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Can you name 10 reasons childminders are better than nurseries?

If you can’t name 10 reasons that childminders are better than nurseries, then you shouldn’t be surprised when you lose business to them. Parents are overwhelmed with choice when it comes to care for their children and one of the choices they have to make is whether to send their child to a nursery or a childminder. You could probably write your own list of the benefits of childminders, but could parents write this list? Could YOUR parents write this list about YOU? Or have they forgotten why they chose you to look after their child?

The purpose of this article is two-fold. Firstly, to make sure that you have a clear idea in your own mind about why you are better than the nursery down the road. Secondly, to make sure that you are successfully communicating this information to parents, both to attract new business and to retain the business you have.

 

Part 1: Here are a list of general reasons why childminders are better than nurseries. Which of the following apply to you? Can you add to this list?

  • Real-life experiences like trips to the shops, gardening, visiting the library, taking an outing to the park, cooking their lunch.
  • Flexible opening hours
  • Helping older children with homework after school.
  • Trips to soft play, music club, classes and clubs
  • A consistent key person – a secure attachment figure who doesn’t change day to day – a chance for a child to build a long lasting close relationship over a period of time
  • Care for siblings alongside each other
  • Mixed age ranges of children all playing together can have enormous benefits for all children
  • Smaller groups and more individual attention
  • A home environment offers flexibility of activities as well as simply the comfort of being in a home rather than a nursery
  • More frequent outings due to smaller number of children to coordinate
  • Opportunities to do Forest Childcare daytrips – many childminders can make the commitment to weekly outdoor outings more easily than a nursery can
  • Quiet spaces to relax – nurseries are noisy and busy

 

Part 2: What is unique about YOUR childminding business? Why should parents choose you?

The second step is to add to the list in Step 1 with the benefits of your own childminding setting. What is different about your business that would make parents want to choose your setting over your local nursery or the childminder down the street? Are you cheaper? Do you provide better meals? Do you speak two languages at home? Do you provide better outings? Do you have a sharp focus on STEM activities? Do you have lots of experience? Are you rated outstanding? Are your prices competitive? Do you offer funded places?

If you are new to childminding, this exercise will help you to think about how to write your directory listings, website entries and any other marketing materials you plan to produce like a brochure, Facebook page or a website. If you have been childminding for a while, do this exercise anyway. It will help you to stand back a little from your business and think about how you make parents aware of the good things you do so that they don’t start looking elsewhere for that ‘next best thing’. 

Not sure what makes your setting or you different? Ask a friend to help you. Sometimes it can be really hard to stand back from yourself far enough to describe yourself well. I once heard that if you register on an online dating site that you should ask someone else to write your profile because it is very hard to describe yourself well. Other people are often better at recognising your good points than you are.

 

Part 3: How do you promote your unique selling points to get “new” business?

Kay Woods Childminder ListingOne of the first places a new parent may hear about you is your online council directory or other directory listing site. These sites are increasingly the gateway through which new parents will find you. Making you and your business stand out from a list of identical-sounding entries for childminders is tough. Your top three unique selling points need to stand out in the first two lines.

Don’t just rely on directory listings to get business. Can you put up flyers at your library or school, or music club or soft play gym? Can you make a website or Facebook page? Whatever methods you use make sure that you focus on what makes you and your setting unique and that this information is clear to parents at a two second glance.

 

Part 4: How do you promote your unique selling points to retain parents’ business over time?

First a parent has to decide to place their baby with you. Then, when their child is old enough for nursery (and qualifies for free hours) they need to make the decision again (how shall I split my time between a nursery and my childminder)? When their child starts school, the parent has to make the decision for a third time (shall I keep my child with my childminder, or sign him up for after school club?) In each instance, the parents will be doing a direct comparison between you and your competition. 

5 senses art project for childmindersYou need to have a strategy for how you plan to KEEP their business. So promoting your unique selling points needs to continue long after you have signed the contract and should be a continual task on your priorities.

The golden rules for dealing with parents are to:

  • Never let them forget why they chose you in the first place
  • Always assume they are looking for the ‘next best thing’
  • Don’t let them take you for granted
  • Treat them as if they are customers who must continue to choose you over the competition

Look closely at your own setting. Which of these methods do you use to promote yourself to parents on an ongoing basis, reminding parents that you are ‘much more than just a babysitter’ and a better choice than switching to a nursery?

  • Engaging conversations at collection time about the things you did with their child that day and what the child is learning at your setting
  • Daily diaries and daily care sheets
  • Photos up in your setting were parents will see them
  • Thank you card board
  • Facebook group or page (private) on which you post activities the children do
  • Whatsapp images
  • Newsletters
  • Learning Journeys showing parents the educational fun you are having
  • Regular art projects sent home and special projects like Christmas cards
  • Weekly plans posted so parents know what activities you are doing
  • Inviting parents to join your activities so they can ‘see you in action’ with the kids
  • Big, bright colourful eye-catching displays mixing photos, artwork and great learning involving all the children
  • Sending home suggestions for how parents can support learning at home

It is a truth in any business that it is always easier to retain the business you have than to get new business. In other words, it should always be easier to keep families once you have them, than to go through the process of advertising and finding new families.

