Not Just for Kids Anymore: 9 Childhood Jobs That Make Great Side Gigs for Adults
Remember when you were a kid and did odd jobs for extra money? Turns out you can still do many of these jobs as an adult. In fact, several of the classic “childhood jobs,” such as babysitter and newspaper delivery, have almost completely transitioned from kid jobs to adult jobs.
Why the shift? Well, Lifehacker recently ran a chart showing the legal age at which children could be left home alone. Turns out many states have laws preventing children younger than 11, 12, or in the state of Illinois, 14, from being home alone by themselves. That wipes out a lot of babysitting jobs for preteens and helps explain why you don’t see as many kids out by themselves delivering papers or raking leaves.
Want to earn a little extra cash? Try one of these classic childhood jobs.
We’ve come a long way since The Baby-Sitters Club, when a group of 13- and 11-year-old girls formed their own business to babysit for local families. These days, most parents want their 11-year-olds to have babysitters, not to be the sitters themselves! They also often want their babysitters to be fully fledged adults.
Turn your babysitting skills into a lucrative career. When you were a kid, you probably got paid $8 or $10 for a full night of babysitting. As an adult babysitter, you can easily charge $15 an hour or more. Care.com gives you the going rates of babysitters in your area, so use that as a guide to set your own prices.
How do you get babysitting jobs? You could always talk to friends who have recently become parents; chances are they’ll know someone in their parenting group or baby swim class who needs a babysitter. You could also put up signs in coffee shops and family-friendly businesses advertising your skills. Or, you could join a babysitting or nannying agency, which is essentially the same thing as joining a baby-sitters club as an adult. For more advice, check out this post on working as a babysitter.
Consider developing an area of focus to help stand out from the other sitters: Maybe you work with special-needs kids, maybe you combine babysitting and tutoring, or maybe you offer tired parents your services as a night nanny.
2. Pet Sitting
If you like animals more than little kids, consider becoming a pet sitter instead of a babysitter. As with babysitting, more and more people are interested in trusting their furry children to responsible adults instead of the neighbor kid down the street.
As we’ve noted before, you could earn up to $100 a night taking care of people’s pets. Pet sitting is a popular job right now because many busy professionals need someone to watch their pets while they are on vacation or business travel. Other people simply need someone to take their dogs for a walk when they’re stuck in the office.
As with babysitting, you can stand out from the other clients by developing an area of focus or a special skill, such as dog adventure coordinator.
3. Raking Leaves and Shoveling Snow
Did you see my recent article about starting a leaf-raking business? Leaf-raking is another one of those jobs that used to be entrusted to kids but is quickly turning into an opportunity for adults. After all, how good of a leaf raker were you when you were 12? Chances are you’re better at it now, and much more willing to work hard and get the job done.
Leaf raking and snow shoveling are two seasonal childhood jobs that can also help adults bring in some extra income. Before you get started, find out the rules and regulations in your area: Some cities require you to put leaves in biodegradable bags, for example. Then get ready to put up signs and market your services. Keep in mind that it’s okay to ask people you know if you can rake or shovel for them, but it isn’t okay to go door-to-door. Yes, kids do it all the time, but a lot of cities have regulations against this practice.
Don’t underprice yourself. Ideally, you’ll want to make around $15 an hour or more for your work, especially because you’ll have to pay for your own supplies and taxes out of your income.
4. Delivering Newspapers
The iconic image of a young paperboy slinging newspapers from his bicycle is a bit outdated. These days paper routes often require cars, which turns newspaper delivery from a job for kids to one reserved for adults.
If you’re looking for a newspaper delivery job, your first step is to check out local and city papers’ websites. They are likely to have a section for job openings. You can also call the paper directly and ask how they hire their delivery workers. Job sites like Indeed and Monster also list open newspaper delivery jobs.
Be aware that this job often involves working very early hours, and you’ll usually be responsible for bundling and preparing the newspapers for the delivery before delivering them. The pay range for newspaper delivery jobs is often between $10 to $15 an hour.
