So here’s what we’ve learned about being Airbnb hosts…

We listed our spare bedroom on Airbnb at the very end of September 2014, to test how much interest there is in accommodation in Clevedon. We’ve lived here for over two years now, and know of two hotels in town and a few established bed and breakfast establishments. Was this enough to meet demand, or was there space for some amateurs?

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Really, having missed the summer season, we weren’t expecting many bookings at all in 2014, but as the room was ready we decided to go through the listing process anyway. It wouldn’t do any harm! Much to our surprise (and delight) we have had a steady stream of bookings ever since, and they are only slowing down now because the room is unavailable for December and early January: for the very good reason that we have family visiting for a few weeks. So as we end a busy week in which we have had three sets of guests, and with some warm reviews in, we feel we have learned quite a lot in a short time and are in a position to offer our personal story to help other people who are thinking of letting out a room.

Decide what you are offering. This is the whole idea behind Airbnb of course. What accommodation have you got that guests can use? Very easy to decide if you have a spare guest bedroom with an ensuite bathroom, but you also have to think about what you are prepared to share. Can guests cook in your kitchen or share your lounge? There are no right or wrong answers, but you must be happy with what you are offereing: then every visit will be relaxed and enjoyable. Another “of course” to note is that the more you offer you the more you can charge for the room. The simpler the offering – a sofa bed in the lounge with shared use of the family bathroom, for example, the less people will be willing to pay.

Get organised.  Yes, it’s obvious, but planning is king! We started from looking at our room from a guest’s point of view. It’s lovely and bright, and being on the top floor of new and ex-show house town house is nice and private. But it is at the top of quite a few stairs, so we provided a kettle, tea making facilties and a mini-fridge, so people didn’t have to come all the way down to the kitchen for a drink. We’re still not sure about the fridge. It’s good to hold some chilled water and milk and it’s almost silent, but some people find it a little noisy at night. We’ll see!

Then we thought about the bedding and towels we need. We decided to buy a couple of extra sets of everything, and to keep them just for guests. Then we get things laundered immediately after each guest and the bed made up, without any further decisions to make.

There are little extras that may help too. We use Twitter for promotion, and also had a business card printed so we can easily give people the room details.

Listen to feedback.  All our guests have liked the room, and our description is honest and clear, so no-one has had a nasty surprise (arriving and not being able to manage the stairs to the top floor, for example.) However, each guest has had a useful comment. Serena suggested adding some extra photos of the town, so people who don’t know the area in advance can see how nice it is. Rory reminded us that as our post-code is new, it can only be found on recently updated SatNavs. And Johnny said a phoot of the house from the outside would be useful to guests. Small tweaks, but we have acted on them immediately and amended/added to the information in our listing.  I also went through the guidebook section to add details of all the local points of interest and of amenties such as local pubs, cinema, shops and post office.

Think ahead. Block off the dates on your calendar when you don’t want guests as far in advance as you can, and remember to keep the calendar up to date. It’s far better for guests to see that a property is not available on the dates they want than to send an enquiry only to be told they can’t stay with you. You may also want to adjust your prices for very busy or very quiet times.

Keep an eye on your emails.  Airbnb guests quite often send an enquiry at quite short notice. It’s a shame to miss a booking (and let down a guest) because you haven’t checked your emails.

And that’s it, really. Once you have got everything set up, it’s just a question of having the room ready for guests, and making sure you have stocked up on the things people expect (toilet paper and shower gel in the bathroom, for example).

So far we have accommodated people who are:

  • on holiday
  • in the Clevedon area on business
  • breaking a long drive to Cornwall
  • in the area for social reasons – a wedding or other special occasion

We’re enjoying our Airbnb experience so much that we are going to expand our offer. There is a second, twin-bedded room on the top floor so we can accommodate up to four guests. We’ve decided to stick to groups of people travelling together – two couples, or a couple with a child (or children) or  other relation(s) – so that they are only sharing the bathroom with people they know well. This could mean a little less income for us on some occasions, as the twin bedded room will often be empty, but we know from feedback that people really like the private bathroom, so we do not think offering two separate rooms to strangers would work.

If you are thinking of letting out a room and making a little money, I hope our story has helped a little. Visit our listing page to find out more – or come and stay with us!!

Good reasons to visit Clevedon

I have written often about the little things that make Clevedon such a nice place to visit:

the pier, the Curzon cinema, the windswept tree and the bandstand, the views, the walking, the nice people, the opportunities to spot places featured as locations in Broadchurch, the places to have a pint …

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but I haven’t talked about how well situated the town is for a visit en route from almost anywhere to the West Country or Wales, and now I really should, because we have just listed our house on Airbnb and we are hoping for bookings! Why have we listed? Well, we have a beautiful house, with rooms that we don’t use unless we have guests, and so which are usually empty. Some lettings income will help to supplement our other earnings (freelance writing, art sales, pension) and offering some Bed and Breakfast facilities may also help visitors to Clevedon, as there are not that many places to stay in the town.

