If you love kids and you need a way to earn money from home, running a daycare might be an option to consider. This a service you can offer with relatively low start-up costs that there will always be a demand for.
Today's post is an interview with Rosemarie Groner of The Busy Budgeter. She has been providing childcare services from her home for almost two years now, and she graciously answered lots of questions for me about how she got started, start-up costs, what she earns, and more.
I think all of this info will be really helpful if running a daycare from your home is something you've considered doing, but don't really know how to start or what to expect.
How long have you been earning money with a home daycare?
I quit my job to open a home day care in September of 2013, so a little under 2 years now.
How much did you have to spend upfront to get started?
I should have spent about $300. What I spent was about $1,000. If only I know now what I knew then! I had only planned on having 4 kids in my care, but I was so caught up in making the day care portion of my home look like a traditional day care center that I spent an enormous amount of time and money on it.
If I could do it all over again, I would invest $20 in sippy cups, $75 for an LLC, $50 for toys with longevity that they can play with in new ways as they get older, $50 on the diaper changing table and pad, $20 on board books, and $100 on licensing (the fees associated with it like background checks and filing fees as well as a CPR First aid class), and $60 for a crib and mattress from Ikea if you’re taking in an infant. We use the library heavily for books and puzzles, but having a few board books that they can be a bit rougher with helps.
Start small. While I’m sure the impressive set up helped gain me clients, what my clients really wanted was a stay at home mom that would love their kids in the same way I loved mine. That doesn’t come from a million toys. That comes from library books and cuddles and a whole lot of homemade projects (Thank you Pinterest!).
On average, how much are you able to earn per month?
I charge $204/week for an infant (I don’t accept them under 10 months), and $189/week from 18 months to 4 years. When I started, I just had my son, so I took an additional 3 kids (1 infant and 2 toddlers) and made an average of $2,500 per month. However, I also saved the amount that I would have spent in care for my son. We spent $240/week on his day care when I was working full time, so I was saving an average of $1,032 a month as well. I guess you could say my income with the benefits package (of not having to pay for my child’s day care) was $3,532/month.
You will need to handle taxes on that income, but the tax benefits are really amazing (a portion of your rent/mortgage, home improvements, utilities, food etc. are all tax deductible). Take your plans to a local tax accountant and have him estimate your costs based on last years spending. You can also grab a copy of Tom Copeland’s “Family Childcare Tax Workbook and Organizer” for guidance. I should mention that I am very protective off my “off” time, but others can make double that or even more by accepting more kids, or working an unconventional schedule (like overnights or evenings), and opening up their off time to babysitting in their home.
How difficult is it to start a child care business (how hard is it to get licensed, etc.)?
It’s overwhelming to think about, but incredibly simple in practice. Licensing has a bad rap as being difficult or intrusive. If you have good intentions, licensing will be pretty easy. They just need to see a safe place for the kids. You’ll need to memorize their rules, but most of them make sense. Things like not letting the kids have access to choking hazards and ensuring hands are washed before eating. There are a few rules that don’t make a ton of sense, but they’re easy to comply with (like you must have a large sticker on a glass door). They do have about 4 random inspections a year, but again, they’re looking for a child’s safety, not judging whether or not your house is spotless (mine certainly isn’t!).
The paperwork for licensing took a while to complete, but I had a license in my hand within 4 months from when I had the idea to do child care at home. If licensing is concerning you, I strongly recommend that you go ahead and start the process, it really isn’t as bad as it seems (although each state has its own licensing regulations, so yours may be different).
Other than going through the licensing process, child care is a pretty easy to business to start up. It requires very little capital, there are free government resources available for you to get your business running (like the USDA food program and licensing), and you are in control of every aspect of it.
Related: 50 Home Based Business Ideas
How did you find most of your clients (word of mouth, advertising, etc.)?
This was another area that I spent way too much time and money on! I started with free advertising on Facebook community groups, then did a mailing campaign for about 200 neighbors including an intro packet, a business card and a magnet for their fridge. I was getting inquiries, but they were trickling in.
I realized that I needed to find local moms where they were spending time, so I started a flyer campaign with a free giveaway in a local mom’s event and spent $50 to advertise with a super popular local blog. That $50 was the best business money I ever spent. Within 10 days, I had all 3 spots filled and 23 people on my waiting list.
What would you say are the best things about doing child care from home?
The commute is pretty awesome! Once you get through the first weeks with the kids, they quickly become your kids. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to know that you’re making such an enormous impact on the lives of kids that you love. It’s really the best of both worlds, I get to stay at home full time, but my toddler still gets socialized. I technically work a 10 hour day, but about 90% of the time, they all fall asleep at the same time so I get about 2 hours to myself at nap time, often times more.
You get to be your own boss, set your own rules and decide how your day will go. You’ll have a much easier time balancing work and home when you can switch a load of laundry at “work”. The best part for me though, is the routine. I left an incredibly demanding, chaotic job, where planning ahead was impossible. I worked long hours, with shift changes, unexpected over time, cancelled days off and long stretches without days off at my old job. The idea that I get to wake up at the same time every day, and always know what I’ll be doing next is incredibly comforting.
What are the worst things about doing child care from home?
The isolation is staggering in the beginning. I have plenty of friends, but you don’t realize how much daily interaction you have at a traditional job until it’s suddenly gone and none of your kids can talk. Texting other stay at home moms is a huge help, or if your group is small enough, even meeting up for play dates.
Having a home daycare makes vacations and sick time a little trickier. I really miss the days where you could just call in sick and stay in bed all day. But, even as a stay at home mom, you don’t have that option. You’ll either need to close your day care for the day or hire an assistant to cover for you. I wrote a week of vacation into my contract, so that we could still take a family vacation.
It’s also important to consider that four kids make an incredible amount of mess. And depending on their ages, they may not have the ability to help you clean up. The good news is that you quickly transition from being a parent of one, to a parent of four and with that you tend to be much calmer about things like messes. The bad news, is that your husband is still the parent of one and can’t figure out why you can’t keep the floors clean. This will be a transition for him as well.
Do you have any tips for others who are interested in doing this as a way to earn money from home?
You need endless patience. Two year olds are not known for their reasonable nature and maturity. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, this isn’t the job for you.
Time off is incredibly important. By time off, I mean away from the kids. Even your own kids. It took me quite a while to realize that. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but even just heading to the grocery store by yourself on the weekends, gives you a chance to reset. Likewise, making paid vacations as part of your contract is really important to give you the ability to enjoy your only family for a week without the financial burden of running daycare while you’re gone.
Stick to your rules. Have a late fee for parents that pick up late, pay late etc. and enforce it. Even the best meaning parents have a hard time remembering that your time is valuable too. If you let just one lateness go, you set the precedence to be taken advantage of.
Give yourself a lot of grace in the beginning. If it seems like your days are hard and you can’t quite figure out how to make it all work, just step back and be patient. There’s a learning curve with each new child similar to when you brought your own kids home from the hospital. You don’t instinctively know how to handle four kids at once, but you’ll learn quickly.
Rosemarie Groner is a formerly stressed, overworked and exhausted mom who loves blogging almost as much as she loves brownies. She writes at The Busy Budgeter about how she used the free Ultimate Money Saving Workbook to reduce their spending enough to be able to quit her job, stay home with her kids and then found way to make up her salary at home. She’s still working on the cure for exhaustion.