Watching Tots: How to Get Started in Babysitting


Babysitting is widely regarded as a teenager’s job, but there’s no reason why adults can’t scoop up these well-paying gigs, too. I’m not a parent personally, but if I were I think I’d feel more comfortable about leaving my kid with a responsible adult whom I trust opposed to a well-meaning teenager who lacks real-world experience.

Whether you want to start babysitting to pad your income or you’ve been around the block a few times and you’d like to step up your game, here are a few tips (for both teens and adults) to consider before advertising your sought-after services. (See also: 12 Side Jobs for Stay-at-Home Moms and Dads)

1. Take a Training and Safety Course

First and foremost, parents want to know that their children are in capable hands, which is why it’s of the utmost importance to be prepared for sticky situations.

You’ll need first-aid training, for sure — if a child is choking, you need to react immediately — but you should also know how to maneuver other obstacles that pop up:

  • How will you handle kids who don’t listen?
  • How will you entertain kids if they’re bored?
  • What will you do if the kids are prone to fighting?

Babysitting isn’t just about making sure little ones don’t burn the house down while they’re parents are away, after all. It’s about being a good caretaker in all senses of the word, which essentially translates to taking over the role of substitute parent for a few hours. If you’re not familiar with what that entails, training can help you get a handle on the job so you can do your job confidently and effectively.

2. Do a Few Test Runs

Babysitting can be overwhelming your first few times, so it’s probably not a bad idea to offer to babysit kids with whom you have a good rapport for a few test runs. The parents will love you even more than they already do, of course, and along the way you’ll gain valuable in-the-field experience that will help prepare you to be the best babysitter you can be when you start charging.

3. Compile References

Even if I knew my potential babysitter well as a person, that doesn’t mean I know them as a competent caretaker. Thus, it’s in your best interest to put together a document containing at least three references for past families for which you’ve babysat. If you don’t have references from families because you’re just starting out, include other relevant references that potential clients can contact — like a church member, your first-aid training teacher, or another colleague or supervisor from a hands-on, kid-related experience.

4. Set Your Rate

When starting any new business, it’s wise to keep your fees a little lower than the standard rate. For babysitting, the general consensus seems to be between $5 and $10 an hour, so I would suggest starting out somewhere in the middle, at $7 or $8 an hour. Keeping your fee lower at first will help you get gigs over a more expensive sitter, but it also lets the parents know that winning their trust is more important to you than money — a key aspect in being asked to babysit time and again.

5. Advertise Your Service

When you’ve completed your training and a few free gigs, compiled your references, and set your rate, you’re ready to start advertising your services.

It’s easier than ever to promote yourself via the Internet these days — there are sites dedicated to pairing babysitters with families, like, Sittercity, and Babysitters (some are free; some charge a fee) — but don’t discount old-fashioned methods like word-of-mouth advertising and posting on community boards in the real world. With a job like babysitting, where safety and a genuine commitment to providing proper care is so important, it's often these localized and personal means of spreading the word about your services that work best. Of course, you won’t know what works best for you until you’ve tried several options, so the best way to advertise in the beginning is to cast a wide net to see what sticks.

Have you been a babysitter? Do you have other tips to add to help people get started? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

Make business cards. I teach HS and so have my pick of any dozen or so girls to baby sit when I need it. The most enterprising girl I came across had beautiful business cards printed up. She was my student so I knew her but she gave me a stack of her cards and I probably passed them out to 20 different parents on her behalf. Word of mouth is great, but a pretty card in the purse or wallet is golden because who remembers that friend's recommendation a month later.