A Side Job for Neat Freaks: Make $25 an Hour Cleaning Vacation Rentals

If you’re like me, you don’t relish the idea of cleaning someone else’s home. But cleaning vacation rentals — beautiful spaces typically kept to a high standard — is a more enjoyable, easy and fast way to make money a few days each week or month.

I first discovered this opportunity when a neighbor asked for my help cleaning and keeping an eye on his vacation rental while he was away. Two mornings’ worth of work and a couple of days standing by as an emergency contact put a relatively easy $200 in my pocket (and I never even heard from the guest).

About 56% of American families who traveled in 2014 opted for private vacation homes, according to an American Express Study. And homeowners have responded: Look in almost any city or small town and you’ll find alternative accommodations offered through sites like Airbnb, VRBO and others.

But one of the biggest homeowner peeves is how much work goes into cleaning and preparing their spaces for guests. It can be tiring to prepare a home or apartment many times a week. And that’s where you, as a trustworthy and thorough support person, come in.

How to Clean Vacation Rentals

If you’re not a “detail person,” this gig probably isn’t for you. You need to be thorough, detailed and have an impeccable eye for ambience.

Those of us who become giddy thinking about a perfectly folded linen or finely chilled bottle of wine to welcome a guest (read: “born host”) will find this work enjoyable and rewarding. It’s not the same as cleaning your own home. It’s more of a mix between concierge and maid services.

But unlike hotel guests, who may leave a space in any shape they wish, guests who book through a rental site can be reviewed publicly by the owner on the site they used to book their stay. Because of this feature, you can usually expect to see a much cleaner and more orderly space.

You’ll need to be able to do the basics well:

  • Clean and tidy the whole space
  • Lift or slide rugs and furniture into place
  • Wash and fold all linens, towels and blankets
  • Dust, vacuum, mop, scrub and sanitize all surfaces and floors
  • Clean and put away dishes
  • Take out the trash and recycling

The details are crucial.

  • Make the home cobweb and dust free — everywhere. If you think to clean the tops of doors, the wiring and cables behind the TV, or under books on a shelf, you’re probably a good fit for this work.
  • Add concierge-like touches. From specially folded toilet paper to perfect bed service and a thoughtful welcome basket, guests have come to expect these details in vacation rentals.
  • Have a strict “No Hair Left Behind” policy. No guest wants to see a former guest’s hair in the sink or tub!

How to Get Started

Unlike the startup costs and time commitment of cleaning foreclosures, cleaning private vacation rentals requires no expense to start other than a sturdy pair of cleaning gloves.

And finding work opportunities only takes a little bit of effort. Here’s how to track down your first client:

1. Inquire on Social Media

More than likely, one of your friends or connections has a rental or knows someone who does. Be proactive and post your availability and interest in stepping in as a support or cleaning person for weary homeowners

2. Don’t Contact Owners on Airbnb, VRBO or Other Vacation Rental Sites

While it’s not necessarily illegal to contact owners directly through the listings’ contact forms, I’d strongly discourage it. You might be violating a site’s policies by soliciting third party offers directly through their platform.

In addition, you might annoy owners, who use the contact forms to receive bookings and inquiries, not business service solicitations.

3. Use Vacation Rental Sites as Search Tools

Research listings in your area, and then do a little sleuthing to find contact information for the owners. If an owner has listed a social media account or direct email address, it’s OK to contact them directly that way.

If not, do your research. Owners are in the business of marketing their spaces and often have a good online and social media presence — making it easy to get in touch with them through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.

Offering Your Services

Keep your initial message simple. Let the owner know you’re interested in being an additional resource to clean and prepare her rental space. Offer your references and experience — former work in any service industry counts.

Ideally, you’ll be using the owner’s cleaning supplies, and you’ll want to make sure they have a washing machine and dryer on site. This is side work for quick cash, so avoid a gig where you’ll need to purchase anything or leave the home to go to a laundromat.

How Much Should You Charge?

For studios and small apartments, start at $75 to $100 and expect to take three to four hours. For large spaces, like a house or big apartment, $200 or more for a six- to seven-hour day is reasonable. If you do the math, this works out to around $25 an hour.

If you’d like, add on emergency contact support to your services — and negotiate the additional cost. If you’ll need to drive over to the rental at 4 a.m. to help a locked-out guest, your time’s worth a fair price.

Line up this work for a few days a month for extra retirement cash or to boost your vacation savings account, or pick up enough clients to have a regular, weekly gig. Either way, cleaning vacation rentals is a realistic way to put some extra money in your pocket while working independently in beautiful spaces.

Tricia Mool is a freelance writer, blogger and copywriter who turned her favorite procrastination technique — cleaning — into quick cash. She writes on marketing, healthcare and education for Fortune 500 companies, startups and small businesses. Find her at TriciaMool.com and follower her on Twitter @teejaywrites.