Start a Low Competition Side Hustle with Airbnb Experiences, with Martin Dasko
Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.
Imagine a side hustle that lets you do something you love, and that actually makes money. As it turns out, there is such a thing. This week, I welcome back my first-ever repeat guest on The MapleMoney Show. Last time he was here, Martin Dasko and I discussed ways to plan your next travel adventure. This time around, Martin is here to tell us about a new adventure, as a host with Airbnb Experiences.
Airbnb Experiences are activities that Airbnb customers can take part in, in the area they are visiting. These unique experiences are usually hosted by locals, who are making money by doing something they’re passionate about and have special knowledge of. Whether it’s walking tours to local haunts, yoga classes in the park, or in Martin’s case, neighbourhood coffee crawls, there’s no limit to what you can do with Airbnb Experiences.
Martin explains how it all works, and how you can start your very own Airbnb Experience. We discuss how much money there is to be made, how to find customers and collect 5-star reviews, a very important aspect of this side hustle. During the interview, Martin even finds some Airbnb Experiences in my own city of Calgary. If Airbnb Experiences interests you, who better to learn from than the man who wrote the book about it, literally.
Can you imagine a no-fee savings account that pays you 2.00%, along with free transactions, no minimum balance requirement, and fast, cheap, and fully transparent international money transfers? Well, the dream is real, through our sponsor, EQ Bank. Their EQ Bank Savings Plus Account will give you all of that and more. For more information, visit EQ Bank today.
- What exactly are Airbnb Experiences?
- How to start your own Airbnb Experience side hustle
- The importance of 5-star reviews
- The side hustle with insider access
- The economics of an Airbnb Experience
- Ideas for your own Airbnb Experience
- How to find opportunities in your area
I mentioned a side hustle that lets you do something you love that actually makes money. Does that sound too good to be true? Well, as it turns out, there is such a thing. This week, I welcome back my first ever, repeat guest on the Maple Money Show. Last time he was here, Martin Dasko and I discussed ways to plan your next travel adventure. This time Martin is here to tell us all about his new adventure as a host with Airbnb Experiences.
Now, this episode was recorded before Coronavirus became a huge problem, but once all this is over, I still think this is a great opportunity for a side hustle, so look into it now and plan your experience!
Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. Can you imagine a no-fee savings account that pays you 2.00%, along with free transactions, no minimum balance requirement, and fast, cheap, and fully transparent international money transfers? Well, the dream is real, through our sponsor, EQ Bank. Their EQ Bank Savings Plus Account will give you all of that and more. For more information, visit https://maplemoney.com/eqbank today. Now, let’s chat with Martin…
Tom: Hi Martin, welcome to the Maple Money Show.
Martin: Thanks so much for having me, Tom. How’s it going?
Tom: Great. We’ve had some guests come back on various panels at FINCON, our podcast movement but you’re the first, repeat, single guest so you get to hold that honor. Off the top of my head I think it was Episode 7 when you came on the show, and now we’re in Episode 91. The reason I wanted to have you back is you’re always dipping your toe into different things. You’ve reinvented yourself again. And you’re doing something again that, if I hadn’t seen your Tweets and Instagrams and everything, I don’t think I would know it exists and that’s Airbnb Experiences.
Tom: Can we just jump right into the obvious question? What is an Airbnb Experience?
Martin: I have the official definition right here just for you from the website. Airbnb Experiences are activities designed and led by inspiring locals. They go beyond typical tours or classes by immersing guests in each host’s unique world. It’s an opportunity for anyone to share their hobbies, skills or expertise without needing an extra room. To make a long story short, Airbnb Experiences are literally anything and everything. When you use Airbnb (in general) you get a list of things to do and that’s what experiences are. Everybody wants to be a travel hub so they give people a list of activities and things to do in that area.
Tom: In the past, Airbnb was where you could rent out a room or your house. But now they’re also letting you be a tour guide?
