This time, I thought we’d have a tongue in cheek look at the life of a B&Ber and smash down some of those myths…
You’ve got the day to yourself
The B&B trade is one which is often looked at jealously by others who dream of running a B&B in their retirement, or perhaps quitting the 9-5 rat race for a more sedentary lifestyle.
Not on your nelly!
You’ve heard of that expression where you look like a graceful swan but under the water, you’re paddling like crazy just to stay afloat? Well that’s the life of a B&Ber. We can go frantically from job to job with never enough hours in the day.
I’m surprised how often guests go out for the day saying “have a nice day” and then return saying “have you had a nice day? What have you been up to? Enjoying the sunshine?”.
The reality of the situation is probably that the second you left, I started cleaning your room and the other four or five that were also dirty. This includes making or changing beds, cleaning every inch of the rooms, replacing items, and generally running up and down two flights of stairs around a thousand times.
At some stage in between that I have to grab some lunch, usually made by Julian who hasn’t been idle either as he’s been clearing the dining room and relaying tables, putting everything in and out of two dish washers, cleaning the kitchen, emptying bins, hoovering the bedrooms for me and doing a final dust and check of them and keeping me topped up with coffee.
I go to grab a shower and get changed with just enough time to start clearing some emails, bookings and so on before the next check-ins arrive. In between chatting to guests and providing them with drinks and cakes, there’s the baking, breakfast prep, website updates, accounts, and all sorts of odds and sods and general bits of paperwork to do in case I get bored.
The huge bonus of having a B&B is that in theory, once all the guests are checked in, your evenings are your own to enjoy (in between answering the phone, check and respond to emails, updating social media, preparing our evening meal, walking the dog and all the other things we do in our “spare time”).
In summary, no we don’t take it easy during the day, but yes we do love what we do and wouldn’t change it for the world.
You’re making lots of money
I don’t know why anyone would think there’s much money in a B&B. The hours are long and the pay is lousy. I earn less now than I have at any time in my life. Admittedly, most expenses come out of the business as it’s also my home so in theory, the business pays for my mortgage, utilities, phone, food and so on, and a calculation is done by my accountant at the end of the year to sort things out re our tax.
I think a lot of people don’t consider all the hidden costs of running a B&B.
Let’s start with the obvious costs – laundry, consumables like toilet rolls and teabags, electricity, water, food etc are all pretty easy. Don’t forget that the heating has to be on well before guests arrive, fresh food may have to be bought just in case of bookings, guests may leave their lights on while they are out all evening.
Then there’s the not so obvious costs – like advertising, commission to third party websites, VAT, tax, annual PAT testing of electrical equipment, TV license, music licenses, business rates, fire equipment and six monthly checks, annual alcohol license, insurance and so on, most of which we have to pay even without a single guest walking through the door.
We haven’t touched on maintenance, replacing throws, cushions, décor, repainting, new furniture, window cleaning, carpet cleaner, accountant, hanging baskets, Netflix, Readly, the list goes on and on.
To keep a place looking top notch where everything always looks pristine and brand new takes work and money. Listing some of those things off the top of my head, I’m realizing why we don’t have much free money to spend and no pensions!
Overall though, it’s a great life. It’s good to be your own boss and make your own decisions and there’s more flexibility than a regular job. If we have no guests for a week and fancy shutting and going away for a few days then we can. We also get more downtime over winter (in between catching up with everything you didn’t do in the summer, refurbishing, redecorating and deep cleaning everywhere).
You know everything about everything
You would be surprised what we get asked. A B&B owner is expected to know pretty much everything Google does but also a little bit more…
What attractions there are, if there’s parking, opening times, when the launderette does service washes, where you can buy dried prunes, the nearest car wash open on a Sunday, what live music is on tonight in town, which bus to get to somewhere, how much a taxi would be, how to mend the TV when it’s not working, how to stop a tap when it’s stuck on, which B&B we’d recommend in Oxford, the best way to get to Bath from Torquay, what the weather will be like on Friday, the benefits of visiting the Lake District over Yorkshire, which restaurants serve good vegan food…the list is endless.
Over the years we have become extremely knowledgeable, particularly over subjects like our B&B and the things in it, and the local area, attractions and restaurants. But Google is our fallback and trusty helper on many an occasion. Generally, with a bit of digging we can answer most questions from a guest.
I suppose the question we’d ask is why for some things people don’t look there first? Maybe it’s because we come over as such friendly, approachable people that it’s easier to ask us, or if it’s to do with the locality, maybe it’s expected that we would know. We hate to disappoint guests so no matter what the question we always try and be as helpful as possible.
So there you have it, three things that you may have thought about a B&Ber and don’t now.
Don’t forget, I run training courses for budding B&Bers so if I haven’t totally put you off and you’re up for an exciting new challenge, why not get yourselves booked on my next course? www.training.the25.uk