The following guest column is the second in a series by business coach Meredith Hill on how to make more money selling travel.
One of the worst ways travel agents can self-sabotage is by treating their work more like a hobby than like the full-fledged business it is – or could be.
If you’re treating your business like a hobby it means you are failing to do what’s necessary to take yourself seriously, so that clients will too.
How do you know if this applies to you? Here are seven signs, followed by advice on how to correct your mistakes.
1. You have an email address that ends with @gmail.com or @comcast.net or @windstream.com, or any other free email service provider.
2. You have not incorporated or even created an LLC.
3. You do not have a separate bank account for your business.
4. You don’t pay yourself a salary and you’ve been in business for more than two years.
5. You don’t have a separate phone number for your business.
6. You see your business as a part of your host agency, so you don’t have a separate website and have not established a different name.
7. You do no marketing activities on a regular and consistent basis.
How to fix it
The solution is obvious. Turn around and do all the things in the list above.
• Go purchase a domain with your business name or your personal name and get a new email address with that domain. For example, I can jump on to www.godaddy.com and purchase the URL www.meredithhill.com for $10; I can add email addresses to this domain for a few dollars more. Go do that.
• By all means, incorporate or set up an LLC so that you legally separate your business from your personal finances. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on legal fees. Just go to www.legalzoom.com and they will simplify the process for you.
• Once you have a separate legal identity for your business, you can then open a separate bank account. You’re going to need a place to deposit all those big commissions you’ll soon be earning!
• To follow IRS standards, pay yourself a regular salary. This is a frightening yet profoundly empowering move. It took me a long time to start paying myself a regular salary.
Once you start paying yourself regularly, you’ll realize how it makes you act differently: You make different decisions in your business because you are always thinking about how you will be able to pay your salary next month. It really puts a fuel under the fire.
• If you’re an independent contractor, it’s also time to realize that your host agency is not your employer. You must act like a business owner by getting yourselef a different name and marketing yourself and your business separately.
• Finally, please do me a favor and commit to doing one single marketing activity on a regular and consistent basis. My favorite is the electronic newsletter, but if you want to choose something else, that’s fine. Just commit to it and do it.
Your assignment? Go through each and every one of these business mistakes and make a point of correcting it before this year is over. It’s time to take your business seriously – I promise you’ll profit from it.
Meredith Hill is founder and CEO of the Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs (GIFTE). GIFTE helps travel professionals monetize their passion for travel so they can go from surviving to thriving.