Finding Work as a Babysitter
If you are at ease with children, then working as a babysitter might be a way in which you can earn some extra money.
While apparently straightforward work, it's not without potential problems, so make sure you consider everything involved before starting.
Who Suits This Kind of Work?
This part-time work particularly suits school leavers, students who are saving for college and mothers of older children who are looking for some work to fit around other daytime commitments. You need to be someone who can act responsibly and take responsibility if there's a need to. Children's welfare is involved, so you need to ensure that they're safe and content when you're in charge.
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It involves more than sitting on the sofa! You need to be able to relax children and upset babies, so the ability to communicate with youngsters is important. Depending on parental requirements, you may need to bathe and feed children, while putting them to bed without fuss. Some may have problems that need seeing to, although most parents would rather stay at home if their children aren't well.
You need to be able to get on with the parents too. This means being courteous and friendly. A degree of organisation is essential so that you can ensure everybody knows what to expect from you - and when. This affects everything from being ready to return phone calls when they contact you concerning availability to turning up on time when you're booked.
The most typical situation for babysitting is in people's family homes, usually in the district you live in. This means being in the house for a few hours while the parents (or single parent) go out for an evening's leisure.
There are also some openings in shopping centres, hotels and places of entertainment, although these are more likely to be for registered childminders. It's up to you how far you take your professional role - registration is covered below. Note: childminders are more likely to be working daytime hours than babysitters, who are usually evening workers.
Most people work for themselves, although there are various agencies around who will put you in touch with potential clients. The more established your service is, the more likely you will do well out of registering with an agency.
If you're still at school or are a student, then babysitting for local friends will probably be your first venture into babysitting. This can be just a couple of evenings per month or week or it can build into more frequent sessions, bringing you some valuable income. If you're studying, then it's an ideal time to revise or finish reading for seminars.
Most people start through word of mouth recommendations, starting with friends and then friends of friends. If you prove yourself to be reliable, honest and good to have around, being available for almost any evening and especially weekends, your work could grow quite rapidly.
You may be able to work on weekdays too, if the parent who is normally at home needs to go out for the day. This would be more involved than evening work, as it means entertaining children during the day.
Understand Your Customers' Needs
Most people think only about what they'd like to do when starting out as a babysitter. However, you can get your service going much faster if you take time to think over what the parents would like from you.
You can do this most effectively by thinking about what parents wouldn't like! The non-ideal babysitter is the teenage girl who sits on the sofa with her boyfriend, raiding the fridge and bar or making long phone calls on the landline, while ignoring the child crying upstairs. This kind of babysitter certainly has their priorities back to front.
Most parents are primarily concerned about safety of their children and security of their home. This adds up to reliability and responsibility of the babysitter, who is down-to-earth and focused on the needs of their children. Think about the kind of emergencies that could arise - namely, accidents and illness - and think about whether you'd know what to do.
It's about recognising boundaries and guidelines, and letting parents know that you do. The more you understand your customers' needs and fears, the better you can publicise the service you're offering by providing reassurance up-front.
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Being a Good Babysitter
- Decide where you'd like to babysit. If you have transport, your area can be wider. You can decide whether there are well-off areas that you can focus on. Will you consider any family, or does it have to be a friend of someone you know or already babysit for?
- Decide what your expectations are. Being able to watch the TV or DVDs might be one. Basic refreshments might be another. You might have boundaries too - if parents are consistently later home than arranged, you may feel that they are not respecting you sufficiently.
- Offer references. After rare but well-publicised cases involving children hurt by nannies or babysitters, many parents are looking for extra reassurance about your skills and abilities.
- If you can find first aid training, this is a good idea. You'll feel extra confidence that you can handle anything that happens and the parents will feel more confident in you.
- Offer an upfront meeting to function as an interview. Showing you are willing to be scrutinised is reassuring for parents.
- Be upfront about your fees. See what the local rate is and set yours accordingly. Decide beforehand whether you're going to need a taxi home or whether you can use your own transport. Make sure you're all agreed on this.
- Meet the children beforehand if you can. Half an hour on a day prior to your first session will mean you're a familiar face rather than a strange person who has turned up one night. Make friends with them, but be a sensible adult too - you'll need them to respect your requests when you babysit.
- This advance meeting is also a good time to find out from the parents what the children are like, how they might react on the night, etc. Learn what time they'll eat, when they go to bed, who is hard to settle down and other relevant information. Always ask about allergies. This is a good time to ensure you're clear about any rules or boundaries. Note down contact phone numbers too.
- Arriving on time is important. If you're late, the parents will be late for their rare evening out. You can't maintain a good reputation for reliability if you're late.
