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 I do, you could make decent money as a babysitter. By the end of 2018, Care.com found that the national average hourly rate for a babysitter was $15.83, which was more than a 30% increase from $12.07 rate in 2013.
And that’s just the base rate. But more on that later.
All this is to say that babysitting is no longer just a business for teenagers; 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 to Become a Babysitter
What makes a good babysitter? Yes, you should like children. But it’s not all fun and games, according to Connie Fong, vice president of brand, Care.com, who notes that newbies to babysitting should brush up on those invaluable soft skills.
“Taking introductory courses can help aspiring sitters learn the key skills to babysitting, like responsibility, problem-solving, decision-making and leadership,” Fong said in an email. “Places like the American Red Cross offer classes in child care that cover the basics of caring for kids and even better, many classes can be found online.”
When you’re just getting started, word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to boost your babysitting business and to find new customers. Provide great service to friends, family and neighbors, then ask them to refer you to their network of parents.
If you don’t want to go it alone, there are several online platforms specifically set up for connecting parents and baby sitters, including Care.com and Sittercity. Both offer free membership options as well as paid versions that include background checks and improved placement.
When setting up your profile on babysitting sites, include more than the basic facts to attract parents who are looking for specific work history and personality traits that are a good match for their family, according to Fong.
“Share information beyond, ‘I like caring for kids,’” Fong wrote in her email. “[Babysitters should] include more specific details such as their years of experience, the types of responsibilities they have had, and special skills or passions that may help with the job.”
So maybe all those arts & crafts classes could finally pay off.
How Much Can Babysitters Make?
Your pay rate will depend on a variety of factors, including the following:
- Location. You can charge more in cities with a higher cost of living. The Care.com calculator suggests the rate for babysitting one child in San Francisco, California, is $21 per hour, while in Toledo, Ohio, the going rate is $13.50 an hour.
- Number of kids. You can typically charge $1 or $2 more per hour, per kid.
- Age of sitter. Adults earn more.
- Time. Late night and on-demand schedules typically result in higher pay. You can also charge a premium for high-demand nights like New Year’s Eve.
- Additional qualifications. “According to a 2017 Care.com Babysitter Survey, 66% of parents say they would pay more for a sitter with CPR and safety training,” Fong wrote.
- Additional responsibilities. You can charge a higher rate for going above and beyond regular babysitting duties, such as picking the kids up from school or helping with homework.
Which Should You Be: 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.
First, if you don’t get paid more than $2,100 by any one client in a year, you’ll normally be considered an independent contractor, which means you’ll need to pay the self-employment tax along with your income tax.
If you earn more than $2,100 per year from one client, then the IRS considers in-home caregivers to be household employees, which means your employer has tax-compliance responsibilities like payroll taxes.
However, 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 you’re an independent contractor and that the parents won’t need to deal with payroll taxes.
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.
Consult a tax specialist if you’re in doubt about your status.
Whatever path you choose — babysitter, nanny, daycare provider — there’s plenty of responsibility involved when it comes to caring for other people’s children, so it shouldn’t be a job you enter into half-heartedly.
You may not be able to retire early on a baby sitter’s income, but expect your bonuses to come in the form of hugs and cookies — not a bad deal.
Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).
Tiffany Wendeln Connors, a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder, contributed to this post.