Business Overview

There’s nothing in life more precious than your child. Families looking for a nanny to care for their young ones turn to referral agencies, who have the time and resources to conduct thorough background checks. For many, nannies become an integral part of their family unit, and your work is an integral part of that process.

Who is this business right for?

This is a wonderful opportunity for someone who enjoys working with adults and children, helping them navigate through the challenges of parenthood. The individual looking to start a nanny referral agency should also enjoy spending time on the computer conducting research. In addition, those who enjoy connecting and interacting with people will find this type of work enjoyable and rewarding.

What happens during a typical day at a nanny referral agency?

Given the sensitivity of the services your agency provides, you’ll want to take a hands-on approach to your work. There are a number of activities that will keep you busy day in and day out.

Most days will include the following activities:

  • Conduct interviews with families to get a feel for what their needs are
  • Check nanny’s professional and personal references, passing that information on to the family
  • Verify nanny’s background history, including identity, education and employment history, perform state and county criminal searches, including the sex offender registry, review candidate’s driving record
  • Conduct personal interviews with nannies
  • Identify which nanny would be a good fit with each family
  • Perform periodic screening updates to ensure nothing has changed since placement
  • Market your business
  • Research to ensure your business is current with nanny referral business best practices

In addition, there will be administrative duties to attend to. Once your business has grown and you’ve built a team of trusted employees, you can delegate these responsibilities to your staff.

What is the target market?

While the nanny is, in a sense, your customer, the families are your true clients. Your goal is to connect the right nannies and families together, building long-lasting relationships. Thus, your preferred customer is the family or individual who understands the intricacies and financial implications of hiring a nanny and is committed to ensuring their child(ren) receive the best possible care.

How does a nanny referral agency make money?

All fees are paid for by the family and are set depending upon the services they require. For example, a family seeking a live-in nanny will be charged a higher fee than one that requires a part-time nanny. Fees can be either a fixed percentage of the nanny’s salary or a flat-rate cost.

What is the growth potential for a nanny referral agency?

The value of nanny care has grown exponentially over the last decade, offering great opportunity for success in the referral agency industry. Growth opportunities are dependent upon demand, affordability of services, and availability of quality nannies in your area.

Getting Started

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful nanny referral agency?

From the nannies you’re considering, to the parents and children who’ve hired you, each day will require you to interact with people. Thus, it is critical that you possess strong interpersonal skills. Your role is to place the best nanny with the best family, so it’s critical that you’re also able to listen to the subtleties expressed from all parties and confident enough to ask difficult questions. This ensures you extract important information that could be instrumental in identifying the best fit. Strong interviewing skills is a must.

Your customers are entrusting the nanny you place with their most prized “possession” - their child. Each job requires your undivided scrutiny. Attention to detail and strength in research are also valuable qualities to possess as the owner of a nanny referral agency owner. The International Nanny Association has a wealth of information available to its members for every step of starting your small business.

What are the costs involved in opening a nanny referral agency?

Start-up costs for a nanny referral agency are minimal. Since much of the work is done online, many start-up agencies choose to forego the cost of renting office space, working out of their home instead.

You’ll need the following items to get started, regardless of where you decide to set up shop:

  • Computer
  • Website
  • Telephone line
  • Marketing materials
  • Standard office supplies

Much of your work entails running background checks on nannies you’re looking to place. Spend some time finding out what you have to do to run driving reports, etc in each jurisdiction.

What are the steps to start a nanny referral agency?

Once you're ready to start your nanny referral agency, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2. Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your security guard company is sued. Consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

STEP 3. Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

STEP 4. Open a business bank account

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 5. Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

STEP 7. Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8. Define your brand.

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

STEP 9. Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a nanny referral agency?

Before getting started, contact agencies in other areas of the country. They can provide useful information and tips to ensure the start-up process goes smoothly.

The following are a few insider tips from well-established agencies:

  • Conduct interviews in person whenever possible. If this isn’t possible, then you can turn to phone or Skype interviews.
  • Check into a registry for families new to the area, as these are potential clients.
  • Network within the community to stay on top of the latest changes and trends in your industry.
  • Screening of candidates is critical to the safety of your families, as well as your success. Develop an efficient strategy to ensure no stone is left unturned. A basic skills and assessment test is also advisable.
  • Your website can be simple and straightforward, but is essential for your success.

Growing Your Business

How to promote & market a nanny referral agency

Word of mouth will be your strongest marketing tool. However, due to the niche industry you’re a part of, you shouldn’t rely solely on this strategy.

Agencies have found success implementing the following marketing strategies:

  • Partner with local schools, children’s retail stores, and pediatricians’. This recommendation will take you farther in gaining valued clients.
  • Purchase ads in local publications, particularly those geared towards families.
  • Google and Facebook ads are a great way to get your name out in the community.
  • Host nanny training workshops
  • Feature a blog on your website and share on social media. Focus on topics your target audience would inquire about, further establishing yourself as a leader in your industry.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Word of mouth will take you far in this line of work. Parents want to know their children are receiving the very best in childcare. For each success story, ask your clients (both nanny and family) to write a testimonial. This could be featured on your website and on social media. While a nanny might work out wonderfully, you never know what changes will occur in one’s life. Treat your families with the respect and attention they deserve, and they’ll look to you for guidance when and if their needs change.

How and when to build a team

Much of this work can be done by you, so many nanny referral agency owners choose not to hire employees. Whether you decide to hire employees or work solo, you’ll need the assistance of a reputable attorney to help your customers with their contracts. Once business starts picking up, you’ll also want to consider adding an accountant to your team to ensure the books are kept accurately.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

A nanny agency typically must obtain a referral agency license. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Maintain Personal Asset Protection

Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.

  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
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To learn more about maintaining your LLC's corporate veil, read our guide and protect your personal assets.

Release of Liability

Nanny agencies should have contracts with both their nannies and clients to decrease liability and increase transparency. An example of an agency-nanny contract can be found here and an example of an agency-client agreement can be found here

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

Nanny placement fees vary depending upon location and specific services needed. Many referral agencies report charging approximately $1,500 per client, $2,100 for live-in nanny placement.

What are the ongoing expenses for a nanny referral agency?

As a nanny referral business owner, you’re facing low overhead expenses. Below are a few items you’ll want to budget for in your monthly expenses

  • Fees for background and driving record checks (varies from state to state)
  • Insurance $250
  • Internet/telephone costs $150
  • Advertising and website maintenance $250
  • Payment/merchant fees $200

How much profit can a nanny referral agency make?

If you place 4 clients per month, each with a referral fee of $1,500, your agency will earn $72,000 annually. Assuming your overhead costs are $1,000/month, that’s $60,000 in annual profit.

How can you make your business more profitable?

The following are a few strategies other agencies have implemented to ensure a more profitable business:

  • Offer nanny training courses
  • Expand your services to include babysitting.
  • Offer new parent training classes
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