It doesn't matter if you're an established babysitter or just brand new. Every time you take on a new babysitting job, you're going to need to negotiate your pay rate.
Talking about money is awkward and stressful for most new babysitters, especially if you're only a teenager and trying to negotiate pricing with an adult.
If you price yourself too high, you might miss out on some jobs. But if you charge too little, you're selling yourself short and could miss out on hundreds of dollars that the family would've been willing to pay you.
How do you negotiate babysitting rates? Do some research upfront to find the average babysitting rate is in your area, decide on a minimum amount that you're willing to accept, then practice what you're going to say during your conversation with the parents in advance. Be sure to mention your qualifications and experience to justify your rate.
In this article, you'll learn 9 essential negotiation tips and tricks to land you more well-paying babysitting jobs.
Is There A Minimum Wage For Babysitters?
In most places, no there isn't.
Babysitters aren't considered domestic workers, so parents aren't legally obligated to pay you minimum wage.
Babysitters are usually considered independent contractors, not employees. Which also aren't required to be paid a minimum wage.
As a babysitter, it's up to you to negotiate with parents and agree on a reasonable rate.
Luckily, by the time you're done reading this article, you should be armed with some tips and strategies to bring to the bargaining table to help get you the pay rate that you deserve.
Should Babysitters Charge By The Hour Or A Flat Fee?
In almost all cases, I find that babysitters are better off to charge by the hour instead of a flat fee per babysitting session.
The main reason is that parents are often late getting home! If you already have a pre-agreed amount for the evening, they may get home an hour or two late. That could cost you $20 or more compared to if you were charging hourly.
Normally parents will feel bad for making you stay late and give you a tip for your extra time. But there's never a guarantee that will be the case, or that they'll tip you the equivalent of what you would've made if you were charging by the hour!
How do you deal with parents getting home late? See our 4 tips for babysitters.
The one exception might be if you're babysitting overnight. Your flat fee will also take the time you spend sleeping into account. See our overnight babysitting guide if you're required to stay over, we have a bunch of essential tips you should know.
Although even in that case, I think it's better to charge your regular rate for hours that you're actually babysitting, and a lower rate during the hours you’re sleeping. You should still be getting paid even while you're sleeping since technically you're still on duty and might need to help the children if they wake up during the night.
OK, now for our 9 essential negotiating tips:
1. Figure Out The Minimum You're Willing To Accept
How much you're willing to work for will largely depend on your situation.
As a teenager, you can work for lower wages, but as an adult, you need to earn enough money to live on.
If you're a teenager, you probably don't have any bills to pay. So it can be hard to figure out the bare minimum amount of money you need to earn.
I'd recommend deciding on the lowest amount that you're going to be happy with.
Too many babysitters go into interviews with the attitude of "whatever you're willing to pay me is fine." I think that's a bad approach that really devalues what you're worth. Remember, you have taken the time to go through a babysitter course and First Aid / CPR training and should be paid accordingly for your skills and experience.
See my recommended babysitting courses.
Babysitting comes with an opportunity cost. You have to give up time that you could be doing your homework, hanging out with friends, or relaxing. So it might be perfectly reasonable to pass up a babysitting job that's only offering you $5 per hour if you value time spent doing those other things more.
As an adult or full-time babysitter, things are a bit different. You should start by listing your qualifications, skills and work experience. The more qualifications that you have, the more money you can charge by the hour.
For example, if you have 3 children of your own and previously worked in childcare or teaching, you can charge more than someone who worked in a supermarket and has no children of their own. Parents are happy to pay a higher wage to someone with more qualifications.
You should also create a budget and figure out how much you would need to earn to pay your bills, pay for gas, buy groceries, plus a bit of extra money left over for fun and savings.
If babysitting is your only source of income, I'd add a good amount of padding to the minimum rate you're willing to settle for.
If you agree to a babysitting job that only just covers the bills, you'll constantly be struggling and just breaking even. And once you're in a full-time babysitting job, it's hard to find time to reach out to other potential families or go to interviews.
In most places in the US, $15 per hour is a good minimum rate for a full-time babysitter and I wouldn't settle for much less. After all, you're basically doing the same work as a daycare or nanny for the most part.
