I got into gear rental as a way to earn a little extra money from the film equipment I already own. I co-run this small venture in NYC with my partner, who’s a cinematographer. Over the last two years, it’s been a great experience to be an equipment owner on KitSplit and ShareGrid. What follows is a review and comparison of the two sites, including how much money we have made so far. I’ve tried to keep the review mostly about site features, but there is inevitably some user behavior that comes into play. I’d love to hear about your experience with either site (or both or another entirely) in the comments!
If you decide to join either site or both, please use my referral link, which gets us each $20 in free rental credit:
ShareGrid is transparent about how their search algorithm boosts new listings to the top. I watched their informative webinar that let me know new listings are prioritized in search results, so I used that info to create new bundles and re-create my oldest listings. The result is that my rental requests increased, and so did my ShareGrid revenue.
While KitSplit offers blog posts about optimizing your performance, they haven’t described how their search works (that I could find). I did create any bundles on KitSplit too (to keep inventory parity between the two sites), but did not re-create old listings.
In 2018, I was making more on KitSplit than ShareGrid, but that flipped in 2019, and it’s hard to tell if that’s because of overall site growth, the optimizations I did to play to ShareGrid’s search, or all the wedding rentals we got last May. Here’s a chart of our 2018 and 2019 revenue:
Both sites include full coverage for your gear through add-on insurance policies renters can buy at the time of reservation. Recently, both sites also introduced policies both called an “Owner’s Guarantee” which provides coverage for voluntary parting (when the renter steals your gear by not returning it, which is not covered by typical insurance). This Owner’s Guarantee does a lot for my confidence when accepting a request from a new renter.
Scheduling Pickups and Dropoffs
Realistically, renting out gear on these sites requires a lot of schedule flexibility. KitSplit serves up rental orders with default check-out and check-in times (5pm and 10am, respectively), and renters hardly ever change the default, even if they have a different pickup time in mind. I honestly don’t know why KitSplit even shows this default time because it gives the false impression that the renter picked it, rather than showing an industry-standard time range or no time range at all, if the renter hasn’t picked a specific time. If the renter has selected a time, then this is useful information to know before accepting, because you can see if the times interfere with your schedule. I always confirm times through messages, regardless of what info comes with the order.
ShareGrid doesn’t bother with specific times in the order, but rather leaves it to us to work it out during the messaging phase.
Because I work from home, I’m able to accomodate a wide range of times. However, some renters will really push the limits of their reservation with a super early pickup and late drop-off, when they really should be paying for an extra day. I try to curtail this behavior by asking for desired pickup and dropoff times when I accept the reservation, which gives time to recommend a change of dates if warranted. I usually describe my availability as “anytime after 2p” for pickup and “anytime before noon” for dropoff, and anything outside that is an extra day or half-day rate. This is very generous compared to all rental houses, and we’re open on nights and weekends. 😄
Making Changes to Existing Reservations
It’s pretty common for a renter to want to extend a reservation. ShareGrid and KitSplit each handle this scenario differently. KitSplit does not have an interface for the owner to make changes to an in-progress reservation. You get just one chance to change the order before you accept it. If a change is needed, you write a note to customer service with the order number, and they make the change on your behalf. Any time I’ve had to do this, the response from KitSplit staff has been very fast.
ShareGrid does provide an interface for the owner to change in-progress reservations and apply fees. I prefer ShareGrid’s approach because I like to take care of it myself, rather than have to go through a middleperson. Being able to change/extend the reservation and/or charge extra fees through the web interface allows me to provide better customer service to my renters and also gives me more authority over my rental business. On Kitplit I have to say things like “I’ll submit a request to change the reservation,” and “KitSplit changed the reservation as per your request.” It’s clear that this is a big difference in the business strategy between KitSplit and ShareGrid– KitSplit prefers to invest in support staff to provide quick customer service, and ShareGrid has invested in the software necessary to let equipment owners manage this minutiae, reducing their customer support staffing needs (I’ve never had to write into their customer service so I can’t comment on its speed).
If you follow both platforms’ advice to create bundles of your gear under separate listings (in addition to each individual item a la carte), you will have to keep track of available items so as to prevent double booking. In my opinion, this is the biggest reason to join both KitSplit and Sharegrid. You’re already going to have to take on the mental overload of potential double booking, you might as well get the increased exposure of being on both sites.
Don’t forget that you need to use your equipment too, and prioritizing that means declining rentals when you have plans to use your gear.
Both Sharegrid and KitSplit make it relatively easy to put your whole catalog on hold for vacation, or a situation where you need to use your equipment full time. On KitSplit it can be accomplished on the Manage Listings page by selecting all your items and then clicking the “schedule pause” button on the right.
