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The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Successful Airbnb Business


When it comes to side-hustles, Airbnb is one of the hottest. According to iProperty Management, Airbnb currently lists more than four million hosts in 100,000 cities globally. The listings run the gamut from tiny homes, yurts and igloos to castles and private islands. The average host makes about $14,000 a year, which is not too shabby for a part-time gig. If you've got some extra space — say that new garage or basement apartment you just created — getting listed on Airbnb could be a way to bring in some semi-passive income each month. Creating and running a successful Airbnb business does require some planning and work, though. Here's how to start an Airbnb business, including things you should know, and some alternative ways to use Airbnb as a profitable side-hustle.

In This Article:
  1. Choose Your Location
  2. Research Airbnb Business Models
  3. Research Local Rules and Regulations
  4. Create a Business Entity
  5. Prepare Your Property
  6. Get Great Photos
  7. Set Up Your Airbnb Listing
  8. Get Your Marketing Game On

1. Choose Your Location

Do you already have a unit that you're thinking of mining for extra income? In that case, you can skip this step. Many people, though, choose an Airbnb as their first foray into real estate investing. If you're planning to buy a condo, vacation cottage or another type of property specifically for use as an Airbnb unit, dig in to do some research on the best locations. While tourist towns are an obvious choice, they're not the only places to locate a successful Airbnb unit. Do a bit of research into the best places to invest in Airbnb properties before investing your savings. Some things to look for include:

  • Proximity to popular attractions
  • A lot of colleges and universities
  • Low availability of hotel rooms and other short term rentals
  • Easy access to nearby airports and transportation
  • Airbnb-friendly regulations

2. Research Airbnb Business Models

There's more than one way to make money through Airbnb. While renting out a unit you own or rent is one way, there are other ways to take advantage of the trend.

Become an Airbnb Rental Manager 

A rental manager helps with the day-to-day management of one or more Airbnb properties. They may take and confirm bookings, serve as a point of contact between guests and host, clean apartments between guests and deal with any problems that may come up during a guest's stay.

Be an Airbnb Co-Host

Similar to a rental manager, an Airbnb co-host serves as an assistant to the property host. A co-host will be listed on the Airbnb website along with the host, but the host is the one responsible for making sure things get done.

Become an Airbnb Consultant

As a consultant, you can help newcomers to Airbnb with tips and advice on how to maximize their income from a short-term rental property. 

Start an Airbnb Cleaning Company

One of the most time-consuming parts of running an Airbnb is cleaning and restocking units between guests. An Airbnb-focused cleaning company might go above and beyond standard cleaning services to offer staging services, deep-cleaning and even remodeling and swapping out furnishings and accessories as seasons change.

Host an Airbnb Experience

In 2016, Airbnb launched its Experience program alongside its rental model. Airbnb Experience hosts create custom tours and activities focused on local sites and experiences. 

3. Research Local Rules and Regulations

Check with your HOA, state, municipal and local authorities to learn about any restrictions or regulations regarding Airbnbs at your location. While you're at it, go over your lease to see if you're allowed to sublet — an Airbnb is essentially a short-term sublet. 

As short-term rentals have become a more popular side-hustle, many cities and towns have started adopting policies to regulate them. Likewise, HOAs and rental managers may forbid them entirely, or require that you notify neighbors, or follow other rules. Before you go any further into planning, make sure you know any rules you'll have to follow. The last thing you want is to face fines, or, worst-case scenario, be evicted because you wanted to make a little extra cash. 

The Airbnb hosting guide includes a list of possible rules and regulations you should check. They include:

  • Business licenses
  • Building and code standards
  • Zoning rules
  • Special permits
  • Taxes
  • Landlord-tenant laws

In addition, Airbnb also includes a guide that lists local ordinances for many popular Airbnb locations with more specific rules for those cities and states.

4. Create a Business Entity

While it's not always a requirement to being an Airbnb host, setting yourself up as a business is always a good idea. Here are some steps to keep in mind:

  • Get any required business licenses. 
  • Start a business bank account — this is vital for accounting and tax purposes. 
  • If you can afford it, contract with a tax accountant who can help guide you through any processes with which you have to comply. 

Once you've done that, you can start acquiring any permits and licenses that are required by your local authorities. You might also consider joining any local small business or Chamber of Commerce associations. It's a great way to make good contacts and could give you a heads up on any pending legislation or trends that could affect your business.

5. Prepare Your Property

And finally — we get to the fun part: getting your property ready to host guests. Whether you're listing your whole house or a part of it, you'll need to make some changes and accommodations to maximize your Airbnb earnings. When people rent an Airbnb — or any vacation property — they expect the cleanliness and standards of a hotel, with a personal touch of home. It needs to be attractive, offer all the amenities of home and have minimal personal items. Think of it as real estate staging with livability in mind. 