Top tip for helping parents to KEEP CHOOSING you: Get at least one nice photo of yourself WITH the child and send that photo home!

 

Communication with Parents Pack

My NEW Communication with Parents Pack includes tools to help you to write your unique selling points to get new business, to manage the all-important first parent visit and to help you to think about how parents want to FEEL when they choose a childminder. The pack includes information for new childminders setting up and for experienced childminders hoping to achieve outstanding

Pack includes:

  • Supporting learning at home
  • Attracting new parents to your setting – improving your marketing skills to get new parents to contact you, your unique selling points, WOW factors, managing the ‘first visit’
  • Audit your setting to improve what you do
  • Sharing challenging information about their child’s learning and development with parents in a tactful way
  • Parent and child questionnaires
  • Letter templates for challenging situations – late payment, late collection, unhealthy lunches, terminating your contract with a family
  • Transition programme

Use the tools in my new pack to examine what is working well and what needs to be improved in terms of how you communicate with parents.

 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter using the orange sign up box on my website and I will send you best practice ideas, childminding news, EYFS tips, outstanding ideas, stories from other childminders, arts and crafts project templates, new products, and links.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys (for childminders)

I have always hated this expression from when my very first boss would use it. ‘If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys’ he’d say. The problem was, he DID pay peanuts. So every time he used the expression, he made me feel that was how he thought of me. He paid peanuts. He’d hired a monkey. Me.

 

Childminding pricesDon’t let parents pay you ‘peanuts’

Feeling that you are being paid peanuts is awful. Feeling undervalued in any job is demoralising, but when you are childminding it can feel doubly awful because you are the one who sets your own prices. It is not parents who are paying you peanuts. When you are self-employed, you are the one who decides what you are ‘worth’. You are no longer the victim of a horrible boss.  You have undervalued yourself. If you let these feelings go ignored you can end up resenting the parents, your partner, other childminders and ultimately the children you care for.

 

But how much is ‘peanuts’? What is a GOOD hourly rate for a childminder?

This is a difficult question because childminding hourly rates vary enormously across the country from as little as £3 per hour (per child) to as much as £7 an hour. If you are childminding in many parts of London, for example, then you may feel you are being paid peanuts if you are paid only £5 per hour, when that same hourly rate would put you near the top of the hourly price range in many other locations across the country.  So when you compare yourself to others, make sure it is to other childcare providers in YOUR area.

 

When you are just starting out, how should you decide a good hourly rate?

If you are new to childminding the best way to decide on an hourly rate is to look at what other childcare providers in your area charge. This will also give you a good idea about the ‘market’ in your area – in other words – what parents are looking for and what they are willing to pay. You should find out what both nurseries and childminders in your area charge per hour.  As well as looking at the prices, you should also look at what is offered for those services.

Here is an example. It’s actually a real example of how I decided my original hourly rate TEN years ago in Slough (home counties) where I was trying to set up my childminding business.

The very cheapest childcare in my area were childminders who charged between £3.50 and £4.50 per hour. Next on the scale were many mid-range nurseries that charged between £4.50 and £5.50 per hour. The services these nurseries and childminders advertised all seemed very standard. The “best” nursery in our area (with a waiting list) that took the children to swimming lessons, had Ofsted outstanding and cooked lunches on the premises charged £5.50 per hour. The most expensive childcare in the area was an outstanding childminder who had been childminding for 15 years from her farm location outside of the city. She charged a massive £6.50 per hour and always had a waiting list.

So, where I lived, it seemed reasonable that parents would be willing to pay somewhere between £3.50 and £6 per hour for childcare, depending on the type of service I decided to offer.

 

How do you decide on your ‘price point’?

Once you have the range of prices in your area, you then need to make a decision about how you want to fit in on this scale. You also need to consider your ‘market’. Do you have lots of parents willing to pay high end prices in your area?  Or do most people where you live want the cheapest childcare going?

Suppose you decide to become one of the most expensive childminders in your area? If so, you will be competing with the top nursery, nannies and other top childminders in your area. If you are going in at the ‘top end’ then what services are you going to offer to parents that will make your higher prices justifiable to them? How will you compete with the nursery that offers ‘swimming lessons’ or the ‘growing up on a farm’ experience offered by the top childminder? This is especially difficult if you are new to childminding as many top childminders and nurseries have years of experience and the reputation that goes with it, neither of which you have if you are new. One of the key benefits of deciding to offer a top end service is that you often attract parents who want longer hours for their children. So you get the added benefit of longer, contracted hours at a higher hourly rate. Getting rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted can be a huge benefit if you intend to go in at the ‘top end’ and there is no reason why you shouldn’t try to attract parents who are looking for ‘the best’ even if you are new as long as there are enough parents in your area looking for that service.

