not required, I try to make guests feel comfortable with an initial hello and then leave them to enjoy their time alone with their dogs.
Sniffspot’s app is user-friendly, and we set up automated messages that walk guests through everything they need to know about getting into our backyard and what they can do once they’re in it.
We spend about 10 minutes daily managing our bookings, and we usually have eight guests a day. I’ve spent zero dollars on advertising and don’t post on social media. All our growth has been organic.
We have 64 paying members bringing in recurring revenue of $2,555 a month. Members get to pick a set time each month they want to book our backyard. Every day, the window between 7 a.m. and 12 p.m. is exclusively for members’ bookings.
Sniffspot has enabled our family to make great passive income
Between the memberships and off-membership rentals, we average $3,000 a month.
I spend two hours a month ensuring no yard waste is missed and mowing the lawn. With the money we’ve made, we’ve remodeled our property. We also set money aside for our daughter, a freshman in high school, for her college fund.
We’ve had an overall positive experience with renting out our backyard, but we did have a demanding guest that we asked not to come back. The guest was rude to our daughter, who sometimes helps out with guests. She wanted to drive into a part of the property that was not available. We asked them to find another Sniffspot.
Renting out my backyard as a side hustle has given me peace of mind
Renting out our backyard will always be only a side hustle for me because it can’t match the benefits I get from my career. But it’s good to know I’m fine if I lose my job. I have $3,000 a month coming in, and it’s passive.