How to start an Airbnb business without owning property: 10 killer ways

Many people around the world are joining the vacation rental industry, and Airbnb in particular, but not all of them own properties. If you’re interested to start an Airbnb business without owning property, you may have thought that subletting is your only option, but there are actually many other ways to earn on Airbnb without owning any property.

Online data suggests that Airbnb business owners can earn close to or over $100,000 annually without owning any properties. Many people have asked me how to get involved with Airbnb and short term rentals, so to help you get started, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 ways to make money on Airbnb without owning property or no money, including options like co-hosting and starting a cleaning company.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to own property to earn with Airbnb. In most cases, you also don’t need a significant amount of capital to start an Airbnb venture. There are various smart and innovative ways to enter the vacation rental industry and establish a profitable business.

Each of my ten ways includes information and a list of pros and cons, as well as the earning potential. Let’s get going!

1. Airbnb Rental Arbitrage for the win!

This is by far my favourite strategy to get started with Airbnb without owning any property. I currently have two arbitrage units and we plan to get 12 more in 2023 due to how lucrative they can be. Arbitrage is only one of the many benefits of getting started with Airbnb’s.

In essence, rental arbitrage with Airbnb involves renting a property specifically to sublet it on vacation rental sites – with the owner’s permission of course! The basic premise is that the amount of income received should exceed the rent and the costs required to operate your business, such as cleaning, utilities, consumables for your guests, etc.

However, it’s important to be aware of local laws and regulations regarding subletting, and as mentioned, as well as obtaining permission from the landlord. It can be difficult to find a landlord willing to allow their property to be listed on Airbnb, but not impossible. Increasingly strict laws against subletting in some cities can make it harder to find a suitable property or location to focus on, but if you pass these hurdles, your all set!

What are the pros & cons of Airbnb arbitrage you might ask?


  • You need significantly less capital to get started in comparison to buying a property. We’ve hosted our first guests for as little as $5000 for high end units.
  • You get to make all the decisions about the business and how you treat guests, which is not always the case when you manage for others
  • 100% of the income from the property is yours after expenses, unlike in other strategies where you only earn a percentage of the profits
  • It is much easier to exit a rental contract than selling a property you own. You also have other options, like renting out the property to long term tenants or living there, if your Airbnb business doesn’t work out
  • You can use the property on empty nights or gift it to friends!


  • Local laws against subletting are getting stricter and more common, so the hunting ground is shrinking every day and hosting becomes harder
  • Finding a landlord that is willing to let you sublet their property can be a challenge, but not impossible. As with all things, appearance, perception and track record goes a long way.

Pro tip: Remember the golden rule – 2 bedroom units significantly outperform 1 bedroom units. Your mileage may vary with 4 bedrooms and up, but even 3 bedrooms work well. My preference is two bedroom units.

How much can you expect to earn with Airbnb rental arbitrage or subletting?

The biggest factors at play are location, size of property and the size of your portfolio. You should be aiming to make no less than $2000 per month in profits from each property, which is entirely doable in the United States. In places like South Africa, where I operate, an acceptable net profit amount is $1000 and up.

According to AirDNA, the leading tool to determine Airbnb property earning potential, the most lucrative areas in the United States for Airbnb arbitrage are Nashville, Jacksonville, New Orleans and Savannah. I know a host in Nashville with multiple properties and can attest to how lucrative they are.

2. Become a Short-term Rental Property Manager as a way to get started with Airbnb with no money

Another way to earn money through Airbnb without owning a vacation rental is by becoming a property manager. The vacation rental industry is expanding rapidly and with it, the need for individuals to manage short-term rental properties. Not only is there a growing demand for property managers, but the job also offers the benefit of flexibility in terms of working hours.

As a property manager, your main duties will include overseeing the day-to-day operations of the rental properties, such as coordinating cleaning and maintenance, responding to guest inquiries, and handling bookings. Additionally, you may be responsible for setting rental rates, marketing the property, and ensuring compliance with local laws and regulations and looking for ways to maximise the earnings for the host.

A key requirement would be to understand the legal requirements for the area you operate in, such as permits, taxes, etc. Many states in the US will require a real estate broker’s license or a property manager’s license, so best to find what applies to your situation before getting started.

What are some of the pros and cons of becoming a short-term rental property manager?


  • Your working hours are super flexible.
  • In order to get started, you won’t need your own property.
  • Your job can be made super simple through the use of vacation rental software.


  • You might need to jump through legal hoops to get licensed (if applicable) or further your education, which can be costly and time consuming.
  • You don’t have the final say of how to manage the listing – the owner always does.
  • Managing multiple rentals can be challenging and quite stressful.

How much can you expect to make as a short-term rental property manager:

According to online data available, as of December 2022, the average vacation rental manager earns $43,168, but the income range frequently fluctuates between $34,067 and $54,398.

