Earning money as a teenager opens the door to a first taste of independence. Having some pocket cash can give teenagers the freedom to make decisions about saving and spending. Learning how to make money as a teen is just the starting point, however. Coupling this lesson with other personal finance lessons such as budgeting, saving and investing can lead to a life of financial stability.
It teaches them about managing money and the importance of budgeting, which are lessons that can serve them well throughout their life.
Younger people do face some obstacles in earning their first dollars. Mainly, their lack of experience may put them at a disadvantage against other older job candidates. Fortunately, there are still several ways to make money as teen, from more traditional jobs to a growing number of new jobs making money online.
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Teens who want to make money can choose from among the options below – or even select more than one way for several streams of income. Here are 14 specific ways for you to consider how to make money as a teen.
How to make money as a teen
Teens can qualify for a number of employment opportunities with companies in different industries – from restaurants to carwashes. Having a part-time regular job can give teens a good sense of what it is like to have a full-time job when they are an adult.
They can establish their work ethic habits as they answer to management, including by arriving to work on time and putting in a good effort. A part-time job can provide a regular paycheck that can help teens plan spending and saving around a steady and predictable income.
As official employees, teens can expect to earn at least the minimum wage hourly salary from their employers. They will see how state and federal taxes, as well as Social Security, are removed from their earnings, and they’ll be responsible for filing their own annual taxes.
Do teens have to file taxes?
If your teen gets a part-time job, you’ll likely have to complete a Form W-4 from the IRS which tells the employer how much the employee wants to withhold from his or her paycheck for federal or state taxes. In most cases, as long as your teen is considered a dependent and they do not earn more than the standard deduction limit, then they do not need to file a separate tax return on income from a part-time job. For a single individual, the standard deduction limit in 2021 is $12,550. As always, check with your tax professionals on specific situations.
Part-time official jobs for teens can include bussing tables or hosting in a restaurant, working a cashier in a retail store, and preparing food in a fast-food restaurant, among many others. Teens often find work in movie theatres, amusement parks, grocery stores and bowling allies. They can get hired for newspaper routes, to serve as a referee for youth sports leagues, as lifeguards or as a caddy for golfers.
Selling New Things
Enterprising teenagers can turn to their peers as a customer base for selling things. In fact, they have an advantage of directly connecting with other teenagers in a way that retailers cannot.
Many teens have proven to be successful entrepreneurs by tapping into a market like selling candy bars or snacks to their friends. Or, they may sell a particular accessory like a certain brand of hat or purse that is popular among their classmates.
Test out your sales idea by starting with a small quantity. If it proves popular, you can quickly increase your inventory for even more income. You can often buy products in bulk and then sell those items individually for a marked-up price. Teens do need to be aware of the laws and rules about reselling products, and if they’re selling on school property, they need to know their school’s rules about selling items as well.
Selling Old Things
Another source of extra money can be in selling things you already have. Your trash may be another person’s treasure.
You can clean out your closets or help your parents clear out their homes, and then sell unwanted items like old clothes, books or electronics for cash. Other used things that might help you rake in extra cash include unwanted jewelry, toys, sports equipment or video games.
You can take several routes for selling used things, from posting listings on auction sites like eBay to mentioning the items for sale on community forums like Facebook groups. If you’re in an ideal neighborhood to hold a yard sale, you can advertise a one-day or weekend sale in advance, which will bring more customers. You might be surprised at how well attended an advertised yard sale can be.
Selling Creative Things
Crafty teens might find a market for the goods they make online. For example, you can sell handmade items like jewelry or woodwork on sites like Etsy, where you can create your own little “store.” Esty sellers have control over what they sell and what price they charge for their goods.
One downside to creating an Etsy store is that you must be over 18, so you’ll need help from an adult. And income from an online store might be unreliable, depending on demand for your product – trends can come and go. Some popular items that have sold through Etsy include printed T-Shirts (you would have to invest in printing equipment), stickers, home décor items, and organic cosmetics.
Creative teen photographers can also find a way to make money by selling stock photos such on sites like iStock. Stock photos are evergreen photos that companies may want to use to go along with content like articles. Successful stock photographers can demand hundreds of dollars for the rights to a photo, although this kind of income is not typical.
Teens with some marketable skills might find they can sell their services online for income. For example, if you have graphic design or writing skills, you can market them on freelance sites like Fivver, which is open to anyone over 13.
On freelance sites, you can set your per-project rate and either let clients find you or actively look for new work. Fivver typically has freelancers offer small services for $5, but they can add other services for higher amounts. Other freelance websites include Upwork, Toptal and Simply Hired.
