When we first moved here nearly 6 years ago, I was fortunate to have a co-worker whose daughter was eager to babysit. She was 13 at the time, and she turned out to be perfect: responsible, engaged, and she genuinely loved the kids. Of course, last year she went off to college, and now that we have a third child we haven’t felt all that comfortable picking a random neighborhood teenager to watch three kids at a time. Consequently, we don’t get out much these days!

On our ever-growing to-do list has been to check out SitterCity. I first heard about them from a local tech event — they’re based here in Chicago. (That’s right, another Web 2.0 company based in Chicago!) More about the company and their history here, and their new blog is here… I’m surprised we hadn’t heard about the site earlier: it’s an ideal resource that executes flawlessly.

In a nutshell, SitterCity makes it easy for babysitters (from the in-school crowd to full-time nannies) to list their qualifications, share references and skills, and search for current open sitting opportunities. Parents can browse the database of sitters and contact those who appear interesting, can read reviews left by other parents about the sitters, and can also post jobs (one-time or recurring) which are then e-mailed out to all sitters in the area. The site is a perfect blend of functionality and community, and I can already tell this site will help us find a few regular fill-ins for our former babysitter.

Rates are set by the sitters and parents, so there’s no attempt by SitterCity to impose pricing, nor does SitterCity get a cut of any jobs that get filled – the model is subscription based for parents and free for sitters. They even include a pretty useful rate calculator that helps you figure out what’s more-or-less the going rate based on your zip, # of kids, age of babysitter and years of experience. (First lesson learned? We were underpaying our former babysitter!)

If you give it a try and mention my username (rickklau), you’ll get a discount (apparently 10% or more) and I’ll get a few bucks towards a movie ticket — which might be a nice way to spend one of those nights off once we find a couple sitters we like. We meet our first potential sitter this afternoon — she lives nearby, is a teacher by day and is looking to make some extra money. I’ll post updates as we get more experience with the site, but so far, my first exposure is very positive.

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