Martin: Yeah, they want to offer things for people to do because tourists do things. When you travel the first thing you want to do is something—to do anything. So Airbnb Experiences wants to take care of that. They just launched (I believe) in 2016. Nobody was really talking about it for the first couple of years. It was in a few cities and was just a few things. And just in the last two years, mainly in 2019, they really started investing into it. Now they’re offering animal experiences, cooking classes and they’re opening up more cities and promoting everywhere. I didn’t find out about until I was in Costa Rica, actually in February, 2019.
Tom: How’d you find out about it there? Did you hire a guide or something?
Martin: I thought you’d never ask. As a personal finance blogger yourself, you know we’re always looking for content and things to write about. I used always write about first date ideas and things to do. As I was writing about things to do, I ended up going on a ghost tour. It was in 2016 when I’m on a ghost walking tour on a date. It was a really lame because the name right there says it all—it’s a ghost tour. What are you supposed to see? You don’t see anything. Even if you believe in ghosts you’re not going to see a ghost so they just told us scary stories. My first thought was, what? How did I get conned into this? It was a great experience. It was a fun time. They did their best. But I thought it was surreal. So I added that to my list of date ideas. As a content creator, I thought, how could I do something on my own? But, I did nothing because it’s tough because these people are on Trip Advisor and they’re promoting it. It’s a lot of work. The last thing you want to do is all this work to get to an event and have only three people show up for it—or no people show up. So I did nothing until I went to Costa Rica. I was at Jaco beach where I booked an Airbnb. I had a nice little loft for the night. It was pretty cool. I got an email from Airbnb giving me a list of things to do. And one was walking tour. I believe it was marketed as a viewpoint tour where you got to see a viewpoint. So I signed up for this thing thinking I’m getting some official Airbnb thing where some staff is going to come and pick me up, blah, blah, blah. It turns out we just met some random guy on a street corner. He’s was a 21-year-old local Costa Rican guy—a great guy. He showed us the equivalent of a walk in Central Park. It was just a bunch of regular people hanging out. We’re walking around with a tour guide and he showed us just this trail. And it was cool and all but I wondered how did I get here? How did this happen? I just paid $25 for a guy to give me a tour—a basic viewpoint. On the way back, I asked him how he got on there (the Airbnb list). How was it I got an email about going for a walk with this guy? How did this happen? It made no sense to me. Then he told me it was an Airbnb Experience. When I came home, I looked into it and it was amazing. I looked into it, studied it and ended up applying for my own Experience. I started a “coffee walking tour”. And here we are. I had my own Airbnb Experience where I drink coffee with people. I turned coffee into cash.
Tom: I get the technical part. You found out about Airbnb Experiences, but what made you think to do a coffee tour? We’ll get into it later but, you look at the options in my area and there certainly is not a coffee tour. What made you think of this coffee tour? Do you just drink a lot of coffee?
Martin: Well, as a blogger, I’m always in coffee shops. When I was a kid I used to think those people that sat in coffee shops were weirdoes. Now here I am one of those people. As part of my entrepreneurial journey I’ve always thought of random ideas like how about showing people coffee shops in Toronto. But once again, I never did anything about it. So with Airbnb Experiences, I realized they do all the work for you. It’s like publishing a book on Amazon. You just put it up there and they do the distribution and all that stuff. Everybody does everything for you. I realized that if I just put my coffee tour on here—this tour I’ve always wanted to do, Airbnb would do the promoting for me. They collect the money and make everything easy for you. I don’t have to worry about getting on Facebook or spending a fortune on email funnels and all that nonsense. I chose the coffee tour because of that but also because I had nothing else to really offer. Experiences can be anything and everything. I wanted to write about it for the blog to show people how to make money. I also realized I didn’t want to dedicate too much time to it. I’m not a piano instructor or yoga teacher so I thought the easiest thing I could do was to prove to people that literally anything can become an experience that brings in money. In this case, all I’m doing is showing people coffee shops. We walk around and drink coffee. That can become a side hustle. I just thought, “How amazing is this?” I chose it because it makes it easier to write about.
