You need plenty of varied skills to run a holiday let in France, from DIY to customer service skills – do you have what it takes?
1. PLANNING SKILLS
The business of finding a property in France, setting up a holiday let and managing bookings will proceed much more smoothly if you plan in advance. When it comes to finding the property certainly do research on areas and locations. It is wise to go property searching with a wish list that would suit guests – a parking space, a garden for families, a kitchen large enough for a table and a small shop in walking distance. But should also trust your intuition – many people just fall in love with their property!
2. BUSINESS SKILLS
Anyone who has run a business before will have transferable skills to make projections, create a business plan, handle budgets and manage finances. However, when deciding how to set up and register as a business specifically in France, you’ll still need to consult a French accountant or another expert to make sure you are clear and protected in issues such as inheritance, domicility and taxation. Running a business in France is simplified by the option of setting up as a micro-entreprise. This is essentially a form of self-employment and has the advantage of greatly simplified obligations as far as taxation and bookkeeping are concerned. When in France, it’s wise to also develop the skill of patience in dealing with red tape and maintaining a positive outlook. Bureaucracy may prompt some exasperation but always keep in mind what you also love about the French way of life!
3. CUSTOMER SERVICE SKILLS
You are in the hospitality business, so people skills and great customer service are essential. Be friendly and open to having people around and helping to make their holiday the best possible experience. Keep putting yourself in the place of your guests and remember how important their holiday is to them. Be willing to go the extra mile. Clear communication, tolerance and flexibility will help you keep any challenges in proportion. Sensitivity is also very important when interaction is required. Some guests love to mix and hope their children will make friends, while others want to maintain their privacy and peace. Your skill lies in sensing which is applicable when you first meet your guests.
4. DIY SKILLS
Practical DIY skills are very helpful. However, construction, plumbing and electrical work is best carried out by a qualified tradesperson. A knowledge of these trades will be useful when looking at quotes. If you want to keep your costs down, doing your own gardening, painting and decorating will help. The costs of annual maintenance can spiral if you can’t do at least some of the maintenance work yourself. If there is something you cannot do yourself, maybe look into the possibility of offering a friend or relative a holiday in return for their skills.
5. FRENCH LANGUAGE SKILLS
Building work usually involves buying materials at French stores and builders’ merchants, which demands a fast learning curve in the use of specialist French terms! Getting to grips with the French language is the best way of making your journey to becoming a successful business enjoyable and straightforward. Speaking French means you can assist guests, deal with tradespeople and integrate with the community; combining a business move with an enhanced quality of life. To improve your skills, join a class in the UK or France, take an immersion course or try other methods of learning online (www.michelthomas.com or www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french). Even if your accent never seems like a native one, try to drop your self-consciousness and fear of mistakes, grasp the nettle and give your skills a go. It’s not accuracy but effective communication that is key! Locals will appreciate your efforts – learning the language will be time well spent. A knowledge of the language will also help enormously when filling in essential paperwork. Click here for more tips on learning French6. MARKETING SKILLS
Marketing your property is the key to success and it requires good communication. Know who makes up your target market, give them clear and enticing information and good support in holiday planning. Don’t assume that your customers have any knowledge of the area – provide information even if it seems very obvious. You would be wise to be aware of the marketing that your competitors do and ensure you are one step ahead. In your online advertisements or website you need to describe the property and the attractions and potential of the local area with clarity, economy and enthusiasm, which will be infectious to potential guests. When it comes to marketing, good photographs are vital, and digital photography has made this much easier for even those with the most basic photography skills, as you can experiment and adjust. Get to know how a room looks through the camera lens and use movable accessories to get the best look. When holidaymakers enquire by phone or email, communicate in an efficient yet friendly manner, and again be clear with information such as travel options. When on-site, adopt a friendly tone in any instruction notes left in the house, and in personal interaction, always be polite, cheerful and positive.
More advice on running a holiday let: How to set up a B&B or gîte in France; 10 tips for running a gîte and Guide to setting up a business in FranceGlynis Shaw is joint MD of French Connections holiday rentals and property sales online www.frenchconnections.co.uk