Declutter the Space

And we're talking about a massive declutter here. Remove any personal items — family photos, knick-knacks, the chest of drawers with your summer clothing. If you don't have room to store the items you remove onsite, rent a storage unit to hold them until you need them again. Keep that in mind, because there's more than one reason to rent a storage unit as part of your Airbnb business strategy. Not sure how to purge your house in preparation for its new role? Check out the advice given by OC Declutter, a business we featured in our spotlight not long ago. If you're really at a loss, hire help. They can bring an impersonal eye to what can be a highly emotional experience.

Deep Clean and Remodel

Cleanliness is not only next to godliness, it's vital for profitability. This is the best time to take care of any cosmetic problems — repaint walls, shampoo (or replace) carpets, shampoo the upholstery. It's also a great time to consider updating the aesthetic. Check out some of our posts on interior design trends for inspiration:

Create a Homey Space With the Right Amenities

Purchase items that add amenities and hominess to the space. Add a game shelf of board games, a basket with local magazines and attractions, and little baskets of toiletries for guest use in the bathroom. Build in unobtrusive storage space in the kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom and living areas. Your guests should be able to find everything they need to make their stay comfortable, without tripping over any clutter. And yes, we have tips for that, too.

Search for Bargains

Shop for bargains on large items, such as a microwave, cooking utensils, pots and pans, and tableware for the kitchen, or a TV for the living area.

While you're at it, shop for bulk bargains on toiletries, paper goods and other household essentials. Stash extras in your storage unit for easy access when it's time to clean and restock the unit between guests. 

Set Up a Cleaning Plan Between Guests

A good cleaning routine — or hiring a cleaning company to do it for you — is essential to making sure that you and your guests have the best possible experience.

Other Tips for Hosts Who Go the Extra Mile

  • Put together a "resource book" for guests. In addition to the house rules — check in and check out times, whether and where smoking is allowed, who to contact in an emergency — include a list of the best local takeout places, brochures for local attractions, and "insider tips" that they'd only get from a true local like you. 
  • Maintain good communication. Check in — or have your property manager check in — after your guests arrive, and at least once or twice during their stay to see if they have any needs. 
  • As a matter of courtesy, let neighbors know when your unit is rented, and provide them with a number to call in case of problems. 

6. Get Great Photos

Inviting photos are key to attracting guests to your unit. Once you've staged your unit, invest in getting the best photos of the property you can afford. It may be worthwhile to splurge and hire a professional real estate photographer for this. They'll not only get the best angles, but they may also have tips and advice on how to make your Airbnb even more attractive.

7. Set Up Your Airbnb Listing

While you can — and probably should — create a website of your own for your Airbnb business — most of your bookings will come through Airbnb or another vacation travel site, such as The process of listing your site is pretty straightforward — just follow the step-by-step instructions on the Airbnb website. However, if you want to make your listing really shine among the millions of properties listed, this article from IGMS has some outstanding tips.

8. Get Your Marketing Game On

The difference between an Airbnber who makes $400 a month and one who makes $4,000 a month — given the same number of units — is marketing. The Airbnb website lists millions of properties, and hundreds of them are probably in your same general area. If you're going to stand out, you need to find ways to get noticed. These Airbnb marketing tips are a good start.

  • Get a personalized Airbnb web address. Any host on Airbnb can create a personalized web address that's easier to remember than a string of numbers. Airbnb has some great tips on how to make your web address memorable.
  • Check out your competition. It will help you establish your pricing, and give you insight on what they're highlighting as selling points. Figure out what makes your property unique and highlight it. 
  • Know who you want to attract. A family with young children looking for a vacation rental will love the proximity to local playgrounds. Business people in town for a convention will appreciate the short ride to the airport and convention center. 
  • Share the same photos on multiple sites. and VRBO are additional options — just be sure to factor listing fees and booking fees into your accounting.
  • Establish a presence on social media. You absolutely should have a Facebook page and Instagram account where you can share news and photos of local events.
  • Join host forums on Airbnb and other sites for more tips and information on how to be a good host.
  • Do a little offline marketing, too. Attend local business events to meet other small business owners. A hookup with a wedding planner or consultant, for example, could lead to lots of bookings for families who'd rather stay in a lovely little cottage than an impersonal hotel.

Our self-storage units can offer a valuable resource for Airbnb business owners. We offer flexible terms and units in many different sizes and types with no long-term contracts. A storage unit provides an excellent place to store supplies and off-season furnishings and amenities, making it easier to track your inventory and access them when it's time to clean and restock for new guests. For more information on the services we offer, check out our unit features and answers to frequently asked questions.

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