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How to Make Money at Sixteen?
February 19, 2010 10:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm 16-years-old. Is there a better way to make money than a standard minimum wage, part-time job at my age?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (54 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Find a neighborhood of upper middleclass older people. Deliver fliers door to door that say “16 year old for hire. Will: mow, rake, clean, dig, shovel, sort, lift, haul, cut, and anything else you can think of! Price negotiable*”. Put your phone number on there, and be sure to keep your appointments and bring your own lawnmower. This worked for me for several years.

* This is key. Most customers will not want to underpay you, so they will dramatically overpay you. Never argue over the price – if someone pays you too little, it will be outweighed by all of the people who will pay you too much.
posted by Think_Long at 10:50 AM on February 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


I waited tables at a greasy spoon diner. Pretty easygoing work, teaches you to work with people, and you take home cash every night. I think I averaged $8-10/hr on most nights, and almost twice that if we got slammed.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:52 AM on February 19, 2010


Caddy.
posted by The World Famous at 10:52 AM on February 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yeah, Think_Long is totally on it. I used to mow lawns when I was in my early teens...people will pay you $20 for a half-hour or so of work. Easy money.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:53 AM on February 19, 2010


Work at a bike shop, it probably pays better and you'll actually learn something useful like how to fix machinery or sell bikes to customers. Both are practical and useful in the larger world.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:53 AM on February 19, 2010


Can you swim? At 16, I got certified to be a lifeguard, and worked summers at a town beach, year-round at the YMCA. IIRC, minimum wage at the time was $5.25, and I started at $7.50 or $8.00 (sorry, details are fuzzy).
posted by um_maverick at 10:53 AM on February 19, 2010


I made above minimum wage life guarding and teaching swimming lessons. I also did private swim lessons for up to $80/hr (4 kids) in the mid 1990s at your age.
posted by semacd at 10:54 AM on February 19, 2010


Do you have above-average computer skills? I convinced friends/family to pay me for tech support around that age.
posted by citywolf at 10:55 AM on February 19, 2010


Depending on where you live, babysitting can pay $10-12 an hour. On New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day, I regularly pulled down $100 or more.
posted by decathecting at 10:56 AM on February 19, 2010


Best way to make more money is to be your own boss. Can you code? Do you have something to sell? Glamor shots by Deb?

Keep in mind that teens are being hit really badly by this recession. The entry-level jobs are not there, and those that exist are being taken by older folks. The key really is making your own job. Good luck!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:56 AM on February 19, 2010


You need to be entrepreneurial, not just go out and find a handful of low paying menial jobs.
posted by fire&wings at 11:00 AM on February 19, 2010


This is going to sound pedantic, so apologies in advance, but wages are usually related to the skills, effort, or risk required to perform a job. Are there any special skills you have that you could leverage? Programming, to cite one example, would be an area where a 16 year old could earn well above his/her peers with the right skill set. Otherwise, if you lack skills, you are left with a) doing tasks that are hard work but lucrative, or b) doing tasks that are dangerous, but where you are compensated additionally for the danger.

When I was in high school, there was a guy in my class that made a lot of money running his own firewood business. He owned a truck and some chainsaws, and had access to land that had a lot of downed trees on it. He would hire other kids from school to work for him, and they would cut the wood up and load it into his truck, and then help him off-load it to his customers. He was very shrewd. Everyone made money, but he made considerably more than the kids he employed.
posted by mosk at 11:02 AM on February 19, 2010


Seconding fire&wings. Hint: on the internet, nobody knows how old you are.
posted by stuck on an island at 11:04 AM on February 19, 2010


If you are good with computers then offer to help older neighbors/friends of family etc do things like clean up viruses, optimize computer performance, install software, make web pages etc.

I did this when I was younger and made a ton of money for very little work.
posted by special-k at 11:05 AM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Depending on where you live, babysitting can pay $10-12 an hour. On New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day, I regularly pulled down $100 or more.

This.