Clevedon is well worth a visit in its own right, partly because the seafront is so unchanged from Victorian times, and partly because geography makes the place – the sunsets and the views across and down the Bristol Channel – just so picturesque. It’s also really handy for a day trip to Bristol, being just 15 minutes by car or 30 minutes by bus to Bristol city centre, and the glories of harbourside and the SS Great Britain, Clifton suspension bridge, the old city with the markets and lanes, and roughly a trillion great places to eat and drink.

If you fancy a road trip of Somerset, include Clevedon in a series of bed and breakfast stops, and take in the Cheddar Gorge, the Mendips, Glastonbury, Wells, Bath, Bradford on Avon, the Somerset Levels, Brean Down and many more places and attractions besides.

We are also perfectly placed if you are travelling to Cornwall from London or the midlands. It’s a long drive to Penzance, but from Clevedon it’s only about 2 and a half hours, so you arrive fresh and happy rather than tense and wrung out. The same thing applies for those travelling across to Tenby and the lovely Pembrokeshire coast in Wales.

There! Regional and personal promotion over. Maybe we’ll get to meet in person one day?

Capturing a season of mists on camera

 

Interesting conditions for photography around Clevedon in the last few days. There have been pearly skies like this …

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Atmospheric, misty vistas like this …

 

 

 

 

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.. which you really wouldn’t believe was taken at 4 pm in the first week of September. On the same day and just 20 minutes earlier, in fact, than this little view of the pier, which with a little editing would be in the middle of a heart shaped gap in the bushes. We certainly do love Clevedon, and there’s the proof!

 

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It’s all a bit of a challenge to get the camera set up to get the best from the conditions. Still, no one said it was easy to get a great photograph!

Bertha in Clevedon

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So the tail end of ex-hurricane Bertha hurried it’s way through the UK today, and popped into to see us in Clevedon. Lots of rain last night, and bands of rain and sun throughout the day. A bit of thunder and lightning too, but great to get out for an exhilarating walk. 

Hats off to the intrepid canoeist who was battling the strong and gusty wind. In the photo they actually have the wind behind them, and it was tough enough. When they turned into the wind, they really had to dig deep! And although the composition isn’t classic, I think it’s nice to catch a photo with three points of interest – the canoeist, the pier and the large ship in the channel heading towards Avonmouth.

There were lots of people enjoying the sea front today, including photographers trying to catch a dramatic picture.

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The walk certainly blew the cobwebs away, and saved me from going stir crazy. Burned off a few calories too!

 

Gorge-ous walks and photo opportunities

Always nice to get out and about and see something new. Although we have lived in North Somerset for two years now, there are many places that many people will know very well that we are just discovering.

This weekend we went with our lovely family visitors up the Mendips, to Burrington Combe, where we enjoyed a short walk beside the gorge. Much less famous than the nearby Cheddar Gorge, there is a pub and a cycling centre at the bottom of the combe, but then just nature and local people living their normal lives. We parked in a small layby with several others cars and then headed off up the hill.

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Before we knew it we were beside the edge of the gorge with the rocky ribs showing through the thin vegetation clinging to the steep sides. We’d seen the small herds of goats from the car, but didn’t manage to spot any here: they are too canny and too agile to be approached too closely.

I photographed a carline thistle, which looked spikilly regal against the turf. Not a plant I have ever really noticed before, but one that I am glad to have seen.

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Fantastic views of further afield from the hill top, too. I can almost claim that I can see my house from here, as the view extends to Wales in the far distance, with the Bristol Channel and Clevedon and then the flat country which spreads out in front of the Mendips.

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We went on the the lakes at Chew Stoke for a completely different sort of walk – water birds, reeds and trees – before heading back to Clevedon.

The evening was so beautiful that we went off for our third walk of the day, round by the marine lakes and then up the hill. Here’s the view of the Mendips from Clevedon …

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and here’s the last shot I took of the setting sun with some fishermen and walkers obligingly silhouetted against the sky. Love the way the sun looks!

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Some of the featured photographs are available to buy at my RedBubble shop – MagsArt. You can buy them as framed or unframed prints, cards, prints to metal, cushion covers, tote bags … the possibilites are endless!

It’s so easy to walk and maintain fitness levels if you are enjoying what you are doing, and although we must have walked well over 6 miles in total, several of which were up and down hills, we hardly noticed the distance. For ideas on how to start walking your way to health, and have fun while you are doing it, see my Kindle book A beginner’s guide to walking for pleasure. It’s ASIN number is B00L3D7ENY, and it’s available to borrow free if you are a member of Amazon Prime.

Photographic frustrations

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I’ve been itching to get out and work on some landscape photography, but recent weather and general business has been against me. Nothing half as nice as this pink pier which i took last year, but is still one of my favourites.

While it’s easy in North Somerset to get a great vista; whether your preference is for sea, atmospheric mud-flats, the architecture of an authentic Victorian pier, or a long view over farmland to distant blue hills;  it’s a challenge when there are frequent heavy showers – downpours really – and in between strong winds and/or bright cloudy skies that give a dazzling but difficult light to work in. The early sunrises and sunsets and unpredictable weather make it hard to catch the best of the light. And it’s a funny thing but the alarm doesn’t seem to work when it’s set for very early and the forecast is for rain!