Tom: To me, this sounds like the best of both worlds. If I go traveling, I like the touristy side of stuff. I want to see the biggest ball of yarn or whatever it is. But I get the other side, too, where you want to meet some locals and have a little less commercial experience. So it seems if you got on one of these kind of tours, you’re kind of getting both sides of that where you’ve got someone knowledgeable telling you to look at this and that. But you’re also interacting with locals.
Martin: Yeah, that’s what makes it cool. Every major city in the world has an experience now. When you travel, the first thing you want to do is either eat, drink coffee or get drunk—drink some booze. So Airbnb has just made it where they facilitate a slow process so you find a tour guide that will show you whatever you want. There’s a tour for everybody. When I land somewhere, I look for coffee. And there are coffee tours, food tours, and walking tours. I’ve traveled alone a lot in my life and I’ve always tried to do a walking tour. It’s just so someone can show you around. Of course, you could find these things on your own with TripAdvisor and stuff. But then you’ve got to get out Google Maps and get Wi-Fi. Then you get lost. You don’t know if you’re getting ripped off or how to get around. So they just connect hosts with travelers. And I think it’s brilliant, in my opinion.
Tom: With the experiences, is there a rating system similar to the Airbnb houses and rooms? Is there a way to know that you’re getting a good person, a good package deal?
Martin: Ratings and reviews are everything when it comes to these apps like Amazon, Uber. With Airbnb Experiences especially, reviews are key. Let’s say you want to start and experience, at first you’ll have nothing. You’ve got to really try to get some good pictures and a decent description to try to sell it. But as time goes on, it is the reviews that do the selling for you. As of today, we have 97 reviews, mostly 5-Star. We have two 4-Star reviews. Airbnb makes it really easy. When someone finishes an experience they make it really easy to leave or review. They send them a simple email and that entices you to give a review. People leave reviews. That’s what this whole system is based on. And I’m guessing, the more reviews, the higher ranking the algorithm. And most people don’t want to do something unless it has a lot of reviews. Think about the last time you went somewhere. You probably read every review about the hotel, restaurants and all the things to do. Reviews are everything here. And you want to ensure that you offered the best experience to get lots of 5-Star reviews. Then you get promoted more, people tell their friends and you end up ranking higher in the whole algorithm. People read others’ reviews and that’s what they base their decision on.
Tom: Yeah, I just booked a house. I was looking at another one and it had zero reviews. It was a brand new listing. It’s unfortunate for them—that kind of chicken and egg thing. But I wasn’t going to book that one because it was sort of unproven. I ended up booking a different one that had some decent reviews and had been around for a while.
Martin: Nobody books anything without a bunch of reviews.
Tom: That’s a great point then. In your case, how did you get started in this then? Were you the first coffee option out there in Toronto? What helped you get started without any reviews?
Martin: When you’re first getting started it’s like any other business. You want to get your repetitions in and get your practice up. If you’re thinking about launching an experience you have to apply. You have to apply and get accepted. But the good thing is they help you do that. You type in your city, then type in your activity and they’ll narrow down. They’ll point out other activities are doing this. Everything’s been done already so it’s so simple, easy enough. Once you apply and get accepted, then it’s on you to try to get bookings. There are a few ways to do this. There’s a legit way, and I did it the legit way. I didn’t know that you could play around it. The legit way is to just start off with a decent price. It’s like when you go to get a haircut. A more experienced barber is going to charge you more. And you know the rookie barber will be cheaper. So when you’re new you want to just make it a fair price. You can set it up so you have introductory rates. Set up an introductory rate and then make a bunch of good dates available in next week or two. Get a decent price and try to just get it there. You press publish and the date. You hope to get some people on those tours at the low prices. And hopefully those people like it enough to leave reviews. Of course, the first few times you do it you’re not going to make the most amount of money. I do believe in raising the price after X-amount of reviews. The first 10, 20 reviews you would offer a half decent price and make a few bucks. Obviously, you still make money but not as much as you’d like to. Just to fine-tune the process, I would do that. Option number two for getting a lot of reviews is what one of my friends did. He has a Vegas walking tour. If you can set experiences for $1 it’s like a “name your price” option. You can put it in your description; name your price. Say, “This is new. It’s $1 on the app. You can name your price. You could pay the dollar or you can leave me a tip (or not).” Then try to contact all your friends and family. And hopefully Airbnb promotes this to everybody. They see that it’s a $1 experience. You can book up to 10 people an experience so hopefully you get maybe 10 people. Get your friends and family. Get as many people as you can do these $1 experiences and that will help you get a bunch of reviews under your belt. And it will help you fine-tune the process. Then let those reviews do the selling for you. As you get more reviews, you can increase your price.
