50 Tips for Setting Babysitting Rates

As a babysitter, your most important job is watching and entertaining children. This is no small task; children are full of energy, and even a job that lasts only two hours can be exhausting. Unfortunately, babysitters are not always paid what they feel they deserve, or even what they truly deserve. So, how do you determine what to charge for your services?

Tips on Rates by Area

  • Consider the area of the country you are living in and what the median income is. Areas with higher incomes are likely to have higher paid babysitters.
  • Scour your local paper’s “Childcare” section. Find ten people offering their services and ten people looking for babysitters. Take the rates of these ten people and find the average. This might be a good place to start your negotiations.
  • If you know of local baby-sitting agencies, call them and ask what they typically charge families for sitters. Remember, sometimes agencies take a cut of what the sitter is paid, so estimate about ten percent less than what they tell you.
  • If you have friends that babysit, ask what they charge for their services.
  • Use the power of the internet! Check babysitting websites and salary websites to find the median, high, and low amounts babysitters in your area are paid.
  • If you know for a fact that your area does not offer many sitter services, you may be able to charge more if there is a high demand for babysitters.
  • If you are babysitting in middle-class or upper-middle-class neighborhoods, you can probably request more money than if you are sitting in a working-class neighborhood.
  • If the job can’t be reached on foot or with a very brief drive, you may ask for more money to compensate for gas costs.
  • If there is a lot of competition for sitting services in your area from individuals more experienced than yourself, consider lowering your rates to make yourself more appealing. Don’t go so low the family worries about your competency as a sitter!
  • Suburban areas with heavy commuter populations usually pay better than rural or isolated areas.

Child-Based Rates

  • How many children will you be watching?
  • Consider “group rates.” Charge one hourly rate for 1-2 children, a different hourly rate for 3-4 children, and so forth.
  • Take into account the ages of the children. If you’ll be babysitting children who are older (8-10), they require slightly less attention than infants and toddlers, so your job won’t be as demanding.
  • If you are comfortable sitting for a special-needs child, you may ask for a higher rate to compensate you for extra care.
  • You might be able to charge more for infant care due to the special skills needed.
  • If you will be watching twin or triplet infants, you can request higher pay than you might if you are watching twin or triplet 10-year-olds.

Time-Based Rates

  • Will you be babysitting part-time or full-time? You might be able to receive more money for full-time work.
  • Are you watching the kids during the day or during the evening? Evening hours can garner more money than daytime hours.
  • Does the job require you to be at the house extremely early or very late? Consider asking for a “shift differential.”
  • Babysitting on Friday or Saturday nights can earn you more money than babysitting on a weeknight.
  • Consider flat-fee babysitting. Instead of charging by the hour, charge by the time of day overall: for example, for an afternoon job, charge $30. For a job that will require you to be at the home from the evening into the wee hours, charge $50. These numbers are only example of time differentials in flat-fee sitting.
  • Consider a flat-fee charge if you will be babysitting for an extended period of time, such as an entire weekend. It’s more appealing to parents to have a flat rate in such circumstances.
  • Are you going to be babysitting on a holiday? Holiday rates are usually higher than regular rates.
  • If you find a family that utilizes your services on a regular basis, consider suggesting a retainer. A retainer is an upfront fee that the family pays to ensure you’re available whenever they need you. This is especially helpful if the family has a lot of unexpected instances where they need a sitter.

What About Taxes?

  • Learn the tax laws of your state. Federal guidelines are always the same, but state laws vary.
  • Ask right away if your pay will be net or gross. If it’s gross, taxes are your responsibility.
  • If you make enough, consider hiring a tax professional. A CPA can navigate all the tax laws in your area and make sure you don’t end up in an audit.
  • Even if you don’t believe you make enough to worry about federal income tax (generally, between $200 and $500 a year as a minimum), you are still responsible for Social Security and Medicare taxes. These are known to the IRS as SE taxes.
  • If you are responsible for your own taxes and you don’t want to go to a tax professional, you should give the families you sit for a W-9 so they can submit it with their taxes.
  • When it is time to do your taxes, use a Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ to claim your earnings as an independent contractor—if the family is paying you gross pay.
  • Remember to file your taxes on a quarterly basis if you’re an independent contractor. Doing so can prevent you from owing money at the end of the year.

Warning Signs Regarding Families and Rates

  • If the family requests weekly or monthly rates and “forgets” to pay you, they may not be good clients.
  • Families who seem reluctant to negotiate rates might not feel you are worth the money for which you are asking.
  • Parents who want to pay you the same rate for watching their infants as they do for watching their older kids aren’t considering the extra work you’ll have to do.
  • Parents who become hostile at the suggestion of higher rates for special circumstances (holidays, extra children, and so forth) may not value your work as a sitter.
  • If you sit for a family with difficult children and the parents are reluctant to compensate you for the extra trouble you have, it may not be worth it to stay on as their sitter.
  • Parents who regularly invite other children over while you’re babysitting should be paying you for the extended services. If they aren’t, you need to speak up and voice your concerns.
  • Babysitting for friends or family friends can be touchy. Occasional care for free is a kind gesture; babysitting day after day for free is being used.
  • If you have been babysitting for a family for a number of years with no raise or adjustment in pay, you should discuss a raise. If the family refuses or balks at your request, it might be time for them to find a new sitter.
  • If you are expected to ferry children to and from appointments, practices, and play dates without any compensation for gas, either ask for a rate increase or put your foot down. Gas isn’t free.

Making Yourself More Attractive for Higher Pay

  • Consider CPR certification. Some families won’t accept a sitter without the certification, while others may be impressed at the added qualification.
  • Don’t stop with CPR training. First aid certification tells parents you are ready for those minor bicycle falls and bee stings.
  • If you have little experience with children, consider volunteering first. The more experience you have, the more likely money you can make.
  • Get a little older. No, don’t make yourself up to look older; wait until you are older. Sitters college-aged or older tend to make more money than middle school-aged or high school-aged sitters.
  • Make yourself irreplaceable. Do everything in your power to make the kids absolutely love you. The more the kids love you, the more likely the parents are to pay you extra to keep you around.
  • Be available in a pinch. Parents might have last-minute plans or emergencies that mean they have to run out in a hurry. If you’re available in such a situation, parents are more likely to be grateful for your efforts and pay more. Don’t drop your social life altogether, just be flexible.
  • A lot of families will tip for special circumstances, such as coming home later than expected or emergencies with the children. Don’t complain about these circumstances, and you might find yourself with some extra cash.
  • Offer to do a few chores for a small additional fee.
  • Suggest sitting for the parents when they seem frazzled from an overwhelming schedule. They might not have thought of asking you before, but the offer can be appealing.
  • Dress appropriately. That doesn’t mean you need to wear a suit and tie to babysit, but don’t dress like a slob. Dressing conservatively shows parents you are serious about the job and might garner you some extra cash.