It’s worth noting that as a property manager, you can expect to earn a percentage of the income generated by the properties under your management, rather than keeping 100% of the income as in the case of rental arbitrage. Most managers charge between 10% and 24%, depending on the level of service they offer.

3. Become a Co-host (alongside a normal host or as the primary host for someone else)

Co-hosting is another way to be involved in the short-term rental industry and shares many similarities with being a property manager. The main distinction is that co-hosts act more as an aid to a primary host rather than taking on a full management role. If you are new to the industry, co-hosting can be a great starting point, since you’ll often times work alongside a host. However, you will earn more if you are an experienced co-host that can assist rookie hosts 😊

As a co-host, your main responsibilities will include:

  • confirming reservations
  • communicating with guests
  • overseeing check-in and check-out
  • conducting property inspections (even remotely)
  • arranging for cleaning
  • arranging maintenance
  • restocking supplies for the unit
  • writing guest reviews


What are the pros and cons of becoming an Airbnb co-host?


  • Working hours are flexible and sporadic, mainly centered around check in and check out times
  • You don’t need any qualification or licenses to act as a co host
  • There are thousands of ways to connect with hosts looking for reputable co hosts, from Facebook groups to Airbnb sponsored avenues


  • It’s less profitable than being an actual host or doing something like arbitrage
  • You never have the final say – the host does
  • Your income will fluctuate, so plan accordingly. Some months will be low, with some VERY high


How much can you expect to make as an Airbnb or STR co-host?

Co-hosts usually charge 10-20% of the booking value, with some co-hosts earning as much as 25% if they take on the duties of the entire booking process, meaning the primary host can sit back and relax. If an Airbnb brings in $50 000 of revenue, you can expect to make between $5000 and $12 5000, depending on the percentage you charge.


4. Start an Airbnb Cleaning Service for Airbnb hosts

If you’re looking to start a new business in the short-term rental industry, consider starting an Airbnb cleaning service. With the growing popularity of Airbnb, the demand for cleaning services is high, so you should super high demand for your service.

As an Airbnb host myself, I cannot stress enough how valuable a good cleaner is. If you can provide this service reliably and consistently, you can make tons of money.

Before starting, it’s important to research the industry and familiarize yourself with industry standards and what other cleaning services are offering. Make sure to also research any state requirements such as insurance, licensing, and standard cleaning costs.

It’s crucial to take into account expenses such as cleaning supplies, equipment, labor, and marketing when considering starting an Airbnb cleaning service. By thoroughly researching and planning, you can establish a profitable cleaning service for Airbnb properties. Speed is also key, since most places have a check out of 10:00 and a check in between 14:00 and 15:00. And you will have to handle multiple properties, depending on the number of clients you have.

What are the pros and cons of start an Airbnb cleaning business?


  • High Demand for Services – Many Airbnb hosts often seek the help of external cleaning companies. And if you’re good, you’ll be inundated with work.
  • Lower Startup Costs – Starting an Airbnb cleaning service is less expensive compared to acquiring a vacation rental franchise or buying a property to launch as an Airbnb


  • It will be difficult to find jobs in the beginning. But, if you are good, this will soon turn into a pro.
  • Staffing Challenges – Finding a dependable team to run the cleaning business is essential.


What can you expect to make from starting an Airbnb cleaning business?

The average cleaning company charges about $120-$170 for a 4 hour cleaning slot. This will naturally vary by state. The average cleaner earns around $18 per hour, so this leaves quite a large profit margin. Naturally, you will either have to employ a manager, which will consume some of that difference, but even then, there is still a lucrative opportunity.

If you have 7-10 cleaners (and around 12 or more properties as clients) and one manager, you can easily net $5 000 a month. If you self manage those cleaners, you can count on at least double that as your net profit.

This one is definitely a way to get started with Airbnb’s without owning property en route to becoming a fully fledged Airbnb host yourself.


5. Launch an Airbnb Experience instead, which requires no property to get started on Airbnb

Making money without renting property can be done creatively through hosting an Airbnb Experience. Airbnb Experiences, which was launched by Airbnb in 2016, has provided hosts with a dependable income source in the five years since its inception. By becoming part of the program, you have the opportunity to offer guests a variety of experiences to book during their travels, such as a historic tour, cooking lesson, or art class. If you have a particular interest or skill, this can be a fantastic option instead of hosting traditional stays. And anyone can partake in this initiative, not just hosts who have property on the platform!

What are the benefits and drawbacks of launching an Airbnb experience?


  • The ability to share your passion for your craft or city, whilst getting exposure to thousands of willing travelers that would be hard to market to on your own
  • Now that Airbnb has introduced Online Experiences, you can do some of them from the comfort of your own home.