A lot of young people earn a little extra money in high school or college by tutoring other students. Once you become an adult, there’s no reason why you have to stop your tutoring work. Plenty of parents are willing to pay good money for a great tutor. If you are patient, know how to keep kids motivated, and can explain educational concepts in a way that is easy for kids to understand, you might be exactly what parents -- and their kids -- are looking for.
If you’re looking to go the online tutoring route, apply with a service like Tutor.com, Chegg Tutors or any of the numerous paid tutoring services online. (Some online tutoring sites don’t share pay ranges until after you’ve completed successful applications, but Chegg Tutors advertises on its front page that it pays tutors at least $20 per hour.)
If you’re looking to start your own tutoring business, think of it as a business first and a tutoring service second. Figure out how you stand out from other tutors. Do you have previous teaching experience? Did you get a perfect SAT score? Do you have experience working with kids who have learning disabilities? Develop a marketing plan that highlights your strengths.
Check out what other tutors in your area are charging, and price accordingly. Like many of the jobs on this list, you’re going to want to earn a minimum of $15 to $20 an hour, but in some cities and neighborhoods you can easily charge $30 to $50 an hour or more.
Then, make a website that features your expertise -- maybe a short video of you explaining how to diagram a sentence, for example -- and start advertising your services online, on social media and in person. Need more tips? Read The Penny Hoarder’s tutoring how-to guide.
Lifeguarding is still a popular summer job for teenagers, but many pools hire adult lifeguards as well. Money Crashers has a great guide to becoming an adult lifeguard, including this quote: “As someone who managed lifeguards for almost six years, I loved hiring adult guards because they were better at remaining focused, weren’t afraid to uphold the rules, and garnered more respect from a growing population of adult patrons.”
Sound like something you can do? Then it’s time to get certified, get up to date on your emergency first aid skills and get ready to blow that whistle!
Each city and pool will have its own certification requirements, but the American Red Cross lifeguard certification site is a good place to learn what types of certifications you might need, as well as where you can go to register for classes. Confirm any required certifications with your local pool before you spend money on coursework.
How much do lifeguards earn? Rates tend to float between $10 and $20 an hour.
7. Selling Lemonade
Ah, the lemonade stand. This job sounds so childish that many adults don’t even consider it. However, as we’ve written about before, it is possible to earn money selling lemonade as an adult.
What’s the secret? First, you have to make really great lemonade -- none of that powdery stuff you sold as a kid. Second, you have to know how to market yourself: as Sarah Greesonbach recommended, “Arrange to sell your refreshing beverage anywhere people might be hot and looking to try something new: in the parking lot at local baseball tournaments, at indoor and outdoor church functions, at summer festivals and local farmers markets.”
How much can you earn selling lemonade at farmers’ markets? Well, this USA Today story describes one entrepreneur who, in one day, sold 840 cups of maple lemonade at $4 per cup. That’s $3,360, minus expenses. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal!
8. Washing Cars
Check and see what car wash services are in your area, and whether you’d be interested in taking on this classic childhood job as an adult. You might have the most luck if you’re in a startup-heavy city like San Francisco. Washly, for example, operates out of the Toronto and San Francisco areas, and Eco Car Cafe serves the Seattle area. These startups are looking for people who can provide both an excellent clean and excellent customer service.
Be aware that you might have a lot of competition; Forbes noted that car wash startup Cherry (now defunct) only hired 1% of all applicants.
How much can you expect to get paid? According to Forbes, Cherry paid minimum wage to start. Not great, but better than nothing for a part-time job.
9. Weeding Gardens
Remember when your parents sent you to the backyard to pull weeds out of the garden? Chances are, they only paid you a few bucks for your hard labor -- if they paid you at all.
Well, now that you’re an adult, you have the opportunity to earn a bit more for your skills. Sites like TaskRabbit and Zaarly help connect garden-weeders to satisfied clients, so sign up with a few of those sites and see if you can find some gardens that need weeding!
Prefer to be your own boss? You can always advertise your own weeding and garden services as part of your very own freelance business. Bet that’s something you wish you could have done as a child!
Nicole Dieker is a freelance copywriter and essayist. She writes regularly for The Billfold on the intersection of freelance writing and personal finance, and her work has also appeared in The Toast, Yearbook Office, and Boing Boing.