Daniel Rusteen of OptimizeMyBnb.com : 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host
Easy check-in experience. The last thing a guest wants to do after traveling, sometimes a full 24 hours of travel, is use their tired brain to figure out how to arrive at the front door and how to open that front door. Make your arrival instructions dummy proof. Go a step further and tell them the best route or taxi service or bus line to get to your Airbnb.
Many people dream of becoming an Airbnb host but don’t know where to start. In this series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host” we are interviewing successful Airbnb hosts who share lessons from their experience about how to run a very successful Airbnb property. As part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Danny Rusteen.
Danny Rusteen worked at Airbnb from 2013–6. Since then, he transformed his life into all-things Airbnb from authoring the best-selling book for Airbnb hosts “Optimize YOUR Bnb” to starting an Airbnb property management company. Nowadays, he lives full-time in Airbnbs around the world while consulting Airbnb hosts in 55 countries and counting.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?
I’m a CPA and that’s how I found Airbnb. I worked in the finance department, but I was always interested in the business outside of accounting. Believe it or not, Airbnb fired me and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I knew I still wanted to be involved so I started working for a local Airbnb property management company before I started my own. Airbnb actually hired me back a few weeks after firing me, in a sales role. After 9-months, they closed the position and I was number one in every metric on that team. I then started my own Airbnb property management company, started writing blogs, creating YouTube videos, and consulting Airbnb hosts around the world. In 2018, I wrote “Optimize YOUR Bnb: How To Rank #1 In Airbnb Search” and, soon after, became a digital nomad traveling the world, living in Airbnbs, and helping Airbnb hosts earn more money.
What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?
It was 2013. I was working at Airbnb. I desperately wanted to be an Airbnb host. However, there were two problems. I had to convince three roommates and I had no space. I decided to list one of my two living room couches. Luckily my roommates were single men and I got an inquiry from an attractive Eastern European Airbnb guest. I showed them and they agreed to give it a try (haha). We would have made $40 for 2 nights, but she ended up cancelling. However, we started hosting anyways and the couch turned out to be highly popular, getting $140 per night during peak weekends.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this?
I was in Saigon, Vietnam and my host knew who I was. She was a new Airbnb host responsible for 20 apartments in the same building. Her boss wanted to meet me so after my month in Saigon, they flew my friend and I up to Hanoi for a week. We stayed in a penthouse and had a private driver who drove us in one of the most expensive cars I’d ever been in.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Back to that couch in San Francisco. Turns out my downstairs neighbor was also an Airbnb host. We got a ring on our doorbell at 3am on a weekday. At the time, it was kind of scary. I went down to check and there was a drunk person asking to get in. He wasn’t homeless, but I also didn’t know who he was. However, he told me that he was my Airbnb guest. Clearly, this was very confusing for me. The unknown Airbnb guest simply forget his keys, forgot the backup code, and forgot which door was the right one. Eventually we figured out that my downstairs neighbor was also an Airbnb host and the next day, an expensive bottle of wine was on our doorstep. We never heard from that Airbnb guest again, understandably, probably a little embarrassed.
What are some of the common mistakes you have seen people make when they first start hosting with Airbnb?
Great question! They don’t THINK like an entrepreneur. The best Airbnb hosts realize that they’re actually running a small business. Even if you’re an employee in your traditional job, as an Airbnb host, you’re a business owner. You need to think like one. You need to come up with creative solutions to problems. You need to realize how marketing and selling your space is effective. You need to constantly be thinking of ways to improve the guest experience. The guest is always right.
What are some of the things that can be done to avoid these errors?
It’s a mindset shift. Did the guest lose the keys? Now that we know the guest is always right, how can we fix this problem? In this case, add a digital lock to your door. How about some market research? I suggest all new hosts, be an Airbnb guest at least once per year. They should also stay in their own home to notice all the quirks. The jiggle needed to open the front door, holding down the toilet flusher for 3.5 seconds for it to work, the wifi not working so well in the bathroom….all of these kinks will be discovered by the Airbnb guest and could become a complaint. When these issues (or opportunities arise) you need to use your brain to solve the problem. It’s that simple. Think until you come up with a solution.
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Airbnb experience? In your opinion, what makes you different from the rest?
I automate everything possible without decreasing the personal touches. A digital guidebook is huge and it answers all the basic questions the guest may have. As a guest, I know that I don’t want to wait on the host to tell me where I empty the trash, for example. All of this information I add to the digital guidebook including checkin info, parking, wifi, how to use the coffee machine or TV, etc. I also provide a beautifully designed itinerary for all guests. The guest experience in my city affects my review. I decided it best for me to have a positive effect on their experience outside of my Airbnb but in my city. I also properly set expectations prior to arrival. For example, all of my Airbnbs have a custom hand-drawn floor plan of the space.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Easy check-in experience. The last thing a guest wants to do after traveling, sometimes a full 24 hours of travel, is use their tired brain to figure out how to arrive at the front door and how to open that front door. Make your arrival instructions dummy proof. Go a step further and tell them the best route or taxi service or bus line to get to your Airbnb.
- Optimized online Airbnb listing. There is a fine line between selling your space and accurately setting the guest expectations upon arrival. For example, you want nice photos, but they can’t show your space to be nicer than it is. You want to sell your space by telling the guest what they’re getting, but you don’t want to bury that information inside big, blocks of paragraph text.
- A 5-star experience. Airbnb doesn’t define what a 5-star stay is. Instead, you should actively, but subtlety let the guest know they’re to expect a 5-star stay, they are experiencing a 5-star stay, and they have just experienced a 5-star stay. I add these into one message before, during, and after the reservation to encourage a 5-star review.
- Nine of ten reservations will be easy. It’s the tenth that separates the good from the great hosts. You’ll notice most of the reviews on Airbnb are 5-stars. But occasionally you’ll have a problem. If you think you did good on nine reservations so you can relax on the tenth when the guest is complaining, you’re wrong. Treat that guest correctly to get a good review and you’ll experience success.
- Effect the guest experience in your city. I mentioned this above, but you should be the expert on your city. Why not share your knowledge with the guest? After all, if the guest has an unpleasant time in your city do you think you’ll get a highly positive review? Probably neutral at best.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
Get me acclimated as quickly as possible so I can start enjoying my time. What not to do is make your guest read upon arrival. The guest probably wants to get out and explore. Send relevant information to me a few days in advance. This includes arrival and access info, wifi, and parking. Tell me where all the services are like laundry, grocery, your favorite café and restaurant, a neat park I should check out. Cleaning is the number one issue on Airbnb. As everyone’s cleanliness standard is different, you should clean to the pickiest of guests’ standards.
Can you share with our readers how you’ve used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I believe that Airbnb brings world peace. I know, crazy. Hear me out. Every connection that Airbnb forges between two people of different countries would have never otherwise happened. In a world where there exist interests in making us adversarial, this helps us understand each other. The news is one thing. They’d have you believe entire countries hate you for simply being from your country. That’s false. Go to Russia. Go to China. Go to Iraq. These people are just like you. My mission to make hosting easy and enjoyable. All my information is free. I don’t keep any secrets as part of my business which requires you to pay me. I understand Airbnb hosting can be difficult and complicated so I try to simplify the experience for as many Airbnb hosts as possible.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
For me, I have a green thumb. I think good health, both mind and body, starts with a garden. This should be added to the syllabus no different than math and science. Growing food from a tiny seed is one of the coolest things ever. And, it’s so easy. Water and sunlight.
How can our readers further follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Daniel Rusteen: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.