  • You need to be well versed in your area of offering and close to expert level
  • You might need to apply for additional licenses and permits, depending on the state and type of experience you have on offer.

How much can you expect to make from hosting Airbnb Experiences?

You can expect to earn between $25-$125 per guest. There are online experience hosts who do quite well, since they are not really limited by in person numbers and there are many hosts that claim around $20 000 a month in earnings from using the online method.


6. Become a professional Airbnb photographer for other people’s properties

Every single Airbnb host needs great pictures for their listings. Not all of them know it, which means there’s always work to be done in this regard. And this means lots of opportunity for willing Airbnb photographers!

You can either list with Airbnb directly (via their website) and they’ll put you in front of hosts or you can advertise your services on sites such as Fiverr or Upwork.

Naturally you’ll need some experience in interior photography, so sharpen up those skills before applying.

What are some of the pros & cons of becoming a photographer for Airbnb listings?


  • You set your own times
  • Usually photographers are paired with hosts in their area, but there is definitely travel involved, sometimes even internationally, depending on your skill level.


  • Getting start is costly, if you don’t already have all the necessary equipment.
  • If you fail to sign up with Airbnb, you will have to rely on your own marketing skills

How much can you expect to make photographing Airbnbs?

The most reliable source I found was a Glassdoor breakdown, which stated that an Airbnb photographer’s pay is on average $51 per hour and that you can expect to earn around $50,000 per year on average.

7. Become an Airbnb Listing optimizer

Writing great titles and other assets for Airbnb listings is a great way to make some money without owing a single Airbnb property. Most hosts have realised by now that great titles and descriptions attract a lot more guests, so they’ve become willing to pay good money to get this right. The best place to find work is Fiverr and Upwork and through referrals.

Mainly you’ll be writing great titles that make the property stand out, descriptive and accurate descriptions, other assets for guests to make their stay seamless.

What are some of the pros and cons of being an Airbnb optimizer/copywriter?


  • Once again, you choose when you work and this is very flexible
  • You don’t need any cash to get started in this business


  • You’ll need to market yourself, which might be challenging
  • You will need to study a lot of your competition and also the art of copywriting.

How much can you make as an Airbnb optimizer/copywriter?

Great copywriters can earn up to $90 000 and if you ONLY focus on Airbnb’s, there’s no reason why you cannot earn at least $60 000.

9. Become an Airbnb Consultant

If you’re seasoned in managing Airbnb properties and would like to assist others in growing their business, you might consider becoming an Airbnb consultant. Along with having practical experience in managing short-term rentals, it’s essential for you to have a strong marketing acumen to establish your personal brand. This a killer way to get starting with Airbnb’s without owning property and can be paired with many of the other methods as you grow in experience.

As a consultant for starting and running an Airbnb, you will aid hosts in enhancing their bookings, boosting their ranking, and potentially buying and selling short-term rentals. To stand out and be successful, it’s crucial to choose a specific niche. This can be achieved by conducting thorough research and assessing your own skills before deciding on the services to offer. The niche might be the area or the fact that you focus on tiny homes or high-end designer units in Vegas!

Becoming an Airbnb consultant has both advantages and disadvantages.


  1. Low initial investment required for starting.
  2. Opportunities to establish yourself as a specialist in the field.


  1. Prerequisites such as previous experience as an Airbnb host.
  2. The need for self-motivation and initiative.

Earnings Potential for an Airbnb Consultant

The average annual salary for an Airbnb consultant in the United States is $60,580. A senior consultant typically earns an hourly rate of $80, which is 62% higher than the average for the US.


10. Solve the needs of Airbnb hosts

This one can take many forms, since there are many needs to solve. A few that spring to mind are the consumables that hosts need, like wine, coffee, tea and sugar, along with toilet paper, etc. The other is digital products for new hosts, like checklists & how to guides. There are some many physical things that new and experienced hosts require that you can provide that can lead to a lucrative Airbnb business without ever owning a single property.

What are some of the pros and cons of solving the needs of Airbnb hosts?


  • You can be creative and come up with a wide variety of solutions
  • You can make a lot of money from different revenue streams, some of them totally passive, like digital products


  • You will have to market youself. Physical products will have a lower barrier to entry, since digital products will require a track record
  • You might need start up capital for physical products

How much can you expect to make from solving the everyday needs of Airbnb hosts?

This one is hard to measure, but I know someone that makes around $80 000 a year from providing wine, linen (for sale), chocolates and handwritten cards for hosts.


Summary for how to start an airbnb business without owning property:

Making money through Airbnb has become increasingly accessible. It’s possible to be successful as an Airbnb entrepreneur without owning or managing a single rental property. Regardless of prior experience, there are career opportunities available, ranging from a side job to a full-time career. While some strategies may require more effort and investment, a decent income can be achieved through hard work and determination.


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