If you have multiple listings on Airbnb, you might find a little-known feature called the Business Profile very useful. Today’s guest has three properties on the site – a house in Portugal, an apartment in Wellington, and a lifestyle property north of Wellington – and she is prepared to share the basics of the Business Profile as well as situations in which you might make use of it to grow your short-term rental business.
Natalie Sisson, also known as The Suitcase Entrepreneur, has lived out of her suitcase since 2010, traveling the world while simultaneously running a wildly successful online business. Natalie is passionate about freedom, and she works on planes and in cafes, turning hotel rooms into podcast studios.
Natalie had used Airbnb as a guest for years before taking the leap to become a host. She leverages her experience as a customer to provide a comfortable space for the travelers who book her properties. Today she shares her transition from guest to host on Airbnb, how she went about outsourcing the property management and cleaning duties, and her status as a Superhost. Natalie also explains the function of the Airbnb Business Profile page and how to best take advantage of it.
How Natalie got started with hosting on Airbnb
- Two-bedroom apartment in Wellington
- Rented on Airbnb while traveling for Christmas
- Shortage of rental properties in area
- Listed one bedroom, received regular bookings
- Hosted corporate travelers, tourists
How Natalie uses her experience as a guest in preparing to host
- Considers how to make room most comfortable
- Leaves small gift
- Uses white board to share Wi-Fi code, places to eat out
How Natalie outsourced property management and cleaning duties
- Posted notice on local university Facebook group
- Received 37 messages in 20 minutes
- Read through applications
- Interviewed three people
- Hired experienced employee for $17/hour
- Shared checklist through time tracking app
- Paid via online banking
How Natalie cancelled bookings, but kept Superhost status
- Long-term lease with tenants in Wellington apartment
- Forgot to block past when tenants extended rental agreement
- Forced to cancel three bookings in a row
- Received notice from Airbnb re: deactivation of listing
- Immediately clicked on link to reactivate, answered questions
- Still showing as Superhost despite cancellations
The Airbnb Business Profile page
- Minimum of three listings
- By invitation only
- Groups listings together
- Can send as link to potential guests
Connect with Natalie
Connect with Jasper
This episode is sponsored by Hostfully.com where you can create a custom digital guidebook for your guests!
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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 165
Jasper: Welcome to Get Paid for Your Pad, a definitive show on Airbnb hosting, featuring the best advice on how to maximize profits from your Airbnb listing as well as real life experiences from Airbnb hosts all over the world. Welcome.
Jasper: This episode is brought to you by Hostfully, a company that helps you make beautiful guide books for your listing. Especially for Get Paid for Your Pad listeners, get 2 free months of their premium version. For more details, visit Hostfully.com/pad
Jasper: Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 165, my name is Jasper, I’m your host, and today, I’m very excited to have on the show, a good friend, someone who has inspired me, someone who has done very similar things actually has a very similar lifestyle to me, Natalie Sisson welcome to show!
Natalie: Thank you so much for having me, my friend.
Jasper: How are you doing?
Natalie: I’m fantastic, although as I mentioned to you before we started recording, I’m experiencing my first winter in seven years. After tripping all around the world, I’m actually staying put, which is a little weird.
Jasper: You’re in New Zealand, which means that you guys do everything the other way around. You have winter in July, Summer in December
Natalie: Exactly, we have sunny Christmases and we have mid-winter Christmas parties in the middle of the year.
Jasper: just to give the audience some reference, me and Natalie met because of the podcast that we started back in 2014. The first thing we did, we wanted to learn more about podcasting, because we didn’t know how to be a good podcast house – so we went to this conference. It was in Dallas in Texas.
Natalie: That was the first time I’d been there.
Jasper: It was really cool. There were lots of people with podcasts. Me and Natalie met and I think we immediately connected because I think our story was very similar. Natalie, you’ve been traveling around the world since 2010, is it?
Natalie: yeah, it is.
Jasper: Awesome. I want to start off this podcast with you sharing a little about your background and how you transition from the corporate world into the traveling lifestyle. Natalie has a website called the Suitcase Entrepreneur. And all sorts of other projects we’ll quickly talk about before we get into the Airbnb topic of the day, which is the Business Profile Page that Airbnb has recently launched. So, Natalie, I’ll pass the mic to you.
Natalie: You just summed it up so well. The lifestyle I’ve built, I’ve basically been traveling out my suitcase for almost the last 6.5 years full time. I took my business with me. So, I guess the whole point when I started my business, which is to help entrepreneurs create freedom in business and adventure in life, through systems and outsourcing and sales funnels and tolls, was to be doing that while I was also traveling the world, kind of practicing what I preach, living and breathing what I teach others to do. You met me at the height of that. I just published my book the year before. I was starting to get paid to speak at conferences. I was literally traveling to places where I wanted to meet my friends, there was a great conference or event I was speaking at, or there was an ultimate frisbee tournament, because I love that game, or it was a country I’d never been to. Along the way, Airbnb became one of my best friends once it started. Once it arrived, it was a fantastic vehicle for what I did, which was bounce around the world.
