Airbnb ownership is an industry ripe with opportunity but difficult to get into if you do not already own property. Luckily, owning a property is not the only way to jump on the Airbnb train.
From co-hosting and consulting to photography and marketing, there are many niche areas of expertise within the Airbnb industry. Even if you do not own your own property to rent out on the platform, there are dozens of ways to make a profit off of Airbnb.
In this article, we discuss 9 ways you can make money on Airbnb without buying or owning property. Keep reading to learn all about the many profitable niches found in the Airbnb industry!
1. Airbnb Rental Arbitrage
An Airbnb rental arbitrage is the practice of subletting a property you have signed a lease on.
With an Airbnb rental arbitrage, all you need is a house, apartment, or condo leased under your name that you can then rent out to eager Airbnb guests.
The biggest consideration for Airbnb rental arbitrage is ensuring it is legal in the area you are renting in. It is important to always follow local laws and ordinances, as violating these can lead to fines or legal repercussions if you are not careful.
Here are the pros and cons of Airbnb rental arbitrage:
Pros of Airbnb Rental Arbitrage
- Help with Paying Rent: One of the biggest advantages of Airbnb rental arbitrage is that it can help you pay your rent each month. Depending on how much you are charging for the rental, it may even leave you with a nice cushion of profit after your rent is paid.
- Lower Monthly Costs: Along with lower rent costs, you also have the opportunity to lessen the burden of utility bills as well. By factoring in the costs of electricity, water, WiFi, and other utilities or services to your rental pricing, a rental arbitrage can be majorly beneficial when it’s time to pay your monthly bills.
- Limited Upfront Investment: Since you are renting out a property that you do not directly own, there are limited upfront investments required of you to get started. When owning a property, you may need to pay for annual repairs, inspections, property taxes, or other property-related costs.
Cons of Airbnb Rental Arbitrage
- Landlord or Lease Agreements: It is always crucial to look over your lease agreement before beginning an Airbnb rental arbitrage business, as your landlord may forbid subletting without prior approval. Moreover, if you are making a profit off the rental, the landlord may also require you to split a portion of those profits with them before agreeing to the rental arbitrage.
- Property Damage: In almost all lease agreements, there are specifications for fees or other penalties for major damages to property. If your guests cause minor or major damage during their stay, the costs of those damages may fall back on you.
- Local Legality: These days, there are more and more local, HOA, and community regulations popping up forbidding the short-term rental of residential properties in specific areas. Always read up on your local laws and discuss any HOA rules or community guidelines with your landlord before beginning an Airbnb rental arbitrage venture.
2. Become a Short-Term Rental Property Manager
A great way to get in on the Airbnb fun without actually owning a property is to become a short-term rental property manager.
Many Airbnb owners scoop up several different rental properties as investments that are located all over Canada, the U.S., and other international destinations. However, Airbnb owners are not magicians and, thus, cannot be in multiple places at once to manage their properties.
Short-term rental property managers are professionals who help oversee the management and maintenance of an Airbnb when the owner is far away.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of being a short-term rental property manager:
Pros of Becoming a Short-Term Rental Property Manager
- Flexible Schedule: As a short-term rental property manager, your schedule will remain highly flexible, as you can largely work remotely to communicate with guests, coordinate bookings, and more. While there is some in-person work required, you will have much more freedom than you would at a standard desk job.
- Extra Income: Working as a short-term rental property manager is a job you can do as either your main career or as a side hustle. This makes it a great way to earn extra income on the side if you already have a job you love but just want to supplement your lifestyle with some extra cash.
- Zero Investment Risk: When you work as a short-term rental property manager, there is no monetary or investment risk involved on your end. You do not own the property and — although you may be responsible for reporting damages and seeking penalties on behalf of the owner — you are not at risk of losing your investment value if a property becomes damaged.
Cons of Becoming a Short-Term Rental Property Manager
- Limited Opportunity for Growth: Although you can certainly take on more clients looking for short-term rental property managers, there are only so many hours in the day, making it difficult to scale your management business or side hustle up.
- Less Autonomy: There is freedom involved in working as a short-term rental property manager but you are ultimately at the mercy of the property owner. As such, you may not have the autonomy to manage or maintain a property as you see fit without prior owner approval.
- Experience Requirements: If you are new to the property management game, an Airbnb owner may not be immediately willing to trust you with their property. Gaining the necessary experience to win new clients can be tricky — our best advice is to reach out to Airbnb hosts you are already acquainted with and see if they need help with management.
