Question - You have been writing about summer jobs for teenagers. What can younger kids do to make money and stay busy for the summer - without making too much work for their parents?
Answer - Kids are tailor-made for the service economy, and job opportunities are limited more by their imagination than by their age or talents.
Instead of simply baby-sitting, for example, they could run a play group for neighborhood children in the morning or at dinnertime to give parents a breather. Instead of mowing lawns, they could offer to water plants, hose decks or wash cars - anything that requires water in the great outdoors.
Computer-savvy children would find a willing market among parents or other adults who want to learn how to use software or surf the Internet. Spotting a niche that needed to be filled, one enterprising young man charged a dollar per child for classes in bike riding.
None of these activities requires a big expenditure of money, time or effort on the part of parents. But be prepared to offer your two cents worth of business advice in several areas:
- Pricing. One 12-year-old of Dr. T's acquaintance pet-sits when his neighbors go on vacation, but he's timid about charging for his services.
"They just offer me money," he says.
Even if they're willing to negotiate, kids should quote their own price. Ask around to see what the going rate is, or tell them what you'd be willing to pay for such a service.
- Marketing. Networking is critical. Put out the word to your friends that your children are avail-able. Once they have one satisfied customer, they can use the reference to get more.
If the kids want to sell lemonade or used toys, you may need to suggest gently that business would be more brisk on the through-street around the corner than on your own cul-de-sac. And remind them to put up signs advertising their business a block or so away so cars have time to stop.
- Safety issues. No matter how enterprising they are, kids shouldn't be promoting themselves door-to-door in strange neighborhoods. But it doesn't hurt to knock on doors or hand out flyers on familiar turf within a block or two of home, especially if you go along.
Kids don't have to go very far afield to find clients. If a child charges, say, $1 per week to haul trash cans and recycling bins out to the curb and back, 10 customers would mean $10 per week - not bad for a 12-year-old.