Babysitting is a classic way for teenagers to earn money. Caring for a younger child can teach a teenager valuable lessons about responsibility as they earn money. With babysitting, teens get the benefit of receiving cash as soon as they complete their job.
Many teens secure babysitting jobs from people that they know such as their parents’ friends or neighbors. You can also spread the word that you are available for babysitting jobs on local job boards or community Facebook groups. Ask your babysitting clients to provide reviews of your service so that other parents will have more trust in hiring you in the future.
Mowing lawns, raking leavings and other yardwork are also traditional ways for teenagers to make money. These small jobs pay cash on the spot, so teens can instantly enjoy the fruits of their labor. With yardwork, teens who put in a little sweat time can see the results of a clean and tidy yard and take pride in their accomplishments.
Like with babysitting, many yardwork jobs come via word of mouth from friends and neighbors. Posting on local job boards can also bring new yardwork opportunities for teens. Some other related jobs might include shoveling snow, painting fences or watering plants.
Taking care of other people’s pets is another common way teens can earn money. Whether it’s a regular gig like dog walking and or a temporary job pet sitting while a pet owner is out of town, taking care of pets can provide fast cash. And, for many teens who love animals, the work can be enjoyable.
Teens can create their own pet-sitting or dog-walking business, or join with a local company for some side cash.
Starting a blog requires very little money upfront, so this strategy for making money is generally accessible to teens. Costs might include the price of a domain and hosting, but teens do have some free options for creating blogs online.
To be successful with blogging, a teen must resolve to post regularly to build an audience. Many blogs are not successful, but the blogs that are successful can provide regular passive income to a teenager. The other advantage is that blogs can provide a way for a teenager to focus on a topic they enjoy. Once a blog has a large enough audience, it can start earning money through ads and affiliate links to products and services.
Many teens are turning to YouTube to start a channel to make money – you only need to be 13 years old to start your own channel. This way of making money takes a lot of time and dedication because it can take many months or years to build up an audience. There are no guarantees that a YouTube channel will even ever make money. Still, when a YouTube channel is successful, a teenager might find that they can enjoy earning income from advertisements while creating content about a topic they enjoy. Top YouTube earners can draw thousands of dollars a month – but again that is not common.
How much money can you make on YouTube?
According to YouTube estimator tools online, if you average 1,000 video views per day, you can expect to earn about $3 per day (or up to $100 per month). If you can average more like 10,000 views per day, you can expect about $30 per day (or $1,000 per month). Furthermore, if you average 50,000 views per day, you can expect about $150 per day (or $5,000 per month).
While this may or may not seem reasonable, if you have experience with your own YouTube channel, you realize quickly that this is pretty tough to do. The vast majority of teens (or adults) launching their own YouTube channels never make enough money to justify the time and effort that goes into it. Does this mean you shouldn’t mess with YouTube? Well, no. But you should have other reasons to consider it. For instance, my teenage daughter is very into video editing, and she has a YouTube channel. Her video work is mostly about not making money. If it gets big enough to earn some money, then great!
If your goal is to learn how to make money as a teen, YouTube should probably be a secondary option rather than your main way of earning some cash.
Teenagers can choose from a range of topics for their YouTube channel, from one that simply entertains an audience with clips about their life to an informative channel that highlights an area of expertise. Informative channels might focus on topics like gaming, makeup, fashion, cooking or any type of hobby. The choices for YouTube channel topics for teens are seemingly endless.
Apps to Make Money Online
A growing number of apps allow you to earn money online for a variety of activities. For example, with Swagbucks, you can earn money by watching videos or simply surfing the web as you normally would with Swagbucks’ browser.
Apps like Rakuten offer cash back for purchases you make from major retailers. The important caveat to using apps that refund cash for shopping is to avoid shopping more than you would without the app – otherwise you are losing money, not making money.
Many parents want to hire teens to help their younger children with their schoolwork. Teens who seem to excel in a particular subject area can tutor younger children in a home environment for some extra cash. However, tutoring doesn’t have to be limited to homework and school lessons. You may find you can earn money by teaching others skills like sports techniques or playing musical instruments.
We met a high school girl who had a really nice business teaching younger kids to swim. She wasn’t teaching infants or kids who had zero swimming experience. This is likely too risky and too much of a liability. But kids who were capable in the pool, but wanted to learn the proper swimming technique better. This girl had experience on a swim team, but more importantly, she was amazing with kids. She would charge $20 for 20-30 minute lessons with kids and she had a bunch of recurring lessons (many parents were happy to sign up their kid for one lesson a week for months). Not only were kids becoming better swimmers, they were having fun since the girl teaching them was so engaging and great with kids. She was also very trustworthy and responsible, so parents were eager to sign their kids up. She made a ton of spending money without even leaving the neighborhood (she used the neighborhood pool). What a great example!
