Category Archives: Hosting

A B&B Without Guests

Woooowwwww. It’s so nice to have this place finally to myself! It’s the first time in months that I haven’t had guests and it feels strange and liberating. I just took a shower and not only did I leave the door open, I also pranced back to my room completely buck naked!

Don’t take the little things for granted! It’s so nice to have privacy for a change!

I love running the guest house but I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be on my own. I’m so used to having people around and needing to keep the place in tip top shape, use the bathroom at odd times and remain fully clothed… it’s nice to let that all go, if only for a short while.

Things have been going well in the land of hospitality for me. I met my income goals this year (surpassed, even!) and have repeat customers. I have a few weeks off between now and my next “regular” guest who returns mid-January. I like having her around, she’s a cool older lady and is never here, so therefore a very low maintenance guest.

Having time off is a double edged sword, however. It’s nice to have the freedom. But every day that I don’t have someone staying here means a day without income. Because January and February will be so slow, I think I’ll have to dip into my savings to cover rent. When I was an employee somewhere that wasn’t an issue, but now that I don’t have a day job it’s going to be a bit tougher. Thank the gods that I’m a Personal Finance blogger and know how to save for things like this!

I’ve been trying to make money here and there and also keep myself busy. I’ve done some volunteer work with the Toronto Green Community, and also have done a little bit of modelling for Fit Zone Plus and Curvaceous Consignments. I’m trying to reintegrate myself into the plus size fashion community. I have a pretty rockin’ wardrobe but nowhere to wear it, so I mostly just wear my PJ’s. I do get dressed up to the nines if I’m going out in public, which is kind of fun. I hope there will be more events in my future!

Here’s a shot of me (and a kitten!) from a Curvaceous Consignments event. I was there to offer style consultations for the customers.

You can’t see them, but I have amazing red boots on!

Anyway, instead of people guests over the holidays, I’ll be taking care of a little pug dog instead. LOL, I make almost as much money hosting him as I do with humans… Hopefully the $400 or so that I’m making will be enough to cover all the damn bed bug covers I’m buying for the beds in my house (yes, I take care of my guests!). I’ve spent waaaay too much time researching these things, but I’m so paranoid about bugs in the city. They’re in library books now! Ugh!

What it’s like: Running a B&B from your home

I have been hosting/renting out my extra space online for about 2 years so far. I guess I’m like a cross between and upscale hostel and B&B and a great hotel alternative! (Even though I’m a B&B I don’t actually offer breakfast… LOL)

Business is booming and after a move to a larger location and many more guests, I’ve had a bit of an education on what it’s like to do this sort of thing! I’m planning on teaching a Skillshare class on how to do all of this effectively for yourself, but here’s a little taste anyway.

Here is what I’ve learned.

1. Use multiple services to fill your space

I am signed up on several different sites, but so far the ones to produce the most for me have been Airbnb.com and Wimdu.com. While I get most of my bookings through Airbnb, I’ll get a few good ones through the competitors as well. Full disclosure here: I work for Airbnb. But as a host, I believe in having a diverse portfolio so I use other sites as well. But Airbnb is still the leader in terms of money-making potential for me.

2. Keep your calendars up to date

I sync all of my calendars to my personal Google calendar. Not only do I need to keep track of which guest booked which room for how long, I also need to know when people are arriving and checking out. I need to have enough time to turn over (clean up) the rooms and get the rest of the apartment up to snuff. I also need to be home when new guests arrive, so that means I can’t schedule a yoga class or girl’s night at that time.

I love my Google calendar so much. It’s synced with my iphone and color-coded too to help me stay organized. Here’s what it looked like last month:

What a "calm" month looks like

 

3. Make a cleaning kit & plan

Most of your time will be spent cleaning and getting things ready for new guests. Set up little stations, or have a bucket with all of your supplies handy as you go around tidying up. Remember to “start from the top!” by dusting, etc. first, then finishing with the floors. Keep a stack of extra towels, sheets, pillows, etc. hidden somewhere in case they’re needed.

I have multiple sets of sheets for each bed so that I can just swap out new ones immediately. I don’t always have the time to wash the sheets right away (I have a small machine and also air-dry) so this is helpful for me. I try to do everything I can to make things easy for me, and as quick as possible in case I get last-minute guests.

4. Schedule some time for yourself

This line of work can be exhausting. Because I live in my “B&B” I am always on, always working. I need to be available to my guests for anything because it’s part of why they stay with me instead of at a hotel. Customer service is very important, but living it all the time wears you out.

