Beyond the Babysitting Gig:
Kids have always worked. They’ve raked leaves, washed cars, and supervised children while Mom and Dad go out on dates. There’s only one problem, says Gregory Downing: While these typical kid jobs do result in a bit of pocket cash, they do very little to teach kids the all-important principles of entrepreneurial wealth building.
“Directly trading your time for money is very limiting,” says Downing, author of Entrepreneur Unleashed: Wealth to Stand the Test of Time as well as an upcoming book on providing a financial legacy for kids. “This is especially true in a global economy characterized by skyrocketing prices and a shortage of ‘good’ jobs.”
The good news, says Downing, is that your kids can put an entrepreneurial twist on these classic childhood jobs—or at least take their earning potential to a higher level. Here are ten ideas to help you get started:
- The Tutoring Source (and Babysitting Broker).
School is back in session and, as always, there will be plenty of students who need a little extra help to thrive academically. Perhaps your child can provide that help. But rather than being just another service provider in a crowded market, why not suggest she be the front person? She might create a database of qualified locals and book appointments for her subcontractors. She can charge $10/hour for the services, and pay each of her contractors $8/hour. The same principle can work for babysitting.
This is great management experience and really illustrates the magic of passive income. On any given afternoon, she might be earning money from four or five or even more tutoring jobs. Meanwhile, she can be enjoying a fun extracurricular activity or perhaps earning even more money by holding a tutoring session of her own.
- The Thriving Cider Stand.
The lemonade stand is a classic childhood business. And just because summer is over doesn’t mean your kids have to close up shop. As the weekends get cooler and the leaves begin to change, they can simply switch over to, say, hot apple cider. No matter what they’re selling, the refreshment stand can teach many valuable lessons.
Kids can learn about profit by buying their own ingredients and doing their own marketing. They can shop around for better pricing, learn the benefits of buying in bulk, or negotiate with a local grocer for a better deal on repeat business. They can differentiate themselves by holding “buy two cups get one free” sales or throwing in a free cinnamon sugar cookie with each purchase.
Want to kick it up a notch? Let’s say there’s more than one hot spot in the neighborhood for set-up. You can guide your child through “franchising” by forming a partnership with other neighborhood kids. He can provide the supplies and set-up, and they get paid for managing the table.
At some point your child may find out franchisees aren’t doing what they are supposed to do (giving away drinks to friends or leaving their stand unattended, for example). This is a chance to walk him through the tough conversation he must have. You might even brainstorm ways to stop the problem—say, by giving kids a cut of the profits instead of paying a flat salary.
- The Dog Days of Entrepreneurship (Dog Walking).
Taking Fido for a walk every day is a good way for kids to make a little extra money. (This is especially true in the cooler months as the days get shorter and the temperatures get cooler and people are unable—or just unwilling—to venture out in the evenings.) Add two or three more canine clients to the mix and it becomes a great learning experience in multitasking and client management.
Help your child set up a client database to keep track of client contact information, schedules, payments due and received, and any special requests or needs. Help her learn to gauge her own limits. Once she feels she’s at the outer edge of her ability to serve clients well, it’s time to stop accepting new clients or to bring on a partner or employee.
Taking this business to the next level can be easy and fun. Your child might offer every tenth walk free. Or, she might throw in a free dog washing with every new contract. Likewise, there are good opportunities to “spoke off” a whole new service: If she does a great job as a dog walker, she might offer her clients pet sitting services.
- The Savvy House Sitter.
Being given the keys to someone’s house, and perhaps the temporary custody of a beloved pet, is an honor. Explain to kids just how much trust clients are placing in them—and explain that if they go “above and beyond” they can shore up the relationship in a big way (not to mention generate enthusiastic referrals).
For sure, kids need to clean up any pet messes or spills, water the plants, check the mail, and take out the trash on trash day. That’s just basic good service. But they might also offer to tackle other projects for a small extra fee: scrubbing bathrooms, washing cars, mowing the yard, or organizing photos.