3. Become an Airbnb Co-Host
An Airbnb co-host is someone who lives nearby an Airbnb property — such as a friend, family member, or trusted neighbor — who is available during a guest’s stay to provide assistance and take care of the guest’s needs. This can include replacing toiletries and non-perishables, carrying out minor repairs (like changing lightbulbs or helping to shovel snow in the winter), and being on-call during a guest’s stay.
Working as an Airbnb co-host is similar to being a short-term rental property manager but with less overall responsibility.
With this in mind, here are the pros and cons of being an Airbnb co-host:
Pros of Becoming an Airbnb Co-Host
- Set Your Own Rates: As a co-host, you can decide what rate you want to charge for your services. Most co-hosts charge between 5% to 15% of an Airbnb’s nightly rate, which can total out to around $1,000 to $5,000 annually.
- Get to Know New People: Co-hosting is a great opportunity to meet new people and expand both your social circle and professional network. Of course, every guest will have varying expectations for how often they want to hear from you, so take treat every encounter as a unique experience.
- Earn Side Income: Co-hosting is an excellent way to supplement your main source of income, especially if you live very close to the Airbnb property or work remotely with a flexible schedule.
Cons of Becoming an Airbnb Co-Host
- Not a Viable Career: Though working as a co-host can be a good source of side income, it rarely is a viable career for most people. This means you will need to treat co-hosting as a side hustle rather than a main job — which can be tricky when you need to be on-call for the duration of a guest’s stay.
- Limited Schedule Flexibility: Co-hosts are primarily meant to be on-call for guests as needed during their stay. As a result, you may find your schedule becoming a bit inflexible during times when an Airbnb property is occupied, as you need to stay nearby in case a guest needs your help.
- Many Responsibilities: In some cases — especially if you have a personal relationship with the main host — you may find that you are given more responsibilities than you signed up for. It is very important to set clear boundaries on what you are and are not willing to do as a co-host.
4. Find and Join a Vacation Rental Franchise
A franchise is a business model in which a franchisor creates and establishes a brand and business system, then works with franchisees to create different locations for the business.
For a vacation rental franchise, this can work one of two ways: either the franchisor offers the rental branding and business processes and allows franchisees to join by adding their owned properties to the franchise rental system, or a franchisor owns the rental properties and allows franchisees to join and operate a specific rental property.
In both scenarios, the franchisee must typically pay an initial fee to join and also payout royalties from the profits they make off the rental property.
Franchises offer both advantages and disadvantages, which we cover below:
Pros of Joining a Vacation Rental Franchise
- Minimal Marketing & Business Management Tasks: Since the franchisor has already established the business and its branding, much of the back-end work falls on the shoulders of them rather than the franchisee. This gives you a considerable advantage, as you can focus mainly on creating a great rental environment that guest loves.
- Established Clientele: With a franchise, you tap into a pre-existing clientele, minimizing the amount of time you need to spend finding and attracting your target audience. This is especially important for new vacation rental entrepreneurs who may not yet have a client base to turn to.
- Built-In Business Support: Having the proper resources and support is a necessity when beginning a new business venture. Franchises are great for this, as the company is already established and can help you with whatever you may need along the way.
Cons of Joining a Vacation Rental Franchise
- Hefty Upfront Investments: Most franchises require very hefty upfront investments to join, with startups ranging in cost anywhere from $10,000 to $1 million+. As this is a massive amount of money to spend on a rental property franchise, it is crucial to be certain that this is the career path and business endeavor you wish to follow.
- High Royalties: Like with the upfront investments, franchises can also charge their franchisees pretty hefty royalties. In general, royalties come in the form of a percentage of your revenue, averaging between 5% to 15%. Additionally, a franchise may impose revenue targets that can put your business at risk if you are unable to meet these targets annually or quarterly.
- Limited Flexibility: Though it can be beneficial to have an entire business system already set up for you, it also limits your flexibility. You are ultimately in service to the franchise, which means you must follow their exact rules, revenue targets, and more.
5. Become an Airbnb Consultant
If there’s one thing that is for certain, there are a lot of moving parts involved in owning and operating an Airbnb rental property.
For any business and entrepreneurship aficionados out there, your true calling may lie in Airbnb consulting. An Airbnb consultant can be a key source of support for property owners who wish to rent out their property but do not know where to start.
Tasks that you may be responsible for as an Airbnb consultant can include developing a hosting plan, creating a management system, or designing a marketing campaign.
