13 smart host tips to make extra money on Airbnb

The key is to be sincere and promote only what you believe in. Don’t sacrifice the guest experience for a few extra bucks.

If you’re like me, you want to create an amazing experience for your guests – but you’re also trying to make money and treat your Airbnb as a small business.

I want to share a list of ways that my wife and I made extra money from our Airbnb other than the booking fees. Hopefully these will work for you, or give you ideas of other ways to increase revenue.

We tried to think of our Airbnb as a location that offers value to different individuals, not just travelers on Airbnb. The guests who are staying at our Airbnb are customers, not just guests. Given the relationship we hosts have with our guests, we are in a position to be a trusted advisor. Guests often ask hosts for recommendations, and we have a trusted way to request and process payments (through Airbnb).

The key to success with additional services is to be sincere and promote only things that you believe in. The guest experience is still No. 1 priority — don’t sacrifice that for a few extra bucks.

We offered several types of tours and would receive $5-$10 for every ticket that was bought. It was little effort on our part and our guests loved it!

Here are a few activities we did successfully:

1. Local tours

Chicago River Boat Tour

Many Airbnb guests are tourists looking to experience the city. A range of tour companies aim to attract tourists and will pay you a referral fee if your guests book a tour. Many of these companies have such deals with hotel concierges and will offer you the same program.

We offered several types of tours (architectural, food, beer, neighborhood, etc.) and would receive $5-$10 for every ticket that was bought. This helped us bring in an additional $100-$200 a month. It was little effort on our part and our guests loved it!

2. Grocery delivery

basic groceries delivered upon request

Think of the mini bar when you go to a hotel. Guests love the convenience and are willing to pay for it. Why not offer to stock the house with some of their favorites so they don’t have to go to a store during their trip?

Create a standard list of groceries that you can have stocked for the guests prior to their arrival (or delivered once they check in). Water, breakfast foods, bread, juice, etc. Avoid alcohol — it’s not worth the legal risks and needing to check IDs.

Keep the list manageable because you don’t want to be running around trying to find obscure items (you can even buy some of these in bulk from Costco and bring them to the house, or just keep in a locked closet – water, cereal, snacks, etc).

This can be time-consuming, so we would just send a grocery delivery to the house (Amazon Fresh) when we knew the guests would be there. Amazon has trial offers if you’re not already a member. (Full disclosure: This is a paid affiliate link, but I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t believe in it. This is a great service that helped us leverage grocery delivery as a way to make extra money with our Airbnb.)

3. Neighborhood restaurants

local restaurants

We had several restaurants and shops in our neighborhood that were willing to offer discounts to our guests. Walk the neighborhood and ask around, and you’d be amazed at what managers would be willing to provide to you.

A few of the newer or less popular places were even willing to offer us referral fees for sending people in (we printed up coupons in our guidebook to track). Some also gave us personal discounts when we dined there (saving money is making money!).

4. In-Home chef experience

professional chef teaching a recipie

A popular experience in Chicago now is having a professional chef come into your home and teach a group to make a full meal. We’ve done this ourselves a few times – it’s a fun way to host a dinner party.

We reached an affiliate agreement with one chef company to receive a 10% referral fee if our guests booked this service.

This service must be booked in advance, so we would promote this to guests when we were helping them to plan their trip. If you wait until they have checked in, you probably won’t have enough time to schedule.

5. Tickets

seats to a cubs game at Wrigley Field

We found a local ticket broker with access to all kinds of event tickets (sports, theater, music). He contacted us if he had last-minute tickets that he needed to unload for under face value. We would offer those to guests at face value to make our profit.

Truthfully, this was a bit labor-intensive as this was always last-minute. We also had to get the tickets and then deliver them to the guests. Occasionally it worked out — it depends on finding a reliable broker with discounted tickets.

6. Location scouts

film set in a room

We listed our home with several location scout companies. This helped to fill weekday vacancies.

We found that production crews are often very professional and leave the Airbnb cleaner then when they arrived. They don’t need to use the beds and are typically only shooting in one room.