Jasper: All right, so let’s go back to 2010. Think people are very interested in how you make the transition from the “normal” 9-5 job to running your own business.
Natalie: Yeah, that’s a very good point. I had done 8 years in the corporate world, and the last one I’d had in London had pushed me over the edge. So how did I transition? I simply quit. I had just had enough. Using something in your life that just makes you forced to go one way or the other is the best way to make a big life changing system. I booked a one-way flight to Canada where I wanted to play the world champion ultimate frisbee with the women’s team. I just made that decision. I’d never been to Canada in my life. I’m in a new country. I want to start a new business. I thought it could be around Health and Wellness. I thought I could consult to corporates in Vancouver about how they could have a healthier workforce. I knew enough about enough and I had a certificate in fitness management. Instead, I met my business partner in a networking event and he had an idea for an app, and I basically joined him on that journey. I said here’s my skill set, here’s how it complements yours, and we co-founded a cool app called Fund Raiser, which is doing really well today. It’s an app on Facebook that allows you to fundraise for personal use or charitable events or things like that. So, I kind of deep dove into this world of technology, really fast paced, and the power of using social media to building a business from scratch. Figuring out financing, getting investors on board, building the app, it was full on for 18 months. At the time, as you know, I’d started a blog called Women’s World at the time, focused on how women entrepreneurs in the tech sector find success. How they’re getting ahead and how they’re running their businesses. I did it kind of selfishly, because I wanted to interview smart, successful women without just asking them out to lunch. And that blog today is my entire business. I renamed it the Suitcase Entrepreneur, and I’d been doing it for about a year. It just seemed much more aligned with what I built. I created programs for the audience I was building and making sure I was really listening to their needs and what they were struggling with, and luckily, social media was something I was passionate about and it was an area that at that time, not many people were talking about or teaching. That’s where I got dug in from the get-go and taught a physical workshop and then turning it into an online program and never looked back – makes it sounds easy. Lots of trials and tribulations along the way, but that’s how my business started
AD: You’ve heard me talk about Hostfully a lot over the past few months. I love sending my beautiful Hostfully guidebook to my guests, as it makes me look very professional. I also love sending screenshots of my guidebook in my actual Airbnb listing. This helps me stand out from the crowd. Now, I’m thrilled to announce I’m a sponsor of the Hostfully Host Program. Twice a month, Hostfully selects a host and features them on their top blog. This is great marketing for your listing and a cool way to share your favorite local spots to a large audience. What’s even cooler is that every Hostfully host gets a free set of organic sheets for their bedroom. Now that I’m a sponsor, you’ll be featured in my newsletter, my social media feed and you get free access to my video course on how to be a great host. For more details and how to apply, visit Hostfully.com/hostfullyhost
Jasper: Awesome, lets dive into the Airbnb topic today. We talked a little beforehand, this actually is a feature that I wasn’t aware existed. They launched a feature called a Business Profile page. If you have more than three listings, you can list, you have a profile page with an overview of your listings where people can search for dates only for your listings – so none of the other listings will show up. So before we talk about this, let’s go here, how did you start using Airbnb? I know you’ve used it as a traveler. I’d love to know how you made the transition from using Airbnb as a guest to a host, and what are the things you’ve learned as a guest that you applied as a host that made you so successful because you’ve been doing really well.
