Side Hustles That Work: Start a Home Daycare
Back when we first took a look at our budget, my husband and I realized that we had a problem. We realized that not only did we need to get our spending under control, but we also needed to make more money if we were ever going to break out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
Now, I know so many moms who make it work by working outside of the home, but that wasn’t something that would make sense for us. With my husband working second shift, I’d never get to see him. Let alone the amount that I made would all get eaten up by the amount that I needed to spend for childcare. it just didn’t make sense for my family for me to leave the house for work.
I felt that my options were so slim. Until I had, as Oprah says, an “aha! moment.”
One day, a woman from church told me that she needed to find a new sitter for her son when her old sitter suddenly moved. I offered to help in the mean time since I was home anyway. I never in a million years would have asked her to pay me. But she offered to pay me what she was paying her old sitter: $125/week for a 6 hour day… and of those 6 hours, her baby slept for 3 of them.
From then, I started watching 3 children each week (plus my own son) and was bringing in $500/ week working 4-8 hours depending on the day. It wasn’t easy money, but it was money that I didn’t think I could bring in on my own.
I babysat/ nannied for a year and a half before we moved and decided to focus on growing our own family. It was tough, but it was some of the most fun I’d had making money (until blogging, of course).
There are a few different ways to start a home daycare:
All day care.
This is exactly the way that it sounds: you’ll be watching the child or children for the entire day while their parents are out. The hours may vary depending on schedules or your own personal scheduling limitations.
Depending on the schedule that you agree to, a “full day” might be anywhere between 5 and 9 hours. Make sure that you’re charging a fair amount (see more on that below).
Before and/or after school care.
The child is dropped off at your house and they pick up the bus out front. After school, they are dropped back off by the school bus and spend the afternoon with you until their parents come to get them.
This might be the “easiest” way to provide this service. Depending on the area, I’ve heard of home daycares charging $75-$150 for just before and after school care. This is usually only 1-4 hours, so it’s simply less time.
Before you start seeing dollar signs, I want to help you with some of my tips to start a home daycare.
Don’t overload yourself
You could charge $150/week for each child, but don’t take on 10 children each week just because that means $1,500/week. If you overwork yourself right from the beginning, it’ll only lead to a lot of disappointment.
Not just for you, but for the parents who think that they’ve found a sitter for the long haul, only to have you drop them in 2 weeks because you realized that you can actually only handle 3 children at a time.
Add children to your home daycare one at a time. This way, you can see if you can handle any more children at the same time, or if you’ve reached maximum capacity.
Make sure that you actually LIKE children!
That might sound harsh, but I really want to emphasize this right away: if you just don’t like kids, this isn’t the side hustle for you. If you want to start a home daycare, you really need to love children.
Being a babysitter, nanny, caretaker, and teacher are mostly a labor of love. It’s all about the ways that you serve these children by giving them a lot of your time and love.
If you get tired thinking about dealing with children all day, then you might not want to start a home daycare. And that’s fine! But make sure that you’re not forcing yourself into something that you will just hate.
Choose your rates wisely
Don’t only charge $1/hour because you’re a nice person. Your time is valuable! So is your sanity! If you’re putting in long, tough hours for $1/ hour, you’re going to burn out. Fast.
Be reasonable. You can’t charge $50/ week above the price of the top daycare in your area for a daycare in your living room and basement.
Do your due diligence. What are other daycares charging? What do they have to offer? how does your daycare stack up against other in-home daycares?
These are all important, but don’t forget to value your time well. If you’re only making $100/week, but putting in a 40 hour work week, that might not be worth it. Especially for just one child.
Comply with state regulations
Be very careful with your state’s laws about childcare and in-home daycare. Some states will only let you have a certain child-to-adult ratio before you have to register with the state.
If you don’t comply with these regulations, you could face fines, being shut down by the state, and maybe even jail time. Yes, it’s scary. But it’s also a great way to stay motivated not to overwhelm yourself for the sake of bringing in a few extra bucks.
Plan your days
Having a schedule not only saves you a lot of time trying to find things for the kids to do all day. It also gives you something to show potential clients to give them an idea about what sets you apart from the competition.
Parents want to know that their child isn’t plopped down in front of the TV watching Calliou all day (shudder). They want to know what you plan on doing all day with their child.
Here are some ideas:
- Reading time
- Singing songs
- Outside play/ field trip
- Nap time
- Reading time
Make a contract with the parents
Some parents will try to weasel their way into paying you less, or not showing up on time, or not calling ahead if they’re late, or trying to short-change you because they weren’t there the whole time or a million other reasons. This is when you’ll want a contract.
You can easily write up your own contract, or you can google childcare contracts to help you set up a contract that works for you.
In your contract you should include:
- Parent’s name
- Parent’s location while child is in your care
- Phone number
- Emergency contact
- Other people who can pick up the child
- Child’s allergies
- Child’s doctor
- Agreed upon rate
- Agreed upon drop off and pick up times
- Extra charges for late drop offs, pick ups, no shows
- Cancellation policy
- Who will provide food for the child
- Parent’s permission to leave the house with the child in your care (field trips)
- Length of contract (school year, entire year, a few months, etc.)
- Permission to administer medicines to child (things like Orajel and baby Tylenol)
- Child’s allergies
There are more things to take into account when making up a contract, but these are all things that I know have benefited me in the past from including in my own childcare contracts.
Advertise for yourself
Care.com and Craigslist were my 2 biggest referrers. For sitters and daycare providers, Care.com is free. But if you’re searching for childcare, you have to pay for it. It helps a great deal that Care.com is a reputable site and that they do all of the background checks from their site.
Even Craigslist is a great way to find families in need of childcare. I know, there’s a great deal of hesitance that comes along with finding childcare from Craigslist. And for good reason!
But there are some steps that you can take to minimize the potential for scammers:
- Email back and forth with the potential client
- Take not of their spelling and grammar. If it seems like English isn’t their first language, be wary. There are scammers claiming to be from other countries who are looking to steal identities from Craigslist.
- Google them and see if they have a Facebook or a LinkedIn. Check to see if this is a real person.
- If they are offering to pay more than double what you’re asking, chances are good that it’s a scam as well.
- Meet in a coffee shop or speak over the phone before inviting someone into your home.
- Have another person with you when you set up an interview in your home.
There are other ways to make sure that you avoid scams.
For both Care.com and Craigslist, make sure that you use a picture of yourself to show that you’re a real person to go along with your ad. Make sure that you share what sets your daycare apart from the others.
Is it small and personal? Will you be incorporating a lot of art? These are all things that will make your ad stand out from the other ads. It will also help prospective parents know that you’re a real person who will be making a real difference for their child.
Take them to the park. Let them play on the playground. Get them a coloring book from the dollar store. Take them to the pet store. Make their day fun!
It’ll be easier for the children since they’ll be entertained with something other than you (which is nice every once in a while). But it will also be easier for you. The more fun they have, the easier your job will be!
If you’re looking to stay at home with your children, then a great option to bring in more money is to start a home daycare. It’s a really great way to provide your children with playmates while allowing you to earn money without leaving home.
And did I mention that a lot of in-home daycares are paid under the table, so it’s completely tax-free? Yup! Parents often find it easier to pay for babysitting under the table with cash. That really makes starting a home daycare a great win for you!
Have you ever tried to run an in-home daycare?
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