Tom: Is that the hack way of doing it?
Martin: Yeah, that’s a new one—to hack. I didn’t know about this until this guy straight up told me. I was nervous so he made me a really low price. So you just say, “Name your price,” and then ask friends and family to come. Hopefully they do it. I didn’t know about this. I just launched it and waited to see what happened. Luckily, people signed up.
Tom: The other thing I was thinking is, especially with a tour kind of experience, do you make deals with the different coffee shops or at least make sure they keep an available table or something like that? Is there any kind insider access you gain that way?
Martin: Yes, the beauty about Airbnb Experiences is the main selling feature is the insider access. You could easily go to the same restaurants, cafes, and bars by yourself but you’re paying for that access. I’ve talked about this idea forever. I’ve told these coffee shop owners I was a guy; I want to do this. When I finally did launch I said, “Guys, I’m actually launching this. Are you on board?” I contacted every place. Obviously, you want to make sure you know these places. If you’re going to offer a yoga class, you obviously want to make sure the gym is ready for it. If you’re offering ski sessions you want to make sure the lodge is ready for you guys. That’s on you. So when you apply you have to gather pictures and get your descriptions together. That’s when you take the chance to go to the shops. Whatever you’re doing, go there and talk to the people. Get some photos and tell them what’s happening. Hopefully they’re on board. If they’re not on board you probably don’t want to go there. I’ve got to cut out coffee shops if they’re rude or weird about the thing. I tell them, “I’m bringing you 10 people. If you do want to serve ten people, that’s cool. I’ll go somewhere else.”
Tom: Yeah. It seems it would be to their benefit to play along when you’re walking customers in the door.
Martin: Yes. So when you’re getting your information together, that’s when you sell it. It depends on your experience because Airbnb sells adventures that go on for days. Obviously, then you have to get a contract and things in order. I’ve seen people offer painting classes, walking tours of different places and food tours. In that case, you want to make sure these people are partners with you because you want them on board. You don’t want to go to a restaurant and you’re waiting. You paid for insider access. You didn’t pay to wait in line at a bar or restaurant.
Tom: I once did a Groupon for hitting different clubs in Las Vegas. That insider access was great. You hop on a bus and you get into three different clubs and walk right past the lineup. It’s totally worth the money. I think it might’ve been $50 to get in on that. It’s unlimited drinks on the bus and you get into three clubs. This is before I knew about something these Airbnb Experiences so maybe there are people doing something similar to that in Vegas already.
Martin: I know the Vegas walking tour guide. He’s my buddy. That’s what he does except he offers a daytime walking tour. And that’s what people want. They want that insider access. But that will depend on what your activity is. It could be anything that you’re in to. I can’t decide that for you.
Tom: I was looking at some of the worldwide things splashed on the front page of Airbnb Experiences and there was everything from petting goats in some far-off country to getting in with the locals a little more. Some of the cool things were things like cooking classes at someone’s house in all these different countries. If you’re in Mexico in someone’s house learning how to make Mexican food, that seems like a pretty unique thing that most normal companies can’t really recreate.