2. Research What Babysitters Get Paid In Your Area
The pay a babysitter can expect to earn varies widely depending on where they live. Even within the same country or state, hourly rates for babysitters can be drastically different between cities.
Don't just ask a friend or two how much they charge. Take a bigger sample of people into account.
Look online to find the average rate for babysitters in your city. That's a good place to start, and then you can adjust based upon your age, experience, and other individual circumstances.
Still not sure what you're worth? Read our babysitting rate guide for help.
3. Set A Pay Range
Once you've determined the minimum amount that you're willing to accept and also an idea of the going rate for babysitters in your area, you can set a range.
Every job is different and the amount you charge should have some flexibility.
Don't go into a babysitting interview with a single number in mind.
For example, you might charge more if you're babysitting a new baby, if a child has special needs, or if a family has a new puppy that you'll also need to take care of.
If a family you plan to babysit for has more than one child, it's common to charge an extra $1 or $2 per hour in addition to your base rate.
So give yourself a range to work with, like $16 to $19 per hour. Normally a range of $3 to $5 is enough to take any situation into account.
There is lots of money to be made on special occasions, see our guide to NYE babysitting for more details.
Also, see our suggested ways to earn more money while babysitting.
4. Talk It Out In Advance
Don't go into any negotiating situation without planning out the conversation in advance.
That's like a lawyer going into the courtroom without having a defense prepared!
The more you plan out how the conversation might go, the more comfortable you'll be when you're actually negotiating your rate with a parent.
Make a note of how you want it to go, and try to think of any objections that parents might have. Then figure out rebuttals to those objections that politely explain why you think you're worth more.
Negotiating is a skill like anything else, and the more you practice it the better you'll get. Start off in low-pressure situations like when something is wrong with your meal at a restaurant or trying to come to a compromise with a sibling.
It can really help to get a family member or friend to roleplay the situation with you too. Get them to act as the parent and go through the scenario with you. You might even ask them to be purposefully difficult and try to come up with new reasons why a parent might reject what you're asking for.
Before you go to a babysitting interview, take some time in front of the mirror to go through what you're going to say. Practice makes perfect!
5. Do It By Phone If Possible
Many people find it easier to negotiate over the phone instead of in person. That way you don't need to look the person in the eyes or worry that you're going to upset them as much.
Many parents start off the interview process with a screening call. But if they want to jump straight to an in-person meeting, I'd request to talk over the phone first.
This has an added benefit as well. It makes you seem like a busy babysitter who values their time, and you'll come across as more professional.
Hopefully, that's true for you too. You should value your time as a babysitter! There's no point driving to meet someone before you iron out the basic details. You want to figure out if you're a good fit and if you can agree on a pay range upfront.
Get it over with
It's better to get a "no" right away via a phone call, which only takes a few minutes. As opposed to getting dressed up and traveling to their house or meeting at a coffee shop and back home, which can take an hour or more in total.
After you discuss the basics such as how many children they have, when they'll need you to babysit, and other basic details, it's time to talk about pay. Tell them what your rate is, and ask if they're comfortable with it. Before you invest any more time in the interview process, you want to find out right away if they're willing to pay you the minimum amount that you'll accept.
Avoid giving a range
I don't recommend offering parents a range. Just give them a specific number based on their situation. Otherwise, they'll always go for the lowest number in your range.
If the thought of negotiating on the phone is too intimidating...
Many cultures make people feel scared to bring up money. You might feel like you're less of a babysitter because you're talking about money instead of the children you'll be caring for. Babysitters deserve to get paid fairly just like everybody else.
If you're really anxious about negotiating, you could even consider having the initial conversation via email or text message where you can compose and re-read your thoughts at your own pace before you send them. Keep in mind that this gives parents more time to come up with objections and try to haggle down your rate too, so it can backfire.
6. Build Up Your Credentials
The more positive details that you can slip into your initial conversation with parents before discussing rates, the more you can potentially charge.
Parents might start off just thinking they need a person sitting there to make sure their child doesn't get hurt.
Let them know how you go above and beyond as a babysitter. Discuss all of your experience and credentials such as babysitting courses, First Aid, and CPR.
Let them know that with you, their children will be fully engaged and having fun the entire time. You won't just sit them in front of the television for five hours like some other babysitters might. That's what they could end up with if they're only offering the lowest possible rate.
