I get asked by a lot of new CouchSurfers “How do you get hosts? I’ve had a profile for weeks, I send out requests, but people just aren’t accepting them, or even answering them sometimes”.
Over a beer or two, I usually give them a bit of a brain dump on what it takes to have a CouchSurfing profile that gets you noticed.
In an effort to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to save breath next time I’m trying to hustle a free beer, I’ve decided to share my knowledge here.
To be a successful CouchSurfer, you have to get yourself noticed. Simple enough right? It means you have to put your best foot forward with your profile.
Let people know what it is that makes you uniquespecial awesome.
That’s why every profile has the prompts:
How I Participate in CS
Music, Movies, Books
Types of People I Enjoy
Teach, Learn, Share
One Amazing Thing I’ve Seen or Done
Opinion on the CouchSurfing Project
It’s an opportunity for you to connect with people, with structure.
For the purpose of this post, I’m going to go ahead and assume you’re already a CouchSurfing member; if not, Why Haven’t You Joined CouchSurfing Yet? It’s really a fantastic way to experience the world, travelling, or at home.
The best advice I can give you is to be honest. As the official CouchSurfing tips say
Be honest and detailed. Not everyone will get your sense of humor, or like your opinion—but some people will love them. Show your personality so you can meet the members who will appreciate it. Remember that more information helps other members get to know you better.
List the languages you speak. It’s the first thing people search for when searching for a host, a common language. If you are a beginner at Spanish and want to practise, put that in your profile! I’ve had surfing experiences with people who were beginners in English, they were fantastic experiences, even if we spent a great deal of time just trying to understand each other.
Share your travel experiences, think of all the experiences and interests you would like to talk about. Maybe you haven’t done much yet? That’s ok too, just put down all your bucket list goals. If there’s something you could sit up talking about for a few hours, that’s what we want to see on your profile.
Photos are important. People want to see what you look like. They want to know that they can trust you. Pick photos that show you clearly. And have several. 12 is a good number to start. Show your face, your smile, and all the activities you enjoy or places you have travelled. Show your sociable-side. People want to know that you’re not awkward and weird, or crazy.
Use the connect with facebook feature to find your facebook friends also using CouchSurfing. Ask them nicely to write you a reference. Especially if you have slept at their place before, them yours, or you have travelled together. This is what we want to know. Are you easy-going as a guest, a host, or a travel companion?
Tips for the Surfer
As I said, photos are important. Your host wants to know that you will be social and share information about your travels and your country. They want to know you are open-minded and willing to communicate. Not just shut yourself in the spare room for 3 days.
Good photos will show your varied interests and that you know how to have a good time.
Unless you are going for a party-profile, where every host you stay with will be a party (it happens more often than not), maybe skip over the photos of you and your hot mates doing body shots. Oh ok… maybe just 1.
Personal Description. Give me a few paragraphs about you. Pimp yourself out. Maybe you were raised by wolves? Maybe you’ve travelled to all 7 continents? Maybe your day-job is a trapeze-artist? Whatever makes you awesome, this is where I want to hear about it.
References are the backbone of the entire CouchSurfing experience. But you don’t have to earn references through surfing experiences alone. Since it can be a bit of a catch 22 situation: No one wants to host a surfer with an empty profile and no references, and no one can get a host without references.
No friends? That’s ok too. Join up with the couchsurfing communities, I’m active in 79 groups… mostly around my interests. Where I look for bloggers, travel companions, language exchanges, volunteer opportunities, etc. Join the groups that interest you, and you will notice they have meetings and events. Start attending them to make friends within the community, and before long people will be writing you references.
Tips for the Host
The left hand side of your profile “Couch Information” is the part everyone is going to be reading. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fill out all the other sections too. All of the above details apply to you too.
It’s a good idea under your couch information to include a description and photo of the area where people will be sleeping. Will it be a double bed in a private room, a fold-out couch, a hammock, or floor space? Be specific. Let them know the rules of the house. Will they get a key? Their own blankets, pillows, and towels. Are they free to eat your food? That sort of thing.
Describe where your house is located (but don’t give a Google Map or address yet). Just let them know the neighbourhood. Is it in the city, rural, a village? on the beach? Near public transport? Most surfers are going to want a place that is easy to get to either on foot, or by public transport. They are going to want to know how much it’s going to cost to get there, and links to public transport options. If you live in a city, a small guide of what they can expect in terms of tourism will also help.
Some CouchSurfing locations have nothing in terms of tourism, but you can still get guests by having a really unique and fun profile. CouchSurfing is not just about the free accommodation, but about the people you meet. If you seem like an amazing person, and have a bit of an offbeat setup or experience, people will surf with you. Look at the cave surfing experience, or the yurt surfing experience.
he was hosting more than 15 people, sometimes 20, a month at his cave in the mountains of Petra. – CNN
People are looking for offbeat and unique experiences to brag about with their friends, and to understand another perspective.
“I don’t know even how he has internet access,” says Hoffer. “But they’ve cooked dinner together. Westerners have learned what it’s like to live in a yurt and tend livestock and the farmer has learned more about Westerners.” – Forbes
Let them know if you have pets. If you smoke. If they can smoke. If they will be able to find your house easily. If it’s difficult to find your front door (locked gate maybe). Your work/lifestyle. Your schedule for CouchSurfing and how much free time you will have.
For example, for a few years my career was as big priority, so I didn’t have a lot of time for the community. Instead of shutting down my profile and not using the site anymore, I just updated it with the information. I said I was hosting less (not every week), and put up a calendar showing people when they could ask for my couch. I still got plenty of requests. Honesty pays off. People stayed with me, and enjoyed the experience, even though they had to be more independent than they might normally expect.
I’ve been hosted myself by a wide-variety of people. Some let me show up at 3 in the morning, meet me with a quick chat, give me a metro-pass and a key, and head to bed. Others tell me I can only show up after they get home from work (between 6 and 8pm for example), I don’t get a key, and I have to leave the house at 7am each morning.
The world is a big and beautiful place, and you will meet all sorts of strange and wonderful people through CouchSurfing; if people are honest about their expectations, I think you will have no problem finding a host. Just be yourself, and make the effort.
List your interests and skills. I always search by keywords for hosts who enjoy cooking, and active travel (windsurfing, rock-climbing, etc). I want to be hosted by someone outdoorsy with passion who can take me out mountainbiking, hiking, or share their Grandmothers recipes with me. It’s these sort of interests and activities that make the experience all-the-more richer.
Now that you’ve followed all my tips on creating an awesome profile with interesting and clear pictures pimp your house out and start hosting people. If you don’t think you have the room, you’d be surprised. I’ve surfed the floor of houses where there was no furniture. People will request your “couch” if you are interesting enough. It’s all about the experience.
If you can afford to, get yourself verified. The little green tick on your profile lets people know that your address is where you say it is, and you are supporting the CouchSurfing community in the process.
Stay tuned for my tips on how to find yourself a host for your next trip. Or subscribe to the newsletter to get all my best content delivered right to your inbox once a month.
The more you take part in the community, the more you will enjoy it, and the easier you will find it to get hosts or great surfers. Update your profile, and have a go this week!
is a guy who gave up his career and mortgage for solo long-term travel. He travelled extensively across Europe for a year before heading onward to North Africa. He is now planning a trip to Latin America. As always there’s sure to be plenty of laughs, tears, and misadventures along the way.