Being a home-based agent

Being a home-based agent
By admin


Two years ago, Jamie Cooper was approaching his third year as a Flight Centre consultant in Brisbane. But frustrated by the lack of career progression, celebrations weren't exactly what he had in mind. Cooper was more concerned about how to get out.

He played with the idea of swapping agencies and moving sideways, but after talking to a few friends with home-based agencies he decided to find out what all the fuss was about. Reluctant to start out on his own, Cooper took up an online role to see if he was cut out for life as a home-based agent.

Immediately, he warmed to the freedom of working on his own terms and conditions, and soon approached Travel Counsellors to set up a home-based travel agency of his own. Armed with a laptop and the Travel Counsellors booking system, Cooper was up and running within a matter of days and has managed to recruit more than 100 clients after just one year in the job.

TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

But making the switch does have its own set of challenges and Cooper admitted the first 12 months were a struggle. With no contacts to his name, friends and family were his only clients in the first few months. His bank balance also flatlined for weeks on end. "I was doing letterbox drops and earning no income for the first few months, so it was pretty stressful at the start," he recalled. Things started to turn around a few months in, but Cooper admitted his business is still in the early stages and hasn't returned impressive earnings just yet.

Meanwhile, Travel Counsellors consultant Michelle Kelly remembered the feeling of isolation as the biggest challenge of setting up her business. With 23 years of travel experience under her belt, mostly managing her own agency, Kelly was no stranger to the travel business, but said moving from a buzzing work space to a home office was tough at first. Pulling long hours with no reward was often disappointing in the first 12 months, she recalled, and it took a while to strike an appropriate work life balance. "Setting up a home based agency isn't for everyone," she said. "The first year is tough. You need to invest a lot of time into making the business work. You need to be proactive and you need to have a thick skin."

THE UPSIDE

Hurdles aside, both agree the rewards of home working are worth making the switch for. There's no working for the man, no commuting, and no annoying co-workers. Home-based agents can also choose their own work hours and conditions, pick the clients they deal with, and have no obligation to push preferred suppliers. Host agencies also provide all the resources for consultants and take care of all the invoices and payments, so there's no paperwork involved.

With more time to focus on bookings and client relationships, Kelly said she has reached a high point in her professional career since going solo in 2009. "I am the happiest I've ever been in my career. I'm kicking myself for not doing it sooner," she said.

With 840 clients on the books in just two years, Kelly forecast that her income will surpass her previous salary in the coming months. In fact, with business humming, she plans to recruit another staff member by the end of the year, and expects to be in a far better financial situation in the next couple of years.

A GROWING TREND

As TravelManagers executive general manager Mandy Scotney explained, uncertainty of income and fear of being alone are the most common deterrents to home working. But with home-based agencies offering additional earning potential and control over how owners run their business, Scotney said more people are taking on the challenges and reaping the benefits.

This is hardly surprising to Cooper, who said he would have jumped ship to home working years earlier if he had his time again. Kelly agreed that there's no better time than the present, but warns it won't come easy. "Home working isn't about sitting back and watching the business grow. Clients aren't going to fall into your lap," she said. "If you're not willing to put in the hard work, the rewards won't come."

HOT TIPS

Kelly stressed that home working may not suit consultants who thrive in a social environment, but said proactive agents are likely to make a smooth transition. She suggested mocking up a business plan before going out on your own and tapping into as many channels in the local community for greater exposure.

Scotney also suggested travel professionals hunt around for an agency which suits their needs before signing the dotted line. "It's crucial to understand what you want from a host agency," she said. "There are subtle differences to how they operate, and it may ultimately be an important factor."

Figuring out a marketing plan is also advisable, and having some cash in the bank to see you through the first three to six months is a sensible approach. Setting up a separate home office is also wise.
However agents go about the set up, Kelly's hot tip is to take action: "If you're a good consultant, don't waste time working for someone else. Do it yourself."

DOING YOUR HOMEWORK

  • Most host agencies provide training, booking systems and marketing support to help home-based workers get their businesses off the ground
     
  • All home-based agencies are independently run, so owners can work to their own terms and conditions. They also have no obligation to use preferred suppliers
     
  • Building a client base and generating income is left entirely to the business owner
     
  • Minimal returns are often seen in the first 12 months, with income often gaining momentum in the second year

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

home working

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