Alternately, you may decide to go in at the lowest cost end. You may want to try and offer cheap and no frills childcare – like Easyjet for parents!  Parents bring their own food and snacks and children can come and go flexibly. Many childminders who offer a low cost childminding service are happy to be flexible regarding hours and this suits and helps many parents enormously. The low cost business model for childminding can make it easy to attract many parents, especially parents who have low paid jobs themselves where they are making only marginally more per hour than they pay you to look after their child.  The downside is the lower rate, and the risk that taking children for five hour slots in a day can make it impossible to take on full timers.

Other childminders decide to go ‘middle of the road’ on their prices. Childminders who choose this option are not trying to compete with nurseries or nannies, or with childminders who offer low cost. If you go middle of the road with your prices then finding ways to stand out is crucial if you want to attract parents. You have to think very carefully about what makes your service unique.  If you are neither the cheapest, nor the best, why else should parents call you, instead of the next childminder on the list?

When I had to make this decision ten years ago now, I decided that I wanted to go ‘top end’ and offer a quality service. I couldn’t possibly compete with the childminder with 15 years’ experience who raised children on her farm. But I felt that by having all-inclusive prices, home-cooked meals and weekly outdoor ‘Forest Childcare’ outings, I could easily compete with the top nursery in our area. So I matched my hourly rate to theirs offering ‘all the benefits of a nursery but in a home environment’. That was my tagline. And it worked for me.

 

Are parents really looking for the “cheapest childcare”?

Don’t get me wrong. Many parents really do choose a childminder because it is the cheapest childcare can they find. But for the vast majority of parents, price is only one small factor in the decision. Parents will pay more for childcare if you give them a reason to. They will find money if you give them a reason to spend it. So don’t start off by assuming that the only way you will attract new parents is by undercutting the competition. Setting your prices too low can result in you regretting it later on by feeling undervalued for the work you do.

 

Low prices may actually put some people off

Many parents think that they are looking for cheap childcare. But really they are looking for ‘the best childcare they can afford’. Many parents (people) believe that if they pay more for something that it must be better. They may actually seek out higher hourly rates because they will feel that if they are paying more, then what they are getting must be better.

Recently I had to buy a new toaster. I walked up and down the rows of toasters in the shops horrified at the range of prices and weird and wonderful extras I could get for an appliance that I essentially wanted to be able to ‘heat bread reliably at breakfast’. Did I buy the cheapest toaster? Even though it did exactly that? No, because somehow I allowed myself to believe that some of the extras I was being offered might be worth it. But more importantly because when I looked at the cheapest toaster I thought to myself ‘what’s wrong with it?’ Why is it so cheap?  It must not be any good if they are selling it that cheaply. It will probably break in a year.

 

A parent who pays peanuts can get a childminder who feels underpaid and undervalued

Feeling respected is very important to people’s wellbeing. When you feel that you are being paid less than other childminders, this can seriously harm your enjoyment of the job. If other childminders in your area charge more than you, then think about the impression you are giving parents about the service you offer and consider putting your prices up.

Many childminders still charge the same fees per hour as they did 10 years ago. It is easy to say be brave and tell parents that you are putting your prices up. But this is so much easier said than done.

 

Give yourself a clause in your contract about reviewing your prices

If you are starting out, then make sure you put a clause into your contract that tells parents your prices are renewed annually at a certain date (1st April for example). Then it will come as less of a shock to parents that your prices are being reviewed and are going up. And you won’t feel guilty asking because it was in your agreement.

 

How to put your prices up if you don’t have a review clause in your contract

Putting your prices up takes a lot of nerve and you are right to feel nervous about it. You don’t want to upset families and drive them away. But you also don’t want to grow increasingly resentful of them (and their child) which can happen if you ignore your feelings.

If you look after just one family, then you may want to discuss your feelings regarding the pay rise with them and come to a mutually agreed amount. If you explain how you feel, perhaps in a letter, not in the morning as they are rushing to work, or when they are tired and their child is whingy at collection time, but when they can sit down and discuss this together, then you may all be able to come to an agreement that is reasonable and will keep everybody happy.

If there are multiple families involved then I wouldn’t ask their permission if I were you. Imagine if you were a nursery. Would a nursery send a letter home asking ‘look, I hope you don’t mind but I’m thinking of putting my prices up’ and it is demoralising to ‘ask them for a pay rise’ when you are self-employed. Just make the announcement like your nursery or any kids sports club would do. Parents will moan and groan, like you would do. But unless you are being unreasonable, they are very unlikely to actually leave you over a small price increase; they will most likely grumble, then do it, and then forget about it.

 

pile-of-peanutsDon’t feel like a monkey by offering your service for peanuts

I have carried that expression on with me throughout my life. When I left my first job I made a promise to myself never to work for someone who ‘paid peanuts’ again because it left me feeling very bad about myself, including when I started childminding and became my own boss. When you are not being paid what you feel you deserve for your work, it can really get you down. If this is you, it’s time to take the brave step of asking for the money you feel you are worth. Good luck!

 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter using the orange sign up box on my website and I will send you best practice ideas, childminding news, EYFS tips, outstanding ideas, stories from other childminders, arts and crafts project templates, new products, and links.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

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