Are you a babysitter? Do you want recurring and frequent jobs? Do you want to come recommended by the parents you sit for? Then you need to learn how to set yourself apart as a sitter, because here’s the terrible truth: babysitters are a dime a dozen.
Just in my neighborhood alone, there are teenagers and students galore, stay-at-home moms, and nanny-shares all eager to babysit my twins and the hoards of other kids in the building. They all have tear-off flyers in the entryway to my building. You know the flyers I’m talking about- the ones with a little profile on the top half, and the bottom halves are cut into long strips with their contact info written on each one.
With the whoosh of the opening door all the tendrils of paper with vertically written phone numbers flutter about, like fingers hoping to catch my sleeve as I pass. Each advertisement vies for my attention as I wrestle the door open and maneuver my double stroller through the corridor. The problem, as you can guess, is that there are just too many babysitters. You’re going to have to set yourself apart as a sitter if you’re going to stand out and get word-of-mouth recommendations.
Here are a few pointers from me- a mother of twins, a (paid) babysitter since I was 13, and a three-time summer nanny. In no particular order.
Here’s what you need to do:
Include a recent picture of yourself
You should be the only (adult) in the picture,
Have the photo frame your face and shoulders,
You should be facing the natural light source,
Try your best to look pleasant.
When you show up for your sitting session, bring your special babysitting bag. It should have:
- Copies of your certifications/trainings
- Mini “first aid” kit (band aids, tissues, wipes)
- One or two age-appropriate activities. Ideas: puppets, a magnifying glass, crayons, paper, a book, a rainy-day game, a soccer ball, a board game… Nine times out of ten you won’t have to use these things, but you’ll be SO happy you have at least ONE backup activity the one time everything else fails! Plus, parents are impressed that you take the time to think about this.
Certification and Training
Check out local hospitals, the YMCA, or Fire Stations to see which courses they offer. ALL childcare providers should have AT LEAST their infant/child CPR + First Aid certification renewed each year. Bonus points for up-to-date background checks, babysitting classes, and other certifications.
You should be the opposite of a couch potato when you are taking care of kids. Remember:
boredom = misbehavior
Channel your inner kid and PLAY. Build a fort, run, turn on the radio and dance, collect rocks, play hide-and-seek, and read books with ALL the voices. Be so occupied having fun that kids forget that television was invented. The time will fly.
Be polite and respectful
Address the parents and children alike with politeness and respect. You cannot command it if you do not first give it.
Always have clear and honest communication
From the very beginning and with each sitting session, you should communicate clearly and honestly. Before you even find a sitting job, be clear about what you are comfortable doing (read my article on how to find a great fit with a family), what your hourly rate is, etc. even on your profile and advertisements.
Once you are in contact with parents, be sure to confirm each session with them the day before, this soothes their fears and lets them know that you are organized, too!
Give a clear, detailed account of what happened while they were away, including (and especially) any issues that came up. Did the child take a fall? Did they cry a lot? The parents want to know that their kid is safe, and that you are trustworthy. If you happen to have a great time while they’re away, even better, but don’t omit details.
This rule goes for the kids, too. Be honest and clear with boundaries, routines, and expectations. The kids are learning to trust you, and deserve good communication from you as well.
Listen well and search for clarity
Parents should give you a good idea of what to do/not do, and what to expect while they are away. Listen intently to their directions. If they don’t offer this information, ASK. If they aren’t clear, ASK. Do you have the necessary information in order to act autonomously while you’re in charge?
If something important comes up while they are away and you really need to know the answer, ASK.
Listening and searching for clarity shows that you care about how to best care for their child, it shows that you take your job seriously, and it shows that you are trainable. Note: this doesn’t mean send the parents text messages while they are away about small things like which pair of socks their kid should wear. Use your best judgement.
You aren’t their maid, but neither should you leave the place worse than when you arrived. Bonus points if you get the kids to help tidy up after themselves. Serious bonus points if you clean the dishes.
Be early and presentable
Early is on-time, on-time is late. Wear functional and appropriate attire. The one time you show up late and/or wearing revealing clothing, or just an outfit that doesn’t allow you freedom to pick up kids and play with them… well that’s probably the last time they call you.
Keep Your Cool
There are very few circumstances in which you can justify losing your calm. Put it this way: if every character from Game of Thrones walked through the front door INCLUDING the dragons… well, nobody would fault you if you started screaming and jumping up and down. But even then your first and most important priority is to make sure the kids are okay! All other situations not involving dragons require that you remain in control of your emotions.
What you don’t necessarily need:
You’ll notice that I haven’t written experience down as one of the things that can set you apart. Experience certainly can help, but I will take someone who has the above traits over someone who is more experienced but lacks any of these. The day I find a sitter who has all these traits is the day I frame their phone number and hang it on my wall.
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