Is Gig Work Right for Your Teen Once School’s Out?

Traditional summer jobs may not be suited to your kid. Here’s how the gig economy can help.

Summer jobs for teens can run the gamut, from taking tickets at the movie theater to waiting tables at the local café to nannying the neighbors’ tots. But the traditional job route might not be the way to go for some students. First, we cover some situations where gig work or independent contractor options might be a better solution, second, we offer ways for finding gigs, and finally, we tackle the important things to consider if your kids use gig-finding platforms or do freelance work.

Why gig work might be right for your teen

Numerous reasons could make being an independent contractor a better fit for some students looking for summer work. Maybe your child is taking summer classes or has a short-term unpaid internship. Or maybe the seasonal break is short where you live or a team sport practice starts up several weeks before going back to school. Businesses may be reluctant to train someone for a position if they will only be available for six to eight weeks.

Aside from timing logistics, you might also have younger kids at home who need just a little supervision from an older sibling. If your teen can find gig work online, this can offer a valid solution. Or maybe your child lacks access to safe transportation to and from a job. A work-from-home option or gig work they can do in their neighborhood makes great sense in this situation. Certain independent contractor jobs may also be better suited to the desired skills your child wants to build toward future aspirations.

Where to find gig work suited to teens

Although teens have been doing summer gig work for decades—think lawn-mowing and dog walking—apps that help teens find such gigs are relatively new. One platform pioneering the way is Skratch, based out of Dallas, Texas. This app is available only in its home state right now, but plans for expansion to new cities are in the works. On Skratch, teens might find work helping with events, like a giant Easter egg hunt for example, or one-off tasks such as setting up a neighbor’s new smartphone. Got star-studded kiddos, they can find acting and singing gig work on Skratch, too.

Some gig apps that offer teens jobs focus on a specific industry. Babysitting gurus can create a profile on Care.com, for example. Or if your kid wants to help other people learn to speak English, SameSpeak might be a good fit. Several platforms also exist where kids can take surveys (here’s a list) or leave reviews of video or music clips and receive payment for their work. If your kid is crafty, you might want to set them up with an online Etsy shop or get them started on Cafe Press or Spreadshirt for selling their products.

A few things to consider

Thoroughly research the platforms your kids will be using. Find out what safety checks are in place, the rules your kids will need to follow, and how platforms pay their users. If they’re on Etsy, for example, minors will need a legal guardian to manage their accounts. On the plus side, creating a shop and your kid run it can teach them valuable entrepreneurial lessons and help launch their independent contractor careers.