Sunday, March 20, 2011

Going Green: Earning Extra Green

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I'm so sorry that my "Green Thumb" post hasn't been published yet! A combination of an unexpected visit from some new friends and inclement weather mean my green thumb project hasn't happened yet. I'll get to it in the next couple days and get it posted, but for now, the next topic: "Earning Extra Green". 

Who doesn't want to earn a little extra money, eh? For our family, this is the first time I haven't done anything to bring in extra income. One way I was able to earn quite a bit of money for our family was through running an in-home daycare. 

My experience with it doesn't make me an expert, and there are lots of things to think about when considering opening your home to others, but I'll share some of what I learned in the hopes that if you're considering something like this, you'll be better informed. In most states you need a license to have an in-home daycare, but the requirements are different. I lived in Nevada when I did it, and I never became licensed. The law stated that as long as I had 4 or fewer children other than my own in the home, I didn't need a license. I did need to be up front with the parents I served, informing them that I wasn't licensed. Be sure to check with your local licensing agency for details. (Google "Home Day Care Licensing in your state). 

Watching kids in my home was a great experience overall. I was able to stay home with my kids (when I started they were 5, 3 and 1) and I made some great money. There were some rough spots - I was never good at enforcing pick up times or reminding parents to pay me; luckily I had some fantastic clients - some became very good friends. I did have to kick a kid out of my daycare once.. but that's a story for another day. 

Here are my best 'lessons learned': 

Be straight-forward and get things in writing. If you are open from 6am to 6pm, say so. If you provide meals (or don't) say so. Don't make different arrangements with each family, or you may end up taking on more than you planned when family 2 finds out what family 1 is getting. Sit down and write up a contract including things like pricing, late fees, etc. Tell folks in the beginning what you expect, and give yourself an 'out' if it isn't working. 

Give yourself a 'trial period'. Along the same lines, it's a good idea to have a 30 day 'trial period', after which you can sit down with the parents and see if the situation is working. You can fix problems that may have come up or either of you can bow out gracefully if it isn't working. 

Keep good records. It might seem silly now to write down how much you get paid, by whom, on what date, but when tax time comes around you'll be happy you did. Keep attendance, too, and a log of pick up and drop off times. These all come in handy later! I kept a binder by the front door with an attendance and payment section. 

Decide how much of  your home is being used. If you have a small home, that might be all of it, but you may still want to decide your bedroom is off limits. If you can, I'd highly recommend using one room for the bulk of your activities. Gating off a living room or playroom will keep kids and mess contained, and allow you to feel like you can get 'off work' when the kids go home. Believe me, it's no fun to send all the kids home, turn around and see your house in shambles! 

Set a schedule. I can't say enough for this. Come up with a schedule for your day, starting when kids are dropped off and ending when they leave. Schedule time for meals, play, clean up, outside, etc. Kids do better when they know what's coming next, you'll feel more organized, and the house won't get quite so chaotic. 

Give yourself a week off. Let everyone know, up front, you'll be 'closed' occasionally. I had those dates several months ahead of time. We were closed the week of Christmas, on major holidays, and for a week in the summer. I didn't charge folks for those weeks. Those breaks allowed us to spend time as a family and recharge. 

I hope this helps anyone who might be considering launching a day care. It can be such a blessing if done well! Please feel free to post more tips (if you're doing this or have done it) or questions!

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