Getting your beach hut hire business off the ground can be stressful, frustrating and hugely rewarding. Yes, all three, at the same time! Those months and days up to greeting your first guests can be a rollercoaster. I remember them fondly now but haven’t forgotten the nerves and anxiety too.
When it comes to information about beach huts and beach hut hire, it’s sparse. A quick google and you’ll soon find yourself quickly going round in circles whilst beach hut hire owners can legitimately feel protective of their own businesses.
I’ve been extremely lucky to have made some great friends through beach hut hire and there have been times we’ve all leant on each other for support. I wouldn’t have had such success without that support and advice. However, in those early days, it was difficult to work out what to do first and how to mitigate the things that could go wrong. Simple things such as best way to cover a day bed in oilcloth took time whilst I also had to work out fundamentals such as where to spend my limited time.
So if you are just starting out or even just starting to think about hiring out your beach hut then here are my 15 tips to get your beach hut hire off the ground.
15 Tips to Get Your Beach Hut Hire Off the Ground
#1 Work out your “Why”
As with any decision, I think it’s really important to work out your why. Knowing this will shape your approach to your beach hut hire business and keep you motivated.
It’s important, to be honest at this stage. Is your heart in it or are you merely doing this to cover your yearly costs as a necessity? Do you enjoy speaking to people and being part of their summer memories?
At the same time, knowing “why” will help set some goals and create your vision. For example, if you are thinking of just covering costs, then this will help drive your finance/budget plan and the minimum number of dates to make available.
This is individual to you and your family and there is no wrong answer. Take the time up front to be clear about your goals and you are more likely to achieve them.
#2 Identify your niche
The location and position of your beach hut may be a prime factor in determining your ideal guest. The size of your beach hut and outside space may lend itself to families. Or if you’ve already decorated in a particular style, it may be ideal for couples looking for a romantic escape or celebration. Whilst choosing to focus on dog owners may not be ideal if your beach hut is not on a year-round dog-friendly beach.
Once you’ve identified your ideal customer, spend some time thinking about specifics and who they are. I’d recommend thinking of a friend or someone you know who fits this bill or even creating an imaginary one!
You will want to focus your marketing and contents to fit the niche you’ve chosen. It’s important that you understand who they are and what they value, so don’t miss this vital step out.
#3 Ensure you have covered the basic contents required
Having hired different beach huts over the last few years, basic contents can mean different things to different people.
The ability to make hot drinks and/or basic hot food is essential. So a gas stove, spare gas and kettle should be on your list (I’d strongly recommend having spare gas stoves available as they do tend to occasionally give up!). Cups, cutlery, plates, tin opener and bottle opener should also be on that list. Make sure you don’t forget those all important cleaning up products too!
However, if you’ve worked out your niche then you do need to think about what they would expect as standard and how this may impact your list of basic contents and subsequently your pricing. For me, this meant adding basic dog accessories (bowl and poo bags) to save guests bringing them and adding in family games and children’s books as standard.
You may also wish to think about those days where guests may be forced to spend a day indoors when sheltering from the rain. My previous blog on what happens if the weather is bad may help prompt some ideas.
#4 Be different – create your wow
Yes, you could create the same look as every other beach hut hire and yes you could put in the basic contents to save money. However, do you think your guests will remain loyal to you and return year after year? Or will they choose a beach hut hire that merely has a date available meaning you have to work harder each year to fill up your dates?
Make sure you budget your own style of furnishing and accessories in from the start and into your pricing too.
I have to admit that I received some negative comments from other owners when I first launched my beach huts re the contents and furnishings I was adding . They couldn’t understand why I would put in such lovely items when the beach hut would be hired out.
I’d recommend sticking to your vision and don’t be swayed at this key stage. If you understand your niche and clear about your vision, then stay true to it.
If in doubt then remember that being distinctive can have its benefits over and above creating trust and loyalty with your guests. There are national beach hut of the year competitions and you may find you attract some press attention due to your style too.
#5 Pricing and accounting for income
If you read an earlier blog on how much does it cost to hire a beach hut, you’ll know prices range from £15 up to the dizzy heights of £325. Don’t be tempted to start too low as this tends to reflect the contents of a beach hut and the condition of the beach hut itself. Work out your recurrent costs and average bookings per year as a start then work out what you think your ideal customer will pay too. But do not forget to add on the time you will also spend managing the beach hut hire (or find a way to do it quicker or through automation).
