When I was a kid, around age 12, I wanted nothing more than to learn how to program. I was using BASIC but I craved something more. I knew about better languages, but little about how to learn them or even get started. Buying the software was prohibitively expensive. It was more reasonable to buy floppy disks and make some, ahem, backups from the local college. (As an aside, I’m sorry, Borland. I didn’t buy Borland C 3.1 which I learned so much on. I did buy 5.0, years later, after I was able to earn money from my programming abilities. I hope that makes us even.)
Instead, I grudgingly made money in the ways a 12 year old was expected at the time. I walked around the neighborhood, gradually expanding the radius. I recruited friends. We simply did chores. I had a hard time with pricing and found that the best way was a simple question.
Hi, I’m trying to earn money through the summer. Do you have any chores you would like done? How much do you want to pay for that to be done?
This worked well for me. People who had chores suggested the chore and a price. I could counter, of course, but I rarely did. I ended up washing a lot of cars (most profitable), mowing lawns (least profitable) and at one point spent most an afternoon simply moving large bags of dirt from one end of a yard to the other. I still don’t know what that was about, but she paid us well for it.
However, the only thing I learned was I’m bad at pricing but good at organizing labor and teams. It was not a successful experience and there was no progress towards my goals.
These experiences built fond memories. I obviously want my children to have these experiences and the memories. The world has changed, so have the opportunities.
The world has changed, neighborhoods barely exist. It’s all thanks to Etsy and other marketplaces. The neighborhoods are anywhere with Internet connectivity, the chores could be building new, specialty products. This diversity is an opportunity that simply didn’t exist until recently. My son’s interest in electronics and invention can be used to earn money all while pursuing his passions. I see my daughter’s art being turned into crafts with real value.
It’s a marketplace based on real skill development. There’s nothing wrong with mowing lawns or babysitting, but now there are options that compete withe the historical standard. And these options help kids progress inline with their goals and aspirations.
Most importantly, the kids see it, too. Well, my son does. Daughter is still a bit young. To think someone wants to buy something he makes gives him more direction and purpose. They’re both still years away from ever selling, but as we work on more projects they see them as also creating real value.
My children get significantly more engaged and motivated when their work is evaluated and appreciated, and not just from a casual, “That’s nice, honey.” When they start wanting money and understanding, what better validation to show them than a marketplace where their interests align. All while doing the same crafts they would otherwise be doing.