Each of my children, by the time he or she was nine years old, wanted to know how to make money. “Like, a REAL job (insert eye roll here), Mom.” Perhaps it is the natural result of being the youngest generation of a long line of entrepreneurs. Perhaps it was that my husband and I are never willing to pay for all of the things their little hearts desire. However it happened, I am happy to encourage their desire to work for the things they want. The problem is that no businesses are hiring ten-year-olds.
So how does a motivated kid make money? It takes a little creativity and self-direction, but it is totally do-able. We have researched a lot of business ideas, tried out several, and found some that are fun and profitable—from the youngest business hopefuls to teenagers saving for a car or college.
There are a hundred ways to do a bake sale, but here is how my son made his into a business that paid for two summer study abroad trips. He baked a single item each week, packaged four or five treats together, and sold them for $5 each. He advertised and took orders on Facebook (through my page, his dad’s page, and his “business” page) and word of mouth. We delivered to places we were already going to be –work, meetings, sporting events. With this strategy, his bake sale was more like a job instead of a one-day event. He had to devote time each week and keep his customers happy. This year, he passed the business on to his younger brother who has already baked enough to pay for his own summer adventure.
This money-making strategy is flexible as well but does take some planning. Last year, my younger two children wanted to attend an extra week of summer camp. An extra week was not in my budget. So they decided to sell plants in order to raise the money themselves. They used seeds to start vegetables and flowers in peat pots in February. In March, as herbs and perennials sprouted in our yard, they split those they could and repotted them. They did the same with several pot-bound house plants. In April, Granny offered them the extra ferns in her yard just for their effort of digging them up. (They were overgrown and in need of thinning so it was a win-win for Granny.) By early May, they were ready. They set up a table in the front yard, drew a giant sign, and set about attracting customers. Additionally, they participated in a kids’ farmer’s market hosted at the Red Balloon. The sale was a huge success, and they earned their way to that second week of camp they were eying.
Build or Make Something
Aside from baked goods and plants, kids can make all kinds of useful and marketable items. Dog toys braided from old t-shirts, hand-built bird houses, essential oil aromatherapy rice bags, bookmarks, headbands, jewelry…the possibilities are endless. From an old-fashioned yard sale to a school craft sale to Instagram and Facebook, crafty kids can find many opportunities to get their products in front of people. The especially skillful may even find success on Etsy.
Pet Sitting or Dog Walking
Summer is the season for vacations, and a responsible child can make a good income caring for friends’ and neighbors’ pets when they go out of town. For year round income, your child can offer dog walking for people who don’t have the time or ability to offer their furry friend the exercise they need.
This is the classic money-maker for teens. I took my first babysitting job when I was eleven and freshly graduated from the Red Cross babysitting class. Most people nowadays won’t even leave their eleven-year-old alone while they run out for a gallon of milk, but there are still opportunities for mature teens to watch kids and make good money doing it. That same course (well, probably updated) I took a million years ago from the Red Cross is still available. You can find times and locations all over town on their website. The class provides skills and confidence for kids ages 11-15 who want to babysit. Plus, it helps nervous parents feel confident that their sitter has some basic safety training.
Lawn Mowing and Yard Work
For some reason, my kids HATE mowing our lawn and complain endlessly about it, but they seem thrilled to mow Granny’s lawn. Could it be the $50 they split for their effort? Ahhh yes, that must be it. Who can blame them? Lawn mowing is a good gig—fresh air, sunshine, and darn good pay. To increase their income, they might consider adding edging, weeding, leaf raking, or snow shoveling to their services. Just a few customers can make this business extremely profitable.
Technical or Office Assistant
No matter how computer savvy I seem to be, my teen (and even my pre-teen) is still one step ahead of me. Why not put those tech skills to good use by helping others and making money? Depending on your child’s skills, they might be able to help with a variety of computer related needs—setting up new systems, editing and organizing photos, organizing online accounts like email or electronic bill paying, teaching others how to use software and apps. People who run a business from home (like Mary Kay, Tastefully Simple, or LuLaRoe) also frequently need extra hands in their office for entering customer information into the computer, product packaging, or organizing—all tasks a conscientious young teen can manage.
Has your child—like mine—been taking care of the family pool for the last couple of years? If so, then they have enough experience to do the same for other pool owners in your neighborhood. Have them figure out what to offer and how much to charge. Will they sweep the pool once or twice a week? Test water? Add chemicals? And what will they charge? With a little planning and a few hours knocking on doors, a teen could have enough customers to keep them busy and well-paid all summer long.
A car wash is a great, fast fundraiser to fill a sunny afternoon, but what about offering an ongoing car cleaning service? Options could include weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly exterior washing, waxing, interior dusting, vacuuming, window washing, and rim polishing. Maybe even scrubbing out the sticky goo inside those cup holders.
Tutoring or Study Buddy
If your child is a whiz at math, a superstar at Spanish, or just especially good at simplifying difficult concepts, tutoring could be the perfect job. Sometimes, a mom or dad just wants someone to study spelling words or drill math facts with their child so they don’t have to. Word of mouth, community bulletin boards, and networking with school personnel are all good ways to find clients, so encourage your child to spread the word and let everyone know what they offer.
I don’t think a child is ever too young to start learning the joys of work—the satisfaction of a job well-done, saving money for things they want, time management, figuring out how to help others. I want to do everything I can to encourage their desire to be productive, and helping them find work that suits them—their interests, skills, and abilities—has been an essential part of that.
Will your kids be making money this summer? Do you have a great kid business idea? We would love to hear about it!