Real stories about money from real people. Money Confessions, a SingSaver series, will excite you, inspire you, and leave you wishing to get financially woke.
Meet Nicole Lai, a 26-year-old who started her own Animal Communication business that’s gaining popularity in Singapore.
Side gigs are a great way to boost your savings. The money earned could also serve as a safety net in case you’re ever retrenched from your day job. After all, having multiple income streams is what many self-help books preach as a sure-fire way to attain financial success.
While other folks may take on copywriting and website design as their freelance gig of choice, mine is… a tad unconventional, to put it lightly.
For one thing, I offer animal communication (AC) services for pet owners (or anyone, really) who wish to connect with or understand their pets on a deeper level.
Think: The Wild Thornberrys from the 90’s Nickelodeon cartoon about a girl who could speak to animals. But instead of having verbal conversations with them, I communicate with them telepathically through images, sound, smell and even physical sensations.
Once I fell into AC and discovered the unique way animals think, feel and experience life, I realised that they are no different from us and that they understand a lot more about us than we think.
How animal communication works and what to expect in each 'consultation'
Before each session, I would ask my client for the following:
- The pet’s name, age and gender
- List of questions
- A recent photo of their pet
- A photo of the people referenced in the questions (such as fellow members of the family)
As the entire process takes place in the mind, I have to prepare myself mentally by easing into a zen-like state. I would usually meditate before I commence each session with the help of Tibetan singing bowls.
Once I start to feel calm, that’s when I look at the photo of the animal I’m communicating with and try to connect with its energy.
When people ask what communicating with an animal is really like, I’ll usually describe it as such: it’s the same as you would introduce yourself to a three-year-old kid as a friend of their Mum or Dad to build rapport. The animals' reactions may vary depending on their mood or how skittish they may be. They can be very excited or very shy. Those that have been abused may require more time to let down their guard.
But most of the time, they’re receptive to my questions that I ask on behalf of their owners. My job is to capture everything they share with me and interpret it in the most accurate way possible.
Some of the common burning questions owners ask are “Who do you love most?”, “Do you feel loved?” and “Are you in any pain or discomfort?”
After the session ends, I will report back to the owners about my findings and discuss what they could mean, plus possible next steps.
I fell into AC because it was a service I needed — and couldn’t afford
To think this all started with a non-assuming SkillsFuture course. I chanced upon it when I was going through a particularly difficult teething period with my dog, Bubbles. Since I adopted him, he would bark non-stop at anything and everything in my home.
The market rate for an animal communicator was high at the time but I sprung for it as I had exhausted every other possible solution. I was also afraid his frequent barking might trigger complaints from my neighbours.
Fortunately, I finally got the answers I needed from my first AC session — it turns out that the negative energy in my house was causing his distress. After doing a round of sage-ing, my dog soon settled down and was generally much happier.
However, I kept engaging the AC as I wanted to understand Bubbles even more and I soon felt the pinch as it cost upwards of S$100 per session.
That’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands and searched for AC courses online. Better yet, SkillsFuture courses are up to 90% subsidised, making my endeavour even more cost-effective.
How much it costs
When I first started out (and determined to grow my clientele) in December 2019, I offered my sessions on a pay-as-you-wish basis. This means I took on clients’ questions at any amount they deemed fit — it could even be as low as S$0.10. I was just happy to be able to help them and hopefully gather more satisfied customers who would leave good reviews, which are the bread and butter of any new business. For a business as niche as AC, it is absolutely essential to rope in both potential customers as well as curious skeptics.
My business might not have been financially sound then, but word of my AC skills soon spread and my client list quickly grew through its dedicated Instagram page.
The AC packages I offer come with a fixed number of questions. The more questions you wish to ask your pet, the higher the charges will be. Typically, owners will go for the maximum 10 questions at S$80. I’ve also been called to do emergency sessions in situations where a pet was dying or severely ill at S$35 for two questions.
My most unique experience with an animal
In my line of work, the majority of clients who reach out to me tend to be dog, cat, gerbil and even fish owners. And while I’ve had my fair share of wacky animal hijinks, nothing beats my encounter with a lost chicken that I found wandering around my neighbourhood just days after I started taking up an animal communication course.
As I was genuinely concerned for her safety, I tried to apply what I had learned and asked the chicken if she needed any help (telepathically, of course). I even added that if she needed it, I was there to help. This was met with indifference on the chicken’s part. Thinking that I have a long way to go as an Animal Communicator, I chalked it up to a failed attempt and didn’t think much of it.
To my surprise, I found the chicken right outside my door hours later. How she was able to track me down to my exact unit on the eighth floor is still a huge mystery to me. She was nowhere near my block when I first found her. Even to this day, I cannot figure out how she got there.
Fortunately, I was able to find a nice lady who lived in a landed home to take her in. I’m happy to report that she’s now living out the rest of her days in a spacious garden, a far cry from where I last saw her.
My AC passion quickly evolved into a viable side hustle
A year after I started my pay-as-you-wish scheme, things started to take off and I was able to book one client a day three to four times a week. This was intentionally spaced out in order for me to re-energise before the next session. I often feel drained after each session – akin to studying for three hours non-stop at the library.
It takes many hours of practicing to master AC without tiring out too fast. When I first started out, I could barely muster the energy to complete five questions in a day. Today, I’m able to do four clients per week.
Thanks to my AC income, I’ve been able to pay my dog’s medical bills, which can cost up to S$120 a month. In order to manage the pain in his back, I also regularly take him to swimming sessions at S$30 per session. If there’s more to go around, I may even splurge on his hydrotherapy, which costs anywhere from S$100 to S$200 per session.
Despite the initial obstacles, being the bridge between owners and their pets has been such a meaningful journey — especially in cases where I discover previously unnoticed injuries or health issues through AC.
Another fulfilling part of the job is when pets show vast improvement in their behaviour as their owners are able to understand them better and take corrective action.
I will always get a kick out of seeing my customers react in shock to my findings, followed by the incredulous “How did you know this?!” That is the validation I need to further hone my skills.
The unglamorous reality of side hustles is that they can get pretty tiring. For me, I have to juggle AC with my nine-to-five job in the maritime industry. Being a force for good, however, will always keep me going.
Read these next:
4 Best Pet Insurance Plans To Protect Your Furkids (June 2021)
Guide To Vet Clinics In Singapore: How Much Does It Cost To Treat Your Sick Pets
The Real Cost Of Dog Ownership In Singapore
5 Simple Steps to Build a Side Income in Singapore
Starting A Side Hustle In 2021? These 6 Business Ideas Need Little To $0 Capital