How I Made My Home into My Business
For my first ever blog post, I thought it would be fitting to start at the beginning. And the beginning was on the 3rd floor of an old garment factory warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles. This was the loft that started it all. I feel it's important for you to know my story and to know how I got to where I am.
You should know that I never planned any of this; having my own business, an instagram account for my home, having hundreds of people come and have photo shoots in my living room while I'm upstairs watching Netflix. The main goal, the purpose of it all, was a way for me to pay my rent. A way for me to pursue my acting career and not have to worry about how I was going to pay my bills.
I have found every space I've ever lived in on Craigslist. When searching, DO use very specific key words for what you're looking and Don't add filters. You never know what you're not seeing that might actually be perfect for you and your potential home... or business.
'you had me at hello'
At the time, I was 24 and and an actor who was babysitting on the side to have some sort of steady income. I was moving out of my ex-boyfriend's and couldn't really afford to get my own place so was planning on moving back in with my mom. But who doesn't love browsing Craigslist for all of the amazing homes that are way out of their price range and living in dream land? It had always been a dream of mine to live in a loft so that's usually what I would browse. I found this one listing which only had 1 photo and all it said was "Amazing loft, you just have to see it in person". Well I saw it, I fell in love, I couldn't walk away. I had no idea how I was going to pay the $2,000 rent but I had this strong gut feeling that I was meant to be in this space and that the money would work out. I've always been resourceful at finding ways to make money. My mom calls me the "Queen of Garage Sales"; you've never met a 7 year old that drives a harder bargain. When I was 10, I organized the neighborhood kids to go door to door collecting cans & bottles to be recycled instead of the typical lemonade stand. Less overhead, obviously. And when I first moved out of my moms house at 19, I rented out my living room to a masseuse for $20/hr for her to have a private space to meet her clients.
So, I moved in to a 1,700 Sq.ft. loft with 20' ceilings, 2 bedrooms, an upstairs lofted area (which I made into my room), original brick walls, large factory windows and original dark hardwood floors. Plus a killer fire escape with an amazing view. I found a roomate and we put the extra bedroom on Airbnb. The roomate didn't work out but airbnb did. Oh boy did it ever.
ABOVE RIGHT - This was my room which I rented out half of the month. Because it was popular and it was my room, I charged more. That way I didn't mind when it was rented and I slept in another room. It was like playing musical chairs, but with beds.
'there's no place like home'
I began by renting out the two downstairs rooms which were below my balcony room as well as the daybed in the living area. The daybed was $30/night, not private and no "room" but it was still booked every night. People just wanted somewhere cheap to sleep in a cool place and they were usually backpackers from around the world, so was named 'The Backpackers Dream'. Similar to a hostel but a comfier bed and way nicer. I eventually made the storage area above my bathroom into another room. There was no floor so I installed plywood panels and painted them a midnight blue. The pipes from the bathroom were in the open so I painted them a clean white. There was a brick wall, a window and I hung strings of Edison lights. All of a sudden this was my favorite room. It was like a little attic hideaway and separate from the rest of the loft. You had to climb a ladder for access and there was no 4th wall to inclose the room, but it was perfect for guests who just needed a place to sleep. One of the great things about airbnb is people are not looking for a space to live in long term. Which means you're able to design a room out of creativity instead of practicality. Guests want a different experience. Something unique and fun. And climbing a ladder to stay in an attic room with great lighting in a warehouse building in Downtown Los Angeles was all that.
Worried that you can't list your home on airbnb because you have a cat/dog? Noisy neighbors? Smells like Chinese food from the restaurant next door? As long as you state EVERYTHING in the listing and are upfront and honest about what your home is like, you have nothing to worry about. It is the guests responsibility to read the listing and know what to expect. They can then make the decision if your home is the right place for them.
'If you build it, (they) will come'
There was a period where one of my best friends moved in with me. That was probably the most fun year and a half at the loft. She lived in one of the downstairs rooms and the "attic" above the bathroom, the bed in the living area and my room, were the airbnb listings. The second downstairs room became our combined walk in closet...because what girl doesn't want a walk in closet with her best friend?! When my room was rented I'd bunk with her. It was a really fun time in my life. When she moved out I turned our closet back into a guest room. This room had no windows and was really pretty bleak. I found an old window on craigslist that was able to open and latch close. It was $20 and perfect. I hired someone to install the window and I painted the room again. It's amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do. Really. If a room or wall is just not feeling it, give that baby a paint job. It's like your hair after a Korean hair mask, vibrant and you can't stop touching it. The natural light that now bounced off the bright white walls did just the trick. I brought the bed from the living room back into this room and voilá! The 'Backpackers Dream' became an actual room. Recognize the tassels?
I now had 3 guests rooms on airbnb as well as my room. All 3 rooms were fully booked year round and my entire rent was covered each month. Actually, my rent and utilities were covered since the first few months after I moved in. Granted, I wouldn't have been able to live there without renting out the rooms, but I'd rather live in my dream home and share it with others than not at all. People started contacting me on airbnb about shooting in the space so I then began facilitating film & photo shoots. It took me a good year to figure out how the shoots worked and what to expect and how to book. I had a lot of terrible experiences that all came from my ignorance in the field and productions taking advantage of my ignorance. But hands on experience really is the best way to learn and from my mistakes I became a pro at managing locations for shoots. I will definitely talk about facilitating shoots in your home further, but for now here's a few tips to follow.
ALWAYS take a cash security deposit whether they have insurance or not. People take much better care of your space when you have their money in your hand.
Take pictures of every corner in your home before they arrive and match the pictures before they leave and you give back the security deposit.
Have them bring their own toilet paper, paper towels and trash bags and take all their trash with them. The last thing you want is an extra bag (or 3!) of trash and no TP once they leave.
Don't let them in before the start time of shoot. They are paying hourly and time matters. Set your alarm for the exact time to open your door.
Lock your front door before they arrive... They will just turn the knob and let themselves in before even knocking. I'm serious. This has happened multiple times. Not cool.
'Forget it Jake, It's chinatown.'
My business here lasted 3.5 years before I decided to move to New York. And that was a personal decision for me . Once I got settled I realized I could do the same thing I was doing in LA, here, in NY. I spent 3 months scouring Craigslist every day seeing if anything new was added. I met with 5 or 6 different landlords and saw a dozen or so spaces. Some would be ok with having photo shoots but not airbnb, and some weren't ok with either. But I wasn't in a rush and I really think that helped. When I found the perfect place that's when I would move. And I most definitely found the perfect place.
Recipe for a successful airbnb:
Popular Location + Unique Home
If you're in a popular city, the home can be less unique as the area still draws tourists. If the Home is extremely special, it can be in a less crowded area because the space itself will draw people to travel to you. If you have a Unique Space in a Popular Location? You just baked the perfect pie.
Next Time on
'a loft grows in brooklYn'
Stay tuned to find out how I made The Funky Loft into what it is today. Thank you for reading my "origin story" if you will. I look forward to writing about host tips AND guest tips and going into more detail about running your own airbnb. Plus eco-friendly home living and design tips. And I see you rolling your eyes at "eco friendly"! Do you live on this planet? Then enough said.
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Movie quotes in order mentioned: Jerry Maguire, Wizard of Oz, Field of Dreams, Chinatown
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