Getting your holiday rental off the ground can be a minefield. I remember it well!
I wanted to know what I should be doing, where I should focus my limited time and resources and what was relevant to me and what’s not.
So I’ve put together this list of 20 top tips to help you work it through; 20 tips to get your holiday rental off the ground:
#1 Know why you’re doing this – what’s your goal, your aim
It’s easy to get excited when you first start out and launch right in, without thinking what you’re doing and why. But think about your vision, your goal, your aim. What are you wanting to achieve by running a holiday rental. This is individual to you and your family. You may still want to use your holiday home yourselves and only want to let it out 5 weeks a year. Or you may want to get as many booking as possible and maximise your income so you can retire in 5 years. You may just want to cover your running costs.
Whatever your bigger picture and your long term plan is you need to have it front of mind and work towards this each day.
#2 Identify your niche
This might be determined by the size of your holiday home eg 1 bedroom so suitable for couples. Or large group gatherings if you have 4+ bedrooms. Or if it’s by the seaside it’s likely that families will be your target market. Once you’ve broadly identified your target market you need to niche further. For example if it’s families, what age children do you want to attract? You then need to focus your marketing towards this identified niche. If it’s families with older children talk about your games console and wifi. If it’s families with toddlers talk about your extensive baby equipment.
#3 Don’t just list and walk away
If you list on a listing site, review the copy regularly and keep your entry updated. Don’t just list and walk away. Regularly change the copy depending on the season. For example if it’s August and you want to attract autumn guests start talking about those woodland walks and the cosy log burner now. Change your images too.
#4 Keep your business head on at all times
Your family and friends may already have stayed with you when it was your holiday home but as soon as you start to run it as a business with paying guests that changes. You need to monitor the number of family and friend bookings you allow at “mates rates”. Do you really want to give away weeks at this when you can get the full market value for that week? Allow them to stay but maybe only allow bookings much closer to the time if you still have availability.
#5 Furnishing – think carefully, don’t scrimp and don’t go with “it’ll do”
It’s very tempting to “make do” with the furniture. You’ve already spent a lot of money on the actual purchase and setting up the property as a holiday home so you can save a bit on the furniture can’t you? No you can’t! Don’t scrimp on the furnishing and make do – this can be a false economy. Budget your furnishings and styling into the cost from the start.
#6 Add some wow
In other words add something special to talk about, that makes your property stand out. You may already have a stand out feature such as a hot tub, or a sea view. Otherwise, you can create the wow in the way you style and present your holiday home. For example place a stand-out, ornate mirror in the hall, add a feature wall to your bedroom. Something that makes you unique and becomes a talking point.
Don’t think just because you’re new you have to charge less than more established holiday lets. If you have a quality holiday rental and you as an owner put a lot of time and effort, thought and care into it; if you care about your guests and their holiday experience, then you have to price accordingly. Don’t get into competing on price. This is a slippery road. Instead focus on offering a quality product, and value for money. Even if you charge more than another local holiday cottage don’t think of yourself as expensive, instead think of the value that you add to your guest’s holiday experience.
#8 Get professional photographs taken
If you do nothing else – do this. There’s no point having a beautiful place if you’re making do with average image. Images from your phone are OK for social media but don’t cut it for use on your website. Images sell your holiday home like nothing else. Invest in these straight away.
#9 Get your own website from the start
WordPress is an easy to use platform and it’s Google friendly and cheap! You can add blogs (when you’re ready to do that) and update your content easily. Website’s don’t need cost a lot. Even if initially you’re relying on listing sites and agencies to get you bookings, build your own website right now. Start as you mean to go on!
#10 Use video in your marketing
Ideally use video of you the owner face to camera. Or if that’s too scary, take a video of your holiday rental with you walking round the rooms giving a commentary. Then get the video out in your marketing. Upload it to You tube first. Video doesn’t have to be professional as long as you’re just getting out there and doing it. Get a professional video done of your holiday rental when can afford it.
#11 Choose 2 or 3 social media platforms and master them
Social media is time consuming but you don’t have to be everywhere. Commit to being persistent and consistent on 2 or 3 chosen platforms. Don’t overspread yourself. Also use scheduling tools such as Buffer as a way to manage your time. Although you still need to go in live every day to interact.
#12 Have an online booking system
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive at the start. I often see owners over thinking this and buying into expensive, do-everything booking systems. There’s time for that later once your business grows and you maybe own one or more property. For now keep it simple eg a free WordPress booking plug in.
#13 Know your changeover costs
When considering your changeover costs add in your laundry, cleaning, maintenance, welcome hamper and any time of yours you want to expense. Once you know this cost, factor it into your prices. This way you’ll know if a booking is worth taking or not. Monitor this cost and like all expenses log them and track them monthly. Again an expensive, fancy expenditure system is not need. Excel or a notebook maybe all you need.
#14 Profit per booking is sanity, number of bookings is vanity
You’re in this business to make money. We all could be booked 100% of the time if we charged peanuts. But there’d be no profit there, so what’s the point. It comes back to creating a quality product that is worthy of charging more and earning you more profit per booking.
#15 Use word of mouth advertising
Spread the word as far and wide as you can, that you have a holiday rental and it is now open to take guests. Tell everyone in the school playground, at work, at the gym, tell friends to tell friends. In the locality tell pubs and restaurants. Also put yourself out there in the local community and go to networking events.
#16 Use a visitors’ book and evaluation form to capture comments
Too much focus is given to collecting online reviews. Capture guest comments while they’re staying with you via a visitors’ book and an evaluation form for feedback. Always thank guests for any comments and feedback.
#17 Be helpful at all times
When you get an enquiry even if it’s not going to lead to a booking, be helpful. You never know in the future if these people will come back to you in the future. And in the meantime hopefully they will tell others about just how helpful you were!
#18 Have a clear and regular system for cleaning and doing the laundry
Have this nailed from the beginning. If you’re nearby you can be involved initially (although I would recommend you look to outsource going forward). If you live at a distance you need to find quality, reliable people to help you. It’s crucial to get this in place from start. What’s your laundry system? Everyone around you needs to be clear what it is. There’s no time to think about it on the busy changeover day.
#19 Think of your overall brand
Where ever you appear online for offline be consistent with your logo, name, images, fonts and brand colours. Use these throughout: on your website and social media header images and profile picture. Don’t be random, have some synergy right from the start.
#20 Enjoy the process!
It’s a fabulous business to be in be. Your investment is working for you now and also it’s your pension pot in the future. Plus there’s a lot of satisfaction gained from helping to deliver an amazing holiday experience to your guests. Remember that we’re lucky to be able to do this.
For more tips on setting up a profitable holiday rental business, grab yourself a copy of my Ultimate Guide: