Babysitting agencies are the modern answer for parents looking for a sitter for a variety of reasons. In the past, they relied on neighborhood teenagers or family members. However, in today’s modern household, where both parents usually work full-time jobs, sitters are needed for more than just a Saturday night evening out. They are used for sick care, doctor’s appointments, after-school care, summers and spring breaks, and any other holiday or day where the parent has something important to do and needs a reliable, experienced person to care for her children. Thus, the advent of the babysitting agency. Agencies are usually bonded and insured, and provide experience child care professionals to care for the children of their clients. It can be a very successful, profitable venture, provided it’s done right. Here are some tips on how to start a babysitting agency.

Word of mouth can add to the success of your agency

Put together a business plan for exactly how your agency will operate. Like any successful business venture, it’s important to have a plan. The benefit of starting a babysitting agency is that the start-up overhead costs are fairly low. You simply need to retain a stable of sitters, advertise your services, purchase insurance and you are ready to get started. Draft all of the aspects of your agency on paper so you can map up what needs to be done first. You will need to start by establishing yourself professionally as a business with your state’s Department of Business & Regulation. You can choose to be an LLC, or Limited Liability Corporation, or you can incorporate fully to be an actual corporation. Corporations are usually larger business ventures, so most likely, you would start out as an LLC to officially establish yourself as a legally recognized business. Then, you can begin scouting insurance companies that cover businesses such as yours. Major companies such as Allstate and State Farm offer affordable business insurance plans. However, you can compare quotes online for smaller companies that might have more competitive rates.

Contract at least five reputable sitters to start. Place an ad or ask around, and find at least five sitters to start out with. After all, it will take time for your business to grow, so start small with a few reliable sitters. As your demand grows, you can add to your stable of sitters. When interviewing, be sure to question candidates intently about their background in child care. It’s best if you can find sitters that have an educational background in child care, but sometimes, some of the best sitters are those who come from large families and have experience caring for younger siblings. It’s important that they be certified in first aid and CPR. Spend time talking with them about their goals, interests and likes and dislikes when it comes to children. Anyone you even suspect of having a hidden negative temperament should be taken out of the running for the job immediately as they may have a tendency to snap at the children in their care. This can ruin the reputation of a babysitting agency faster than just about anything else.

Set your rates based on whatever financial agreement you set up with the individual sitters. The way a babysitting agency works is that you set rates and provide your sitters with a percentage of those rates. If you want to retain good sitters, it’s important to be fair--particularly since they are the ones doing the work. In fact, the money you make is more of a finder’s fee for finding the work for them and providing the insurance and whatever benefits you choose to offer your sitters. Therefore, it’s standard to give your sitters at least 60 percent of what you charge your customers, with the remainder coming back to the business. You can set your rates at whatever you think is fair, but remember: If you want quality professionals, you will have to pay for them.

Draw up contracts for both the sitters and the families that contact you to ensure that the responsibilities and expectations of your agency’s sitters are in line with what the family is looking for. Contracts are important because sometimes verbal agreements can get muddled in the process, and then when expectations are not met on either side, there can be some confusion or conflict. It’s best to draft up contract, between both your organization and the sitter and between you, the sitter and the client. Include everything that was agreed upon and discussed in the initial consultation for a particular client, and sure the client signs it before the sitter begins her job. Keep a copy for you, the sitter and the client.

Promote yourselves through a variety of means. Promotion is the key. In this business, word of mouth will get you a long way. However, you may want to consider doing some traditional advertising in local media outlets. You can also offer online specials through your Web site or post flyers at child care centers around town. You can participate in educational functions through your children’s school or the school district in your community, which is a great way to meet parents--otherwise known as potential clients.