Remember not to forget to add on the time you will also spend managing the beach hut hire (or find a way to do it quicker or through automation). Most people underestimate this.
Finally, make sure you don’t forget about working out how to account for the income and expenditure from hiring out your beach hut. The tax man will want to know about it.
If you are hiring out just one beach hut and have not other rental income, you should be able to treat this as rental income. It’s unlikely to be over the tax-free value too. However, as everyone has individual circumstances, I won’t try and cover this in-depth subject here or provide personal tax advice (despite being an accountant).
Do seek professional advice and have appropriate records in place. It’s could be a costly fine if you don’t.
#6 Get professional photographs taken
I’m afraid in this case, appearance really is everything. Good pictures (and videos) will sell your beach hut for you.
If you aren’t a dab hand with a DSLR camera already, then I’d recommend hiring a professional as soon as possible. You’ll need high-resolution images for your website and if you plan to enter competitions, they’ll be invaluable.
Whilst I’d say not to scrimp on this one, then at the very least take your time when taking your own photographs. I’d also suggest downloading an app called Snapseed which helps adjust key features (and a fab blur lens function). I use this on Instagram – a lot!
#7 Set up your own website
I know several wise people who would say that if you don’t have a website then you don’t exist. I’d have to agree. My own website now attracts around 1,200 hits per week, with over a third of those visitors finding me organically. In simple terms, that means someone is using a search engine and ends up on my website.
Now I know it sounds complicated but there are simple and inexpensive ways to do so. You only need to ‘google’ how to set up a website to find hundreds of articles on how to set up free WordPress and Wix websites.
I’d personally recommend WordPress and I chose to have the basics set up for me to then build upon (The Cheerful Lime). Again this was a personal choice and the fact that I wanted a WooCommerce store set up on the website too.
#8 Ensure your guests can check dates and book online
Ever tried to get a group of friends together in the middle of summer? It’s difficult to arrange dates at the best of times, but in summer you have to negotiate holidays too.
In my first year of running a beach hut hire, guests would message or email requesting dates and I found myself going back and forward wasting their time providing dates and availability. Throw in timing differences (not everyone is at their laptop on the same time) and having to check with other people and it can be even more chaotic and one booking may take several emails, messages or calls.
Multiple that by the summer holiday dates (42 bookings) and it’s a huge time zapper and at risk of mistakes! Not surprising really, as I just didn’t have the information readily available for people to check online.
Not that I think I need to stress the point but I frequently get bookings very late at night or outside normal working times via the website. More than repaying the time taken to set up. Need I say more?
There are a number of plugins available for WordPress that will help you manage this (and free versions too). From experience, I’d suggest starting simple and making sure the basics are in place.
If the thought of this terrifies you, you could think about paying someone a one-off fee to set up. I’ve personally used People Per Hour, which allows you to post a job and receive quotes/bids for the work.
#9 Work out how/who will clean and time for deep cleans
No matter how good your guests are, there will be that one stubborn stain or bit of sand on the floor that gets missed as guest leaves. If you have a gas cooker then you’ll also want to ensure that the gas has been switched off and for one of my beach huts, I know the doors can be tricky to close. Whilst I know some other beach hut hires don’t have a daily clean, I wouldn’t ‘recommend this approach.
The question is then whether you will be cleaning and/or checking in on the beach hut yourself or will you source someone to do so? Where you live in relation to your beach hut may be a key factor in this decision but don’t undervalue your own time when making that decision.
I also ensure that regular deep cleans are undertaken (those teapots and cups do need a good clean along with rugs and cushions). Schedule this in pre your busy season starting and at the end along with winter preparation and you’ll be fine. I strangely quite enjoy doing these myself as give a chance to spend some time in the huts and evaluate how they are setup.
#10 Ask for help from your family and friends
Don’t be afraid to do this very early on. Make sure you family and friends know what you’re doing and that they are raving fans! Those odd likes, shares and comments on a Facebook post do go a long way. It will be invaluable in getting your name out to others.
I often have friends using our beach huts and the support they’ve given has generated sales, over and over again. I promise you, that they will love being part of your journey (and great to bounce ideas off of too!).
