Just like with most aspects of the modern trend known as the “sharing economy,” the concept of Airbnb weirded me out at first. But as with ridesharing, crowd-sourced apps, on-demand delivery services, crowdfunding sites, and other life-changing aspects of the sharing economy, I came around to the idea of hosting through Airbnb.
I realized that by living in a city that people frequently travel to, I could potentially make some money on the side pretty easily through Airbnb. It’s one of the coolest way to ways to supplement income.
However, after my influx of guests tapered off after the first few visitors, I realized that I wasn’t doing enough to build an eye-catching reputation. A better reputation on Airbnb translates to more guests, happier reviews, the ability to up my rates, and more money.
So how could I increase my cashflow by making money on Airbnb? I researched the top-earners through Airbnb— people who’ve built entire financial empires off of this sort of thing. Here are a few of the tactics that they all had in common:
1. Hire a Professional Photographer
When you’re cruising through hotel booking sites or looking at other Airbnb locations, what are you going to be more attracted to:
A couple grainy, dim photos of a space where it’s impossible to glean anything about the size, quality, or accommodations?
Or a crisp, well-photographed space that gives you a full view of each room, including a better idea of what the place features and has to offer you?
We’d all pick the pretty pictures, every time. Every realtor, retailer, restaurateur, and entrepreneur knows a well-photographed product will sell. For that, you absolutely need a professional photographer. The old adage of “you gotta spend money to make money” is a crucial fact if you want to see real cash returns on your Airbnb listing.
A pro photographer should know how to showcase the best features of your Airbnb location. The purpose of the photos that you provide on Airbnb is to help show the guests what they’ll be staying in. So they’ll want to see every room, and they’ll want to see it in good lighting and at an angle that lets them see as much as possible.
You can hire one of Airbnb’s photographers to take photos of your listing, or you can hire your own. Just be sure to communicate exactly what you want to show off and how you want to present your listing to potential guests.
Better photos will catch the eye of people scrolling through Airbnb, and it’ll get more guests through your door, earning you more money. Remember, although they can always show a space in its best light, even the greatest photographer can’t make a crappy, poorly decorated apartment look like a palace. Which brings us to…
2. Set the Stage
One of the best ways to hustle out that listing on Airbnb is to make it look the part. Even if you’re looking around your apartment or seemingly small home thinking, “What can I rent out to make money? This place will never sell for people,” there are easy ways to dress up your place to make it look infinitely more welcoming.
Even if you’re pimping out an extra property on Airbnb that you don’t actually live in, you need to make it feel like a real home. Which is not to say that you should leave dirty cups in the sink and your hemorrhoid cream in the bathroom mirror cabinet.
Here are the two basics that are 100% ‘musts’ when you’re getting a space ready to list on Airbnb:
Obviously, your place should be clean. Not just the kind of cleaning that you do when you have friends over. You’ll need to do a bit more than just sweeping the crumbs of the kitchen counter.
Once you start having guests stay regularly, it might be helpful for you to hire a cleaning service to stop by between their visits. But for now, you need to get the place spotless; even if you live there, too.
Cleaning your space also means clearing it of items that you wouldn’t want strangers staying in your home to stumble across. Put away anything excessively personal or potentially embarrassing. Do a sweep of the place to make sure you don’t have things like your checkbook or bank info lying around, either.
It can’t be stressed enough: details matter when you’re looking to make money from Airbnb. A well-decorated place will get booked in a heartbeat. If decorating isn’t your strong suit (or even if it is) it helps to have a second opinion.
Ask some friends to come over and give the decor their appraisal. They’ll often catch something that you wouldn’t have considered, like that blank wall that could use some bright art, or that one room that’s just a little too dim and could use a lamp. It may be worth it to invest in a few nicer pieces of furniture or accent pieces in order to generate more bookings and better reviews of your place. Again; spending some money can pay off.
Consider the overall vibe you want your guests to experience when staying at your place, because that’ll be your selling point. Are you offering an eclectic, bohemian studio in a chic area of Soho? Is your place going to be a crisp and modern place with lots of slick amenities? Or do you want a cozier, casual down-home feel?
