Because Airbnb can be a very seasonal business, a lot of hosts struggle with making the most out of their properties year-round. During the summer, when tourism is common, it’s not too difficult filling your property. But, when it’s winter, you’re going to have a lot more availability (unless you live near a ski resort). Use this as a creative way to grow your Airbnb business for free.
If you live near a university, one easy way to make the most of your property is to rent to students. Most students only need housing during the school year. But, many of them have to pay for a full year's lease if they live off-campus. By offering them housing for the school year, you can charge a premium. This also ensures your property is booked during winter. But, of course, renting to students always comes with risks.
Another way to make the most out of your property is to collaborate with local artists and creatives. You can let them use your space for free when it’s empty. This includes between back-to-back bookings or when the property isn’t booked. If you plan to scale your Airbnb business but still have some downtime, this technique is for you.
I recently chatted with Sid Kosatsky, CEO of HostOften, about his experiences working with local creatives. He feels good giving someone somewhere they can be creative and express themselves. He often finds that people using his space end up creating something they wouldn’t normally. To him, this is super cool because he gets some amazing content to use for listing photos and social media.
There’s definitely a demand for this. We’ve both had people reach out, asking if they’re able to rent the space for a few hours during the day for a photoshoot. But, this is not ideal because most hosts make money from renting out for the night. Renting out your property for 3-4 hours during the day means you’ll have to block off your calendar for that night.
So, how can we get creatives into the space without having to turn away guests?
The answer lies in how you collaborate with these creatives. But first, let’s talk about how supporting the local creative community can help you grow your short-term rental business.
You give yourself the opportunity to work with creative people. This exposes you to people’s imaginations and can even help you come up with new ways to grow your business for free.
You can get inspiration for creative website designs. Sid has had some clients reach out, wanting to work with him because his website looked so good.
Sid has also been inspired to create themed-units such as RetroBnB, which has a 1980's theme. It didn’t cost him too much to re-design because he was able to thrift shop, especially since a lot of the items were older. This unit provides a nostalgic vibe, which gave it a bit of a marketing boost. It also wasn't a traditional Airbnb, so it stood out. He was able to price it 15% higher than its counterparts and still see similar occupancy rates. This is an awesome way too grow your Airbnb business for free.
You get access to a vast pool of creative talent. It’s pretty common for these photographers to share their photos with you. Sid has thousands of photos, from listing to creative to lifestyle photos. These are great alternatives to relying on stock images.
It's common for these artists to tag you in their photos on Instagram. Sid has even had some of these creatives write about the property and his business. If you think about the fact that a lot of these artists are influencers, he’s getting quite a bit of free publicity. A sponsored post from a single influencer can cost anywhere from $50 to $1,000+, and he’s getting all this for free.
You also get free word-of-mouth. Because the creative community is tight-knit, word spreads fast. This is also an amazing opportunity to start building relationships and grow your Airbnb business for free.
While these creatives aren’t going to be your ideal clients, they’re great at building awareness. This gives you an easy way to attract guests beyond using Airbnb and Booking.com. In fact, Sid has had several clients message him on Instagram after seeing the tagged photos.
You can easily turn these local artists and creatives into free brand ambassadors.
While there are some people who won’t contribute anything, that’s fine because it’s part of the process. You want to give these artists full creative freedom. This means not asking them to do specific things for you. Because if they’re not inspired or specialized to do it, you won’t get much out of it.
For instance, real estate photography is best for real estate photographers. If you ask a lifestyle photographer to take photos of your property, you’re probably not going to get any photos that are worth using in your listing.
For this to be successful, you have to set rules and communicate them clearly. Otherwise, you run the risk of a bad guest experience. This can happen if an artist makes a mess, and you don’t have the time to clean it before your guest arrives.
Here are two questions to answer when creating guidelines:
You should create a checklist for everything they have to check before leaving. For instance, you can ask them to make sure there’s no garbage in any of the trash cans. You can also tell them to make sure the sinks are clean (e.g. no paint if they’re artists).
This isn't for every host, but it can be a viable option for those looking to make the most out of their properties.
To protect yourself, you can ask for a security deposit. You can also ask creatives to take photos of everything and share it with you before they leave. This way, you can check to see if there’s anything out of place. If they don’t send you these photos, you can charge them a fee. This is to compensate for the fact that you have to send someone over to inspect the property. And if the property has to be re-cleaned, you can charge them a cleaning fee.
Because you’re offering these spaces for free, most artists are very respectful. This is mainly because these spaces are often hard to find. Most Airbnb hosts won’t rent hourly. And, it’s often too expensive to book an Airbnb for the night if they’re only using it for a few hours.
You can make it clear that any issues (e.g. messes) will result in them no longer being able to access the space for free. They’ll have a big incentive to follow your rules because they want to continue using the space for free.
Assuming your guest checks out at 10 AM, you can have your cleaners start around 10:30 AM and finish by 1 PM. After that, you can send the artist the code for the unit. You can tell the artists that they need to be out by 3:30 PM, so you have time to prepare (if needed) for the next guest. This 3:30 PM deadline can be extended if your incoming guest’s flight lands around 9 or 10 PM.
Letting local creatives use your space for free doesn’t cost you anything beyond the extra administrative time. In return, you get a lot of free promotion and know that you’re supporting your local community.