I pulled in a lot of money babysitting. The key is to, you know, work not just talk on the phone and watch TV. I made way more than my friends while charging a lot less because I got more jobs and call-backs. Of course, back then I made about $2-5 an hour or $50 a night, but it was good money at the time and a lot more fun that slinging burgers. That, and I could do my homework when the kids were asleep.
posted by patheral at 11:06 AM on February 19, 2010


Cash is king. Babysit, dog-sit, mow lawns, etc. Even if someone pays you 8/hour (or whatever min. wage is in your state), if it's not a "real" job where they are taking tax out, then you're ahead of the game.
posted by too bad you're not me at 11:06 AM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I second caddying. Great pay (cousin was tipped $500 by some pro) and you make good contacts for the future. I refuse to have my son work at a stupid retail or greasy spoon. If it's not a good money maker, don't do it.

The flip side of cutting grass is shoveling. You can make $ all season (if location allows).

You could also learn web design or some sort of service like that.
posted by stormpooper at 11:06 AM on February 19, 2010


Call centres typically pay more than minimum wage. I wish I had known this when I was your age.
posted by kitcat at 11:07 AM on February 19, 2010


PS

Learn how to save now! I started working minimum wage jobs when I was 15, and by the time I was 18, I had saved about $7,000, which was enough to secure an apartment and get the essentials for my place. If you're wanting to move out of your parents house, pay for any of your own college, etc, starting to save early is the key! Good luck. :)
posted by too bad you're not me at 11:08 AM on February 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


If you do take a menial job, be sure to volunteer doing (mostly learning) high-skill work on the side. Build a foundation for down the road...you're young enough for risk taking and foundation-building. A friend of mine was paid $20/hr (part time) as a 16 year old, by a school, to work alongside their F/T computer guy. If the pay wasn't good enough, the experience was.

You could also put those Ask Metafilter skills on the table...I can see the flyer in my head right now
posted by circular at 11:11 AM on February 19, 2010


I was in an event band- you know, the type that plays covers at business parties, weddings, etc. That was good money for a teen.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:12 AM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Think about your existing connections. I know you're only 16, but you've got them! Do you take any kind of lessons? Maybe the place you go to needs help (snack bar at the tennis courts, driving the Zamboni at the ice rink, etc.). Teachers may be able to hook you up with tutoring opportunities - one of my teachers in high school was a foster parent and hired me to teach her mentally disabled son math and science (and I got references from her for other students). And you can always look to your parents; nepotism has its merits when you're on the receiving end. My mother somehow managed to help me get a bussing job at a Mexican restaurant they used to frequent.

At this age you're looking for jobs that require a) a pleasant demeanor and b) a certain level of trustworthiness that you need to prove during your pitch. And yeah, the economy sucks right now, so fewer opportunities are out there.

For what it's worth, the best job I had in high school was working at the airport. The manager already knew me since I was a student at the flight school, so she didn't even look at my application. I got paid barely above minimum wage, but I was able to hang out around what I loved and got the occasional free plane trip. Totally worth it for dealing with self-important airplane owners and the wedding parties that insisted we should be able to stop all the planes taking off while they were taking their vows.

Why were wedding parties at the airport? We had a nice lawn with a gazebo and a restaurant with a function room.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:18 AM on February 19, 2010


Even better than babysitting is tutoring. Of course, you have to be especially good at one thing or several things, but at that age I was making $15 - $20 an hour as a Spanish/math tutor. Some parents would pay my tutoring rate when all they really wanted was someone to sit with their kids and make sure they actually did their homework, studied what they were supposed to, didn't cheat by copying stuff off the web, etc.
posted by miskatonic at 11:19 AM on February 19, 2010


Babysitting, as others have said. You usually get snacks!

I even got to go on a couple weekend trips (and got paid) with the family I babysat for as a teen.

Here is another service you could add to your flier:
If you have reliable transportation and a good driving record, could you offer yourself as an affordable chauffeur? Neighborhood parents would probably love to have you take their kids to and from the movies, mall, sporting practice, etc.
posted by mmmbacon at 11:19 AM on February 19, 2010


The problem is todays economy. I think you might be stuck. People who worked in the business world are going after any job they can get. Try working at a restaurant doing dishes or something. I got $2 to $3 over minimum wage being a dishwasher and prep cook at a local restaraunt.
posted by majortom1981 at 11:25 AM on February 19, 2010


Oh, I also got good money as a dog walker. I also put an aluminum can collecting bin at a local campground, and I got around a hundred dollars each summer just from that.

