Advice for Future Hostel Consultants

Dennis Pitcock
Written by Dennis Pitcock

So, you have skills but you don’t want to be tied down to one company, then you should consider becoming a freelance consulting. Here you can hop around to ‘mostly non-competiting’ hostels and use your expertise to solve their problems. Hostels are always looking for an outside perspective, and if you are open to alternative payment options, such as free accommodation and/or food & beverage for work, travel compensation, and perhaps some pay  you can keep a traveling lifestyle while conquering challenges, building yourself professionally, and maybe saving some dough.

Still on the fence? Well I don’t blame you. It is hard to leave a cushy job for the unknown. If you are still considering or especially if you decided to take the plunge, consider this advice for newbie hostel consultant. It could make your decision, or your life, lots easier.

It’s all about the marketing

Many, and I repeat, many of the hostels will need your help with their marketing, but this won’t be your first challenge. You’ll have to market yourself.  Which can be real difficult. As a freelancer, consider your job 70% marketing yourself and 30% doing the work. You have to build your own brand around you. First off, you have to showcase your expertise. What makes you the right candidate for them? You don’t have KPMG or McKinsey & Company to validate your skills by hiring you, so you need to get the message out there that you have the skills they need.

You can do this by giving them a teaser. Give them enough information they need to come to you for more. If you were a software company, you’d be teasing them with a freemium version. You can create content on a blog or LinkedIn and then share it across social media. People need to see what you know, and get a taste for free. A super elaborate book by Gary Vaynerchuk called “Jab, Jab, Right Hook” has been written on exactly this. In fact, this is the main motivation why I build HostelTrends to begin with, and why we are constantly looking for contributors too.

And networking

Showcasing your expertise is not enough, you need to network the hell out of yourself. Find the events, and attend them. Popular events to consider are the annual Hostelworld conference, Hostelmanagement un-conferences, Hostel Skills Conference, regional hostel staff parties, StayWyse events, and more. Give and get as many business cards as possible while having polite conversations. Try to write down their biggest challenges on the back, and send a follow up after. Finally, add everyone on LinkedIn.

The industry is rather small so this could be easy, however at these events, everyone, from the owner of a small hostel to the managing directors of the biggest chains love to let loose. If  you can let lose too, you’ll have plenty of opportunity. You might have the mind for it, but try keeping up with some of the heads of Hans Brinker, Beds and Bars, or Clink. Many of them started out small, like everyone else, and drank themselves to success, one beer and one guest at a time. They may be older, but they still got it. You might have trouble remembering it all and your liver WILL hate you.

Track  your conversations

As you meet potential clients, and offer up some advice in natural conversation, you will find  yourself repeating the same advice over and over. This information that you repeat is what will make the perfect content. As you get it all out. Honestly, it is better to get it all out then lock it inside. This is how you proclaim your domain expertise. The more you share, the stronger your brand and reputation is.

A rule of thumb is there is no low-picking fruit. A client will not pay you for an answer you have templates somewhere. Hostel owners and operators are quite resourceful and can find that answer themselves. The trick is to build their confidence in you, but giving them that answer, and have them come to your for more. If you start getting challenges you do not have a solution for, then you’re on to something. This is where you can shine, where  you can devise a solution and where you can grow professionally. You must give them confidence in yourself in order to do that. Also, when you have to do more work, you can make more money. Don’t forget that.

Build an expertise

All hostels consultants are a jack of all trades, but you’ll have to pick one to master.  Take digital marketing for example. There is the basics, such as how to build long tail SEO and build links while sharing your content. Then there is specifics, like which cohorts should you target in a Facebook advertising campaign, or which keywords, what time of day, what geographic location should you put in special SEM bids? Not to mention how to you measure the success of it all? This is where expertise can come in.

Are you great at WordPress? Then you can set up their sites. Do you know the insides and outs of the OTA backends and extranet? Then specialize in revenue management. Are you an awesome people person that turns a group  of people into a well oiled machine, then take the HR and operations specialist route. The sky is the limit, but it’s important to carve your niche within a niche.

Share the wealth

Now you have some expertise, and clients coming at you for multiple work, you’ll find that you don’t want to get involved in all that is coming in. So, send them to other hostel consultants who specialize in areas  you don’t. In a perfect world, they would send some to you too. If you don’t believe in karma, see if they are willing to give you a commission or compensate you somehow else for the lead. You never know.

Learn your numbers

You have to back everything with numbers. Reports. You have to source data that can give you some projections and all. HVS is good here. Tourism reports are important. On top of this all, you have to do in excel what they cannot do, and I find many hostel owners that are fancying a consultant are actually pretty smart. Know how to use pivot tables. Even better, know how to go beyond excel. Learn how to set up a database and do SQL queries. Perhaps one of these tools can help. Also Duetto might be valuable, see if you can get inside and learn it.

There are many quality courses online to learn data science and the programming basics. Forums too. Perhaps contribute to an open source program too build these skills. This will give you the quality a seasoned hostel owner would desire, and pay you accordingly.


Consider the world outside hostels

Many other small and medium sized companies are facing similar challenges and are open for an outside perspective.  Just look at the hospitality industry alone. Boutique hotels and bed and breakfast establishments are finding a hard time to market their direct bookings as the OTAs including AirBnb keep growing. Apps like Spotluck are bringing yield/revenue management capabilities to industries like restaurants. The tours and activities industry barley does any marketing online compared to accommodation. All this provides excellent opportunities for you to source some leads. Don’t be afraid to test those waters too.

Now, do you still want to be a hostel consultant? Need a place to showcase you expertise?

About the author

Dennis Pitcock

Dennis Pitcock

Dennis jumped into the hostel industry after a summer backpacking Europe in 2008. He went from being a guest to a manager within weeks, and currently does consulting for large and small hostels alike in 3 continents. Prior, he worked in eCommerce, so he has passion for the tech side of the industry and is now deeply entrenched in the hostel and activities industry.

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