So every once in a while I will block off a weekend, or week and keep the place just to myself. It gives me a break and helps me refresh myself. I can also get any major work done around the house that I’ve been putting off for a while.

5. Keep track of your finances & set goals

I keep a Google spreadsheet of all the bookings I get. Names, room booked, nights spent, nightly cost and total cost. I have a goal every month on how much I need to make. Pick something reasonable. For me, it’s making enough money to bring my personal rent down to $500 or less. Most months I am able to surpass this and it feels great!

Something I need to work on more is keeping track of expenses. My hydro bill is higher than a regular tenant’s and so are my costs for cleaning supplies, the free coffee & tea I offer and toilet paper. Plus any unforeseen costs such as replacing towels or sheets that may come up.

Once I get the hang of things with this particular set up, I hope to have a separate bank account to keep track of the flow in and out of cash from the business. Eventually I will need to register as a business and run it…well, even more like a business!

Come to my class

I have a ton more tips & tricks to share on this subject. It’s actually my “real job” too! If you’re in the Toronto area and would like to really get some in-depth information and customized recommendations you can sign up for my Skillshare class (I’m only charging to cover the cost of the room rental).

You can also just sound off in here and we’ll get a conversation started :)

If you’re interested in signing up for Airbnb as either a host or a traveler, I’ve got some cool deals for you!

If you want to host, you can get $50 in travel credit for joining up by going here and entering my referral code: 8CTNCM

If you want to travel OR host you can get $25 in travel credit by going here.

 

 

Hosting Benefit = Tarte Tatin

One of the things I love about being a B&B host is that I get to learn a lot about the cultures of my guests (and by culture I primarily mean food).

A perfect example being the past 10 days. I’ve had 2 awesome women staying with me from France and we’ve become good friends :) They’ve been teaching me all kinds of phrases en Français that we don’t use here, and also made me some delicious tarte tatin!

I’ve never had it before (nor made it) so I took lots of photos :)

Priscilla, Me & Sandrine @ my housewarming party

What is it?

Tarte tatin is basically a caramel-apple pie. Simple ingredients and totally delicious you can eat it plain, add spices or change the pastry to your liking.

First you cook equal parts butter and sugar  (around 1/4 cup each) together to create the caramel. When it changes colour, remove it from the heat and start layering your apple slices like so:

Make sure not to touch the molten caramel!

For a skillet the size you see there, we used about 6 apples. They’ll cook down in the heat, so cram them in there!

 

Cramming

 

All 6 apples are in there!

Next, take some pre-made pastry and tuck it in around the apples. My friends didn’t know that phyllo was different from butter pastry and bought that by mistake. That’s why it looks a little weird.

 

Tuck the pastry blanket around the sleepy apples

Trim the dough if necessary. It’s actually going to be the bottom of the tarte so you don’t want too much hanging around.

Haircut

Pop it in the oven (we did it at 350*F) for about 20 minutes or so. You know it’s done when the caramel starts bubbling up the sides and the pastry is nice and golden.

Take it out of the oven, then immediately flip the tarte out onto a plate that is larger than the pan you cooked it in. Be careful! Molten caramel may fly everywhere so be vigilant! I didn’t really have a suitable plate so we just used a cheap tray from the dollar store. You can see why you need something with an edge… the juice from the apples pours out everywhere.

mmmmm juicy

 

And voila! You have just made traditional tarte tatin. Or in this case, my friend Sandrine made it for me :)

 

Some tips and tricks from Sandrine

  • There are 2 “hard” parts: making sure the caramel doesn’t burn, and flipping the lava-hot tarte onto the plate
  • If the caramel burns, you’re screwed. It gets bitter and nasty and you have to start over again. Unfortunately this happened to our tarte since neither of us had used my kitchen for baking before this and we didn’t know how the oven would perform!
  • You can slice your apples into quarters, or thinner. The thinner they are, the more caramel they will absorb
  • Use unsalted butter for a better taste
  • Traditional tarte tatin doesn’t have cinnamon or other spices because they can overpower the caramel flavour. But you can spice it up if you like!
  • Tarte tatin is best served warm. You can eat it with ice cream, sour cream or whipped cream
  • If you use a cast iron skillet like we did, reduce your cooking time so the caramel doesn’t get rank and burned
  • Have your apples pre-sliced and ready to go
  • Use butter or regular pastry. The phyllo was ok but…different

Even though the tarte wasn’t so good this time around, I can tell that this dessert would be amazeballs when properly executed. Overall I don’t think it’s too difficult (very similar to making a Spanish tortilla!) so I’ll probably whip this out to impress guests in the future.

