Summer’s lazy days will soon be here. How will your children fill the season’s long, daylight hours? If the thought of video games, sibling spats, and boredom makes you long for autumn, it may be time to suggest a business venture.
While most companies aren’t prepared (or legally permitted) to hire children, parents can help kids learn about business, finances, and how to work hard. It can also be fun for kids to earn their own money and feel the satisfaction of doing a good job.
Besides earning money, what does a child get from working a summer job? Plenty, according to Business Counselor Sam Waltz. When a child starts his or her own business, it fosters a spirit of entrepreneurship. Long after the money has been spent, the confidence and skills developed on the job will stay with the child.
“The greatest benefit of inspiring entrepreneurial spirit in a child is that the child comes to understand how to build a greater sense of self-determination and self-reliance,” he says.
A parent can foster that spirit by “encouraging learning and exploration,” says Waltz. So, instead of viewing the summer months as a time devoid of rigor and routine, help your kids learn and experiment through a summer job.
Jeanne Kiefer, author of Jobs for Kids recommends asking your child what he “really likes and what kinds of jobs are related to that?” Does he like to be outdoors? Creative with his hands? Work with others? Take care of animals? Take your cues for a suitable job from the natural inclinations and preferences of your child.
Here's a list of interests and skills, and jobs that might be a good fit, adapted from The Kid’s Guide to Money by Steve Otfinoski.
- Computers- Office work, repairs, teaching people how to use computers
- Animals- Dog-walking service, pet care while owners are away, pet-grooming service
- Children- Babysitting, party helper, clown
- Outdoor Activities- Day-camp worker, lawn care, car washing service
- Crafts- Making and selling crafts, organizing and teaching a day-camp for younger children to teach them crafts
- School- Tutoring
- Sports- Organizing a day-camp to teach skills for that sport, coaching
In addition to their interests, it's also important to consider your child’s responsibility level. If your daughter forgets to clean the cat’s litter box, she might not be ready to take on the responsibility of caring for other people’s animals. Instead, consider jobs with less responsibility, such as weeding, car washing, or selling lemonade.
Tried-and-true businesses for kids, according to Kiefer, include baby-sitting, lemonade stand, pet-care service, lawn-care service, and car-care service. Start-up costs are small and can be a way for children to get business experience.
But don’t let those old stand-bys preclude you from considering other ideas! Less traditional jobs, such as selling crafts, party-planning, or tutoring may be more suited to your child’s ability.
How do you know if you're idea will fly? Kiefer suggests asking these questions.
- Who are the customers for this product or service?
- Who or what is your competition?
- What will attract customers to your product or service?
- How much will people pay for this product or service (ask around to find out what others are charging in your area)?
- Where will they buy your product or get the service (location, location, location)?
Once you decide on a great business idea, it's time to get the word out there. In The Kid’s Guide to Money, Otfinoski shares these ideas about how to spread the word:
- Tell friends and family. To drum up those first clients, your child can offer a service or product at a discount. Encourage your child to tactfully bring up the service. It is good to start out with familiar friends and family members because your child will feel more comfortable with them.
- Distribute fliers. Design the fliers on your personal computer for a professional look. They should include the name of the business, what service or product your child provides as well as his name and phone number. Distribute them in your neighborhood, at local stores, and community bulletin boards.
- Advertise. While this costs money, it also gets the information about the business out to lots of people at once. Keep the ad short and to the point and run it for several weeks.
- Obtain free publicity. Media outlets are always looking for interesting stories, and one might interview if the business is unusual or successful.
Another great way to ensure that the jobs, and money, keep rolling in is to serve repeat customers. If a next-door neighbor pays your child to wash his car once, it is smart to ask whether he would like a car wash every week or two. Add extra incentive for repeat clients by offering a discount off the normal price (if, for example, the regular charge is $5, offer $3.50 a wash).
Repeat clients can refer your child’s business to people they know. For example, if your 8-year-old did a fantastic job caring a neighbor’s pets for a week, ask if the family would be willing to recommend your child’s services to their friends and family.
Starting a summer business can be fun, and, with a bit of effort, it's a great way to make money and gain a sense of responsibility.