Of the many things that Jim Breese (co-founder of LearnAirbnb) and I agree on wholeheartedly, probably the most significant is this:
As hosts, we are in the hospitality industry, not the rental industry.
Just like in many other areas of the new economy—coworking spaces are a prime example—it’s not just about the space.
As hosts, our #1 job is not to provide a bed to sleep in, but to provide an experience. An experience filled with comfort, kindness, luxury—with humanness. We provide an expansive palette for the creation of our guest’s definition of leisure, vacation, business or play—on their terms.
Based in east Los Angeles, Jim has worked with hundreds of hosts over the past 18 months, running LearnAirbnb as a passion project and creating profitable strategies for optimizing Airbnb rental businesses.
In this fireside chat between LearnAirbnb and The Abundant Host, we talk about how to attract your ideal guests, how sites like ours can play a vital role in this new economy, and why it’s important to not overthink hosting (and what you should be thinking about instead).
The Abundant Host: Jim, it’s so great to have you here. Tell us about what people can find over at LearnAirbnb.
Jim: It’s great to be here! LearnAirbnb is a hub for hosts to learn the best practices and tips for them to become successful. I want to help them deliver a 5-star experience to their guests. They’ll learn all the tips and tricks they need to get up to speed.
With webinars and our course, we also focus on a formal kind of education—how can someone go from knowing nothing to being a Superhost? We try to remove that learning curve.
Awesome. Jim, since we’re both in the helping-hosts arena, I wanted to share something I experience sometimes: When I tell people about sites like ours, they think hosts don’t need our help, because the Airbnb site is so intuitive, etc. What’s your perspective?
While Airbnb is great at the basics, the reality is that we’re in the hospitality industry. And most people don’t know a lot about really taking care of other people.
There are hundreds of more guests than hosts—when you hear that, it’s often from guests.
Yes, I agree.
People think: How hard could it be? It depends on what lens you view it through—to some people, this is their lifeline, this is how they bootstrap their startup, this is how they’re able to live their lives.
Right. Jim, just like it isn’t for me, this probably isn’t your first rodeo as an online entrepreneur. Tell us a little about your background.
I started off selling Pixy Stix in second grade! ::laughter:: I was always looking to fill a need that wasn’t being filled: I started a landscaping company and a cleaning business for offices, I worked for five years at a restaurant group, and worked my way up to brand marketer and got to see how big entrepreneurs do it. I started a tea company and I learned a lot about eCommerce and online business, and I started teaching a real estate course.
What was it like starting LearnAirbnb, and do you work directly with Airbnb?
I’ve never reached out to them, but at this point I would like to. It’s getting crazy. However, we can provide more benefit if we keep ourselves separate, because we focus on the host.
When we started, we had received a bunch of inspiration from friends. The businesses I’ve done, they all test you—you really have to put your heart into it and solidify your commitment to make it real. I don’t make a lot of money from this, but I spend the most amount of time on it. I love helping people. It’s more of a passion project than anything.
I completely relate! Jim, are you yourself a host on Airbnb?
I was a host in the early days, and I speak with hosts every day. I almost take on their problems sometimes! Airbnb hosting when I was hosting is not the same as it is today; there are definitely always new programs and new third-party services. So, being in contact with hosts has benefited me a lot.
When you were hosting, what was one of the most serendipitous experiences you had?
We got to meet a lot of kick-ass people around the world. We hosted in L.A., and it’s an international hub, which was a benefit of hosting that I didn’t expect. We didn’t hang out with our guests all the time, but we did spend time with a few. One time, a guest wanted to try the best Indian cuisine in our city and we got to go on this culinary adventure with him.
I never thought that LearnAirbnb would turn into what it is now—you underestimate the impact you’re going to have on people’s lives. I never expected to have a front row seat to that.
How does LearnAirbnb encourage embracing the community culture of Airbnb, of “being at home wherever you are”?
That’s a very noble mission of Airbnb, and honestly that’s the goal of hospitality. You have to define for yourself: What does home feel like. I encourage hosts to be honest and put a dash of their personality into it. If you want your guests to “live like a local,” you need to be true to that expectation. It makes people feel at home when the accommodations are truthfully marketed. Some people prefer granite counters, some don’t mind crashing on a couch… just really tell people what you can offer.
I agree. One of my listings is a little goddess sanctuary. I market it that way, and the people who respond and want to stay there are people who resonate with being in that kind of space.
Yes! You can’t expect your house to be marketed to every guest on Airbnb. Pick something and stick with it if you want to attract your ideal guests. For example, if you want to target the business guest, show the printer and fax machine or high-speed Internet. But if you put out a trashy home, you’ll attract trashy guests.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for potential Airbnb hosts?
Realize you’re in the hospitality industry and not the rental industry. There’s an experience that’s expected. Be a human and not a heartless business owner. Don’t act like McDonald’s versus the guest. Treat them like family.
Ask yourself: What do you want to get out of hosting? Do you want to rent out your whole place, just a room or a separate place? If you want to make money, you have to be in a high-demand market. If you want to meet people, you have to be social. Know who you want to benefit. And don’t overthink hosting.
What do you mean by “overthinking hosting”?
People who want to start hosting always say: Oh I’m not ready, I have to take all these pictures down. I hear so many excuses, but they’re just scared to do it. If our mind’s think we can’t, then we can’t. Overthink it, and you’re going to totally self-sabotage yourself.
Jim, what does it mean to you to be an Abundant Host?
I really like this question. To be an Abundant Host is to put everything in your heart into hosting. There’s only one thing that’s infinite or abundant in the world and that is your heart, your human essence. It means showing people the happiness and joy and wisdom of your city. It means delivering an experience that’s one-of-a-kind. When you love what you’re doing, everything is easy and you don’t second guess or doubt things.
Beautiful. What’s the first thing people can do on LearnAirbnb to enhance their hosting experience?
Right away, sign up for our email list—I send out tips every couple of days to hosts. They can read it over time, too. We also offer our hosting calculator, and various videos on hosting. We’re also over on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
A special note from me, Amy: Thanks for reading, fellow abundant hosts! This interview was important to me because I believe collaboration trumps competition—and my goal is to make sure you feel as informed and ready as you possibly can on your journey to having a profitable, successful, freedom-filled life as a host. I hope you can feel that here in our community. :)
Be on the lookout for an upcoming collaboration between the two of us, LearnAirbnb and The Abundant Host (read: free goodies for our readers)! To find out when that’s happening, sign up here for my newsletter. Thank you, and have a beautiful day.
Thanks for reading! Have a question that wasn't answered here? If you'd like more specific help, I'd love to work one-on-one with you. Or, if you want to work collaboratively in a group with fellow motivated hosts, find out if the next Abundant Hosting Mastermind group is open. I also wrote a book, Cleaning Up, where I give you the nuts and bolts (and so much more) of finding your perfect turnover assistant, thereby upleveling your profit and success on Airbnb. Have a beautiful day!