I just really love that Sandrine made it for me :)

More Good News!

So you all know that I was featured in the New York Times article about my involvement with the company Airbnb.

Now I am happy to announce that I officially work for Airbnb! I just got the offer tonight and I’m totally excited.

It’s not a lot of money and it’s a temp position to start, but I’m not really worried about any of that. Since I’m a SuperHost with them I already know the system so I’m sure I’ll do amazing and get the permanent job in a short while (which is also when I can negotiate a more reasonable salary).

I’ll be doing customer support through email, which works great for me. Airbnb is flying me out to headquarters in San Fransisco for a week of training, then sending me home with a shiny new MacBook Air so I can work remotely. I’ll be able to work anywhere there is internet. Woohoo!

This is really the best situation for me right now. I love Airbnb and being able to work from home is a godsend… It means that I’ll have the flexibility to continue working on my online shop and growing and succeeding there. So convenient!

Really, I am just thrilled and jumping all over the place!!! Everything seems to be finally falling into place.

It’s going to be a lot of work these next few months (years?). I’m essentially working 3 jobs (With Heart, Airbnb & hosting on Airbnb) plus blogging which sometimes feels like a job. I am also looking into teaching some workshops on various things around Toronto via Skillshare.

A busy girl indeed!

 

So obviously I’m taking on more work and throwing an epic BBQ this weekend. And a cute boy is coming. A cute boy who I’m pretty sure likes me…

Let’s see how this develops!

Apparently I was in the Herald Tribune, too

Look! They used a different photo! I kind of wish they had done it in colour…

And also told me I would be in this paper as well! Does anyone happen to have a printed copy of this hanging around that you could send me? I’ll pay postage!

Click for a larger image.

Reuters picked up the story and it ran in the international version of the Herald Tribune

 

 

March Hosting Recap

I’ve decided to start tracking my income via hosting on Airbnb. I knew I was making money, but didn’t know how much! I also wanted to see if the money I sunk into redecorating recently was worth it.

Here’s the rundown for the past month.

 

  • Total Guests: 3
  • Total Bookings: 4 (one guest extended her stay)
  • Total Nights Booked: 20
  • Total income: $1,140
  • Income Year To Date: $1,140

My year begins in March because that is the first month that 100% of the income is mine. Previously I had to split with my roommate.

So far April is shaping up pretty well. I will be making almost the same amount, perhaps more if I accept more bookings. This is good news for me!

 
Interested in becoming a host or using the Airbnb service to book your next trip? Click here and get $24 credit (I get it too!) Thanks, man!

Multi-Makeovers

Ahhh, excitement abounds!

My mysterious disappearances lately can be attributed to an upcoming photo shoot of my apartment.

Airbnb.com, the service I use to promote my B&B is sending its top hosts a professional photographer to take shots of the properties for use on the listing pages. This way, travelers will know that what they see is what they get when they book, as verified by the company.

I think this is a great concept, even though it is extremely similar to one that I submitted to them a while ago. I don’t know whether to be upset that they’re using my idea or flattered. Hmm. I think I would prefer to be paid for it.

I don't smile like this when I clean...

In any case, since the beginning of March (when my roommate left) I have been furiously updating my space. New furniture, paint and deep, deep cleaning (omg old houses get SO dirty SO fast!).

Every night I am cleaning something, rearranging something or planning out my next move. I’ve drafted friends and family to help me with things like painting, picture hanging and general repairs, and my granddad has generously donated a really nice bed & furniture to my cause.

I’ve been totally consumed by this… but I think that it’s not just because of the photo shoot. Sure, I want my home to look its best that day, but I’ve also been purging and decluttering as I go along which leads me to think I’m trying to get my whole life cleaned out, too.

With my upcoming unemployment I definitely looking for a fresh start. So many years I have been unhappy. Unhappy with my job, my living situation, the seeming lack of control in my life. And you know what?

I’m over it.

I’m tired of being unhappy. I have some fantastic friends now that I wouldn’t trade the world for, and I want to pull a Madonna and reinvent myself. I’m gaining independence, confidence and insight, and losing weight, fear of the unknown and negativity.

I will always face challenges, but I’m hoping that with a clean break from my old life I can start to tackle them in different, more successful ways.

I guess it’s not just my house that is getting a makeover. It’s me, too!