I used to spend an incredible amount of time manually inputting data and messaging with guests and contractors. I spent too much time tweaking spreadsheets and trying to remember to add it all to the calendar or take the time to send out a proper welcome message. Then, one day, I woke up and had a newborn lying next to me - two weeks before the Covid Pandemic officially started and all the help a first time mom and her newborn were hoping for was stripped away. As any new parent, during a pandemic or not, I didn’t have time to shower, let alone color-coordinate spreadsheets. I needed more time, which meant only one thing: my working hours needed to be reduced. And, fast. It was time to figure out faster ways. So, for a few days, in between naps, I focused on two items:
Make a Task List
I started on this step because I needed to wrap my brain around the overwhelm and categorize it. So, I made a list - because an overwhelmed brain LOVES lists. I started listing all the tasks that I had to do daily and weekly: reply to guests. send out check-in messages, check in on guests during their stay, schedule cleaner, make sure cleaner is actually at the property, make sure there are cleaning supplies for cleaner to clean and so on. Then, I figured out how often and how long it took for each task to get done.
Release Control = Reduce Working Hours
True transparency here: I didn’t finish that list because it was too overwhelming, and I didn’t need to: I noticed immediately that most of my time was spent in four main areas: guest communication, team scheduling, pricing and bookkeeping. So, I got to work searching for automation in the hopes that these promises would reduce my working days and hours to a minimum. And, after trying several different tools, these are the ones that I still use today:
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Communicating with guests is a necessary time sucker that moves the needle and builds your business. A happy guest that feels welcome and heard will leave your property with a warm fuzzy feeling and a wish to return. I use Hospitable to create, automate or tweak messages when needed. Airbnb also has a built-in tool called Scheduled Messaging which is an improvement to their prior tool, Saved Messages. However, I still prefer to pay a few dollars for more features such as Hospitable’s automatic reviews (a huge time saving) and the option to add manual bookings in case of off-platform reservations. Finally, Hospitable is also the tool I use to take care of the second biggest time sucker for my business:
A happy guest that feels welcome and heard will leave your property with a warm fuzzy feeling
and a wish to return.
I am embarrassed to admit that for a very long time I relied on spreadsheets for scheduling cleanings. At the time, we had many different cleaners, and adding them as co-hosts on Airbnb didn’t make sense. My rudimental scheduling system consisted of a spreadsheet and a Google calendar, both filled with manual inputs. Needless to say, my stress level generated by the fear of forgetting to add a cleaning to the spreadsheet was to the roof. Hospitable came in very handy for that need! I was able to create profiles for my cleaning team and then automatically assign cleanings as new reservations came in.
Pricelabs is a dynamic pricing tool that automatically syncs nightly rates to the Airbnb calendar based on demand, special events, and manual inputs. I decided to try Pricelabs after reading about hosts leaving money on the table because they were not charging enough, and I was intrigued. The suggested price seemed very high, but I wanted to test it, so I left it for a month. And it worked. In the following two weeks, I received 3 bookings for the higher rates and, let’s just say that what I almost left on the table paid for the entire year’s subscription and settled Pricelabs’ special place in my automation tool kit.
I spent countless hours tweaking and updating spreadsheets. I also spent hours looking for the perfect accounting software that would be easy to use, cheap, and give me all the information I needed. I tried all the famous names and would always return to my old spreadsheets until I found Wave. Wave Accounting is truly easy to use, and the learning curve didn’t feel as discouraging as the other softwares. It syncs to bank accounts and credit cards, categorizes transactions, and creates basic reports such as income statements (hello, stress-less tax season!) as well as more detailed reports that, in all honesty, I have not explored too much because I have not needed it - but they are there! And finally, maybe the most wonderful thing about it: it is free. Yep. Totally and completely free. Well, I shouldn’t say totally because it offers some paid features, but after almost 2 years, I have not yet needed to take advantage of them.
Automation will save you precious time by reducing your working hours so you can do the things that matter the most in life. However, growing a hosting business is also a result of excellent customer service and memorable experiences to your guests, and making sure that your business still has a human touch is the key.