The Ultimate Guide to Babysitting (Plus How to Command a Higher Rate)
Years ago, I worked as a live-in babysitter for a couple of months.
I didn't have to dress up like Mrs. Doubtfire, and the kids were OK, but the experience still might be part of why I chose to never have children.
However, if you like being around kids more than me, you could make decent money as a babysitter.
Many sitters now earn $12 to $18 per hour looking after kids. It’s not just a business for teenagers anymore. As an adult, you may be more likely to find work.
Thinking of adding a babysitting side hustle to your income?
Here’s what you need to know...
How Much Can You Make Babysitting?
Since the early 1980s babysitters' wages have risen much faster than inflation, and the average is now around $12 per hour.
The highest rates are in San Francisco, where babysitters charge $18 per hour to watch three kids.
The lowest rates (for watching two kids) suggested by Sitter City’s babysitting pay calculator are $10.33 and $10.67 per hour in economically depressed Columbus, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan.
In other cities, parents are advised to offer $14 and more per hour. Additionally, Sitter City tells parents to consider the following factors when deciding how much to pay their sitter:
- Number of kids ($1 or $2 more per-hour, per-kid)
- Age of sitter (more for adults)
- Location (higher pay in cities with a higher cost of living)
- Time (more for late nights)
- Additional qualifications (more if they know CPR, for example)
- Additional responsibilities (more for picking kids up from school or helping with homework)
Babysitters should also be paid more for special occasions like New Year's Eve, and get a raise once they have proven themselves to be reliable, recommends Sitter City.
So why are babysitting rates rising in recent years? Some sources suggest that parents want more experienced sitters, and are willing to pay.
Also, it's getting hard for kids to work as cheap babysitters, which may drive up the average wage. In fact, one mother was arrested for letting a 13-year-old babysit her children!
Babysitter, Nanny or Daycare?
The line between being a babysitter and a nanny can be a tough one to determine, but the more important question is whether you’re an independent contractor or a household employee.
If you're the latter, your employer has tax-compliance responsibilities (like paying payroll taxes) -- something most parents probably don't want to deal with just to have a babysitter.
The IRS says, "A worker who performs child care services for you in his or her home generally is not your employee."
So babysitting in your own home makes it clearer that the parents won’t need to deal with payroll taxes. Otherwise, if you don't get paid more than $1,900 by any one client in a year, you'll normally be considered an independent contractor.
Consult a tax specialist if you're in doubt about your status.
If you do decide to babysit kids in your home, you might be classified as a daycare operator, in which case you may need a license and have other legal complications. Each state has its own laws covering daycare, and you’ll want to make sure you’re on the right side of them.
For example, child care law in Illinois specifies that you need a license from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) if you care for more than three children (your own are included if they're under 12 years-old). So if you live in Illinois and want to avoid the need for a daycare license, simply limit your service to watching three or fewer kids.
How to Find Babysitting Jobs
According to Stephanie St. Martin at Care.com, the best babysitters have these qualifications and personality traits:
- Love kids
- Full of energy
- Good teachers
The last item refers not just to knowing how to change diapers (if you're watching infants or young children), but also having first aid and CPR certifications.
St. Martin said most families expect this of their babysitters now. So if you have most (or all) of the traits and qualifications above, you're probably ready to find babysitting jobs, but how?
Fortunately there are several online platforms specifically set up for connecting parents and babysitters. Here are two examples:
- Sitter City: They claim to have a new job posting every two minutes. They also have a free membership and paid services.
- Care.com: With a free membership you can post a profile and apply for jobs. For additional fees, they provide other services, like a background check and better placement in search results.
Anne-Marie Lindsey, an experienced nanny, compared Care.com and Sitter City, and found that Sitter City was easier to use. She also said that not getting a $60 "enhanced background check" on Sitter City "doesn’t seem to be getting in the way of me getting a job."
Finally, word-of-mouth is perhaps one of the best ways to boost your babysitting business and to find new customers. Provide great service, then ask your favorite clients to tell their friends about you.
Your Turn: Have you ever worked as a babysitter, and how much did you charge?
Advertiser Disclosure: We are paid for some of our opinions in the post and some links may redirect to an affiliate partner. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.