14 creative summer gigs your kid can do to earn money

14 ways your kid can earn cash this summer

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a little summer downtime. If your kids worked hard during the school year, sleeping in and hanging out with friends is acceptable. But that doesn’t mean they can’t use a chunk of their time off to hone their work ethic, too. If they’re of age—14 for most jobs, according to the Fair Labor Standards Actthey can get “real” jobs like scooping ice cream or busing tables. But there are other summer gigs that stretch their boundaries and develop their skills. Here are my money-making ideas for enterprising kids of all ages.

Caretaking

  • Pets: Friends and neighbors leave town for long weekends and extended vacations during the summer. Some of them own pets. Opportunity knocks for kids who love animals and are experienced with and reliable about caring for them. Tasks may include walking dogs, feeding hungry animals, cleaning litter boxes and cages, and keeping lonely pets company. (“Polly want a cracker?”) Bonus customer-service tip: Text the absent owners a photo of their happy pet with a quick note describing the visit.
  • Plants: Have you raised a kid with a green thumb? From weeding to watering plants, mowing lawns and trimming the hedges, garden- and plant-loving kids have plenty of ways to earn extra green.
  • Children: Many summer camps for little kids last only a few hours a day, which leaves working parents with a gap in care. If your kids have experience caring for younger siblings or cousins, great; they can pitch their services. If not (or even if so), look into a babysitting course like those offered by the Red Cross. These primers, online or in-person, teach kids 11 and older about everything from caring for infants to responding in an emergency. They even offer tips for running a babysitting business. Bonus: With certification, your kid may be able to charge a premium for her services.
  • Elderly people: Young people can brighten the days of seniors, especially ones who live alone or in an eldercare facility. If your kids are comfortable around older people, they can make a big difference in little ways, by taking a walk, playing games, reading aloud, straightening up, or making snacks. (As a first step, they can begin by volunteering at a local facility before picking up paid work.)

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Special talents

  • Beautician: Hair braiding, manicures, pedicures, and makeup application are marketable skills! Kids who have these particular talents can offer services to teens who are attending bar and bat mitzvahs, birthday parties, and weddings, and they can offer lower prices than a salon, which their younger clients will appreciate.
  • Entertainer: Would your kids be useful at a younger child’s birthday party? Organizing treasure hunts or games, applying temporary tattoos, face painting, adding teen expertise for one of those video game trucks—a creative hand who brings energy and enthusiasm to the festivities can be a major stress reliever for parents.
  • Tutor: Helping kids who are struggling academically can be very rewarding. And lucrative. If your kids excel in a given subject and are good at explaining things to others, there should be plenty of opportunities to help younger kids or peers sharpen their math, Spanish, or composition skills for the coming academic year.
  • Furniture assembly specialist: Do your kids rip open IKEA boxes with glee? Most people hate—hate!—assembling furniture. And some are physically unable. If your kids have the knack, this can be a great way to build a business and a Billy bookcase or two.
  • Painter: Scraping, priming, and painting fences, doorways, or window frames—the kind of tasks that keep getting pushed down the to-do list. If your teen has the patience of a saint or is an aspiring artist, this could be a great gig that provides sweet relief to local homeowners.
  • Baker: Do you have a budding baker in the house? Don’t keep all those cookies and cupcakes to yourself. Help him share them with the world—for a price. Bake sales and baking for special occasions can be a real money maker. Just be sure to check the food-handling regulations for your state. Some require certification.
  • Crafter: Whether they make jewelry, decorative wall hangings, or custom tees, crafty kids can sell their creations at a local craft fair or on their own Etsy page. Keep in mind that Etsy has a minor’s policy: They must be 14 to register, and parent supervision is required through age 18.  

General assistance

  • Mother/father’s helper: Light cooking, clearing clutter, and cleaning can help any chaotic household run more smoothly. If your kids have a bike or a car for running errands, that’s yet another service they can offer. Essentially, the more useful they are to busy parents, the more valuable they will be. Just make sure if they’re doing work for you, these summer gigs go beyond their regular chores, for which they shouldn’t be compensated.
  • At your service: Summer is a time for adults to cut loose, too. Parties are a perfect opportunity to provide help wherever help is needed: caring for guests’ kids, setting up, serving food, and cleaning up after the festivities are over. Parents will appreciate not having to hire pricey caterers.
  • Sell their stuff: There are many platforms for your kids to sell the gently used toys and clothes they have outgrown. Poshmark, eBay, and My Kid’s Threads are good options because the items are shipped—there’s no risk of face-to-face contact with strangers as there is with Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

Talking about money can leave you tongue-tied. My weekly newsletter is full of financial conversation starters.

Your role

Ultimately, the goal is for your kids to take the lead on their summer gigs as much as possible, but they’ll probably need adult guidance. I recommend discussing the following with them.

  • Rates: Help them set fair rates by researching the local market online and IRL.
  • Confidence: Having them practice pitching their services to you helps your kids feel self-assured when they go after potential clients.
  • Customer service: Once they land the gig, excellent customer service is essential. As with mock pitching, role-play different scenarios to help your kids get comfortable with the types of people they’ll encounter: the distracted parent answering the door (that should be easy for you!), the eldercare facility receptionist, the manager of the local party space, etc.
  • Marketing: Is this a word-of-mouth business? A poster-on-a-tree business? A share-on-social-media business? All of the above? Help them determine where they can best spend their marketing time and efforts, and set a realistic schedule to get it done.

Hopefully, with your help, your kids’ hard work will lead to a summer gig that isn’t just fun but lucrative, and a real step up in maturity. And maybe they can run a pared-down version of the business when school is back in session. Tell me below how your kids choose to earn money this summer!

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