So, you’ve heard great things about Workaway– a website that allows people to find volunteer jobs around the world and travel for free – and decided to get on board. You paid the 30 euro subscription fee, completed your profile and immediately started writing to snail farms in Ireland, Vegan eco-hotels in Berlin and monks communities in Tanzania, only to have your zen patience tested by receiving the same identical negative response (yes, Workaway provides us hosts with prewritten responses).
As I’ve been a host on Workaway for a couple of years now, I’ll try to give some tips on how to improve your chances of getting that highly sought after unpaid position:
Spelling and paragraphing:
A no-brainer, I know. And, of course, this is not a proper job and you don’t need to now the use of the past perfect to shovel horse manure at our farm. But we do get lots of requests and I can’t spend too much time going through all of them. Paragraphing your profile and your request makes reading much easier and faster, so that I am much more likely to get to the end of it.
Running a spell checker takes only a few seconds, and the fact that you were not able or didn’t feel like taking this “extra” step doesn’t do you any favours.
Specify the time period of your stay
Sorting out our calendar is not an easy task, there are volunteers coming early, asking for extensions, people cancelling etc. Having to ask you what time period you would like to come makes things even more complicated. Specify clearly and in the subject line WHEN you would like to start and when you would like to leave. Of course, flexibility is always a plus.
Less about you, more about how you can help the host
This is a bit of a cliche but it’s true. I get tons of requests with long stories about your travelling, explaining how you love meeting new people from different parts of the world, and how shovelling horse shit is exactly what your life needs at this point in time. But try to put yourself in the host shoes and explain how do you think you would help us in our daily activities, what skills do you have, how independent you can be and so on. Of course we also like meeting new and interesting people, and we have enjoyed hosting backpackers that “ love travelling so much”, as well as cutting edge food bloggers, drunken jazz musicians and vegan yoga instructors, but we mostly need a good shit shoveler.
Another no-brainer, I know, but there are so many people applying without a couple of decent pictures in their profile. It’s tough welcoming somebody at your place without even knowing how this person looks like, that’s just human nature. What kind of pictures should you put? If you are applying for some farm work, I really notice when people have pictures where they are actually doing some manual work. As for the rest, just use some common sense (i.e. keep your selfies with crack pipes for Snapchat)
Offer a Skype/Messenger/Hangout/Whatsapp chat
As when applying for a job, it is always good to offer a proper “face to face” chat. It shows that you are committed and that you really want to shovel manure like there’s no tomorrow; plus, it’s quite tough and time-consuming to sort out every detail of your future Workaway experience by email. With a 15 minutes skype chat I usually get a chance to get to know the person a little, answer all of his/her questions, and agree on arrival details.
Show that you can be independent
Hosts want to reduce the amount of work involved and workawayers are usually great at doing so. However the inexperienced traveller inevitably creates some extra “managerial” work which can offset the other benefits: volunteers can get lost, don’t know how to sort out the rubbish, can’t figure out how to get a local sim card and so on. When I look at a potential workawayer I therefore ask myself whether that person will reduce or increase the amount of work that I need to do. If you show me that you are good at figuring things out by yourself and won’t need my constant guidance while at the farm, I’m more likely to open our rusty gates to you. (This can be as simple as pointing out that you are good at using Google Maps for figuring out how to go from point A to point B; this may seem obvious, but I have hosted so many people that didn’t want to use the app and seemed to enjoy getting lost whenever they could)
You can’t spell Workaway without Work
I might have sounded like a grumpy old farmer but, as you can see you can see in my reviews and pictures, I am not old. I just wanted to point out the fact that hosts usually receive lots of requests and that, while you may be in “travelling mode”, we have our daily lives to sort out. Unfortunately, lots of people do not seem to realise that volunteer work is still work and fail to make use of the great opportunities that Workaway provides.