You could also sell items on ebay that you or your parents do not want anymore.
posted by mmmbacon at 11:29 AM on February 19, 2010


You can learn how to make web sites for people, either by designing layouts/logos or programming its internals.
posted by gushn at 11:33 AM on February 19, 2010


I would add to think_long's advice that you could also look for a neighborhood of middle-to-upper-middle class professional people with kids and offer babysitting. In my circle, good, reliable babysitters are hard enough to find that we pass their numbers around to people we like, and hide them from people we don't. If you are quick-thinking and capable of problem-solving, you'll be in very high demand (I once came home to a babysitter who had left a coughed-up hairball on the rug for me to deal with because she "wasn't sure" what I'd want her to do about it--not the kind of person you want in charge when your toddler drinks the dishsoap or one of the kids gets a scrape).

If you can somehow be a value-added babysitter, you'll be even more in-demand and worth more. For instance, if you can cook a little so the parents can go out to dinner and leave you to solve the problem of what to feed the kids, or if you're willing and able to do a little bit of picking up, or run the vacuum, or move a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer--not heavy housework, not real cleaning, but one or two of those kinds of little tasks than can be overwhelming to parents.
posted by not that girl at 11:44 AM on February 19, 2010


I think the computer thing (programming/web stuff) could be great, but only if you are interested in it enough to put your time in. I had a passing interest in web design for a while and didn't really put the time to really learn any of it. So my site sucked and I wasted a lot of time.

If you are interested in it though, it's a great idea.

You know, this is what I want to say to you: you are 16, this is a really important time. I'm not sure what your home situation is, but if it's reasonably supportive (i.e. room and board, love) you have a great opportunity to pick one (1) (uno) (not more than one) skill and learn the sh1t out of it. I was a kid who was interested in a lot of things and sort of spilled my energy around. That's fine, but I can't tell you how jealous I was of the adults I've met who spent their 16-18-20 period studying the crap out of one thing. It's easy enough to switch to something else when you are 20 or 22, after you have the self respect of learning a singular skill.

Does that make sense? I hope so. Find something you like doing, that some people make money doing. Apprentice doing it, you'll make some money and you'll be so cool by the tmie you are 20 that you won't know what to do with yourself.
posted by sully75 at 11:54 AM on February 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Find something you like doing, that some people make money doing. This is a great point and should be noted but also, that doesn't necessarily mean that you should go out and work for free. Honestly you could be making better than minimum wage if there were something you were passionate about and were running a website about. Lots of niche websites do fairly well, without huge traffic--and also this helps you transition into working in a field or situation that you care about and want to be doing "when you grow up." (Scarequotes indicate that you, like many of us, will never grow up, one hopes!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:57 AM on February 19, 2010


Absolutely seconding the programming bit.

Also, can you sing and are not afraid to do so in public? Then The Macaroni Grill is for you. In high school, I raked in 2 dollars over minimum wage, plus tips. That was a good 80-100 bucks (total) an evening for a 5 hour shift.
posted by functionequalsform at 12:05 PM on February 19, 2010


A 16 year old who knows how to program quite well can likely pull down $20 per hour. I earned $50 per hour working some contracting jobs about mid way though university, although my degree was in mathematics, not computer science.

If you feel like an adventure, you can look for jobs teaching English in another country. A very official job like that'll run you some cash for the certification, but many are simply happy having native English speakers. And you're out the cost of the airfare regardless. Au pair isn't a particularly well paying job.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:08 PM on February 19, 2010


As for what not that girl said about value-added babysitting, think about taking a first aid/CPR course from the Red Cross. That would help put some people more at ease about hiring you.
posted by BlooPen at 12:16 PM on February 19, 2010


Seconding getting really ridiculously good at one thing.