Martin: Now, in the last year, I believe, they’ve really promoted cooking and animal experiences. Animal experiences I don’t want to get too into this. I mean, I imagine there is a bunch of legal stuff to deal with—cooking also. If you can secure the paperwork and you’re okay with having people come to your house, that’s awesome. I know someone who has people come to her coffee drinking and Taro card reading. Of course they have to take safety precautions. You need to get stuff verified and stuff. But yeah, it’s cool. You go to someone’s house where she makes you coffee and reads your fortune. People seem to love it. Who am I to tell someone what to do? She has a lot of reviews and she’s doing well.
Tom: Yeah, exactly. I’ve seen some that are less personal than in someone’s house; something like a farm-to-table thing kind of thing at a farm where you don’t actually have to enter their kitchen to do it.
Martin: A lot of people are doing arts and crafts too where you go to someone’s house and you make crafts. And once again, I didn’t have much to offer. I like coffee so I chose coffee. If you have real skills you can make good money with this thing. There’s a guy that plays piano. He plays piano in his living room for you. He puts on a live show for you. You go to his house and he puts on a show on the piano. He doesn’t have to leave his house to make money. He’s just playing the piano which he probably would have gone and done anyways.
Tom: Crazy. I’ve also seen “walk rescue dogs.” It’s one of the ones I saw. This could be like an SPCA or something. I didn’t look into the details but I’m guessing it’s something like that. They’re literally getting their dogs walked which they would have to do anyways. People are paying to do this so it’s a chance to cuddle some dogs and take them for a walk, see the area around them. They’re probably double-dipping there where they’re getting their dogs walked and making a little extra money on the side.
Martin: Well, yeah, and there are no limits to it. I was going through all the categories and there is everything from fitness to life shows and entertainment. If you’re going to put on a comedy show, you could sell tickets where you bring someone with you to the show. Imagine you’re a promoter for a comedy club, you can meet somebody and go for a drink around town and go to a comedy show which was going to happen anyways. There are things like personal training and kickboxing classes. I know guys who are kickboxing coaches. You can offer a step tour where you pick the person up, go for coffee and then you go for the kickboxing class. It’s amazing. You combine things that were going to happen already and get paid for them. And you, as a tourist say, “Well, I really do want coffee and I really do want to do a kickboxing class…” so why not why not sign up for that?
Tom: I definitely see the benefit for this as a tourist or even in your local city. What’s the business side of this look like? Two questions that come to mind; what is the range you’ve been charging? What did you start at and what did you end at?
Martin: There are many different ways to make money with this. Like I said, I chose coffee because I just wanted to write about it. Full disclosure; I do most things just to write about them. I started off at $15, which is very little. I wasn’t making much money because Airbnb Experiences takes 20 percent. And it’s on you to make a deal with whatever you’re doing. If you’re bringing people to a gym, you’ve got to make sure you already negotiated those rates. Whatever you negotiate, that’s on you. If it’s not worth the money, then obviously, don’t do it. So I had negotiated the coffee prices already that way nobody has to bring any money. I started $15 and then went up to $20, $25 and $30 which I’m at right now. I usually pay $9 bucks for the coffee which is like 20 percent. If someone signs up for early bird, they get a deal. The goal is to get the volumes—to get to 10 people in the group. Then you start getting some tips. That’s another way to make money. Another way is to offer something that’s less expensive. I understood I wasn’t going to get rich off this. I have friends who are doing yoga classes. They can charge $50, $70 for that with minimal expenses; like yoga in the park. So your goal is to minimize your expenses as much as possible and to get the volume. If you get 10 people doing yoga or walks around town and they’re paying $50, that’s real money. That’s how you make money off this. And you can offer multiple experiences. You can offer a coffee tour, a food tour and maybe a food tour of a different part of town. Then maybe you do a yoga class because you can schedule them whenever you want. Most people do this as a side hustle, which is totally cool. It’s a real side hustle where you actually get paid. You can go all the way fulltime with this where you’re doing daytime tours and weekend tours. The business side depends on how far in you want to go.