Stick with a style and present your listing as such. It’ll appeal to people who are looking for that specific kind of emotion-evoking experience; which who can market heavily. As it turns out, selling an experience is one of the most lucrative side jobs!
3. Turn Your Home Into a B&B
Think of a time when you stayed with family, friends, or even at a hotel or B&B that was truly memorable. What made it feel so welcoming and homey? There was probably some small gesture that made you feel somehow special.
Offering those gestures, both small and grand, will earn you the best reviews instantly. And more positive reviews is the most important step to finding out how much money you can make on Airbnb for real. More guests = more opportunities for making guests happy. Happy guests = glowing reviews. Good reviews = more guests + higher demand + the ability to increase your rates. It all equals more money and one of the best ways to make side money.
Consider some of these tried-and-true elements to add to your space to make it feel more like a desirable Airbnb location and not just some house:
- Snacks, mints, candy, hot chocolate mix, or homemade treats
- A guestbook
- Extra blankets and pillows in the bedrooms
- Lots of nice towels
- Extra toilet paper
- Some basic cleaning and laundry supplies, just in case
- Maps, guidebooks, tips, or personalized printouts with ideas of things to do and see in your city
- Small, low cost gifts like gift card for a local restaurant, convenience store for groceries, a museum pass, etc.
- Seasonal elements to compliment holidays (decorations, treats, etc.)
- Fresh flowers
- A kit that includes a toothbrush, emergency sewing supplies, first aid supplies, tampons, aspirin, and other essentials they may have forgotten at home
Get creative. Whatever you think might make guests’ stay more enjoyable or convenient, try to have it available. You want to stand out in their memories as a positive and thoughtful host if you want to rake in those gushing reviews that tell other potential guests how great it is to stay at your Airbnb location!
Two things you should never forget:
Leave a little note of welcome. Try to personalize it with their names, if possible.
Leave a list of (friendly and cheery) house rules. Trust me: you’ll want to lay down some basics if you want to avoid wild parties, annoyed neighbors and landlords, damaged property, and generally bad situations that could lead to legal problems.
4. Follow Up
Even if start getting a steady flow of guests reserving your Airbnb listing and they’ve all had a great time, it won’t earn you any more money if they aren’t leaving reviews. You might need to remind them!
Guests often just don’t think to leave a review; they just returned from their trip and were caught up in getting back to their everyday grind, so it’s easy to just slip their minds. A quick and friendly message will usually do the trick. That message should include thing like…
- Heartfelt thanks for their stay
- An inquiry about their experience (“How was everything?” “Feedback is always appreciated!” Etc.)
- A brief reminder to leave a review for future guests
- A wish for safe future travels or a “come back anytime” sentiment
If you ask a question about their visit, it’ll usually prompt them to reply, which can give you an easy, non-intrusive way to suggest that they leave a review.
Obviously the goal is to score a great review that will convince other guests to stay at your Airbnb location. But don’t ignore any criticisms they may have on those reviews… they could be clues to make changes to your place that’ll improve guest reviews in the future.
5. Stay On Top Of Pricing
Building up a positive reputation on Airbnb can take some time. The above tips are surefire ways to speed up the process, but your location is still the biggest factor in customer interest, and that’s something that’s more difficult to change!
So while a highly-desirable location can be priced much higher than a more tucked-away location, your pricing should still change to reflect shifting demand and competition. In order to price your Airbnb listing appropriately, you should know…
- the average price of a listing in your region.
- how Airbnb hosts with similar features/size/amenities are pricing their listings.
- high-demand timeframes, such as holidays, peak seasons, events, etc.
- the tricks of Airbnb’s built-in pricing tools and tips.
- the value of your personal listing (is demand growing or decreasing for your space).
Keeping the prices on your Airbnb listing competitive is an important trick of creating multiple streams of income effectively. Learning how to make money on Airbnb comes down to common sense, creativity, and keeping tabs on trends. These are basic methods that have proved intensely lucrative for all of the top Airbnb-ers, and they can turn your home into a prime-destination location, too!