Las Vegas is a funny place to be when an irate subletter you’ve never met calls from New York to discuss your bed linens. Crumbs. Some wrinkles. A hair even. The maid, evidently, had dropped the ball. An annoying problem, but an easy fix.
I apologize to my Airbnb-sourced subletter, text my (virtual) assistant Dee, who connects with my on-demand cleaning service. It occurs to me that none of this existed ten years ago.
The sharing economy is still nascent, but growing rapidly. Uber alone is projected to make around $10 billion in revenue this year, even though ridesharing is so 2013. These days, you can consider yourself an amateur until you’ve at least hired a TaskRabbit to stand in line for Cronuts. And if you want to be a sharing economy pro, well, read on.
If you know me, you know my love for self-contained systems. When it comes to the sharing economy, I take the same approach, stacking together outsourced services to create a process that runs and manages itself. In doing so, I’m able to outsource entire workflows, delegating both personal and professional tasks.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably familiar with Airbnb. With over 800,000 listings in 33,000 cities, it’s the preeminent platform for short-term lodging. For folks who travel frequently, it’s a great way to make a few bucks on the side off your vacant apartment, or conversely, save some cash in lieu of staying at a hotel.
When I’m renting out my place, there are a few criteria for any prospective guest. I have a female roommate, so any potential renters need to either be female or a couple. To screen guests (among many other functions), I hire a virtual assistant named Dee. That’s her picture up top.
Dee is always awesome, but she was particularly invaluable recently while I was away in Las Vegas. Whenever I rent my apartment, I’ll use a third-party service like Handy to clean everything and change the linens before the guest arrives. For whatever reason, the cleaning person failed to properly clean on this occasion and my Airbnb tenant was less than thrilled.
Dee not only got the apartment cleaned up, but also handled communications with my guest, Handy and Airbnb. She even got Airbnb to issue the tenant a $150 credit. Lots of virtual assistants can follow directions, but when things go wrong, as they invariability do, a good VA will step in and problem solve.
Overall, it takes about 30 minutes of my time to arrange for an Airbnb guest using this model, and it earns us about $800 per week.
Automating customer acquisition
Last week, I posted about my new new company, CartHook. One of the things that impressed me most about my new partner Jordan was his model for acquiring new customers. While good leads and solid salesmanship will always be the bedrock for any client-oriented business, it’s worth looking into how much of that can be automated.
In our case, we use a service called oDesk, which connects freelancers directly to businesses. Take a look here for a more detailed run-through , but here’s the process in a nutshell: we use an oDesk team to research and qualify e-commerce shops as prospects for new business. The team also fills in any gaps that might be missing from the database.
Once the lead is qualified, oDeskers will begin reaching out to prospects either by phone or email. At this stage, the goal is to schedule a product demo. When a potential client agrees to a demo, we’ll schedule it with, you guessed it, another team of virtual workers who specialize in product demos. For our part, we just sit back and wait for new customers to roll in.
What all this boils down to is that it doesn’t take much to get a lot out of the sharing economy — you just need to be a little creative. Any one can simply hop on Airbnb or oDesk, but if you want to be a pro about it, look for ways to manage your services through other services. In other words: set it and forget it.