- Don't smoke or drink alcohol, even if the parents say this is OK. If you normally smoke, try to wear clean clothes and shower and wash your hair before babysitting - non-smoking parents won't appreciate a smoky smell around their children.
Publicising Your Service
First, get some references from existing customers. Providing you know they're happy with your work, ask those you know well to provide a sentence or two saying why they're happy to use you. You can use this in your publicity.
If you're looking to expand your service beyond friends and neighbours, there are a few places where it's worth publicising yourself. If you have a small leaflet or flyer, you can post it on notice boards near schools, pre-schools and playgroups.
Community newspapers are a good place to put a listing. Always mention your references and first aid qualification if you have one. Also look in the 'help wanted' adverts.
Take your leaflets to local mothers groups. You can also look for young mothers' forums and message boards online, and post your advertisements there.
If you're at college, drop into the careers office and ask if they know of any existing opportunities for gaining work or publicising your service.
Finally, there are a number of online agencies that you can join. By registering and creating a profile, you can make yourself visible to families in your area who are looking for babysitters. You should always read all the details on these websites to ensure that families are, to some extent, known and that your personal information will be secure.
Think About Your Safety Too
When accepting work or meeting prospective families, remember that you too need to feel safe in the arrangement. There is nothing wrong with asking them for a reference too, possibly from someone who knows them well or who has worked for them.
You might decide to make the first meeting somewhere more public than the family home. You could meet at a community venue, ensuring that everyone is on equal footing. If you do meet at the family home, you could always bring someone trusted along with you. If you feel the slightest unease with the people you're meeting, then turn down the work - gut feelings count for a lot, even if you're not sure why you aren't comfortable.
Gaining References and Checks
If you decide that you're going to build your service and start working regularly, you might want to gain some formal recognition. This involves undertaking some training, and spending a little time and money registering yourself as a childminder. People who want to care for children during weekdays usually follow this route - this involves registering as a childminder.
Ofsted Registration for Home Childminders-The outcome of the government review on the further implementation of the Vetting and Barring Scheme has still to be announced. This scheme has been halted temporarily with Independent Safeguarding Authority registration suspended indefinitely.
The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects the childminding business as well as educational services, to ensure the protection of children and young people. There are two sections to the register, for early years, i.e., 1-5 and child care.
To become registered, you'll need to attend a pre-registration session in your area to learn more about becoming a childminder. Your local authority will have details on when the next sessions are. You'll also need to complete a paediatric first aid course before registering.
You then need to apply and pay a registration fee. Ofsted will then require you to obtain a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) disclosure - in other words, have a police check.
Once registered, you need to complete an introductory childcare course within six months.
CRB Check (Police Check)
A CRB check is a report from the police which lists any details the police have about you on their system. It is only a search for relevant records, so as a prospective childminder; any irrelevant offences such as speeding tickets won't come into it. This is all about protecting children.
Public Liability Insurance
As a registered childminder, you'll be required to take out Public Liability Insurance. This means you'll be covered if a child gets hurt, or property not belonging to you is damaged. There are numerous situations when this could apply - insurance comes with membership of the National Childminding Association.
Payment Rates and Terms
When working out your rates, you should set a minimum number of hours per night, even if you don't work quite that amount on every night. This is because your entire evening will be taken up, whether you work two, three or four hours. You should not charge for travel time.
If you do decide to go the childminder route, then you can charge more, as you'll have taken on professional expenses such as training, registration, insurance and membership. In return, the customer is gaining more reassurance as to your competence and professionalism.
What time are you willing to start in the evening and what is the latest time you can finish? Do you need to add a supplement for working after midnight? Likewise, what if the family returns later than agreed? Don't be too stringent or you'll lose goodwill - a little flexibility goes a long way. But likewise, you need to ensure that you're treated with respect.
You should decide what to do in the event that the customer cancels at short notice. You may wish to have a cancellation fee of, say, one hour's pay if the family lets you down within 48 hours of the evening.
The Agency Route
There are various babysitting agencies online, designed to match families with babysitters. Some do no more than provide lists that families can browse, while others require childminding registration on the part of its service providers. Some local sites go so far as to interview providers and check references.
Whichever site you use, you should take time creating your profile. It should show your rate per hour, the type of experience you have, whether you smoke or not (be honest), whether you have your own transport or need a taxi home, willingness to work with pets, etc.
Ideally, you should be able to specify exactly when you're available, right down to turning your profile off when you go away, on holiday for instance.
Job Sites for Babysitting Jobs
Here are some online agencies that list babysitter services:
The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years has more information about careers in childminding: https://www.pacey.org.uk/.