#11 Find out where your customers are and mingle
Social media can be daunting. There are so many different channels. Facebook, facebook groups, Instagram, Instagram stories, Snapchat, twitter and YouTube, just to name a few.
But how do you cover all of them? It may surprise you when I say you don’t.
Remember when you worked out what your niche was? Well which social media channels is that niche using now? Pick 2 or 3 and focus your efforts here to start with.
Don’t get complacent as trends change but you have to start somewhere. Don’ worry about numbers (likes or followers). Instead focus on how engaged they are and whether they are booking with you.
Be friendly and be yourself. But most importantly be patient. It will happen.
#12 Read your guest books and respond to ideas or suggestions
Especially when you first open! You’ll also be surprised how many people don’t wish to complain or make a suggestion. That good old British culture seems to kick in, so make sure you proactively ask for feedback. Then act on it.
I personally road test all of our beach huts with friends or regular guests when they open and actively seek their detailed feedback.
In the last two weeks, I’ve taken on board feedback from one guest re a lock sticking. No-one else had mentioned this but must have struggled with the lock too. Having tried it myself, it clearly did need some work to stop sticking and has now been replaced. Along with guest books that are checked every day, each guest also receives an email one-day post visiting. This asks for feedback and comments and is my lifeline in spotting any issues early that may require some ‘maintenance’.
Along with guest books that are checked every day, each guest also receives an email one-day post visiting. This asks for feedback and comments and is my lifeline in spotting any issues early that may require some ‘maintenance’.
#13 Be responsive and ensure you are contactable for “emergencies”
You know what it’s like, you’ve grabbed five minutes to get through some items on your to-do list and you want to tick it off. There is nothing worse than making a phone call to a business or dropping a message only to wait days for a response to come back. 9 times of out 10, you’ll find they will have booked elsewhere by then. I know I do.
Whilst no-one expects you to be available 24×7, there are some things you can do to help with this. For example, you can put an automatic message on facebook to respond to all messages between certain times. This can merely be an indication of when you can get back to them. Or you might want to point to information on your website that is frequently requested. You could also ensure that you have a suitable voicemail on any telephone number that is advertised. Do research the options that you have around this.
As I work during the day, I’ve personally opted to employ a virtual assistant. They access and respond to facebook messages and will also take calls during day time hours. As the information on the website has grown, calls and messages have reduced. However, I saw the virtual assistant support having a dual purpose. For me, this would also that if there was ever an emergency at the beach huts, a guest will never be forced to leave a message. They would be answered the first time.
I learnt this quickly during my first year when there was the one call that came in from a guest at beach hut and it took me an hour to call back as I was tied up at work. Not a good experience for that guest and whilst extremely rare, I wanted to make sure this never happened again. That one wait for a response could ruin a day out for your guests. No matter how small the issue was (operating the gas stove is a frequent one!), make sure you have plans in place to be able to answer those very infrequent ’emergency calls’.
So please do make sure you have plans in place to be able to answer those very infrequent ’emergency calls’. Your reputation may rely on this.
#14 Speak to and look after your neighbours
Before you start to hire out your beach hut, I’d strongly recommend letting your neighbours know. If you are targeting families and they are a quiet couple who spend the summer at their hut, they may not entirely welcome your new venture.
Spend a bit of time, explaining why you are hiring out your beach hut. Do also make sure you let them have your emergency contact details. The fact you are being considerate will go a long way in removing any fears that they may have.
#15 Have fun and enjoy
You’ve put all the hard work in, so do take time out to enjoy. That could be remembering to book out time for yourself and family/friends. Or just taking time out to remember how far you’ve come.
It will be easy to focus on the negatives and odd hiccup if they do crop up. But remember the day-to-day guests who will love your beach hut and may not be feeding back their fab memories. My top tip would be to keep a ‘happy file’ of pictures from guests, great comments and reviews. Pull them out if your having a bad day and remind yourself why you do it. It’s a guaranteed pick me up.
My top tip would be to keep a ‘happy file’ of pictures from guests, great comments and reviews. Pull them out if your having a bad day and remind yourself why you do it. It’s a guaranteed pick me up and well, who doesn’t love a beach hut!