A buddy of my brothers was into computer programming. After three years of getting really good (and making zero money) programming for fun, his games were good enough to sell, and now he (still in high school) makes more money that most American adults.
posted by sninctown at 12:19 PM on February 19, 2010


If you feel like an adventure, you can look for jobs teaching English in another country. A very official job like that'll run you some cash for the certification

A lot of the common destination countries require that teachers have a bachelors degree to get a permit allowing them to do that. Plus, you have to move over seas and I would imagine this kid wants to keep going to school.
posted by delmoi at 12:20 PM on February 19, 2010


N-thing tutoring. I used to tutor in high school; I am unusually good at languages, so I mostly tutored failing French students and taught lists of Greek and Latin roots to kids whose parents were worried about their ability to do well on the verbal SAT (but not worried enough to shell out for a proper SAT tutor). I also taught a couple of kids with learning disabilities how to read and do basic arithmetic. I got between $10-$20 an hour for tutoring; this was in the late '90s-early '00s. Not only did it pay about 3x minimum wage, not only was it all under-the-table income, but I also learned really useful skills and got a good dose of insight into working with people whose brains function very differently from my own. (Plus it definitely beats scraping congealed grease out of drain traps, getting hit on by creepy old men, and other awesome perks of the food industry.)

If you like younger kids, you could probably parlay tutoring and babysitting together into a useful combination; I bet parents would pay a lot of money to get to have a relaxing night out together while being sure that Jenny's getting help with her homework.
posted by kataclysm at 12:26 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you are outgoing and enjoy talking to people, you could go door-to-door and offer to paint their house number on the front curb for $3 (or whatever) telling them how much easier it will be for people to see their house number when it's on the curb. (May need permission from the city)
Bring black spray paint and numbered stencils. $3 for 30 seconds of spray painting ain't bad.
posted by luvmywife at 12:44 PM on February 19, 2010


...telling them how much easier it will be for people ambulances to see their house number when it's on the curb

Marketing, people, MARKETING.
posted by callmejay at 1:13 PM on February 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


of all the minimum wage, punch-the-clock, retail jobs, the best is working at a hardware store. yes, it will have mindless grunt work, but the learning envornment is spectacular. all day long, you're dealing with a cornucopia of different problems and solutions. you get exposed to everything. many of the smartest adults i know worked at hardware stores growing up.
posted by bruceo at 1:14 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Babysitting is great if you like kids. If you don't... look for something else. You'll be frustrated, the kids will be bored, and the parents will be nonplussed. In the end, unless you're awesome at it, you'll have about the same amount of money from a minimum wage job.

If you go down that road and want to earn more money than other 16 year olds, definitely get first aid/CPR training. Extra bonus points for having some kind of artistic/athletic skill to share with kids. Start with one family or two and build up good references - after that, you should be able to earn $10/hr easily.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:26 PM on February 19, 2010


I worked on construction part time when I was 16. I started at about 2X minimum wage.
posted by substrate at 1:37 PM on February 19, 2010


People seem to be under the impression that there are myriad jobs that will hire a teenager and pay them well.


There aren't.
posted by Think_Long at 1:57 PM on February 19, 2010


Programming, to cite one example, would be an area where a 16 year old could earn well above his/her peers with the right skill set.

I sold shareware back when I was that age, and I would suggest specifically something similar to that if you want to make money programming. Don't try to get paid by the hour to do web design, or try to get a job writing software for someone as a contract job, because at 16 it will be hard to get that kind of work from customers who aren't hopelessly clueless. But if you can put your work online and sell it for a small fee (such as through a phone app store) then your products can speak for themselves and nobody will care that you are still in high school.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:07 PM on February 19, 2010


Lifeguarding is the most awesome awesomest job ever for someone in high school and pays surprisingly well.

That said, I did cheap programming contract work, usually found through forums or IRC. At one point I worked out that I was averaging about $20/hr with maybe 10 hours of actual work a month. Usually it came in blocks of $200-400 for projects. It wasn't a bad tradeoff - I didn't write great code, but they didn't pay much, so in the end everyone was happy.

