–Disclaimer: Sittercity is a Do Not Faint affiliate. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. That said, I really do love it and have a coupon for you!–
One of my most popular posts is about finding a babysitter online through Sittercity. Since it seems to be helpful to parents (so helpful, in fact, that they noticed the traffic I was sending their way and contacted me about becoming an affiliate), I want to update it with more recent information about the site from a former nanny’s point of view. There’s an added bonus: I am now a mother, myself. We are a low-income family, lucky enough to have family nearby, so we haven’t needed to hire a paid babysitter. I can tell you what I would ask a potential sitter or nanny, and why I would use Sittercity to look for candidates.
I’m about to leave my baby for the weekend to train as a HypnoBirthing Instructor; it will be the first time I leave him for longer than a few hours. He will be with his grandmother and his dad, and this is still hard. I sensed the weight of this conflict, as a sitter. Some parents would apologize for being “neurotic” or asking lots of questions, but I would say, “We’re talking about your children; this has to feel right in your heart and your head.” I have a better understanding, now that I’m a mom. I suddenly have an urge to set up a webcam in my mother-in-law’s home just to stay in touch, somehow, with my baby! I have a wonderful mother-in-law. I know that she will respect my wishes and values. To say that I would take hiring a babysitter seriously–that would be an understatement!
But I’ll start with Sittercity’s care provider profile setup, because it’s important for you to know that it takes a lot of time and energy to set up a profile as a nanny or babysitter, or both.
- No shortcuts: if you want to show up in babysitter searches, you have to make a profile for babysitting. If you want to show as a nanny, you have to make a nanny profile. I did some copying and pasting, but you have to think about it, when you’re signing up for a specific kind of care.
- Thought provoking questions: it takes a long time to fill out a profile for babysitting or nannying, because Sittercity asks many questions. I’ve been using it to find jobs for about five years, and it has come a long way. Job applicants now have to write a minimum of 150 characters for each type of job (babysitter, nanny, tutor, and more). I had to put my heart into my profile, if I wanted to get noticed. I enjoyed writing those paragraphs, because I wanted it to be obvious that my heart was in this job search.
- Specificity: there are too many boxes to count next to attributes, past experience, training and more, that a sitter can check to provide parents with more information. Does your child have special needs? Don’t worry–the box to check under past experience asks sitters and nannies to check exactly which diagnoses we have had experience dealing with, everything from ADD/ADHD to Autism to Epilepsy to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. We also have to be specific about our certifications, and they have added a bunch since I last applied for a job, two years ago. CPR and First Aid are not lumped together. More information is always better, when it comes to the person you hire to spend time with your child.
- Availability: sitters can click on an easy-to-use, helpful weekly calendar to help us be very clear about when we are available, in three-hour chunks. There are also more general boxes to check, like “Part Time” and “Date Night.” I got email asking me to update that availability every few weeks, to make sure it stayed current.
- Background checks: sitters decide how many background checks to list–basic, enhanced and motor vehicle. My strategy was to pay for the basic check, which verified my identity and searched databases for any signs of a criminal record. With that check, I knew I would show up higher in search results. I got a neat little badge that showed up by my photo that told parents I had been checked out. I was happy to pay for that, but the enhanced and motor vehicle checks cost more. I was never asked to drive children anywhere, so I didn’t pay for that. If I saw lots of job listings that involved driving, I would have paid for that check. I would just like to suggest that you pay for the enhanced check, if you want it. The enhanced check is not just a database search–it promises and actual person going through records. I can absolutely see how it would provide peace of mind. I just never had the cash. Babysitters and nannies don’t make that much, after all, even if it is hard for parents to find the money for child care.
- Commitment: even to just respond to a parent’s message, sitters have to click a button that promises that they are available for the job listed. Of course, there are applicants who ignore that promise, but I always loved the website for adding that big, bright reminder to have integrity.
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These are the things I very much dislike about the online job search, as a babysitter:
- Reviews: I am not an appliance. I don’t like the idea of a number of stars appearing next to my name in search results. Call references, if you want a “review.” Most of the parents I’ve worked for didn’t have long-term memberships; they paid for the service as long as they were searching. So they couldn’t add accurate reviews for me without paying for the privilege. It’s a flawed system.
- “Featured” profiles: I have worked in some of the highest-paying areas for babysitters in the US, and I get angry at the idea of paying $10/month to be “featured.” That’s about an hour’s pay. It wouldn’t break the bank. But it’s lunch! And I object to paying for what is, essentially, an ad.
Unfortunately, I never found a way around those two things. They never got in my way, as far as I know. Parents never asked why I had no reviews or why I hadn’t been “featured” at the top of the page.
Here’s a parting thought: don’t use Care.com. The reason I never found a way around the reviews and the features is that Care.com introduced them to the business, and Sittericty followed suit. Care.com is hard to use. It’s not just that I find the commercials extremely irritating; it just took me thirty seconds and three failed attempts to find a way to edit my own profile. I have a profile, because I don’t want to miss jobs. But I like using Sittercity, and dread having to visit Care.com. Sittercity has always responded to my questions incredibly quickly. I once complained about a photo on the website, because it depicted a sitter putting makeup on a little girl–I would never in a million years put makeup on a child while her (or his!) parents were not home! It’s a touchy subject. I do much more fun things, when I’m caring for a child. I didn’t expect any response at all, but a representative actually called me to talk it over. We even played phone tag for a bit, so she actually called me back, too. Within a couple of weeks, the picture had changed to a sitter and child baking together! I felt pretty great about that interaction, and it raised my opinion of the company. Sittercity is great and much better than Care.com, an opinion I held long before I earned any money as an affiliate.