Tom: You mentioned the cost of coffee. Are you paying for the coffee at all the stops? I saw a brewery tour where the first pint was on the host and at future locations they had to pay for it.
Martin: Yeah. Beer’s a tough one. Alcohol tours are very different because alcohol prices vary. That’s why I haven’t touched alcohol tours. I’m a bit worried about that. I had a friend that starting there in the alcohol tours and she’s got no signups because she was charging something like $80. I think that’s a lot of money. I do pay for the coffees because it’s not that much. And I contact the places. I try to get deals. Some places will give me free food or free coffee for every person I bring. So I do try to cover it. But if you’re going to do alcohol, that’s a bit of a different story. You have to really find a price point that works for you. If you want to do a two-hour brewery tour, you’re going to write down how you’re going to want to spend on this; how much your time is worth and how much you can charge for it. If you’re charging $100 and getting no sign ups then that’s not really much of a side hustle. Also, if you’re charging $50 and losing money, that doesn’t work either. You have to really sit down and figure out the numbers.
Tom: What’s Airbnb’s take? You mentioned 20 percent. Is that it, period? There’s no listing fee or anything else?
Martin: When you rent out a room, they have all these random fees. With this it’s just 20 percent. And they take care of everything for you. They collect the money and give it to you exactly 24 hours after it’s over. You get it sent to you. Again, it depends on how you want to set up your finances. I have it all connected to my PayPal. I use my credit card for the coffee for the points but I have it all connected. I think PayPal is the easiest way to get paid. You can obviously make a separate business checking account and so on.
Tom: If someone wants to do this as a side hustle, where do they start? There is the process for signing up but how do they come up with an idea? How do they check competition?
Martin: The first thing I would do is just use Airbnb as a tourist in my own hometown. For example, check your hometown to see what’s happening, see what’s busy. Go to the Airbnb Experiences section anywhere in the app and just type in things to do and you’ll get a list of things to do. That will give you a lot of information. You’ll see what’s popular and what’s missing. And from there it’s on you to decide what you want to do. You could do something totally easy like a coffee tour, a photography tour, a food tour, a walking tour. You can combine things. I find that really works well. There is a guy the does a walking tour but he’s an amateur standup comic so he tells jokes as you’re walking. It’s on you to see what’s happening in your city and what’s missing—what’s not there. Then I will try doing one experience just to see how it is. From there, you have to go apply because there is an application process. I’ll send you my article that has screenshots and stuff.
Tom: We’ll include it in the show notes.
Martin: It’s very basic. You just type in your city. There’s a whole list of themes like culture, arts, entertainment, physical stuff. You go to a theme and pinpoint it. Then you go through the questions where they ask what makes you so special? They’re basic questions like that. They just want to make sure you have a plan because they don’t want people meeting some guy for a pub tour when he doesn’t even know where he’s going to go. Once they accept you, then you start. You go live and try to get some bookings. But as for the idea, it’s up to you what you want to do. Every city needs more things to do. Locals need things to do and tourists need things to do. And if you don’t live in a big city, which is the biggest criticism I’ve had so far, choose the closest town. Not everybody is going to live in New York City or Toronto. There has to be something close to you. You can go into town once a week and have one or two experiences a day. And small towns also need things to do.
Tom: Yeah, I guess any town could do a cooking class. You don’t need a big volume of people because it might be a one-on-one thing.
Martin: It’s up to you to see what you could do. If there are too many pub crawls maybe you could do a history pub crawl where you give the history of the town. It’s up to you to find what makes you unique. Like I said, that one guy tells jokes while he does a walking tour. My friend does a Vegas walking tour where he just walks round to you. It’s amazing. He gives you insider access. If you wanted to compete with him, you can offer a Vegas pub crawl. The only way you’re going to find out is by actually launching and seeing if anybody signs up. If nobody signs up then maybe you start another experience. The beauty is you can have multiple experiences on this app.
