Ashley Metesh-McCoy has only been selling travel since November 2016, so she’s still in growth mode, with the uneven cash flow to match. But that didn’t stop this solo travel agent from taking a bold step last October. She began outsourcing certain business tasks so she could focus on growing her agency.
It’s a move that too many entrepreneurs wait too long to make. Here’s a look at how two travel agents are using outsourcing to free up their time to do what they do best.
Shifting off responsibilities
Metesh-McCoy is owner and “head experience curator” of Kinship Vacations, a home-based travel agency in Williamsburg, Virginia. Last fall, less than a year after launching her business, she hired a professional social media manager.
As a Millennial, Metesh-McCoy said she is both comfortable and competent with social media. “But I found I was not really interested. I wanted to outsource the consistency and give it a more professional look.”
Just as importantly, the move would give her time for more important things. “I wanted to shift some of my responsibilities off, so I could focus on the next strategic phase of my business.” Specifically, Metesh-McCoy, an army veteran, planned to start recruiting and training military spouses to work as independent agents under her brand.
Now, in addition to outsourcing to a social media manager, she pays someone else to write her weekly blog, and she has just hired a virtual assistant.
Justifying the cost
Such services come at a cost, and it's not as if Metesh-McCoy has money to burn. The services of the social media manager alone cost her $550 a month. “It’s a leap financially, but it’s smart strategically. If you have a good plan and faith in your business, sometimes you have to take a leap,” she said.
Metesh-McCoy also calculated that if every month she landed just one or two new clients whom she could charge her $350 planning fee, she would cover the $550 monthly cost.
Solo agents who are hesitant about contracting out parts of their business should weigh the expense against the value of their own time, she advised. “If I charge $50 [an hour] to a client for my expertise and time and I outsource anything for less than $50 an hour, that’s probably a good investment.”
As for the $550 monthly social media marketing expense, she said she could probably get the same services for a lower price. “But I wanted my first trial to be with a professional and to understand how it was going to work.”
Metesh-McCoy’s next foray into outsourcing starts in May, when her new virtual assistant will take on the role of client care and operations manager. Metesh-McCoy even outsourced the job of finding a virtual assistant, hiring a staffing firm that helps military spouses find work.
Getting creative about outsourcing
Travel agency owner Alyse Cori began outsourcing about a year and a half after opening her home-based agency in 2006. “I didn’t know how else I could grow my business, because as one person, I could only do so much. There’s only so many hours in a day,” said Cori, whose agency is Travelwize in Sonoma, California.
The first thing Cori outsourced was her bookkeeping, contracting the work out to a woman who does bookkeeping for several other travel agencies.
Cori said the move became a necessity when she started taking on independent sales agents and the bookkeeping grew more complicated. Now she’s grown her team to 17 independent agents, and she pays some of them “a little extra” to handle certain business tasks.
One of Cori’s outside agents handles her newsletter. Another onboards new independents, reviewing policies and procedures with them and orienting them to the agency’s systems.
Cori delegates other administrative tasks to independents as the need arises. “One of them is going to compile a list of every single travel company – commissions, who to contact, phone numbers, etc. Another is going to do a policies and procedures book.”
The idea of outsourcing to her independent agents arose when Cori found herself struggling to get everything done herself. “It’s hard to delegate, so when one of your agents says, ‘I could help with that,’ why not? They know your business. It’s definitely a good way to go.” Another benefit of outsourcing to her independents is that it makes them feel part of a team, she said.
Cori also outsources to non-agents. A friend who is a schoolteacher puts in a few hours here and there, doing administrative tasks like filing, shredding papers and database entry. And she long ago decided to pay a professional to set up and maintain her website. “I tried to do that on my own and I’m like, ‘What am I, crazy? I’m here to sell travel!’"
“I have to outsource,” Cori said. “If I tried to do everything, I would never have time to sleep.”