Here are the pros and cons of becoming an Airbnb consultant:
Pros of Becoming an Airbnb Consultant
- Build a Large Professional Network: As an Airbnb consultant, you have the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients from all over the world. This can enable you to build a fantastic and vast professional network that can help you grow your consulting business.
- Benefit from Referrals: Airbnb owners tend to look to each other for advice and support. Once you start achieving a good level of success through your consulting services, you can likely rely on your clients to help you with marketing through word-of-mouth referrals.
- Set Your Own Rates: If you choose to start your own consulting business — rather than working for an established Airbnb consulting and management company — you have the freedom to set your own rates. This allows you to scale up or down according to what your clients require and what rates best fit your current needs.
Cons of Becoming an Airbnb Consultant
- Becoming an Airbnb Expert: One of the biggest challenges to becoming an Airbnb consultant is that you need to have in-depth knowledge of the industry to properly advise your clients. This can take time and money to gain the proper training, certifications, or other qualifications you need to win clients and offer successful services.
- Finding Profitable Markets: Not every Airbnb market is the same as the next and some are more profitable than others. Depending on where you live and how local you plan on keeping your consulting services, it may take time to find the right cities and regions to focus on.
- Maintaining Consistent Work: Especially in the beginning, you may struggle to find long-term, consistent work that can earn you a reasonable stream of income. Setting up a consulting business can take time and experimentation before you get it right.
6. Start an Airbnb Cleaning Service
Starting an Airbnb cleaning service is arguably one of the most profitable ways to make money on Airbnb without owning property. All Airbnb hosts need to keep their properties spotless and presentable to earn high ratings, with many relying on cleaning services to do the job.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of starting an Airbnb cleaning service:
Pros of Starting an Airbnb Cleaning Service
- Minimal Customer Service: As an Airbnb cleaning service provider, you only have to provide minimal amounts of customer service, primarily to the clients you are working for. This is great for people who would prefer to stay away from the guest-side of Airbnb business, as you will mainly only need to speak with the Airbnb owners occasionally.
- Independent Work: Depending on if you work alone or chose to build a team, an Airbnb cleaning service is a great option for enjoying independent work at your own pace.
- Easy to Find Clients: As mentioned, many Airbnb owners look for professional cleaning services to help keep their Airbnb looking great. This can make it easy to find your target audience and attract clients who are ready and willing to hire you.
Cons of Starting an Airbnb Cleaning Service
- Marketing Costs: When starting out, it may take you some time to find the right way to attract the clients you want. In many cases, you may need to rely on paid marketing channels until you build up a large enough client base that can provide you with word-of-mouth marketing.
- Cost of Supplies: Though you can build the cost of supplies into your cleaning service pricing model, you do need to consider the initial upfront investment buying all of your supplies will require. This is especially true if you do not already own bigger ticket items, such as a nice vacuum or carpet shampooer.
- Timeliness: The biggest consideration when starting an Airbnb cleaning service is deadlines. Some Airbnb owners may allow you multiple days to complete a cleaning, while others may only provide you with a few hours to get the job done before the next guest checks in.
7. Host an Airbnb Experience
Airbnb Experiences are in-person or online activities hosted by people local to the area where an Airbnb is located. This is an official feature on the Airbnb platform, allowing you to utilize the platform’s marketing and management tools to host such activities.
Popular examples of Airbnb Experiences that do well on the platform include guided tours or hikes, farm and animal experiences, and arts and crafts classes.
Here are the pros and cons of hosting an Airbnb Experience:
Pros of Hosting an Airbnb Experience
- Airbnb Support: Since Airbnb Experiences are showcased and offered on the Airbnb platform, you will have a lot of official support to help you set up and manage the trips and experiences you have to offer. This includes support for booking, scheduling, payment processing, and more.
- Social Opportunities: Hosting an Airbnb Experience is a great way to get to know new people and introduce them to your local community.
- Brand or Business Promotion: If you already have a brand or business that offers similar experiences, Airbnb Experiences can help you gain greater brand exposure for your business. For instance, if you teach pottery classes but struggle to get sign-ups, Airbnb Experiences can be an awesome way to attract new customers.
Cons of Hosting an Airbnb Experience
- Commission Fees: Airbnb charges fairly steep commission fees for each Experience you book — a 20% service fee, in fact. This means you need to be incredibly diligent in your planning and cautious with expenses, as you must factor this service fee in along with your own supply costs, taxes, and more.
