How Airbnb Helped Me Make a Career Change
For the past 5 months I’ve been travelling for weeks at a time. It’s been great, but the first thing people ask me is, “Um how are you paying for all of this?” Then they ask, “What about your rent?”
I wish I could just scoff and say, “ Oh daddy takes care of all that.” But that’s not the case. I had to really dip into my savings account to make it happen. That was until I discovered Airbnb on a trip to Paris last year and shortly after I decided to travel full-time.
Quoting from their website, Airbnb offers “a diversity of accommodations – from private homes to private islands in over 16,000 cities in 186 countries – Airbnb unlocks the doors to unique spaces around the globe. Now people can discover an authentic, local side of the cities and cultures they visit while providing their hosts with a new stream of income.”
Now I can scoff and reply, “Airbnb darling”, I thought as I signed up for an account. I took a couple of iPhone pics of my triplex apartment and used a recent shot of myself in a London telephone booth as my profile picture.
(Yeah this totally shows I’m a sophisticated world traveler).
I scoped out the other listings in my area to determine my pricing. I started low in order to get bookings, reviews and some street cred.
The emails came rolling in…not. Not one bid, nothing in my inbox, no interest–story of my life. I decided to take a look at listings that seemed to be doing well and noticed 5 things.
- They had professional pictures…guess the ‘P’ in iPhone isn’t for professional
- They had a lot of them and also pictures of their hood
- Low security deposit and no cleaning fee ( the reviews that they received for their home’s cleanliness were always high)
- The had a long and informative description of their abode
- They also listed a few things that you could do in the area
So I applied these tips to my own profile and viola! Inquiries.
Now I had to choose the right house guest or I end up like this poor host. Airbnb promotes their golden rules, but it’s still up to you to make a good judgment call. Not that this person did not, even then you might get unlucky, but with risk comes reward.
A picture says a lot of words. The people with mug shots didn’t really win me over immediately. But I didn’t want to discriminate so of course I replied and asked them a series of questions to determine whether or not they were secret ninja robbers that would seriously eff up your stuff. And I also looked at their profiles to see if they just signed up yesterday, are verified and have good guest reviews.
After I checked and they met that criteria; I would reply with
- What was the reason for their trip? Those who answered to rob yo’ ass were immediately disqualified.
- How many guests?
- Is it your first time in New York?
- Do you travel often?
- What’s your profession?
- What’s your philosophy about life?
The last question was the true determining factor. I felt that it was thought provoking and I wanted someone who was thoughtful in my home. Someone who grew up with the same “do unto others as you would want them to do unto you” values.
I think you have the right to ask at least one personal question because this individual will be living in your home and how much more personal can you get? Even one night stands don’t have access to your underwear drawer.
With my mini-essay contest I was able to pick my first two guests; two friends visiting New York during Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Though I had random panic attacks while I was away; afraid that I would come home and find that my collection of Babysitters Club books had been sold on EBay or worse read and left with the pages folded. But I had nothing to worry about. We kept up correspondence during my trip and they even asked if I wanted them to wash my sheets and towels! They were lovely. I arrived home and my apartment was still intact, if not cleaner. They even left me a hostess gift!
I was very lucky to have great guests and I made sure that I was a good hostess. Speaking of.
Here are my golden rules for being an Airbnb host: I think these are great things to do or have no matter what your budget is.
- Offer sheets & towels
- If you have clutter or are a pack rat it’s okay. Just make sure your home is still easy to navigate. Guests with sore shins aren’t likely to leave a good review.
- Clean your bedroom and bathrooms. The most important rooms for weary travelers.
- Have bottled water or if your tap water is clean place glasses next to the sink. Make it easy for guests to hydrate.
- Do you have to wiggle the knob to the air conditioner three times and hop on one foot to make it work? Then make sure you let your guests know that and be sure to tell them about any other quirks.
- And finally offer suggestions on what to do in your neighborhood. Airbnb has a section in your profile where you can create a guide.
Do you have any tips for Airbnb guests or hosts? Feel free to leave them below. And if you’re in the city look me up and make sure to have your essay written!