On ShareGrid, you’ll find this feature under Settings -> Account (scroll down to just below the Username/Password settings).
Disabling Specific Listings
It’s easy to toggle the availability of individual items on KitSplit’s “Manage Listings” page. When our Litemat needed repair, I clicked the gear icon next to the item and clicked Disable.
On ShareGrid, you manage your inventory on each listing itself (accessible from your profile), with no equivalent to KitSplit’s “Manage Listings” page.
I find this feature on ShareGrid difficult to use. It’s hard to tell from the listing page if it is public or private, since both Make Public and Make Private links appear in the sidebar, regardless of status, and the notification bar only appears when the status changes, not when first loading the listing. There’s no differentiation on my logged-in profile page between public and private listings. So when it came time to re-enable our second Litemat listing, I got them mixed up and ended up toggling the status on both a few times before figuring it out and double checking they were both visible on my profile when logged out/incognito.
Equipment Owner Feature Comparison
|“Owner’s Guarantee” voluntary parting protection||✅||✅|
|Supports multiple email addresses||✅||✅|
|Hide my profile from search engines||🚫||✅|
|Send an automatic response to renters when you accept their rental request||🚫||✅|
|CSV export of rental history available||🚫||✅|
|Manage Listings dashboard||✅||🚫|
|Build a quote||✅||🚫|
|Bid on Pro jobs||✅||✅|
|Control over notifications||SMS||Granular|
My Feature Wishlist
- Provide a way to blacklist renters who were a pain in the ass, or at least a way to make a private note on their profile so I’ll remember not to rent to them again. Even people who earned good reviews can be annoying.
- Provide the option to specify “office hours” for sms notifications. Getting a rental request SMS when I’m asleep at 1am and then another SMS reminding me to respond to the request when I’m still asleep at 5am is lame.
- Provide the option to get sms notifications at a second phone number.
- Only send me pro jobs to bid on if I own one of the items specified in the project (even just a simple word match). Without this, pro job emails are just spam.
- Add support for double-booking protection by allowing listings to be linked, for instance in parent-child relationship.
Operating Tips & “It Happened To Me”s
The following tips and anecdotes aren’t related to the rental platform itself or its features, but things to keep in mind about this type of business in general. These experiences as an equipment owner on KitSplit and Sharegrid didn’t fit neatly into the rest of the review, but hopefully provide color and caution to you, dear reader:
- Renters will usually be late, anywhere from ten minutes to an hour. City traffic, navigating to a place they’ve never been, or “optimistic time-telling” will all throw off your renter’s arrival time. I never schedule a pickup or dropoff within an hour of having to be somewhere.
- Renters will likely push through weather conditions to make their shooting schedule. I try to send gear out in waterproof cases whenever possible.
- If you want your returned clean, provide lens wipes etc. in the kit.
- You’ll have to pay taxes on this income.
- Previous to the Owner’s Guarantee, I did not rent my most expensive gear to anyone without at least one review. I still do not rent to anyone without a link to their professional work.
- I’ve forgotten about two dropoffs in my time so far (luckily never a pickup). One time I was at a neighborhood restaurant and was able to reroute the renter and do a curbside check-in. Another time I was too far away and simply had to apologize, reschedule, and offer to pick up instead.
- If you don’t inspect your gear thoroughly when it comes back, you’ll be SOL in making a claim if you later find out something’s missing or damaged. Usually it’s just a forgotten filter, charging cable, or sun shade, which are cheap to replace, and in the handful of times this has happened to me, the renter has always volunteered to replace the item. But if your lens comes back with a stiff focus ring and you only notice after giving the all-clear upon return, you’ll be eating the cost of that repair. In my case, the lens was replaced under factory warranty, so we’ll never know what actually happened to it. (Was it dropped? Was it defective?)
- Renters can become friends and colleagues. My partner has picked up freelance work in chats with our customers and we’ve both truly enjoyed meeting more local creatives, many of whom are happy to describe how they can enhance your professional network, if you ask them.
- Using the sites to rent to existing friends can help provide structure to a deal or favor. When a friend needs a piece of our gear, we can establish both clear terms and payment, whether we’re renting to their big budget production or offering a steep discount for a personal project. Using KitSplit and Sharegrid can be faster and easier than working out a traditional rental contract, and you’ll have their customer support available to you if something goes wrong. I think of it as “friendship insurance.” I also like leaving good reviews for friends to make their profiles more appealing to other equipment owners in the future.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, you might like these others:
- My Camera Gear 2019
- Workspace Inspiration – My Desks and Studios Throughout Time
- Why I Switched to the GH5s from the GH5
- Lifehacker Interview: I’m Becky Stern, and This Is How I Work