- Airbnb Guidelines: Along with a high commission fee, Airbnb also has a strict set of guidelines that all Airbnb Experience hosts must follow. While these guidelines are in place to protect you and your customers, they can be tricky to work around and get used to when you are just starting.
- Market Saturation: Depending on where you are located and what type of experience you are offering, there may already be several hosts offering similar experiences to your own. As such, you need to take time to research what is already being offered and how you can make your own experience uniquely appealing to Airbnb guests.
8. Become an Airbnb Photographer
Have you ever looked at an Airbnb listing and wondered how the host got such great shots of their property? Chances are, they hired a professional photographer to take stunning photos for them.
To become an Airbnb Photographer, you can go one of two routes: you can either apply directly to Airbnb’s Pro Photography department when openings become available, or you can start your own freelance Airbnb photography business.
Let’s examine the pros and cons of becoming an Airbnb photographer:
Pros of Becoming an Airbnb Photographer
- Grow Your Photography Portfolio: As a photographer, it is crucial to have beautiful photographs to show off in your portfolio to attract new clients. Working as either an official Airbnb photographer or a freelance photographer can help you gain the work you need to impress future clients and convince them to hire you.
- Gain Long-Term Photography Clients: After an awesome shoot, you may find that clients want to keep your information on hand for their future photography needs. This makes Airbnb photography an excellent way to gain exposure and build long-term client relationships.
- Improve Your Photography Skills: Practice makes perfect when it comes to photography. The more properties you photograph, the better your camera and editing skills will become — and, thus, the more client you can attract in the future!
Cons of Becoming an Airbnb Photographer
- Variable Pay Rates: If you are working as a freelance photographer, you will set your own rates, whereas if you work as an official Airbnb photographer, you will work according to the rates offered by Airbnb. Either way, these rates can be variable and oftentimes low when you are new to the industry, as there is stiff competition when it comes to affordable property photography.
- Limited Credit: As far as the credit you receive for your photographs on Airbnb’s platform, it will likely be limited. Not only do you need to check the Airbnb guidelines for what types of promotional content a host is allowed to include in their listing but you also have to negotiate with the client on whether or not they will credit you in the listing. In many cases, a host will likely not want to add too much promotional content to their property listings.
- Tough Clients: Clients want pictures of their properties that compel guests to book with them. This can lead to some clients being tough to work with, as they will have specific ideas for the photographs they want and may be highly picky or critical of your work.
9. Become an Expert in Vacation Rental Marketing
The final way you can work to earn money on Airbnb without owning a property is to become a pro at vacation rental marketing.
Airbnb owners need help with everything from writing descriptions and choosing photographs to finding the right marketing channels to promote their Airbnb on. As a vacation rental marketing expert, you can help your clients on their journeys to successful marketing campaigns.
Here are the pros and cons to consider for becoming an expert in vacation rental marketing:
Pros of Becoming an Expert in Vacation Rental Marketing
- Learn New Skills: Marketing is a vast industry with many nooks, crannies, and niches to explore. By becoming a vacation rental marketing expert, you can learn all about this industry and find the topics and niches that interest you most — and gain some transferrable skills along the way.
- Grow Your Professional Network: More than likely, you will need the support of other marketing professionals early on in your quest to become a marketing expert. This can help you grow your professional network and even potentially find new work opportunities.
- Enhance Your Marketing Resume: If you are planning to start a full-fledged career in vacation rental marketing, working as an Airbnb marketer can be a great place to start. You will have many opportunities to work with clients and add much-needed experience to your resume.
Cons of Becoming an Expert in Vacation Rental Marketing
- Stiff Competition: Though the marketing industry is vast, it is also densely populated by eager aspiring marketers. With the vacation rental industry continuing to grow, you are likely to run into competition that may require you to look in other cities or regions for clients.
- Training and Certification Costs: Becoming an expert at vacation rental marketing is no small task. You will need to take training courses, earn certifications, and more to stack up your qualifications and convince clients you are the right marketer for their needs.
- Finding Your Ideal Clients: Clients come in all shapes, sizes, and — most importantly — temperaments. Finding your ideal clients that you enjoy working with can take time and effort, which can be a drawback for anyone hoping to make money quickly on Airbnb.
Whether you are looking for a profitable side hustle or a steady long-term income source, there are many ways you can make money on Airbnb without having to own or purchase property.
Figuring out which option is best for you comes down to your own interests, needs, and work flexibility. Whichever method you opt for, the key is to show your passion for the industry and enthusiasm for helping Airbnb hosts make the most out of their rentals!