Looking back, it used to be that if an agent worked from home, it was synonymous with part-time work by outside sales people. Then, when host agencies first came on the scene, the home-based agent was coined a hobbyist, in it for the perks, and therefore not always taken seriously by the travel industry. However, once the internet made working from home a viable alternative, for serious, high-volume advisors, everything changed.
Now an estimated 40% of travel professionals work from a home office. They are a sales force to be reckoned with, and have become one of the most critical sales channels in the travel industry.
As quickly as working from home has grown, it was not always easy street for those who made the leap. According to Kim Harten, a successful, Travel Professionals International (TPI) consultant from Halifax who left her brick-and-mortar role 26 years ago, she found the biggest change was not having a team. “Working on your own can make you feel isolated. You have to get up every day, get dressed and approach your day as a professional,” said Harten. “No one is going to tell you what to do. You have to be accountable to yourself.”
Others struggled with the loss of a steady paycheck, now that they were totally reliant on themselves to pay the bills. And that business doesn’t walk in the door on its own.
Melissa Mackey, owner of Travel Chicks, in Edmonton, stated: “The phone wasn’t ringing. It was a shock because I’d left a busy office where the phone didn’t stop ringing. I learned very quickly the power of social media to make things happen for me. I didn’t know what I was doing when I started doing selfie videos in 2012. They weren’t great, but I committed to doing them, no matter what, and the results took off like wildfire!”
Enjoying the freedom
What is the biggest benefit of working from home? If you ask 10 agents or 10,000 agents, they will all say the same thing: Freedom. The definition of freedom varies from work hours, to location, to the types of products sold.
Diane Cook finds freedom in her commute in her Ontario home, “from the carpet to the hardwood floors.” She also loves the freedom to sell what she wants to whom she wants. She specifically chose her affiliation with TPI because of the Virtuoso perks. She sells high-end boutique properties that, in her past life working for a national chain, she might not have even known about. “We were required to sell a very strict set of suppliers, and I understand why. But now I have the freedom to sell more unique experiences for my niche clients.”
Renee Tsang started her travel business over five years ago in her Calgary home. She switched from her corporate, 9-to-5 role so she could work from home while raising her children. She had never worked in a travel agency and had no travel experience. Tsang remembers how important it was to find a community of like-minded agents to talk to. She connected with anyone she could. They ended up creating a community, to collaborate and share best practices, that she still stays in contact with today.
Tsang provides these words of wisdom: “It’s easy to get caught up in the passion, freedom and flexibility. But know what you’re getting into. It’s hard work and easy to fail when you’re out on your own. Find someone who’s done it and is in it for the long term.”