There is an updated version of this post, as of August 2013!
This is a nanny’s Sittercity review (vs Care.com):
I highly recommend that you join this growing movement. In some cases, it will work better than hiring your neighbor’s fifteen-year-old cousin. Because while hiring someone who is related to your awesome neighbor sounds comforting, you still don’t actually know her yourself. If you do, that’s awesome! But what happens when she graduates from high school? I know you don’t want to think about it. But consider your online options for a moment. Chances are, you will find yourself in need of a new babysitter eventually.
The online sitter search has come a long way. The two sites I use are now both providing background check services for very reasonable fees (paid by the sitters). My favorite, Sittercity, has also just started providing a driver’s license check, too. They will tell you if the license is real and if the driver has a clean record! I love being able to prove, definitively, that I have no criminal record at all and that I have never even been given a speeding ticket and so I have need to know what the best radar detector on the market is. I may have a less than stellar record when it comes to parking in the right place at the right time, but I’m a very safe driver. Even if I won’t be driving kids around for a particular job, I like what that says about me. I don’t take stupid risks when it comes to safety. Not even when I’m the only person in the car. Isn’t that a nice quality in someone who cares for children? I think so. Anyway, the background checks are awesome because at both Sittercity and Care.com, sitters run the checks ourselves. They expire every nine months or so. At Sittercity, you’ll see a yellow badge right on my picture that says “BGC”! And, they list sitters with background checks first in parents’ search results.
I’m going to tell you about Sittercity and Care.com from my perspective because you won’t actually get to see what a babysitter sees when she logs in. The two halves of the sites are kept quite separate. (I have no idea what parents’ pages look like, really.)
I hate using this site. I use it because parents are there, but I don’t like using it at all. It’s not well-organized. But recently, they took what I consider to be an evil turn. Here, I’ll just show you:
See those “subscription” options for $20, $40 or $60/month? (If not, click on the photo to see it full-size.) That means that the featured babysitters parents see have been featured because they pay the website to feature them. I repeat: the care providers that parents see first have paid for the privilege. I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere else. I think it’s criminal. I don’t mind paying for a background check. They run between $8-$20, depending on the site. I DO mind paying to advertise my services on a site that is supposed to already do that! It’s shady and I don’t like it.
In contrast, the only time Sittercity has asked me for $60 is to pay for their new Enhanced Background Check. And I understand that price. They advertise having an actual person sift through actual documents to make sure there’s nothing a person might find that the LexisNexus search failed to turn up. I can’t afford the Enhanced check and that doesn’t seem to be getting in the way of me getting a job. I’m still being contacted by parents and am still receiving warm responses from the parents I contact. But if a parent wanted to pay to have that done, I’d be more than happy to do it. Because they would be paying for an actual service. One that turns up actual information. One that explains where the money is going!
But there are other reasons for a parent to go with Sittercity. I hear that it’s a bit more expensive. Here’s what you’re getting, from my point of view:
A higher-quality search. I repeat: the sitters you see “featured” at Sittercity are at the top of the list because the company has run background checks to make sure that we are who we say we are and that we have no criminal records. Not so over at Care.com.
Higher-quality sitter profiles. It took me forever to write up that profile. I don’t know how much of it parents see, but they seem impressed. If my profile impresses it is because the website asked me a gazillion questions about everything under the sun, and I chose to answer thoughtfully. Knowing that something is going to take a long time anyway makes a person more likely to give a thoughtful answer when a short-answer-type question appears amid all the checkboxes. (There is a checkbox for every hobby, every “special need”, every type of experience, every type of training.)
One category for babysitters and another for nannys. When they first did this, I was kind of annoyed that I had to fill out a whole new profile before I would be able to even see any of the jobs listed in the nanny section. Why does this matter? If you are looking for someone to care for your child for, say, 30 hours a week, it’s an entirely different process, emotionally. You deserve to see only those sitters who actively choose to pursue work as a full-time child care provider. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be, especially in a college town like where I live, to fall in love with a profile only to see that she’s available for evening and weekend babysitting only. From my end, it seems like parents easily get overwhelmed while they’re looking for a nanny; I think the two separate profiles/categories might help with that. I don’t even search the nanny listings if I can’t give up to 50 hours a week and commit to a long-term relationship with a family.
There are multiple types of care listed on each site, even though both are most famous for babysitter searches. Tutoring, pets, housekeeping and senior care are both listed at Sittercity.com and at Care.com, but only Sittercity requires that you fill out a profile for each type of care. This makes perfect sense to me. Whatever I write in the babysitter profile is not going to be applicable to a housekeeping job! Probably not even for a tutoring job. And pets? Also, I find it a little insulting to seniors that I can use my babysitter profile at Care.com to go look for work spending time with adults. It seems to me that babysitting and senior care might be slightly different experience, requiring slightly different personalities, talents, etc.
Sittercity is also active on Facebook and Twitter, and there’s always a lot of discussion happening on that Facebook page. The site itself is clean and easy to use. It’s free for babysitters and parents have to pay, which makes much more sense to me than Care.com’s backwards approach. I’m looking for work as a nanny! Clearly, I do not have lots of money! Parents don’t have lots of money, either, but they are at least already budgeting some of what they do have towards this process.
One final thought: both sites offer reviews, but Care.com has been pushing this feature like crazy in TV ads. I wish the whole concept would just go away. I am not an appliance. I am not an iPhone app. Call my references if you want a “review” of the quality of care I provide. Ask them how many times I was late or cancelled. Anonymous reviews on the internet are not exactly the most reliable source of information. I don’t even trust them when I’m buying a book! I trust people I know who have read the book! And I AM NOT A BOOK. I am a person. I do not want to be summed up in a number of stars like a product. Please join me in boycotting the use of this insulting tool. And props to Sittercity for promoting the safety stuff (they offer more kinds of background checks and promote that feature like crazy) over those meaningless stars.
Well, I hope that helps! Please, if you have any questions about what these sites look like from a babysitter’s point of view, fire away!
*Note: this is an unsolicited review. I have not been paid by any service mentioned here to write anything about them ever. If, as you read this, there is an ad for one of these companies on my blog, well, that happened after. As I write this, there are no ads. There is no connection between me and the companies other than that I use their services to find work as a child care provider.
**Update in the interest of full disclosure: As of 6/27/2013, I now receive compensation from Sittercity for any parent who signs up for an account using the links in this post. This lovely company (they are always so nice!) contacted me, because so many of you are heading over to their site after reading this post. I wrote this over 18 months ago, and would never have known about the affiliate program (getting paid when people sign up) without the email from their representative. That means that the opinions, which I have not edited since I published this originally in January 2012, remain 100% my own.