13 Businesses Your Tween Can Start
Somewhere between childhood and teendom, many kids have an epiphany. I remember having it myself. They realize that money gets you things — movie tickets, clothes, and ice cream cones. And you don't have to just ask your parents for money. You can get out there and make it.
For my 12-year-old, the epiphany has been very specific. If she had a few hundred dollars, she could get tickets to Hamilton. Lately, every conversation is peppered with information on how her current entrepreneurial efforts are going, and ideas for new businesses. She's a tweentrepreneur, basically.
Tweens are in a sweet spot for running their own businesses, because unlike little kids, they may have developed near-adult competencies in certain areas — like growing a strong social media presence — but unlike older teens and adults, they probably have a lot of free time on their hands. With all these ideas, it's important to use common caution: Don't let tweens go to strangers' homes unaccompanied, or distribute their personal phone numbers, addresses, or email.
Here are some ideas that she (and I) have thought of.
1. Dog Walking
This is one of the first things my tween has ever gotten paid for. It's a good "starter responsibility" because the tween only has to be responsible for the dog for a short amount of time, and because there is a lot of latent demand out there from people who wish their dogs got more exercise but don't want to pay the $35 per walk that some professional dog walkers charge in my area.
My tween got her first dog walking gig when I answered an ad on a local email group from someone looking for a few days of backup for her regular walker. She earned about $20 for an hour of her time two days in a row.
Now that she has a reference, she plans to solicit more customers through the same list and through friends and family.
This can be combined with idea above for an overall pet care business. So far, my tween's petsitting jobs have been unsolicited — a neighbor asked her to come to her house to feed and play with their cats while the family was out of town. This is a step up in responsibility, because besides ensuring the animals' welfare, my tween has to be careful to lock the door behind her every time she visits. She has gone the extra mile by emailing photos and a report to the pet owner every time she visits their home. She gets paid $10 a visit.
3. Pet Cleanup
This could be added to a full-service pet care business. Lots of people hate scooping dog poop out of their backyards or cleaning the cat's litter box. Teach your tween precautions to avoid spreading bacteria.
The age when kids can start babysitting is not universally agreed upon, but my daughter's Girl Scout handbook suggested 12, and the Red Cross offers a training course for her age, so I felt my mature seventh-grader was ready.
Luckily, we have a neighbor who was looking for help with her twins, and was willing to train my daughter. My daughter spends much of her time in "mother's helper" mode, reading to one twin while the other gets a bath or vice versa, but she is working up to being alone with the kids for short periods of time. It's also lucky that I am able to be nearby, next door, as my daughter gets her babysitting legs under her.
My tween earns $5 an hour for this job. There is a lot of demand in our neighborhood, since more teens are busy with after-school activities than in the past. She could easily build up a large clientele if she wanted to.
Most kids get babysitting jobs through word of mouth, but if your child is 14 or older, you can help them set up a parent-monitored account on Care.com.
5. Making Something to Sell
So far, my kids have only sold handmade items for charity, but the results were eye-popping. A mom who knows how to make jewelry donated a load of earring hooks and baubles, and taught my daughter's Girl Scout troop to make earrings. During the holiday season, they set up a table downtown and sold dozens of pairs of earrings for $10 each, in just a few hours, netting hundreds of dollars for their cause.
Kids can also sell their wares online with parental supervision. Another girl we know hand-sewed blankets and other items, and sold them on Etsy to raise money for charity. If they make a high quality product, they could even get it carried by a local store.
More ideas for products that a tween can competently make at home: slime, soap (with supervision), greeting cards, crafty gifts, tie-dyed items, food products (in states that allow selling things made in home kitchens), bath products, personalized items, and knitted or crocheted items.
6. Mowing the Lawn
This has not been my kid's speed, but it's a time-honored tradition to hire a neighbor kid to mow your lawn, rake your leaves, or shovel your snow. If you can lend them your mower or shovel, it gives them a leg up. Weeding and watering are also tasks that are hard to mess up.
7. Running Errands
Nowadays, many of us are raising children in car-dominated suburbs or cities where we don't feel safe letting kids out of our sight. But if you're like me, lucky enough to live in a small city that is bikeable and walkable, but also has very low crime, your tween should be able to make a few bucks by picking things up at the grocery store for neighbors, returning library books, and the like.
8. Wrapping Gifts
My tween has been charging family members to wrap presents for the past couple of years, and she does a brisk trade. She saves money on materials by keeping fancy bows from gifts she receives. Next year, she plans to open her business to the public. In our town, a local bookstore allowed Girl Scouts to set up a wrapping table, just for tips, during the holiday season. Especially if her business aims to raise money for charity, local stores might allow this for your tween.
9. Performing at or Planning Kids' Birthday Parties
When I was a child, children's author Florence Parry Heide lived in my town. Through the grapevine, my mother heard that the author was looking for someone to dress up as a clown to entertain at her grandchild's birthday party at her lakefront mansion. Since I enjoyed acting, and needed money, I gave it a try. I checked out some books on how to be a party clown from the public library, put together a costume with my grandmother's help, and showed up at the party to do a few dopey magic tricks, act silly, and generally entertain the kids. I got a rave review from Ms. Heide, and ended up performing at a few other parties around town.
My tween, on the other hand, excels at planning party themes and making pretty cakes. She has seriously considered offering to put together theme parties for families who don't want to do the work themselves, but also don't want to spend $300 or more to host a party at an event space or hire a professional party planner.
10. Assisting the Technologically Impaired
For some tweens, using the Internet to do everything from creating a photo book to setting up a new cell phone line comes naturally. If you have technophobe neighbors, your tween could help out with such tasks for a small fee. Teens who are really computer savvy could even charge for on-call tech support.
11. Garage Sale Concessions
This is a favorite with all my kids, including the littler ones. Whenever we have a yard sale, they set up a table and sell cotton candy, lemonade, baked goods, whatever edibles they can come up with. In fact, the kids beg me to hold a sale just so they can do this.
If your tween has the patience and is a good student, they could help a younger child with homework after school or offer extra help in a specific subject. Some parents would pay just to have someone read to their young child for half an hour a day.
13. Becoming a YouTuber
Believe it or not, there are children making six figures a month by posting videos on YouTube. From the looks of that channel, the top cooking show on the site, making it probably involves full-time adult help. But it's possible for kids to make videos of playing Minecraft, reviewing, playing with, and even unboxing toys, or something based on their own ideas, with little to no adult help, and make some money.
If your child wants to make YouTube videos, you should do a safety check on each video before it's uploaded. Make sure there are no clues as to your physical residence, and that they don't share their full name, for instance. It's probably also a good idea to turn off the comments.
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