This is Part 6 of the 8-part Beginner’s Guide to Couchsurfing:
1. Introduction to the Guide
2. What Couchsurfing Is & How it Works
3. Getting Started and What Hosts Want
4. How to Write a Great Couchsurfing Profile
5. Examples: What Not To Do in Couchsurfing Requests
6. How to Write a Great Couchsurfing Request
7. How to Make Sure Your Couchsurfing Experience is 100% Safe
8. Isn’t Couchsurfing Dangerous For Women?
How to Write a Great Couchsurfing Request
Fundamentally, your request needs to do one thing: show the reader you’ve read their profile and are genuinely interested in getting to know them. Let’s get into how to go about writing this phenomenal request and get replies from hosts complimenting your request, like below:
Never message and always use the ‘Request to Host’ function.
I know of many hosts (including me 😛) who don’t bother to reply or even read requests via message. I personally will only accept people who have requested through the ‘Request to Host’ function.
People make superficial judgments all the time. And hosts surely do so as well. Usually, longer requests have almost always been the better requests, so as a host, I’ll take more time reading a request if I notice it’s longer. Of course, if you fill your request with lots of blabber it won’t do you any good. But as far as split second judgments, the longer your request, the more likely a host is going to keep reading and take your perspective seriously.
How I personally write requests.
Below, I’m going to highlight how I personally send requests. This most definitely isn’t the only way, or even the best way to get hosts – it’s simply how I send requests myself. I encourage you to understand the underlying mechanisms as to why my requests work and craft your own type of request based on those underlying premises. I’ve gotten fantastic feedback about the requests I send and have rarely not gotten accepted to a city I’ve traveled to. So these tips work; it’s just a matter of adapting them to your personal preferences and style.
Focus on them first, not you
I would consider this a lesson in life, not just Couchsurfing.
In his classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie highlights 3 factors in the art of influence:
- Being genuinely interested in others
- Making others feel important and doing this sincerely
- Talking in terms of the other’s interests
For this reason I usually start off my requests solely focusing on the host. I do this in two ways.
1. Offer something tangible
It’s customary to offer your host a small gift or token of appreciation. I usually bring chocolate 🙂
So, I usually start off my request with:
“I come bearing chocolate!”
which is quite the attention-getter. By starting off this way, I give the host an incentive to host me while piquing their interest in my request – which is incredibly important when messaging hosts in cities like London or New York, where hosts are flooded with 10-15 requests per day. In these cases, hosts are skimming their inboxes, not sure which to click on first. A mention of food, I guarantee you, will elevate your chances of standing out in the crowd of contenders. If you have some other type of skill – like cooking for example – mention it in the request itself.
2. Show genuine interest in them
I usually skim through their profile, looking for 3-4 things I find super interesting about them, and read through the interesting bits. I explicitly point these out to them in my request. When done, it looks a bit like this:
I read through your reviews (and your profile) and it seems like we’d get along really well!
3 things I found super fascinating about you:
1 – The first thing you say on your profile is that you imagine yourself as a “curious man, open-minded and easy person who loves without restraints about everything” this is a fundamental value in myself and also one of the first things I point out in my profile. I think we’ll get along great!
2 – You work in theatre, which is incredibly interesting and unique. I don’t think I’ve actually met an actor before. I’ve tried it before but it was incredibly difficult 😛 I’d love to hear how exactly you go about becoming a good actor. Of course, I can help you rehearse if you need it 😛
3 -You’ve rafted down the biggest river in Italy #lifeofpi 🙂
Again this employs one of the most important tools we can employ for connecting with others: being genuinely interested in them rather than putting ourselves first. Taking the time to go through profiles implicitly illustrates this to the reader.
Notice something key in the request so far: notice how as of yet, I have never mentioned myself, my needs, or my travel plans. Rather, I’ve focused solely on them and how I can service, help, or connect with them. In the request, I’ve placed them before I’ve placed myself – which makes a HUGE difference in the eyes of the reader. Writing the other way around sends the implicit message, “I’d love to stay with you because it’s convenient for me – oh, and I find you interesting”, which is infinitely inferior to the method above, which sends the implicit message, “I find you interesting, – oh and if you’re free, I’d love to stay with you”.
Be their Mahatma Gandhi
Who would you ideally love to host? Elon Musk? Mother Theresa? Sheryl Sandberg? These people stand out because they’ve each done incredibly compelling things in their lives and can enrich the lives of those around them simply by way of how much they have to teach and in how much others can learn from them.
What value can you provide others? What compelling things have you done? What can you, and only you, offer to those around you? Explicitly mention the exciting and compelling things you’ve done in the request itself.
Go Easy on the Eyes
At the end of the day, your host has limited time. You want to provide as much information in a way that’s most conducive to him or her. I’d recommend having lists in your request, rather than paragraphs of information. Lists are easy to skim and easy to quickly comprehend. You can have a list of what you find interesting about them, as well as a list of interesting things about you, rather than stating it in a harder-to-read paragraph format.
Proudly display your ‘Newb’ badge
Often people will wonder whether it’s your first time Couchsurfing, and in these cases, it’s better to explicitly mention it, if it is your first time. Talk about your discovery of the Couchsurfing platform and why you’re excited by it and want to try it out.
Explain why you’re a good guest
First time surfers are always a shot in the dark. People want to know you’re clean, respectful, tidy, etc., As such, taking the time to point out you’re a good guest goes a long way.
For me, this section looks something like this:
I’m quite flexible with any St. Patrick’s Day plans you have – if you have your own plans or another couch-surfer staying that’s totally fine – I’m incredibly flexible – just grateful to meet new people and have a place to stay. Ideally if we could talk at some point that would be nice 🙂
As a guest, I’m very easy-going and super tidy – feel free to read through my profile to find out more about me 🙂
Go full circle and reciprocate
Again, think of the value you can offer them, rather than what they can offer you. And close up the request.
For me, this section looks something like this:
Well, anyway, let me know if you’re free to host – if you can only host me for part of that period that’s cool too – I’d owe you forever.
And if all else fails, remember that I’m bringing chocolate 😛 xD If in the future you ever need a place to stay or a tour of Oxford or the States, you’re welcome in my home.
Trust me, this works
If you’re a woman reading this check out: Isn’t Couchsurfing Dangerous For Women?.
Continue to the next page of this guide: Making sure your Couchsurfing Experience is 100% Safe.
Other Posts in This Series:
If this post/guide was helpful to you in any way, the best thing you can do is to leave a comment below saying so — I check them daily 🙂