Teens do want work, but when their job has to be on the side and self-directed they sometimes feel they have to fall back on the old standards. Try making those standards more interesting or lucrative, or branching out into other areas.
1. Try adapting babysitting. Organize a mom’s night out with a couple other teens that are willing to do a group sit. Find a church, gym, or other place with a large space, bathroom access, and secure entrances and exits and ask if you can offer local moms one night every two weeks to drop off their kids for a movie and popcorn, or story time and crafts. The kids get to play with other children, leaving you and your friends to worry about organizing and safety. Make sure your venue has no insurance issues, and check with your state to make sure you don’t fit into the definition of child care and have to follow those strict regulations. Have plenty of “staff” for the number of kids you have.
2. Apply to work at an after school program. These programs sometimes need extra help with kids staying after school until parents can pick them up, and the job can fit into a teen’s needs to work only a few hours outside of school time. Programs also sometimes run before school, which can leave your time after school free.
3. Check into programs for parents of small children, like MOPS or local play groups. These groups often serve moms by letting them get together to visit and consult with each other, but those goals can be undermined when you spend the whole time chasing a toddler over slides and under swings. A few teens hanging about to catch a kids at the bottom of slides can be handy. Sometimes these groups organize field trips, like to the zoo, and can use extra eyes to make sure kids stay together and safe.
Also check in with pediatrician offices or offices of pediatric specialists to see if they can use someone to read to kids in the waiting room, or social service or charity offices that might need a little help keeping kids cheerful while parents are requesting assistance. Some of these jobs might be only volunteer; but, of course, in addition to being potentially satisfying, volunteer positions often lead to job offers later.
4. Consider the other side of the spectrum, working in residential facilities with seniors. Many facilities have activity programs with hands on work that some residents might need a hand getting done. If your local facility doesn’t offer such a program, consider organizing one yourself and offering it on a contract basis, with a free class or two as a teaser. There are a large number of Web resources on senior activities; even just organizing one bingo night might be a good start.
5. Just like branching out on child care can get you past babysitting alone, try moving past mowing lawns into characterizing yourself as a landscape worker. Take a few MOOC courses in horticulture or permaculture, and use all the resources available (pamphlets, classes) from your local cooperative extension office. When you go to mow a lawn, note the other potential needs of the yard you are working on, or look at ways to enhance the look or to make upkeep easier for the owners. Offer to plant annuals each year in beds or to mulch in fall. The variety will make the work more interesting to you and more valuable to those who contract for your work.
6. Visit your local farmer’s market and see if you can help harvest and sell for a grower during peak seasons. Small agriculture often suffers from a feast or famine cycle that makes hiring hands problematic because the hours are unstructured and the work is temporary. If you have a number of gardens and fruit trees in your community, you could even arrange to sell home gardeners’ excess produce for them at a market stand. Do research well the health department and department of revenue regulations before starting this type of venture, and consult with the organizers of the market. Look into EPA and OSHA regulations on pesticide use, and consider paperwork that makes it clear any problems with the produce are the responsibility of the growers, not yourself.
7. If you excel academically, definitely consider working as a tutor. You can work through a literacy program or library, through a contracting service which takes a percentage, through a commercial tutoring facility, with a nonprofit facility, or simply advertise directly for students. Make sure you use proper safety precautions, either knowing the family you are working for or meeting them publicly with an adult before beginning work. Again, for some avenues you may find you need to volunteer before finding a paid position.
8. When brainstorming ideas, think about the service jobs done decades ago in home. The provisioned classes often hired maids, governesses, cooks, and butlers. Today we have some version of much of that making a comeback, with personal shoppers and cleaning services doing well. If you have a skill, consider bringing your service to the customer (always follow safety protocols and research well with an adult from your family any home where you will be working — ask a parent to check crime databases for you, and to meet the customer before work begins). If you can cook, offer to prepare dinner when the family comes home from work — you are likely to be able to make a good meal for a price that competes well with restaurant prices. If you have been trained to cut hair, bring your work to a home to save your customers the time and hassle of going out each time.
9. If you are a writer, there are ways to make a small amount of money with your writing . Do not expect to cover much with this route, but it can be a way to bring in a little income while building a network of professional connections and stacking your resume. Small local tabloids are often looking for people who can contribute content — offer small stories or ask if you can write a weekly column on a subject you have knowlege about — e.g. municipal sports or teen events. Blogging with advertising or contributing content to aggregating sites can bring in a few pennies and build a portfolio. Be aware of the hazards of internet communication and stay circumspect and private at all times.
There are a huge number of scams trying to con aspiring writers. It’s better to pursue your own freelancing leads than to sign up with a program that promises work, but no matter what avenue you take be sure not to give out personal information or ever pay money. Remember that you are offering a product for sale, not buying something yourself, there should never be any costs to yourself.
10. If you have a niche you can write well and fairly extensively about, consider putting together a book through a self-publishing site or through an e-publisher such as Kindle. Again, retain privacy and security and never open yourself up to liability, but you often can put work out there with no cost to yourself and you may see a return over several years.