As a nanny with a decade of experience, one of the first questions I had to ask myself when I began to sit in the city was, “what exactly do I charge?”
While it took too long and a few awkward moments to find my rate, we have created a guide for you — a local sitter looking to make extra cash, a pro-nanny, or a caregiver working in the home —that will help put you on a path to discovering what your hourly rate is. Because it is definitely not a one-size-fits-all number.
It should be noted the below factors are not an exact science, but rather a starting guide to get you closer to asking for what you need with confidence.
5. Your Region
A good baseline to start — as what you will make does depend on where you live/where your potential employer or current employer resides — is Care.com‘s babysitting calculator. It should be noted that those who live in urban areas will make significantly more than those living in rural areas, so be cognizant of this as we move forward. While it does not encompass one’s true rate, it is an excellent and quick way to get familiar with your area’s rates and start building from there.
4. Your Expenses
Your expenses play a significant factor in calculating your overall hourly rate. While some parents may offer to give you a lump sum, always be sure to do the math, as in these circumstances, the caregiver is often shorted. Expenses can include, but are not limited to, phone bills, water bills, rent, gas, electric, co-pays, medications, insurance, and food, to name just a few things. If your rate is ever questioned, it can be immensely helpful to pull up a list of expenses to show your employer to see what is left after everything is due.
3. Certifications and Being Bilingual
While obviously a degree in child development is a major reason to up your rate, certifications and being bilingual can also boost your hourly. Besides being CPR-certified, sharing your background with your employers can signal that you have taken your growth seriously in the past and plan to continue to evolve in this field to become the best caretaker you can be. Being certified in water safety, experience as a nutrition specialist or have partaken in a Positive Discipline Training course are just some of the many “extras” that will make you stand apart from the crowd.
2. Your Range of Caretaking Abilities
While this part goes hand-in-hand with certifications, I am talking more about experience with certain age groups of children. Worked at a pre-school summer camp with 2-year-olds every year since you started college? Boom! That’s four years’ experience with toddlers right there. Volunteered at your church’s nursery and cared for infants every Sunday? You probably know how to swaddle, feed, and rock an infant. Better yet, were you an Au Pair or live-in nanny once? While a sitter just starting out may make an hourly wage of $10, if you have done any of the above, your rate can shoot up at least by a few dollars based on how many years you spend with each age group. In addition, if you have experience working with children with disabilities, severe allergies or special needs, this can also be important to share.
1. Extra Responsibilities
Doing laundry? Walking the dog? Running a few errands? There are tasks that could make your family’s life even easier but also may add to your to-do list. It is important to sit down and asses (depending on the home, the size of the family and the family’s location) what you are willing to do and not do in the home. From there, you can better asses what tasks you are happy to do on your downtime (like doing a quick load of dishes) and tasks you may exert more effort into that are not exactly in your job description but will do for an extra few dollars (i.e. organizing a parent’s file cabinet.)
Presenting Your Rate
Now comes to the fun part: presenting your new rate (or newly-revised/updated rate) to your family. With that may come a bit of anxiety, so I provided a few pro-tips below before you send that “can we talk” text.
Do Keep A Level Head
As my dad once told me, “It’s not ‘friendbiz’ it’s ‘showbiz’ Amelia,” and I believe it applies here. While coming from a place of transparency and vulnerability is notable, getting defensive, over-emotional, or irrational will not strengthen your case. As difficult as it may be, being straightforward with the least emotion possible, will. While it is a job where your emotions are involved every day, it is still a job and should be respected as such. Go into your chat grounded (with notes if you need to), and if at the end you don’t feel like you can engage in conversation, schedule a time to talk at a later date when the dust has settled and everyone is coming in prepared and emotions are not high.
Do Put It All In Writing
LEAVE. A. PAPER. TRAIL. This will not only cover your own butt should there be discrepancies, but it will also dissipate any confusion from where you are coming from and what you are asking for. Be it in an email, text, or typed out in a note the ol’ fashioned way: have it in writing. If you are asking your employers to seriously invest in you long-term, how you ask and when you ask it should reflect why you deserve this; it requires a degree of professionalism and tact that will remind them of your worth and why they are so lucky to have you!
Do Be Firm On Your Non-Negotiables
While it may be difficult to know exactly what you need, you can always start by knowing what you will not do when it comes to working in the home. For example, you may offer to do laundry when the kiddos are napping, but you will not walk the dog (because maybe you’re just not a dog person and that’s okay.)
Another example could be offering to do dishes if you have the time during the day, but under no circumstance would you ever feel comfortable reporting to one parent when the other parent gets home, at what time, and what they are wearing. (Yes, this happened to me.) Do what makes you feel comfortable (within reason, obviously) because at the end of the day, you are your only advocate and if you do not state what you need, you will not get what you need. And if there is something that violates the boundaries you have set for yourself or makes you feel weird or uncomfortable, say something. You are your own HR department!
Whatever Happens, Be Gracious
Your time is valuable. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. If your potential families or current families cannot meet your needs, be sure to part ways gracefully as possible, as having stellar references is a major part of getting your next (potentially high-paying, long-term and loving) gig as a caregiver.
Should your family shame, dismiss, or disregard you in any way for asking for what you need, responding with silence and moving on may be the next best step, as it is not healthy or acceptable to work for someone who does not respect your time and talents.
This industry will always have a need for caregivers, as people will never stop having kids (unless robots suddenly learn to give cuddles and make bomb a** blanket forts). And while the job involves high levels of emotional attachment to children, above all, you can only be the best caregiver to others if you take care of yourself first.
I hope this empowers you to ask for what you need and you are met with a (more than) reasonable offer because you are worth it.
Good luck and be gracious!
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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