Everything you need to know about making money with ToursByLocals

Written by Emma Kansiz

Published 2022-07-05 / 4 min read

Fancy yourself something of an insider? Love travel, whether at home or abroad? Want to help people make the most of their holiday? If you are keen on architecture, history, and culture then consider yourself lucky. We might have an opportunity for you.

What is ToursByLocals?

Founded in Vancouver, Canada, ToursByLocals has over 4300 private tour guides who are helping people have an educational travel experience in over 1000 cities and towns. ToursByLocals is like an online peer-to-peer marketplace for tour guides. As a guide, you can construct your own tour, based upon topics and themes of interest for you. ToursByLocals allows interested travelers to book directly with you using the platform. The travelers who use TripsByLocals want original, personalized, and tailored tours that they wouldn’t be able to get from commercial tours. They want something more intimate and to have the opportunity to see the hidden treasures of a city.

How does ToursByLocals's earning structure work?

ToursByLocals does not take any upfront or ongoing fees from its guides. They take a  25% cut off the profits from your tour.  

You are in charge of setting your own rates for your tours. We recommend browsing the site to see what tour guides in other cities (and your own) are offering their tours for. You want to be reasonable and competitive while ensuring you are turning a profit. Check out what commercial tour guides are selling their tours for, as well. 

Guides are paid weekly. Payments are initiated no earlier than the Tuesday after you have completed a tour. You have a few payment options to choose from. You can set up direct deposit, a write transfer, Payoneer and Skrill.

In some instances you can set up advanced payment through the site if you need to pay for things in advance of your tour (such as museum entry, food and wine offerings, amenities).

Be realistic with your expenses. Some tours are logistically and financially challenging, even though they might be a blast to plan and lead. Be realistic with yourself.

What is the time commitment for ToursByLocals?

There are two elements to the time commitment question: the time constructing and scripting your tours, and the time actually hitting the pavement, leading said tours.

Because ToursByLocals allows you to create and develop your own tours, you have lots of creative freedom in this regard. You can lead a food and wine tour, an outdoors excursion, a street art walk, a museum tour, or a historic stroll through the city center. The variety of tour styles is compelling for people who love taking ownership over plans and arrangements.  

As a tour guide you will be responsible for:
- Setting your own price - Arranging transportation (walking, car, public transport) - Planning the itinerary - Selecting tour dates and times - Liaising and communicating with prospective clients

As you can imagine, when all of these duties are combined they are definitely time consuming! There is a lot of research, admin, and backend logistic work before you even get out and start leading tours. But if you enjoy this kind of work it won’t seem like an imposition or chore. Consider dedicating five hours minimum per week to developing your tour in the beginning stages. You will course correct as you go and as you learn more about what travelers want. 

ToursByLocals expects you to respond to all customer inquiries within 24 hours so being timely and communicative is vital. You are not merely a contractor, you are an individual entrepreneur representing yourself. You need to be mindful of your reputation just as you would if you owned a small business. 

When it comes to leading your tour, you can decide on the length of the itinerary. Most tours are 2 hours minimum. Some are full day, 6 hour excursions. This depends on the nature of your tour. You need to factor in commute times, set up times, and any backend organizational work. A short tour can easily take up an extra two hours of your time so be thoughtful when organizing your time. 

Another element to keep in mind is that most tours occur during the day or on weekends. Consider how that will work with your professional and personal life. A 9-5 job will naturally limit the amount of time you can lead tours.

How to get started with ToursByLocals?

In order to sign up you must go to their website and click on the Apply Now button. You will be asked to agree to their terms and conditions. You will fill out your contact information, location details, and choose which city you will be leading tours in.

They will ask you if you are a licensed tour guide. The options are:
1. Yes, I am a licensed tour guide 2. No, I am a passionate local

You will choose which method of transport you and your guests will be using. Will it be a walking tour, will you bring a personal vehicle or will you rent a vehicle for the purposes of the tour?

Now for the application. You’ve got to sell yourself here and convince the team why you should be a ToursByLocals guide. List your previous experience as a tour guide (or related line of work), your education, certifications, special attributes or areas of expertise. Detail what kinds of tours you want to offer, for instance food and wine, museum tours, heritage tours, pop culture tours, day trip excursions. You must then describe your availability. How many days a month are you willing to guide travelers? Do you have any other work or school commitments? You will be asked how you heard about ToursByLocal. You have 60 minutes to fill out this form or it will time out, so consider your answers beforehand or copy and paste your application from Word or Google Documents.      

