Summer is almost here, and the recession has not let up its grip on our local economy. If you’re a teenager looking for work, you’ll be competing with older, experienced workers who are very motivated. What’s an enterprising teen to do? Maybe for this summer, you work on creating your own job.
“Job” the Old School Way: 7 Steps to Making Money This Summer
Lots of teens work their way through school without ever applying for a job. They take a look at work in a whole new (really, a very old) way. They figure out what they’re good at (and enjoy doing) and what people need done in their family, neighborhood, or city. Then they go about getting customers who will pay them to do it. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
1. First, figure out what you’re best at. Do you have a way with kids? Like to work outdoors? Love animals? Are you organized? Creative? Keep in mind that one of the definitions of “work” is something that other people are willing to pay someone else to do. Once you’ve decided what you might be good at, ask your parents for advice. They will be able to give you tips on how your paying customers might want the job done and what tools or equipment you might need to get started.
2. Plan your services and get organized. Let’s say that you’ve decided to offer pet walking and grooming services in your neighborhood. What services will you offer? Will you charge a different price for a 30-minute and 45-minute walk? Do you charge by the hour for a dog park visit? Do you need to stock up on supplies to pick up after your customers as they do what dogs do(o) on walks? If you’re offering dog baths, do you do it at your house or the customers? How long do you think it will take for the average bath? How many dogs can you do in a day? What supplies do you need? How will you make sure the pets are safe and cared for when you have them in your charge? How often will a customer need this service?
3. Research similar services offered by retail stores and professionals in your area. What does the local pet store charge for dog grooming? How long does it take to get an appointment? What can you do to make your service better or worth paying for? In this case, maybe pickup and delivery of dogs to the professional would be worth paying for. Maybe it’s the idea of having the dog visit and dog park and bathed while the owner is at work that makes an attractive package. Think about how you might deliver something unique at a good price.
4. Design your marketing. We’ve offered some simple flier templates on the next tab. You can post fliers at a community center, library, or local business (with permission) or drop them off at homes in your target area. You might also post a short ad in your community newsletter. You don’t have to be a professional designer to get your message across; your material just needs to be neat and readable. At the very least, include the following:
• Your name and contact information (phone and email)
• Your services (and hours, if appropriate)
• Your pricing
• Your unique selling point, if you have one (weekend appointments available; free pickup and delivery; cleanup after the job at no charge)
5. Make sure your family knows how to support you in your business. Tell them all that you might be getting calls on the family phone. Change the voicemail message to include information about your business (“Hi – you’ve reached the Jacksons. Please leave a message after the tone. If you’re calling for Jennifer’s pet sitting, leave your name and number and she’ll get back to you as soon as she can.”) Make sure there’s a sheet of paper near the phone for your business messages, and that your siblings understand the importance of taking messages well – or letting the answering machine pick up. If you have a cell phone, make sure your voice mail message is professional and states your business as well.
6. Follow through in a business-like manner. Return all your calls and deliver great service. Word of mouth will be your best advertisement; be sure to ask your happy customers if you can use them as a reference. Keep a careful record of who you serve, dates and charges. See form templates for receipts, reference lists, call logs and customer logs here.
7. Keep records of what you make and earn, and receipts for any supplies you may purchase for your business. Just keep them together in a file folder or manila envelope. Your parents can help you organize them at the end of the summer and determine whether you’ll need to file an income tax form next year.
Other Helpful Resources
Below are links that you may find helpful as you start to plan your summer job.