How to Make a Career Out of Airbnb

The living room

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away referred to as ‘The city by the Bay’, lived a man who went by the alias name of Jackson White. White bought a house, which he paid using the money he earned by renting his apartment out on Airbnb, about $50,000. In this house, White and his girlfriend lived happily ever after. The end.

This is my idea of a modern-day fairy tale. The concept of launching a career (or earning a little bit of extra cash) via the ‘sharing economy’ is no longer deemed as something futuristic. Being a part of this movement, whether it’s providing accommodation or transport, gives you the opportunity to bring home the bread– a very appealing thought for many. The allure is the community feeling of pooling resources, such as helping out a neighbor or a network member in a more personal way, with added benefits of course making it somewhat a ‘business’ by the day’s end.

Whether or not you agree with Airbnb or Uber’s sharing-economy ideologies, one thing’s for sure: they harness the ability to enable earning a considerable amount of cash and, if you’re successful enough, maybe even a full-time career. We’re constantly looking for that additional source of income and Airbnb provides such an opportunity with an alternative to hotels and hostels, letting you rent out your apartment to out-of-towners. All for a measly host fee of 3%.

Back to my ‘bed-time story’, it’s surprising to me that someone could work the system in such a way that they could accumulate enough money to invest in a property. But, according to the interview with The Billfold, White was charging $200/night and paying $1,900/mo in rent, whilst staying with his girlfriend when his apartment was rented out. After moving in permanently with his girlfriend, he now keeps his San Francisco apartment up for rent on Airbnb, charging $250/night. Hence, saving up for his dream-home…

For the time being, it’s still legal to make a profit by utilizing Airbnb, at least in San Francisco. White may be on his way to replacing his day job by living off the sharing economy, and is paving the way for others to make a business out of something they already own. But the same can’t be said for other cities such as New York, as you will face many obstacles. Whether you wish to supplement your existing income or become an Airbnb ‘lone ranger’, be schooled that this route is not cut out for everyone. Many landlords, city regulators, and mortgage lenders will create mountains for you to climb. In any case, it’s worth your while to check out the opportunities at stake.

So, you have your foundation: a home or room to rent out. The lingering question is this: how you can maximize it’s full potential and bump up the price of your home (without selling it)? Here are several ways to make bank on Airbnb:

The Kickoff

Before you even begin, look at the bigger picture such as the location and the time of year. If you live in or near a capital city, there’s a likely stream of both tourists and business travelers who need a place to stay. On the other hand, if you are based near the ocean, the demand for your place will be more seasonal.

Apart from the location, what does your home have to offer the traveler? Think about the basic amenities: is there public transportation, a place to park their car, or even a furnished kitchen? The idea is to act like a hotel, but not to be too much like one. It sounds like an oxymoron but let me explain. Airbnb hosting falls in the middle between acting like a hotel and couchsurfing. In this case, amenities are non-negotiable, especially if you want good reviews.

À la Sherlock Holmes, “It’s elementary, my dear Watson.” Providing your guests with mandatory amenities, such as fresh towels or WiFi, will boost the guest experience which translates to better reviews and more bookings, and ultimately you can slowly raise your prices up. Whilst pimping up your pad is the way to go, make sure you don’t make it too much like a hotel. Guests appreciate all the amenities, but most Airbnb guests use the service for the local experience and all the quirks of a ‘normal’ apartment, such as these unconventional Airbnb apartments in Europe. So don’t be ashamed of your bowling trophy collection, just make sure your place is spic and span upon arrival.

Save your breath if you don’t get these cool aspects photographed for your Airbnb profile. Take as many photos in many areas of your home. Airbnb will send a professional photographer to your home free of charge, as they’ve found that quality photos increase bookings considerably.

The Legwork

Aside from listing your place on Airbnb, there’s much more work to be done. The money won’t just appear out of thin air (especially if you plan on becoming a part-time innkeeper like White).

  • Communicate with your guests: Keep on Airbnb’s good side by replying to all your booking requests and inquiries within 24 hours; otherwise, you’ll be penalized. You’ll also need to be in touch with guests about directions to your place and how you’ll exchange keys. Let the guest know all of the necessary details; the more precise you are, the better your review will be, which will bring on the big bucks.
  • Timing is everything: Your calendar will be updated immediately once someone makes a reservation. If you plan on paying your rent with Airbnb profits, act as though this is your business and manage your calendar accordingly. Cancellations look bad, and the less you do it, the higher your listing will climb on the Airbnb search.
  • Cleanliness is next to Godliness: Most guests are not expecting something as clean as a whistle, but they certainly want a clean bathroom, kitchen, and sheets at a bare minimum. Don’t forget the photos you’ve posted need to live up to these expectations- no one likes to be lead on, and this type of tease can and will hurt your ratings.

 White may have his fair share of haters but by optimizing his apartment to it’s full potential, this fairy tale ends with him laughing all the way to the bank. All that’s left is for you to do the same!



Amiad Soto

Amiad Soto is the co-founder and CEO of Guesty. He founded Guesty with his twin brother Koby Soto and soon after they got accepted into the prestigious startup accelerator Ycombinator, class of w14. They started working on it after both had the need for someone to manage their Airbnb listings while travelling. Before founding Guesty, Amiad was a student in Tel Aviv University for Industrial Engineering.