Tom: Leading up to this episode you were sharing some of the things you found in my area around Calgary here. One of the first things that struck me was that there wasn’t really that much. It seems like it’s still a new enough thing that someone could get in. For example, I didn’t see a coffee tour like you do. One of the first thoughts I had was if someone wants something in a city like Calgary, look at something like Toronto first to get some ideas. Just see what’s available. Then look back at your city and see what’s not there.
Martin: I do this coffee tour and I’ve had guests come on the tour and start their own experience afterward. I call them satellite locations but we’re obviously not affiliated. There is Daniel, who came from Montreal—he liked the tour so much he did it again. And then we ended up partying—he came to my birthday party actually. He started the Montreal coffee crawl. One guy launched the Barcelona coffee crawl. Another guy just launched the Charlotte coffee crawl. Every town needs popular things. Every town will need a pub crawl, a coffee crawl, a food tour. And even if that town already has it, you could just choose one area. I don’t know about Calgary but Toronto has Queen West, King West. I have a Queen West Coffee Crawl but there is no King West Coffee Crawl. There is no Yorkville coffee crawl. You can launch it and nobody will want to do it or you can launch it and people will want to do it. The guy from Charlotte just sent me a photo and it looks like there are 10 on his coffee crawl in Charlotte. That’s 10 people that signed up and he got paid. It’s amazing. The whole world needs things to do. We’ll never run out of people looking for things to do.
Tom: You mentioned that in Toronto there are other areas that don’t have a coffee crawl. Have you considered starting your own ones there? Or does it become a bit of a hassle money-wise when it’s too far away from home?
Martin: Like I said before, full disclosure; I did this just so I could write about it. That’s where I want to make my money. But yes, this has taken on a life of its own. I’ve had people reach out to me who want me to do a Yorkville coffee crawl. I’ve had companies reach out to me… I’m going to a coffee expo in May. So this little setup has taken on a life of its own where you’re doing more than just your experience. You become the face of a niche. You can start working with other places. You can start working with other coffee companies, other tour companies. And for me, yes, I am considering it. It’s just that there is so much to do. But I do plan on launching work more tours in the summer because every area needs things to do. And now that I’ve got the hang of it I’m thinking about adding a Jujitsu one maybe or a wrestling one where I bring people to a wrestling show. I’m just one person though and there are only so many things I can do. This coffee thing has kept me busy, personally.
Tom: Well, I think you’re onto something with this which is why I wanted to have you on. I think people can see the benefit from a traveler side but also from a side hustle side. I hope they see the benefit of it because it’s something new, but it’s a big company with Airbnb so it’s got something behind it. It’s not a startup from nothing. It’s something that should really grow.
Martin: The reason I like it so much is because so many side hustles require a lot of money upfront. You’ve got to take another course. You’ve got to buy all of these books and study email quotas. You’ve got to go through all this stuff and you might not even get paid. You actually get paid here and that’s what I love about it. There’s actually money coming in. You schedule and experience, Airbnb Experiences takes the money from the guests that sign up and you get paid. If nobody signs up, you edit it until you find a way to get popular then you’ll get paid for every experience. There is no paying of dues or hoping that someday down the line you’ll get paid. There’s actually money involved here.
Tom: Yeah, and I’ve been a huge fan of all these different apps that come out from your Ubers to Airbnbs to your Turos and Rover where you can piggyback off the services. Even though you may be paying 20 percent, you don’t have to start something up from scratch. You can just launch and take advantage of that marketplace.
Martin: That 20 percent is what covers the marketing. And Airbnb hustles. One of my buddies from out of town booked a room for the night so he could attend a party I was going to. He books this room just down the street from here and gets an email telling him what he should do in Toronto. And the first thing on the list was the Queen West coffee club (laughs). He said, “I just can’t avoid you anywhere I go!” They send out emails as soon as someone signs up. Try this yourself. The next time you book a room (from Airbnb) you’ll notice you’ll get a list of things to do. Airbnb promotes hard. Obviously, over time I’ve created an Instagram account for this. That’s the beauty about this. You could turn it into to something bigger or you can keep it small. I’ve tried to turn it into something medium—or I should say, decent. I made a separate Instagram. I do get a lot of Instagram bookings and so on but still, the majority of people book through Airbnb. And Airbnb gives them a list of things to do. So the more reviews you get, the higher the odds are you’ll be promoted. Everyone that comes through your town, your community, will be at least given the option of doing something with you.
