In September 2017, I was a housecleaner for an independent company. One of my assignments was to clean the backhouse for a client named Jade. It was a one-bed/one-bath home. No one was home, and the neighborhood was quiet. It was a simple cleaning, and to date, my most peaceful. Once I sent confirmation photos and prepared to leave, Jade contacted me and asked if I would like to keep cleaning and get paid directly.
I didn’t take private clients because it was against company policy. But something about the atmosphere called to me. I wanted to stay, and that mystical force told me I needed to stay. God? I didn’t know at the time. But the idea of taking the risk didn’t frighten me. So, I accepted Jade’s offer. Naturally, the company found out because we were communicating through their server. I was deactivated for violation of terms and services. Thus began my Airbnb journey.
Jade’s property had a 3 bed/3 bath home in front and a 1 bed/1 bath home in the back. In addition to cleaning, I bought the inventory, restocked the home, welcomed guests, handled customer service, made minor repairs, booked appointments for major repairs, and did laundry. It was a lot of work, but it didn’t feel like a lot, and I enjoyed it for its flexibility and independence. I had no trouble with guests, and guests had no complaints that couldn’t be resolved. It wasn’t long before Jade was given the status of Superhost, which awards hosts higher priority and more commission.
I worked every day, and I wasn’t paid an hourly wage. I was only paid for the time I spent cleaning the homes after the guest checked out, $60 for each home. I also wasn’t paid for gas. Jade was aware I lived 40 mins away from the property. But I didn’t complain. Honestly, I didn’t mind because my wages were enough to get by. I was very minimal, drove a car that was great on gas, and had no major expenses at the time. The money didn’t matter to me. What mattered was having work where I wasn’t stressed out because other areas of my life were already stressful.
In Jan 2018, Jade introduced me to her father, Scott. He secured a 7-bedroom property that he wanted to put on Airbnb. Since I did an excellent job with Jade’s property, he wanted me to do the same with his. I agreed. It wasn’t long before we had guests fill the home. I was present everyday cleaning and helping guests after finishing at Jade’s property. This led to the family getting another property, another, and another.
While most businesses fail the first time, we succeeded early on. This was first due to location. All the properties were a reasonable distance between places like Los Angeles, Hollywood, Disneyland, the beach, and several other attractions. Next, it was due to our price. We weren’t overpriced, and Scott was constantly giving out deals. Lastly, and most importantly, were the ratings. Good cleaning and service was my top priority. Our ratings were over 4.5, so each listing was among the top on the search page. That put us ahead of the competition. Many of our guests also returned several times.
When I said I worked every day, I meant it. Morning or night, rain, or shine, if something was wrong, I was the one to call to fix it and fix it I did. I eventually went on to completely manage all the Airbnb listings. 3 properties turned into 7. I was in constant communication with Airbnb reps, corresponding with other cleaners, re-cleaning homes if a guest had a complaint, doing and transporting laundry, and completing the quarterly & yearly accounting. I also started doing all the necessary computer work for Scott’s amazon business, including packing.
For me, having the opportunity was enough payment. But when you consider how the price of gas and everything else started moving, I should have been wise and prioritized my wages, especially when I found out that others employed by the family were making way more than me for the little work they did. A cleaner who only cleaned 2 of the properties and dropped off the laundry, that I would eventually do, was paid $300 for the property, where I earned $120. At another property where I was paid $60, she was given $150. I only learned this information after doing the accounting. I did the most work and earned the least. Silly me.
It hurt to know that Scott and Jade never offered me more, despite all I did. But it hurt more knowing I wouldn’t speak up. I was a scared and lost girl. Past trauma had cultivated a deep fear of adults and people-pleasing mannerisms. My employers were pleasant people. But the few times I asked them for a day off or for my wages, I had panic attacks.
On a lighter note, I don’t regret working for Scott and Jade. The answer to how I earned my employer 30k+ monthly through Airbnb is that I dedicated all my time and effort to their business like it was my life. I listened to people and figured out how to solve their problems. I can honestly say I did a damn good job, and I can say this because of what came next.
Big Bear, CA is a popular tourist city and a money bank if you play your cards right. Scott had rented out 8 cabins and had them on Airbnb for about 5 months, but they weren’t doing well. I wasn’t yet helping him with the cabins because he had someone else managing them, a woman who lived in the area. Sadly, her poor management led to angry customers, countless refunds, and terrible reviews. Guess who got to listen to all the customer complaints and process refunds.
Jade was trying to convince Scott to let the cabins go. Somehow Scott produced the idea that I could fix things and asked if I would go with him to see the property. I didn’t think I could do much. Managing a house is one thing, but a group of cabins is something else. Or so I thought. But I didn’t want to let Scott down. He desperately wanted his investment to succeed, and I wanted him to be happy. So, I accepted.
Funny enough, I lived close to Big Bear. The general area is just 20 mins from my house. Then the rest of the drive is going 8000 feet up the mountain. It takes about 45 mins if there’s no traffic. The scariest thing about making the drive was doing it in Scott’s Tesla, especially the time I drove. I like driving Scott’s Tesla, just not up a mountain.
Fortunately, we made it to Big Bear, and I was introduced to 8 hideous on the outside, beautiful on the inside, 2 bed/1 bath cabins, each with a Jacuzzi. The property included a large deck but the place was falling apart and probably only held on because of God. Scott saw the potential and so did I, mainly because of where the property was located. Location is everything, and these cabins were in the PERFECT spot. They just needed a lot of work.
I don’t know how I did it…Scratch that. I know exactly how. I worked my ass off every day. I knew exactly what people were complaining about and I fixed it. 1 month was all it took for a complete turnaround. 3 months in, I had Airbnb contact me and say they wanted to upgrade us to Superhosts and feature the cabins as one of the hot spots in Big Bear. Scott was excited and decided to buy the property along with the owners’ resort/winery further down the street. The whole family was on board if I was willing to move to Big Bear. Maybe I’ll share that story another time.
Other than having more confidence in myself to speak up about my earnings, I wouldn’t change anything. I learned a lot from working with that family and met many diverse people. It was a great learning experience. I know I could replicate the process and succeed even more with my own property. But should I get my own property and dive back into Airbnb? I don’t know. We’ll see where my journey leads me.
By the way, you probably remember I’m a travel agent. But did you know I’m also a personal assistant? Funny enough, I’m still Scott’s assistant despite living in another state. Diving into the virtual assistant business has been interesting, and another great learning experience.
What do I do as a virtual assistant? It honestly depends on what my client wants. Everyone is different. For Scott, I still do all his quarterly taxes. I edit and proofread for two clients, I’ve done photo retouching, email and calendar management, research for students, and ghostwriting. It all depends on what you need. If I can’t do it, I’ll let you know and find you the person who can. You can book a 30 minute call here to talk, text, or email me.
Did you learn something from this story? I hope so. Thanks to all who read this far and let me know if you want more personal stories.