Natalie: I’m not going to lie to you, when you told me about your place in Amsterdam, and I was like “hmm, I actually hadn’t thought of that.” I ended up for a series of reasons buying properties in New Zealand when I got back, and one of those was a 2-bedroom apartment. I had only spent like a month or two in it, done it all up, and then went away so I rented it out. Then, when I came back to it, I said, I’m actually going to live in my apartment properly for the several months. INAUDABLE I thought about it, and I was like don’t know if I really want people in my place, but it was around Christmas time and I was going away for two weeks, so I thought about it, and said, what if I just list my place on Airbnb and see if anyone will take it. And the first guests, you’re going to laugh, were four Swiss guys. I was like, four swiss guys? My sister was like, what could possibly go wrong. I was like, quite a lot. They were great guests they stayed four nights and they covered my trip away. I was like, hmmm this is really useful. After that I just put the listing on for one bedroom. In New Zealand right now, there’s a shortage of rental properties, and wellington, where I’m from, it was extremely short. From new year’s onwards, I started getting bookings once or twice for this room, then four times. I could have had people there every night up until around March, which I did, until I flew to Bali. It was incredible how much money you could make off it. The people were lovely. And my experience being a traveler and a lovely Airbnb guest then transferred when I was a host and thinking about how to make their stay more comfortable and making them feel as welcome in my place as possible. I gave people a small gift, whether it was chocolate, or providing them with tea or coffee or cereals and things they could have and making them feel as welcome in my place as possible. I had a little white board that doubled as a picture that turned around, I kept the WIFI code up there. I put up suggestions where they could eat out and drink because my place is right in the heart of town. I had people come back for repeat bookings, I had corporate travelers for New Zealand and tourists. And it was genius. It went really well. I’ve really enjoyed the experience. Didn’t have anybody as a bad egg coming through. After a while, I was tired of changing sheets out, so I found a Facebook group from a local university students and said, “who wants to be an Airbnb manager and cleaner” and I had about 37 responses in 20 minutes and I had to take the post down. I interviewed 3 people and chose this awesome Italian lady who was currently working at a hostel anyway, she already knew all about it. She knew all the things she needed to know. I ended up paying her to do the room change and welcome the guests and she had a key – it was brilliant. I’m really glad I outsourced that from the first month, it wasn’t something I needed to do. it made sense.
Jasper: That’s really interesting. It’s a question I get a lot from listeners. How do I mange my listing when I’m not around? I’ll ask you two questions. First of all, if you can repeat how did you select the person you selected, what kind of things did you look at? Secondly, can you also share how much you’re paying that person?
Natalie: Yeah, let me think back. She’s still around but I haven’t got the apartment on Airbnb right now because I have long term tenants. It was through a local Facebook group, I always advise that. IT just happened to be a really large group of Wellingtonians, but it had grown into this all-encompassing local group where people would buy and sell and trade things — I just put a listing out saying, hey, I’m looking for a part time, flexible manager for my Airbnb listing, but also someone who’s willing to clean. So, I said, Direct Message me if you’re interested, because a lot of them are students and they want part time jobs, I had about 37 people message me privately. I read through what their experience was, and contacted the people who looked interesting, invited them to my apartment – I only ended up interviewing three people because this Julia was awesome, she still is. I said, she had direct and relevant experience. I said to her, what would you like as an hourly rate, and she said, “I’m getting $17 hour at my current job” so I said, “done” I was prepared to pay up to $20. For context, the minimum wage for New Zealand is $15, but the cost of living in New Zealand is expensive. That’s where we started it and we’d see how it goes. We use that really cool time tracking software you told me about, which I’ve suddenly forgot the name of — where they’re letting people in or cleaning
Jasper: Awesome, I actually can’t remember.
Natalie: It didn’t actually work super well, but what I did do was put up a checklist of everything she needed to do, which was like when a guest leaves, change the sheets, do the washing, just do a quick vacuum. If they’re checking in, make them feel welcome. Show the whiteboard where the WIFI is. Show them where the coffee and tea is. She enjoyed and appreciated that, and like I said, she had experience working in a guest house or hostel, so she was brilliant, very efficient, and she would just leave me a little note at the end of the week with the hours on it and I’d just pay on online banking. It was really helpful in terms of the app being able to put the checklist on there.
Jasper: I used to pay my cleaning lady a fixed fee for the cleaning and the check in and to be there if the guests needed anything during the stay. You decided to pay her per hour. Is she also sort of the backup person in case there’s any problems?
Natalie: I guess she would be. If I was there I could sort of take over that. But, yeah should we be, she only lives a 6-minute walk away. I found it its only about 90 minutes to turn everything around. Often, she’d come in at a time that was just before the next guest would arrive so she could just stay and let them in. it wasn’t adding too much. It never really went over the Airbnb cleaning fee.
Jasper: Let’s talk about something that didn’t go as planned. You were forced to cancel some bookings recently. But it hasn’t cost you to lose your Super Host status, so I’m curious to know how you pulled that off
Natalie: Well, I was really thrilled I was going to get Super Host. I had all these fantastic reviews and it said you will get reviewed again first of April. I went away to Bali in March, so I didn’t have the listing anymore because I got into long term tenants who will be there until the end of the year. I blocked off all the time I was away, but I forgot to continue to block it past their rental agreement. I had three people booked straight away – because immediately when space came up, availability, people booked in, I was like “shit, shit, shit.” I had to cancel the bookings, three in a row, and block up the rest of the time. That’s when Airbnb messaged me and said hey, you’ve canceled three people in a row, we want you to be able to manager your listing, for now, we’re going to deactivate your listing. They also had a link for re-activating your listing. About three weeks later I got the super host status because it rolled around to the week of April.
Jasper: That’s interesting, because normally when you cancel a booking you will lose your super host status for a year. So, when you’re looking at your stats, you can see all the requirements for being a super host, that’s 80 percent five star reviews, 90 percent respond time, does it stay, there’s also a little bar that says how many cancelations you have. So those cancelations may not show up in those stats?