Tom: This is similar to something like more corporate. If you’re if you’re booking a hotel on Expedia, they’re ask if you want to rent a car or do you want to do this touristy kind of thing that is going on. But yeah, it’s a classic up-sell kind of thing.
Martin: Of course. They promote because they want that 20 percent. They’re not doing it for non-benevolent reasons. They want to make that money. But before we go, I remember I told you I was going to research Calgary Experiences. You said you live in Calgary?
Tom: Yeah, I live in an area just outside, but everything worth doing you have to go into the city for.
Martin: Of course, and rightfully so. Whenever people talk to you about experiences and you’re not sure if it will work in your town there’s only one way to find out. Just go to your town and see what’s happening. I looked up Calgary and of course, every single town has this; a beer tour that’s doing really well and a professional photography tour. For some reason people love to pay others to take photos of them. And I noticed—just because it’s a very Canadian city—Let’s Go Curling is a big one in your town. This guy takes you curling and you pay $23 for just one hour with him. You still have to pay your own (curling) fees. He’s making money just from curling which I’m sure he would have done anyways.
Tom: It’s just spending time teaching you something? I don’t know how he angles it if he’s an expert.
Martin: I’ll be honest… I would do it just for the photo op. Just to tell people I went curling, I would probably do this experience. It may not be what you like but it’s something a tourist would like. As a Toronto native, I would say, “Hey, that’s cool… Curling in Calgary.” I looked around more in the Calgary Experiences and there’s someone charging $75 for Calgary Chinatown Secrets. I guess that’s a place where you walk around and they tell you secrets for $75. Then there’s, Bob Ross Oil Painting Class that is $65. Man, I’m really missing out here. I should do something like that. This person has 72 reviews and they’re all 5-Stars. There’s even an exclusive, Meet Up With Calgary YouTubers which is also $75.
Martin: Yeah. If you really want to make money there’s someone that’s offering a Discover Banff National Park daytrip. This person has over 100 5-Star reviews and they charge $155 per person. I imagine, from what I gather, they pick you up from downtown Calgary and they show you around Banff. Just think about it. If you land in Calgary, you don’t want to organize everything. You don’t want to have to rent a car, worry about getting around. You might want to drink or just relax in the car so this person will pick you up and show you Banff for $155. You can go as far as you want with this or just drink coffee with people if you don’t want to go that far.
Tom: I love it. Can you let people know where they can find you online?
Martin: Well, I created a separate Instagram for this whole thing. It’s @queenwestcoffee. I’m on Studenomics and Twitter. I’ve also done a bunch of articles and have a book that’s out all about Airbnb Experiences showing you how you can turn any passion into profits where you actually do get paid. Send me your own experience—let me know so I can help you get started.
Tom: And what’s the name of the book?
Martin: How You Can Make Money With Airbnb Experiences. It’s a very simple title that gets right to the point.
Tom: Well, thanks for being on the show.
Martin: Thanks for having me.
Thanks, Martin, for introducing us to a side hustle idea many have not heard of before that lets you make money while doing things you’re passionate about. I love the idea of being able to leverage the power of a well-known brand like Airbnb while designing a business that’s as personal and unique as you want to make it. You’ll find the show notes for this episode at maplemoney.com/martindaskoreturns. Are you a member the Maple Money Show Facebook community? If not, I’d love to connect with you there. It’s a great place to ask a question or share a recent money win to encourage others. To join, head over to maplemoney.com/community to share with the group. Don’t forget to tune next week as Steven Arnott and I discuss making the most of your cash flow with budgeting and saving.