Many location companies pay much more for the space than we’d get from a guest booking. We had student film crews who would pay the standard rate, but only need it for 4-6 hours. We once made the final round for a national commercial (which would have paid $3,000 for one day).

7. Referral discounts

friends recount their experience

When guests had great experiences at our Airbnb, we found they would recommend us to friends. We had a website for our Airbnb and made it as easy as we could for them to find our listing and refer us (or come back as a repeat guest).

We offered discounts for guests who were referred or wanted to come back to stay with us again. We would also follow up with great guests who stayed for a week at a time to see if they would want to lock in the same week next year.

Be sure to send a direct link to your Airbnb listing so it’s easy for them to find. We also added our contact info in our walking guide brochure, since the guests would take and often keep these.

8. Special occasion surprise

balloons for a surprise

Do you know if your guests are traveling for a special reason? Anniversary, birthday, etc.

Offer to have flowers, balloons or other decorations in the house when they arrive. This is an easy way for the guest planning the trip to “surprise and delight” other members of their party and a great way for you to give a first impression as a host.

We would charge a premium for whatever we bought and add a service charge. We found guests were willing to pay for it. You need only ask if there is any special reason for their trip, just like nice restaurants do when you make a reservation.

9. Extra cleaning

cleaning services

For guests with extended stays (more than four days), we offer an additional cleaning option for a fee.

As long as you are making margin on your cleaning fees, this is an easy way to make additional revenue from the Airbnb guests.

10. Work meetings

boarding for a team

A nonprofit organization reached out to ask to use our Airbnb for a two-day work session. No one needed to stay there, but we needed to bring in folding chairs and tables to accommodate the large group.

This group told others and we later got a few bookings like this. These were great guests because they only use the Airbnb for a few hours each day and don’t need the bedrooms, which helped us reduce our cleaning costs.

We didn’t actively seek out this type of booking, but if there is a way to promote your Airbnb to local small businesses that don’t have meeting space, this would be a great additional revenue stream.

11. Allow pets

pets alongside the trip

This is something you need to be comfortable with, but worth considering to earn additional money from your Airbnb.

Many listings don’t allow pets, so pet owners have fewer options. By opening up to these owners, you are competing with fewer Airbnbs and therefore can charge more per night.

We added a security deposit and charged an additional $25 per night for the pet. This comes with risks, but we found it to be beneficial in the long run.

12. Host events and parties

dinner party

This can be a bit riskier, but can also lead to an opportunity to make a lot of money.

Several people have reached out wanting to host get-togethers, dinner parties or post-graduation parties at our home — and I’m guessing many hosts have received similar requests.

Renting space for these events is very costly for guests, so you can charge significantly more than a typical stay and it’s a great deal for everyone. We did a lot of extra work on the screening and always met the guests in person. We set strict guidelines on noise and what times they could host.

We set prices between $50-$125 per person depending on the situation. For a group of 20, that is much cheaper than they could find in Chicago, and a $1,000 night was worth the extra effort and risk for us.

13. Insurance relocation

undergoing renovations or home repairs

An insurance company had reached out to us to relocate their client while their home was being repaired due to damages. The company booked a weeklong stay.

The agent then added our Airbnb to their internal list of options for temporary housing for clients in duress.

We’ve had several bookings from this source, always with good guests (families), and the insurance company paid full rates. This is a great source of demand if you can connect with these relocation companies.

Take action

The key to any of the ideas above is understanding your guests, what they need and how you can help them. If you always focus on making guests happy, they will buy the extras you’re offering.

We start communicating with the guests as soon as they book to understand why they are coming, if they need help with plans, or anything else to help us optimize their experience.

We also promote offerings in the Airbnb for them to see once they arrive. We include the tour options in our Neighborhood Guide, which we encourage guests to take with them to help them find great places close to our Airbnb. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to create your own Neighborhood Guide.

Editor’s note: This post was contributed by Dave Hart, an Airbnb host and organizer of the Smart Host Collective in Chicago. The original post is found here.