That said, if I could go back and do it again, I'd ditch the computer and lifeguard. Seriously.
posted by devilsbrigade at 2:16 PM on February 19, 2010


I am suprised no one has mentioned VALET. If you find the right place, you make a boatload.
posted by yoyoceramic at 2:19 PM on February 19, 2010


Anything but retail or fast food. Does an adult you know work at an interesting non-cube-farm type job? With a warehouse and machinery and stuff? See if they can get you a job sweeping up or moving pallets around or something. Hang out with skilled blue-collar type workers. (I worked at a printer/book binder over the summers.)

It's much more interesting, you'll learn a lot about whether you want to or don't want to go to college (having talked to both kinds of people and seen what their work lives are like), you'll probably meet the owner and/or general manager, and you'll be remembered if you ever want to work for that company again.
posted by ctmf at 5:27 PM on February 19, 2010


Think_Long is right. Right now, many older people who have been laid off are taking up all the jobs that were once considered the domain of teenagers. People our age (16-24) really have to settle for whatever little cash they can get.
posted by MattMangels at 5:46 PM on February 19, 2010


If you are outgoing and enjoy talking to people, you could go door-to-door and offer to paint their house number on the front curb for $3 (or whatever) telling them how much easier it will be for people to see their house number when it's on the curb. (May need permission from the city)
Bring black spray paint and numbered stencils. $3 for 30 seconds of spray painting ain't bad.
posted by luvmywife at 12:44 PM on February 19 [+] [!]


...telling them how much easier it will be for people ambulances to see their house number when it's on the curb

Marketing, people, MARKETING.
posted by callmejay at 1:13 PM on February 19 [2 favorites +] [!]


Put on a false moustache and go back next week: "You'll get a $700 fine for having your address on the curb unless you hire me for $3 to paint it out for you."
posted by gum at 6:44 PM on February 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I made $10/hour or more in hourly + tip out as a hostess at a mid-priced chain restaurant in high school. The economy was better back then, and restaurants brought in more money, so I can't guarantee it's the same way now. I also made $8/hr as an office worker when I was 16. The going rate is probably sliiiightly higher than that now since that was nearly 10 years ago and minimum wage went up significantly last year, but then again, economy sucks, so maybe not. If you live in a state that uses the federal minimum wage, that's still above it.
posted by ishotjr at 6:53 PM on February 19, 2010


I am suprised no one has mentioned VALET. If you find the right place, you make a boatload.
Every valet place I know of requires the valets to be at least 18, sometimes 21. Liability and all that. 16-year-old boys don't have the best track record for driving cars.
posted by ishotjr at 6:54 PM on February 19, 2010


If you live in an area with nice hotels (and the liquor serving laws don't prohibit it), I would recommend room service. I made great money doing that when I was 16, 17.
posted by queseyo at 7:10 PM on February 19, 2010


I'm biased, obviously, but I have to third caddying, with some caveats. Assuming that you live in a place that (a) has decent golf weather and (b) courses that still have caddies, there's nothing better that you can do in the summer. You make plenty of money, in the summer. And you get plenty of exercise, in the summer.

It's a seasonal job, is what I'm getting at. But if you do two bags a loop and get four or five loops a week (that's a minimum), you'll be able to make enough money to get through the offseason. As an added bonus, many courses are affiliated with scholarship programs, which can help offset some college courses too.
posted by thecaddy at 8:22 PM on February 19, 2010


of all the minimum wage, punch-the-clock, retail jobs, the best is working at a hardware store. yes, it will have mindless grunt work, but the learning envornment is spectacular. all day long, you're dealing with a cornucopia of different problems and solutions. you get exposed to everything. many of the smartest adults i know worked at hardware stores growing up.


Just want to second this idea. I got hired to break down boxes at a large hardware store, and after a month or two, they moved me into the paint department. I learned all kinds of neat things. A side bonus was working with some great elderly guys who told some good stories. The money was decent, but the education was invaluable.

I also did a few contract jobs building BBS systems for a couple of technology companies that I found through my parents and their friends. I thought I was making killer money - 10 bucks an hour doing that - until my father politely told me that they hire software developers for $50-100 an hour, and I was WAY undercharging as a consultant.

Learned that lesson.
posted by Thistledown at 8:08 AM on February 20, 2010


Freelance programming, web development, web design, etc.
posted by chunking express at 5:53 AM on February 24, 2010


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