Running a guesthouse

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More and more people are leaving the rat race in order to start their own business, and guesthouses are a popular choice. Running a guesthouse allows you to work from home and spend more time with your family, but what's it really like?


What to expect

Running a guesthouse is a different experience for everyone, but there are a few things you should be prepared for. You'll need to get up early every morning, give up your weekends and be a friendly and welcoming face at all times. Be prepared to lose a little bit of your privacy too, as you'll essentially be renting out rooms in your home to guests!

It's certainly a demanding business to take on, but a rewarding one. You can still have your own private living quarters, and because you're working in your own home you should feel far more relaxed. Although you will have to cater for your guests' needs, running a guesthouse is nothing like running a hotel, which brings us onto our next point.


What's the difference between a guesthouse and a hotel?

Size is one of the biggest differences. Guesthouses typically only offer a handful of rooms, whereas hotels can have hundreds. Hotels are also able to provide more facilities, as they have the room to do so. Guesthouses, at most, will have a bar, restaurant for guests only, and a shared living space.

The overall experience differs too. Travellers stay in guesthouses because they want to add a more personal touch to their stay; hotels on the other hand can sometimes feel cold and clinical, as all the bedrooms are the same and there's not much personality to them.

Moreover, guesthouses aren't open all hours, but hotels are. Business travellers often prefer to book hotels as they can check in at 3am, whereas guesthouses will usually close overnight. Guests who want to stay out late may be given a front door key to the guesthouse so they can still get to their room long after you have gone to bed. Others just employ a strict curfew.


Day to day jobs

If you're planning to run a guesthouse, you should ideally have a wide range of skills. Not only will you need to greet guests and show them around, you'll also have to clean, repair, cook, sort your accounts, manage your website, and deal with customer queries and complaints. Of course, if you're going into the business with a partner or members of your family, you probably won't need to be a jack-of-all-trades, but it does help.

Delivering great customer service is one of the most important aspects of your job, as no one will want to come back if you don't make them feel welcome. To get honest customer feedback, leave a guestbook in your rooms or at reception and encourage people to fill it in. This will give you a great idea of what you're doing right and what you need to change or improve.

Don't forget the digital side of your business, though. Your guesthouse needs its own website, complete with online booking system. A social media presence, such as a Facebook or Twitter page, can really help promote your business, especially during the dreaded off-peak season.


Location, location, location

We all know that location is everything, no matter what business you're in. Whether you want to run a rural or urban guesthouse, there are pros and cons to each location.


Rural pros:

  • Quieter surroundings
  • Less competitors nearby, especially hotels
  • Buildings/homes/surroundings tend to be more picturesque

Rural cons:

  • Can't charge as much as a guesthouse in a busy tourist destination
  • More pressure to serve dinner as well as breakfast, as fewer restaurants nearby
  • Unlikely people will 'stumble' upon your business, which may prove difficult during off-peak season

Urban pros:

  • Easier to find guests, which is important if you're just starting out
  • More nightlife nearby, so you won't be pressured to serve evening meals or have a bar
  • Preferred by business travellers - key for the off-peak season

Urban cons:

  • Might expect you to be open all hours like a hotel
  • Less attractive buildings
  • Hectic surroundings

Running a guesthouse isn't easy, but it can be a highly rewarding experience. You'll be responsible for making sure your guests have a great holiday, honeymoon, anniversary or birthday - and there aren't many nicer feelings than knowing you've made someone happy. Plus, once your business gets off the ground, you'll likely have far more time to spend with your family than you currently do. No more commuting, no more sitting at a desk all day. Every day will be different.