Be advised that not all applicants will hear back due to the high volume of applications they receive. They only respond to shortlisted applicants. If you are accepted to the next round they will conduct an interview with you to check your English skills, your demeanor, and your rapport-building skills. They will conduct a background check and reach out to any references.

ToursByLocals requirements

Required Resources

Depending on your tour type, it is recommended that you either have a suitable car or that you rent one for the purpose of the tour. Inform yourself about what kinds of laws and regulations there are around using your own car for private enterprise in your region. Some municipalities might require you to rent a shuttle or private car hire for the purpose of your tour.

Any additional tour-related resources depend on the style of your tour. This might include musume tickets, shuttle bus contacts and bookings, pamphlets, wine and food reservations, and hiking or walking equipment. You should dedicate some time while you are planning your tour to making connections with local businesses and services that can provide you with the relevant resources.

Required Skills

You must be over 18 to apply.

While you don’t need extensive tour guide experience, it does help you stand out from the other applicants. Additional expertise in a specific field, or related educational certifications should also be highlighted in your application.

Depending on what kind of tour you want to offer, an interest in research and reading will serve you well. Creating a script for your tour will require some in-depth fact-hunting. Ensure that you would find value in doing that during your spare time. 

It goes without saying, but you must be personable and keen to build a rapport with people. Tour guides are not necessarily extroverts but you must enjoy meeting new people and forming social bonds with strangers in order to be successful in this field. You will be dealing with lots of different personality types and you will be fielding all sorts of questions and requests. It helps to have a warm, hospitable demeanor. Leadership and public speaking qualities are invaluable. If you’re passionate about this field, or want to challenge yourself, consider taking public speaking courses, which will pay dividends in this and many other fields!

Required Documents

You do not need to provide any documentation when you are completing the initial application. ToursByLocals recommends its tour guides to seek out private insurance through a local broker for their tours as they do not offer insurance coverage for their guides, only the guest using the platform. 

ToursByLocals will check references and conduct an ID verification check if your application is approved. They want to hire legitimate individuals, and not representatives of commercial agencies.

Other important details

ToursByLocals wants to keep the emphasis on real people guiding real travelers. They don’t allow outside tour companies or conglomerates to post their services on the platform. This ensures that you won’t be competing with tour services that have an established clientele or business model on the platform. This keeps the site authentic, with a homespun quality. 

In order to increase your chances of being accepted, you must offer a tour that is unique and not already represented by another tour guide in your area. So do a bit of research on what other guides in your area are offering before constructing your own tour. It is worth thinking out of the box here and focusing on an unexploited angle. The safe option might be easier but think through the ideas of a traveler - they are using this service to find unusual and creative tours.

Our review

We love the mandate of ToursByLocals. It is a completely original spin on the sharing economy. We like that it allows you the flexibility to create your own tour and focus on your own personal passions and interests. Most jobs don’t allow you the freedom to indulge your own fascinations and obsessions, but ToursByLocals does!

If you’ve ever thought of being a tour guide or business owner but never wanted to deal with the backend admin, ToursByLocals manages that for you. They handle the payment, scheduling, and the marketing aspects of running a business. They have a larger reach on social media and in traditional print media than a new small business owner could ever hope to claim. Taking that into account, this is a great launching pad to see if you enjoy being self-employed. You will learn skills that will help you create your own business one day if you so choose.

ToursByLocals differs from other side hustles in one key way: the application process. While you can just check off a few boxes, complete a background check, and assemble some documents for other hustles like DoorDash, Lyft, or Upwork, it is a bit more involved for ToursByLocals. You must create an engaging, convincing application and wait for a response from their team. ToursByLocals doesn’t promise a response if they are not interested in your application. Because of this, ToursByLocals is not exactly a low maintenance side gig. It is better for people who have a long-term vision and who want to find a gig and a passion they can incorporate into their lives. 

You must also commit to researching your topic so you can be as knowledgeable as possible. You will get questions that you can’t answer but the more you can inform your tour guests, the better. There is a large upfront and ongoing commitment of unpaid hours to succeed at this role. You will constantly be researching and planning and refining your tour. So this might not be a super practical option for people who have demanding jobs or busy schedules as it is. You simply won’t be able to dedicate the requisite time to the role.

Because of the long application process and the sporadic nature of tours we don’t recommend it for people who want to find a consistent, profitable side gig fast. It may also take months before you get a booking, particularly now that the travel industry is in flux in many regions of the world. If you want a schedule that looks the same week in and week out this might not be ideal for you. But if you want to show off your creativity and local chops, go for it! It will add richness and valuable experience to your resume!