This post is going to be short because I want people to take away one really simple yet important thing: it takes only a fraction of a second for a potential guest to judge us and decide whether we are a trustworthy, friendly, and real host. To conquer this first impression, we each absolutely need to have a professional portrait photo.
If you are running your vacation rental like a business (and not a lemonade stand) you should complete Stage 2 of Listing Site Independence and that includes getting a professional headshot of you (or the individuals on your team who interact with guests).
Not cropped images from a Bar Mitzvah ten years ago. A professionally staged business headshot. The scene can be casual, but it must be professional. How much will it cost? The cost of doing business. That's the cost.
You can search Google for a local photographer or ask friends for a recommendation. Schedule the photos for a morning or afternoon in your rental property. Not near your rental property? Have the photos taken in a nearby cafe or park.
We figured that the best way to communicate this message was to challenge a few Inner Circle members to do it themselves. We have shared their new portraits along with their advice about the photo experience below:
Hopefully you can see that these owners were once in the same position as you and are now better off, simply by committing to a best practice and pulling the trigger.
1. Donna Martinez of Sea Ranch Abalone Bay
Donna's Advice: I communicated with the photographer and explained how the photo would be used. I also explained what message I wanted my photo to convey (as a host). We took this photo in between events (the photographer, Amanda Saviñón, was busy helping at the DNC then off for vacation) so our window of time was just one day...one of the muggiest days in DC. So I'd also recommend you bring a change of clothes, for variety, and in case you perspire, a hand towel. I find that staying focused on the photographer and getting that great shot helps to over come the fear or possible embarrassment of a photo shoot in public venues.
2. Debi and Rob Hertert of Hosting Your Home
Debi and Rob's Advice: We chose a photographer who is an Airbnb host and a member of our Airbnb group. She is a family photographer and has a joyous upbeat attitude. Emily Andrews is one of those people that makes you feel good just being around her. If you have problems getting a good, natural picture of yourself like we do, then we recommend choosing someone like Emily who takes lots of photos of children. She teased, cajoled, and joked with us, snapping the shutter the whole time.
3. Amy Grant of Great Vacation Retreats
Amy's Advice: I have been putting off getting new photos for a while. It seemed so painful. I hate looking at myself, etc...but was inspired to just go for it when Matt posted this challenge. The hardest part was just setting up the appointment. I used a photographer that I knew took lifestyle photos after looking on a few different websites. It was probably not the nicest day to take outdoor photos but because I knew I needed them done we just went for it. It was quite windy so the 'hairstyle' that I planned didn't work and I also had to squint a lot because the sun was in my face for better lighting. Overall, it was definitely worth it. I might try taking them again in six months and maybe do some indoor photos as well.
4. Virág Vántora & János Kártik of Katona Apartments in Budapest
Virag and Janos' Advice: If you run a family business, don't be afraid to show your family members. It gives an added value as your future guests don't see you as a businessman/businesswoman but rather as a private person with similar life as they have. A huge portion of our guests are families and during their check-in when we meet them personally, they often comment on our kids. It happens sometimes that they even bring some tiny presents for them.
5. Matt of VRMB
Matt's Advice: You can never have enough of these portrait photos and if you find a good photographer (mine is the great Tarina Rodriguez) be sure to schedule future appointments. These photos are great for blog posts, freshening up your social media feeds, email signatures...etc. Also, when you go out with the photographer, be sure to have him or her take some impromptu photos (in addition to the 'staged' ones) that communicate who you are or what you're passionate about. Here are some of my 'outtakes' with my neighborhood's future community leaders...
Don't view portrait photos of yourself as optional costs. View them as necessary investments in your business, like the very roofs over your vacation rentals. Will portrait shots generate more bookings overnight? Probably not. But we have a hard time imagining a sustainable vacation rental business without them.
Have you gotten professional portrait shots and noticed the difference?
Feel free to share your views on the power of a good headshot in the comments area below...