Tutoring can pay well and can also provide regular work hours so teens can plan their work schedule in advance. Find tutoring jobs by scanning community or class chat rooms. Or list with a site like Tutor.com.
Many companies value teenagers’ opinions because they want to market their products to them. So, teens can find several legitimate opportunities online to share what they think about different stores or services. Some of those sites include: Swagbucks, Survey Junkie and Treasure Trooper. Be sure to check the age requirements of each survey company you connect with – although most of them accept participants who are 13 years and older.
Surveys may not pay as much as other opportunities for making money, but they can provide a bit of extra spending cash. Another benefit to taking surveys for cash is that you can take the surveys at any time that is convenient – you don’t have to conform to a schedule or specific work time. You can also take them anywhere, from the comfort of your couch or bed to a doctor’s waiting room. Often, you can earn even more cash by referring a friend.
Other Odd Jobs
Teens have an advantage of having a fairly flexible schedule. In their free time outside of school, they can volunteer for quick-cash jobs around their communities like washing cars, taking down Christmas trees, or cleaning homes.
When I talk to folks curious about how to make money as a teen, I always start by asking them what kind of odd jobs do you think need to be done around your own house? Would your neighbors need help with similar jobs? These are super easy starting points.
They might sell cold beverages in the summer or hot beverages in the winter in places that tend to draw crowds, like pools and parks.
The Roth IRA hack that can lead to immense wealth for your kids
If your teen is earning money that comes with a W-2 or 1099, they can contribute money to a Roth IRA. Of course, for cash pay jobs like washing someone’s cars or walking their dogs, usually this isn’t going to come with proper taxation forms, and that’s okay. But if your teen is working a legitimate job – say, busing tables at a restaurant for instance – then, opening a Roth IRA in their name is an incredible idea.
Why a Roth IRA for a child? The simple reason is because getting money into this amazing vehicle at such a young age will lead to some serious wealth down the road, and all withdrawals will be tax free. Most people don’t begin contributing money into a vehicle such as a Roth IRA until much later. If you can begin getting money into this vehicle for your kids, you are setting them up for some serious financial success.
What do you need to do to be allowed to have a Roth IRA as a teen or minor? You need to have earned income. The amount of money you can contribute is tied to how much earned income you make during a given year. So, if you work a summer job and earn $3,000 (that is taxable income with proper documentation), you can contribute up to $3,000 into a Roth IRA.
The parent can contribute the money. Here’s the great way this can work. If your kid works all summer and earns a few thousand bucks, they aren’t likely going to want to stash that money into an IRA account for the next 50 years. They worked in order to have some spending money, or maybe save up for a car. But, you can help them open the account, and you can “match” their earnings by contributing the money yourself into their Roth IRA. Since the amount is under the $15,000 tax-free gift allotment for 2021 according to the IRS, you can do this without any penalty. Make sure you’re considering gift tax rules if you’re making other “gifts.”
But what a wonderful blessing to give your child. You can match their earnings by stashing money into their Roth IRA at ages such as 16, 17 and 18.
How much money could this lead to? Here is a mind-blowing example. Let’s say that your child works a job each year during high school and college (ages 15 through 22 perhaps). This is eight years. Each year, they earn $5,000. So, each of those eight years, you put $5,000 into their Roth IRA. Now let’s say that the account grows at 8%, but your child never puts another single dime into the Roth IRA. Again, no contributions from age 23 on. At age 65, this account will grow to just shy of $1.5 million. Wow!
So, the bottom line? If you have the means to match your teen’s income during his or her teenage years, open up that Roth IRA and contribute that money. What an amazing gift to your children.
Conclusion: How to make money as a teen
Learning how to make money as a teen can provide valuable personal finance lessons about saving and spending, as well as charitable giving, to use throughout life. Jobs give teens a sense of responsibility and help them better understand the work required to produce an income. With their own money, they can open a bank account under their own name and perhaps begin to establish credit history with a credit card.
Teens have many options for earning extra income – from starting their own small business to working traditional jobs – to buy things that they want, but that they don’t have handed to them. With some money in their pocket, teens can finally buy, for example, the clothes they’d like or food from their favorite restaurants. Or, they can save up for larger purchases like perhaps a new car, smartphone or a Spring break trip.