According to statistics, at least 8 million Americans are working from home today. This is roughly 5% of the entire population, and the numbers are rising steadily.
The main reason behind this is improved internet connectivity and the desire for independence and more flexibility when it comes to careers.
It also allows one the luxury of being able to control their schedules, and let's face it; most jobs usually involve a lot of pressure and frustrations.
The biggest groups of people preferring this type of lifestyle are stay at home moms and college students.
When it comes to looking for the perfect home-based jobs, there are plenty of options to choose from, and one of those options is becoming a travel agent.
Now, what you need to know first and foremost about becoming a travel agent is that it is not as simple as you may think. This is a career course that may require you to undertake a few classes before you can function on your own fully.
In addition, you must become affiliated with a bigger company to do the job properly, but I think I am getting ahead of myself here. Let us start from the top and understand precisely how to become a stay at home travel agent
A home-based agent is also known as an Independent contractor or an IC. This is simply an affiliate of a host agency, as I had mentioned earlier on.
A host agency refers to an accredited travel agency, that can provide support to anyone wishing to become an independent travel agent. They help with licenses, operational necessities, marketing collateral, preferred partners, marketing, bookings, insurance, etc.
Now, an independent travel agent will typically work in conjunction with the host agent. They are however not bound by any regulations of an employee-employer relationship.
You are your own boss. You don’t have to go into the office, and neither do you have to answer to anyone but yourself.
This is one of the beautiful things about working from home. You do get to decide when, where, and how you are going to work.
Before setting up a home office and looking for clients, the first thing you need to do is get some training. If you have been working in a travel agency before and are just now branching out, then you are good to go, but if you are new to the job and have no clue how things are done, you may need to look for someone to train you, or simply find an online trainer to guide you on what you need to do before embarking on this worthy cause.
You can also choose to visit a host travel agency and have them train you, either for free or at a fee. Likewise, you could volunteer in their offices, and start working as you learn more about how to run your own agency.
Some colleges also offer these courses, so, you can do your own research and find one that is near you, and enroll to earn a certificate or degree, depending on what you are looking for, and which one you can be able to afford.
For the degree course, choose an associate or bachelor's degree in tourism. This would be perfect and most ideal.
If you have traveled extensively, or are planning to start traveling, then, working as a travel agent will come naturally for you, as you can be able to go a step further and give your clients advice on which places to visit, and what to do.
What about a license?
Indeed, most jobs nowadays may necessitate you to have a practicing license before you even start, and therefore, it is essential to find out in advance whether you shall need a permit to work as a travel agent or not.
In America, most states do not require you to have a license to work as a travel agent, but, if you live in the following states, you may be required to register before starting the job. These are;
The law differs in each state, so ensure to have all of the information needed before setting up your new business.
What will you be doing?
This is an excellent question to ask — the duties of a home-based travel agent.
So, what you need first to realize is that this job is simply a sales job. Your work is to find people that would like to book for flights with you as this is how you can earn your commission.
Other jobs you can do is find vacation spots for your clients, and give them ideas on where they can go for holidays. A good travel agent understands his client's needs and ensures that they give them what they want. This means that you should have a database of your customers with suggestions on places that you feel they would love to visit.
Other duties include;
You will occasionally find yourself doing some events coordination. For example, if you have a client planning a party out of town such as a bridal party, a baby shower, a wedding, an anniversary, etc., you will be required to plan these events for your clients.
This will include making the travel arrangements, booking hotels, finding venues for them, coordinating and organizing for transportation to the airport, from the airport and from the hotels to the locations you have planned for them.
Sometimes you may have to plan a whole vacation which includes getting the best hotels for your clients, organizing the sightseeing activities and even planning their romantic dinners and nights outs.
As an independent travel agent, you must go a step further in ensuring that you give your clients more than what they would get from a big company, such as your host company so that they can keep coming back for more.
Keep your customer service at a very high level, and keep your clients as happy as they can be.
If you are not a world traveler, then you will need to do plenty of research if you are going to work as an independent travel agent. Find out which are the best places to visit in each location and organize how your clients can visit said destinations.
You must also go a step further and ensure to find different activities for different people. What I mean is, if you are planning a vacation for a couple on their honeymoon, their activities cannot be similar to those of a bachelorette party, or for a family on vacation. Always give your clients what they need the most.
Planning and booking
This is similar to what we have already discussed before, but it is essential to expound on it as it is your main job – planning, and bookings.
What you need to know are the best hotels in each location. You should always go out of your way to find out more about each place and the best hotels in each area. Also, develop a good rapport with the management of the hotels to get the best deals.
When planning for a party, ensure to give them the best deals on hotels so they can keep coming back for more every time.
Other than that, you are responsible for booking the flights for them, organizing the transportation and ensuring that they get wherever they are going on time and safely. You could invest in some shuttle buses or safari trucks for transporting your clients to and from their destinations.
This could actually end up becoming a big business for you, but it all depends on how you treat your clients. Remember that most of them will need to travel often, so, work on establishing long-lasting relationships that are founded on honesty and good customer relations.
How much can you make from this job?
As per the statistics, if you are very good at your job, you can make up to $100,000 as a home-based travel agent per year. This includes advisors' fees and commissions. The better you are at your job, the higher this figure will rise in the future.
Now, let us break down this income;
When you make a sale, suppliers will give you a percentage of said sale. This is the first commission you shall make whenever you make a booking at your agency. The industry standard on commissions is usually 10% and can go higher depending on the supplier you are dealing with.
For example. If you booked a holiday package for a big family that ends up paying around $10,000, your commission would come up to $1,000, which is excellent. Now imagine doing at least 10 of those in one month? Your commissions that month will be equivalent to $10,000.
Unfortunately, if you have a host agency, you will end up splitting that income with them, and in most cases the split is usually 50-50, meaning you will make $5,000, but it is still an okay income for a home agency since your expenses are less.
What are the perks of working as a travel agent?
There are very many perks to working as a travel agent. These include;
First, pick at great deals
Whenever there are great deals on flights or hotels, you will always get to know about them first. Now, if you love to travel a lot, this is a great perk for you and your clients as well. It will help cement most of your relationships.
If you are always the first to know about new deals, then you will always be able to keep and retain your clients.
Most destination locations such as hotels or resorts will often send vouchers to travel agencies for them to come check them out and recommend them to their clients. This happens frequently, and it means that you will rarely have to pay for your vacations.
There's nothing better than a free, fully paid holiday.
If you are an excellent client to some hotels and airlines, you will get to enjoy great discounts whenever you make a booking with them, which you can forward to your clients. Again, this move will help you ensure that you retain your clients by always giving them the best deals.
Tax deductions when you travel
Well, who doesn’t like paying less tax? Or better still, none at all? Being a travel agent means that you can make your travel expenses a deductible expense in your income statement. This is an allowable expense, which will increase your income. This is quite a perk, and most people will appreciate it.
If this doesn’t encourage you to open up your own agency, I don’t know what will.
As I conclude this blog post, I wish to reiterate the fact that all businesses are hard, and nothing really comes easy. If you decide to set up your own travel agency, you must understand that hard work, patience and determination will take you far.
This is a lucrative and profitable business that can work for anyone. One thing you must remember, however, is that it is purely a sales job, and it would be perfect for someone that loves sales or is studying how to become a salesperson.
It is not a difficult job, but it is definitely one that requires some skill and technical know-how. You need to know how to make plane bookings and how to negotiate for the best rates with the different destinations that you shall be recommending to your clients.
Always ensure to be well informed when it comes to holiday destinations, and you can even go a step further and visit these destinations to ensure that you give your clients the best information at all times.