Let them know all the hard work and labor that you put into your babysitting duties.
All of this builds you up in their mind, so there won't be as much shock when they hear what you charge.
Find out how to build up valuable credentials by reading our Guide to babysitting qualifications.
7. Ask How And What
People are less defensive of questions involving "how" and "what."
If you ask "why" questions like "why can't you do this?" it puts them more on edge.
If parents say they can't pay your rate and can only pay X amount, ask a "how" or "what" question.
"How flexible is the amount you're willing to pay?"
"What can I do to make my service worth $X for you?"
"How can we come to an agreement?"
It makes it more of an open-ended question that generates ideas and sounds like you're trying to work toward a compromise, instead of sounding like an accusation.
Make it clear to parents that you're on the same team. You're both trying to get the same thing, which is great care for their child.
Maybe parents will be willing to pay you the rate you're looking for if you're willing to tidy up a bit after the children go to bed. But you'll only find that out by using "how" and "what" questions, not by asking "why."
Almost any "why" question can be rephrased into a "how" or "what" question!
8. Don't Sabotage Yourself
In interviews, it's easy to sabotage yourself. Especially if you really want the job or you're a natural people-pleasing person.
If you say "my rate is $15 per hour" and you're met with silence, the reaction of most people is to try to fill the silence by any means possible.
The parent you're talking to might just need a few seconds to think it over, but in the meantime, you might blurt out "but I can probably do $12 per hour if that works better for you!" You just gave yourself a pay cut.
Being comfortable with silence is a powerful negotiation tactic. Once you're aware of it, you can use it to work for you instead of against you. If parents give you an unfavorable rate, pause and think about it for a few seconds. See if they'll get awkward and offer you a higher rate just to fill the silence. Sometimes silence can say more in a negotiation than you ever could because it gets people negotiating against themselves!
Don't cave into something you don't really want
Also, avoid changing your initial requirements. If you go into a babysitting interview and you've told the parents that you can only babysit for 12 hours per week and they say they want you to babysit for 20 hours per week, don't change your position. Just repeat your original information that you can only work with them for up to 12 hours.
There's probably a good reason why you didn't say 20 hours per week upfront. You might have schoolwork to do, other jobs to fit in, or just want more time to relax.
A mistake would be to sabotage yourself by saying "I was hoping for just 12 hours per week, but I could probably do 20 hours per week if you really need me to." Suddenly you've signed up for more babysitting than you have time for. You'll probably end up feeling burned out or unsatisfied in that case.
You can always ask for more time
You don't expect parents to hire you on the spot in an interview. They may have other people they want to interview before they make a decision.
That courtesy should work both ways. If you need more time to make a decision, don't be afraid to say so. Just let them know that it's a big decision and you want to take a day or two to think about it before you get back to them.
9. Look For Other Benefits
If you can't seem to come to an agreement on an hourly rate, think about other benefits that you could negotiate for.
If the parents are willing to pick you up and drop you off at home after each babysitting shift, that definitely has some value to it.
Maybe they'll be willing to leave you some leftovers to eat or chip in for a food delivery each time you babysit.
If one of the parents is an accountant, maybe you can get them to do your taxes for you!
Don't hesitate to get creative and try to come up with other ways to make babysitting work for you besides an hourly wage.
What other factors should I take into account when deciding on my babysitting rate?
Definitely take location into account. If you're babysitting a child that lives a couple of houses down from you, you might be able to offer a lower rate than if you were watching a child across town.
Experience plays a big part, as well as the number of children you'll be watching.
What kind of tone should I use when negotiating my babysitting rate?
You want to be firm, but not rude. It can be a fine balance.
If you've got a minimum rate that you're willing to accept, you need to make that known. But you don't want to start losing clientele because you let emotions take over either.
Keep things professional and do your best to avoid getting upset.
If a family can't afford to pay you the rate that you think you deserve, then just thank them for their time and explain that you're sorry it couldn't work out. Parents will understand as long as you're professional about it.
Are you going to a babysitting interview? See our job interview guides:
- What to bring to a job interview (plus checklist)
- What to wear for an interview
- The babysitting interview process (what to expect)
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