Natalie: I guess not. I can check. Yeah, it was really weird, because they deactivated me and they re-activated me. I wonder if it fully registered in their system.
Jasper: Sounds like you got away with it.
Natalie: I’ve got lovely stats here. 88 percent commitment rate, 100 percent response rate. It does say I’ve cancelled 3 reservations in the last 365 days this is below Airbnb hosting standards and your listings might be suspended. So they were, and I got back up.
Jasper: I wasn’t so lucky. I had to cancel one booking because I made a mistake, I sold my house in Amsterdam and I was under the impression that no one could book it. But because of the setting I chose, there was actually a little gap and someone ended up booking and I had to cancel it, and goodbye super host status! I’ll reach out to Airbnb and see if they can change that. So, we’ll talk about this Business Profile Page, this is something that Airbnb rolled out recently. And honestly, I wasn’t even aware of it.
Natalie: Yeah, you didn’t even know about it.
Jasper: It’s a shame, isn’t it? I googled it. I found an article in the Community Center where there are some people asking some questions about it. It’s invite only, I believe. It’s a business profile page. Did you get invited to it?
Natalie: I did. So, not long after achieving super host, I put our house that we bought here as a lifestyle property north of Wellington and I decided to list the rooms on it to see if we’d get people coming out here for cycle tour adventures, see if there’s anything out in this area. And we haven’t had any bookings, but suddenly, I had three bookings. Suddenly they’re like, hey, did you know you could have a business profile page? They said, do you want to choose a cover photo, and I was like, no. It just groups your listings there. It’s not really an extra, awesome feature. But for example, if someone went to book your apartment somewhere and it was full, you could send them a message saying I know its full but here are my other listings, check them out. It’s something you could send more privately or to people who request it.
Jasper: It’s good to send to people, let’s say friends of family, you could just send them this link and they could see all your properties. They could see on your profile page, they can search to see which properties are available. One advantage, when someone makes an inquiry for one of your spaces, you can send this link in the messaging system, normally URLs get blocked by Airbnb in the messaging system, but this one doesn’t. You can click on the map to see your properties on the map, so people can see where they are. It will only show your listings and not any other listings. It’s a cool little feature. I guess you need to have 3 listings or more to be eligible for this feature. It seems to be invitation only. I don’t know if there’s much you can do to apply for one. People with multiple listings might just want to contact Airbnb to see if they’ll give them a business profile page, I’m not sure. I would love to hear from other people who have experiences with this. Feel free to reach out to me at Jasper@getpaidforyourpad.com so that I can share that information next time on the podcast. That will be awesome.
Natalie: It’s a great feature for someone who has a lot of listings. Maybe you’ve got 10-20 properties around the world It’s quite neat to be able to send them all to that one place and make sure people do still book through you.
Jasper: Absolutely. It’s a nice business card, online business card that you can direct people to. Well, Natalie, this has been a very cool conversation. I’ve learned a few things. I’m sure everyone finds your story really inspiring. To finalize this episode, can you let people know what you’re up to, what’s your focus, and, how can people get in touch with you or find you.
Natalie: It’s a pretty exciting time. Ironically, I feel like I’m transitioning. I have this great lifestyle property and a puppy, I’m going to not be doing as much traveling, I’m staying put. I’m looking to engrain myself in the New Zealand community, and advise and mentor businesses here. I’m going to be doing more of that through my brand, that’s exciting to me. At the same time, my Suitcase Entrepreneur book got picked up by a big 5 publisher in New York so that’s being redone and relaunched in September, which is kind of cool. I feel like I put my suitcase away for a while, but the suitcase philosophies and value lives on and I’m really excited to see how much engagement that will get, how many people come across the book and read the message. In the meantime, my podcast is all about a quest for freedom. So, for those of you listening who want more personal freedom, more financial freedom, more relationship freedom, that’s what I’m covering and discovering on the podcast. So, I’d love for people to come there or the suitcastentrpreneur.com
Jasper: I encourage people to check it out. You definitely inspired me a few times. I remember when I was working on my blog I’d take a sneak peek at yours to get some ideas. I definitely encourage everyone to check out your content, I think people can learn a lot form it. Thank you so much for being on the show, I’m really looking forward to, hopefully I have the chance to visit you some time and stay at one of your Airbnbs. I’ve never been to New Zealand but I’ve always wanted to go. So, hopefully we can make that happen in the near future.
Natalie: Yeah, I’d love that.
Jasper: Awesome. Natalie, thanks for being on the show! Listeners, thanks for listening. Friday we’ll be back with a news episode and we’ll go to some questions from listeners. I hope to see you then, bye bye!