If you’re looking to join the gig economy to make the most possible money, you could do a lot worse than Airbnb.
Although your location affects your earning power, where you live won’t disqualify you from signing up. After all, there are Airbnb listings in over 65,000 cities around the globe.
How Airbnb works
There are ways to be a host on Airbnb beyond renting out your spare room, apartment, house, or another dwelling. You could co-host a neighbor’s listing, or host an experience, such as a cooking lesson in a London restaurant.
Hosts create listings for their properties or experiences. Potential guests from all over the world can find these places and activities by searching the platform. When I rented out my New York City bedroom for nine months, for example, I had guests traveling from nine different countries, including China, India, and Australia.
Your listing and number of reviews might persuade — or dissuade — a potential guest from making a booking. You could allow guests to instantly book or request to book pending your approval.
On its end, Airbnb offers the intuitive platform, day-and-night customer support, and seamless transactions. It takes your guest’s payment before they arrive and deposits it in the account of your choice within 24 hours after their check-in.
Like other sharing economy jobs, you get to be something of your own boss, setting ground rules and rates.
Host: The most famous of Airbnb careers
Hosting for Airbnb is like driving for Uber. You might represent the company and technically be on its payroll, but you’re not an employee.
Like drivers for Uber, however, hosts are the lifeblood of Airbnb. So it’s no surprise that “Be a Host” is prominent on the Airbnb careers page. (If you’re looking for full-time Airbnb jobs, those exist, too.)
Before you decide to go to the trouble of creating a property or experience listing, ensure your city’s laws even allow it. Airbnb provides links to guidelines by city. I learned in New York City, for example, that I could rent out my bedroom. But the city’s Multiple Dwelling Law forbid me from renting out my entire apartment for any period less than 30 days.
You might already have an account as an Airbnb guest. If so, you won’t need to create a new one to host. Once you’re logged in, you can toggle between the “Travel” and “Host” menu options on the Airbnb home page.
To host, you’ll need to supply basic information like your email address and phone number. You’ll also be required to:
- Add a profile photo of yourself
- Choose a method to receive payment
- Fill out a Form I-9 for tax purposes
You can also require guests to provide a government ID before booking, but you won’t need to upload one yourself.
How to host on Airbnb
Creating a listing is broken into easy steps that could be completed in less than 10 or 15 minutes. For property listings, you’ll add basic information like your address, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and details of your amenities.
Perhaps most important of all are the photos on your listing. Just like when you’re selling stuff on Craigslist, pictures can bring in a potential customer or drive them away. Don’t worry if you’re no expert. Airbnb can help you arrange a photography session to highlight your home or experience.
Once your listing is filled out, you’ll be directed to:
- Mark on a calendar when your space is available to be rented.
- Set fixed or guided pricing for nightly rates.
- Choose how guests can go about booking their stay with you.
If you’re not sure about proceeding or have questions on these or other steps, Airbnb offers free phone consultations. You could also review their hospitality standards or ask questions of experienced hosts within the site’s community center.
How to make money on Airbnb
If you’re wondering how to make money on Airbnb, the conversation starts with reviews. They help you attract guests when the time comes to compete with other hosts for business. They could even help you become a “Superhost.” That’s Airbnb’s term for an experienced user who consistently scores five-star ratings.
Good reviews also help you increase the price of your property or experience. Put yourself in the shoes of a guest. You might opt to pay more to stay in a home (or experience an activity) that has 100 reviews than you would for one that only has a few reviews.
That brings the question of how to make money on Airbnb when you have no street cred on the site. You could rely on Airbnb’s Smart Pricing tool. It uses the platform’s data to come up with, say, your home’s nightly rate.
The tool has improved to give hosts more flexibility. You could tell it to choose your nightly rate from an acceptable range for specific dates. You might be willing to rent your space out for $99 on a Thursday, for example, but insist on more for a Friday.
After hosting for nine months myself, I’d suggest you take advantage of Airbnb’s pricing tips and tools until your research and better judgment tells you differently.
Making money on Airbnb requires research
You might feel like you’re playing a guessing game to price your property or experience correctly. Instead, do some research to support your best guess.
Here are some steps you can take to establish the rate for your property or experience:
- Review similar Airbnb listings and their weekday and weekend prices.
- Tally up the features and shortcomings of your listing.
- Consider the prices of guests’ alternative options, such as a nearby hotel or tour group.
I charged my first Airbnb guest just $51 because I was desperate for a first review. It was my way of standing out from a crowd of similar listings in the East Village, a popular New York City neighborhood.
Depending on the presence of tourism in your area, you might have far less competition but a much tougher time attracting guests.
Posting low prices isn’t a long-term strategy, however. I slowly increased the price of rent for my room. Knowing that the nearest hotel cost $140 per night, I didn’t charge more than $129 until I was closing in on 30 positive reviews.
Asking for feedback from each of those first 30 guests helped me make small improvements. I learned to supply my Wi-Fi information upon a guest’s arrival, for example.
Then I thought about features I could offer that would make my listing more appealing than staying at the local hotel. I began offering hotel-like options such as instant booking. Then I started highlighting add-ons that the hotel wouldn’t match, including full use of a kitchen space.
It paid off. Eight and a half months after a Delaware college student paid that $51 rate, a Florida couple paid $199.
Making money with Airbnb also requires spending money
Your earnings per guest won’t mean much unless you determine it’s worth your while.
In my case, making money with Airbnb wasn’t my primary goal. I just wanted to shave $100 to $200 per month off my high Manhattan rent. I figured I’d rent out my room when I went on vacation or stayed at my girlfriend’s for the weekend.
I was soon making much more, sometimes over $1,000 per month, pulling in $9,655 in my nine months of hosting overall. I made this jump, in part, by making my listing available more often.
But I also realized that earning more Airbnb money required spending more. If you decide to list a house on Airbnb, you might prepare for these costs:
- Supplies, such as extra towels and sheets
- Laundry to prepare for back-to-back stays
- Fees, including Airbnb’s 3-to-5 percent service fee on each booking
- Federal taxes, which you could set aside after each guest’s payout
With the duties you’ll have as a host, it could feel like you’re running your own small business. You’ll even need to account for insurance, for example.
In the case of hosting homes, Airbnb’s $1 million guarantee doesn’t cover wear and tear. You could opt to have guests pay a hefty security deposit to protect against damages. You might also discuss with your insurer how your homeowner’s or renter’s policy might cover you.
Is Airbnb hosting for you?
If you’ve considered letting strangers ride in your car, you might also be open to hosting them in your home or on an excursion. If so, Airbnb could be the right side hustle for you.
But it’s not for everyone in every city. Having a big bedroom in New York City makes Airbnb hosting easier than listing the same-sized room in a more suburban area, for example.
Before you take the plunge, ask yourself if you have the home or skills to host guests or experiences. Then run the numbers. See if you can make enough Airbnb money to make it worth your while.
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