Fortunately – or maybe unfortunately – I have had plenty of other things to do. Unfortunate in that I haven’t had the drive or the time to plan how to work round the weather to get the shots I want. Fortunate in that I have had lots more writing opportunities in the last few weeks.  I’m now doing some work for my husband’s nephew and am really enjoying it. It’s interesting because it is private sector based, whereas the bulk of my business writing has been for the public sector, and it’s going very well. The trick I have (some people call it a talent, and who am I to argue?) is that I am able to grasp the wider implications of what I need to write quite quickly, so although I will do even better work as I learn more about the business, my contributions are already being useful enough.

I’ve also finished the first draft of my first book. I won’t say more about it just yet, but it’s non-fiction and will just be published as an e-book. I’m really interested to find out how that all works. Plus we’ve been busy working on and promoting our websites Alecarte and Magsart. My Magsart shop on Redbubble gets plenty of views, helped by the fact that Redbubble are promoting their new services quite widely. It’s even more pleasing that our start-from-scratch site, Alecarte, is also getting consistent visits, averaging about 100 a day with highs of over 200.

So that’s what I’ve been up to, whether you wanted to know or not! Let’s hope we get some more settled and hopefully sony weather before the end of June.

 

Spring Bank Holiday in Clevedon: taking to the sea

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So what’s a Spring Bank Holiday like in Clevedon? Well, a great number of people head for the sea front, and judging from the cars parked along the roads near the front, quite a few of those are from further afield. Although there’s the funfair on Salthouse fields, and the pubs and cafes were doing good business too, most people were looking at the sea, and a considerable number were getting onto the water too.

As you can see from the photograph, it wasn’t too sunny, but the clouds were spectacular and the slow shallow waves on the water were more like ripples than waves. Under these skies the water is silvery – imagine a lake of mercury. Great for photographs!

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There were a number of boats out on the water, mostly fishing, but also a speedboat and large barges and other merchant shipping heading for Avonmouth and other Bristol Channel destinations. The Clevedon pilot gig out for a practise run. Apparently in times gone by the pilot gigs competed to reach the ships needing to be guided into harbour to get the business.  The gig teams specialised in racing their speedy boats and the tradition continues to this day. As if rowing the gig isn’t challenging enough, the team needs to negotiate the narrow path down to the slipway, and it’s not an easy boat to steer.

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And I can’t really post a blog about Clevedon without including the pier. Only a couple of anglers today, but plenty of people enjoying the views, and the chance to give the progress on the new flats at the ruined Rock Hotel beside the pier the once over.

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The grit in the oyster …

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Beautiful evening yesterday, and a beautiful day today. As my good friend Sue has commented, I am very lucky to have the life I have. The world is my oyster, as I am living in a very lovely part of the world, with time to do the things I enjoy: writing, taking photographs, painting,  finding out about online selling, blogging, and writing ebooks. Yes, I am half way through a book, and will tell you more shortly. When we relocated from Hertfordshire, we were anything but certain that things would work out well …

I think the biggest piece of luck is to have a partner with whom I am very in tune. It is so much easier to do new things and take a risk when you have someone who is thinking along the same lines as you and who is willing to take the risks with you.

There is a little bit of grit in my oyster of course, as few people have a life that is silky smooth and through which they glide without any ripples. Nicely mixed metaphors there! My point is that it’s the grit that makes pearls, and it’s the fact we need to find ways to make money in a way that we enjoy and can share that is adding a potential pearl to our lives. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we are learning so much as we try different creative lines to see where our best chance of success lies. Not that we want major financial success. Far from it, as we are hoping just to make enough so that I can continue to work from home and spend time with Alec rather than being committed to a full time job. We want to be pursuing projects that we enjoy, rather than things that are money making schemes.

The pearl, if – when -we achieve it, will be a life that has variety, keeps us thinking and happy, and gives us enough income to be able to make choices, and to visit family and friends when we want to. I am more than happy to work until I am 80+ so long as I can work at something I enjoy!

Hang on –  Margaret means pearl … spooky!

Something not to miss … One Man and His Cow

Just a quick post to say I’m delighted to see that there are lots of dates for the new Theatre Orchard show One Man and His Cow in and around North Somerset and Bristol and, indeed, East Anglia and Yorkshire too. I’m a new fan, but having seen the fantastic The Devil and The Shopkeeper in March, I am hooked. You can see my blog in the archive. All I can say is, check the availability and see them if you can. But please make sure you save a seat for me!

It’s a paint chart kind of day

Here’s what the Bristol Channel looked like from Clevedon this morning:

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Looks very like something you’d pick up at the local DIY store! Lovely morning walk along the sea-front, with fresh air and the promise of nice weather, although the colour of the sky further south and west gave cause for concern. We couldn’t resist the shadows on the water either:

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And the clouds over the pier looked good too.Image

In Clevedon we often seem to be at the division between two weather systems, and this leads to interesting sky and sea effects. No two days are ever quite the same, and that really keeps the photographers happy.

A couple of speedy boats were in the area, throwing some shapes, so we toasted ourselves in the sun and watched the show for a while. What a pleasurable way to spend some time!

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