By Linda Jones
Have you ever had a deep craving to work at home? Maybe you're a mom or dad that wants to be home with the kids. Maybe you're already home and want to earn some extra money to make ends meet. Maybe you just want out of the redundancy of the office. If you are any of these, you've probably searched the net for hours trying to find the right opportunity for you. But if you're anything like me, you found them to be - well - not quite what you had in mind.
I'm a stay-at-home mom who needed to earn extra income in order to stay a stay-at-home mom. I searched everywhere for something real, honest, and solid. I thought I had found a couple of options that might work, but after trying them out for a while, it just wasn't for me. You know the kind - selling products, hosting parties, trying to get other people to sign-up for their own home based business. I'm just not a sales person, in fact, I hate it! Needless to say, I dropped out of each program, having made nothing but paid plenty. Sound familiar?
It took a good friend of mine to open my eyes to a new opportunity, one I thought completely out of my reach. "What is it?" I said. "Well, it's the opportunity to become a Travel Agent from home." I couldn't believe it - that was something I had always been interested in but never wanted to go through school to do it. "No way!" I said, "Don't they need to learn complicated computer languages and go to a special school?" "No, it's very easy to learn and get started!" I was shocked - and intrigued.
It turns out there are several Travel Agencies all over the nation that offer themselves up as Hosts. Basically, they allow you to use their industry accounts, suppliers, and special numbers in exchange for part of the commission and/or a monthly fee. Some Hosts provide training, some provide special software, some charge monthly fees, some charge a start-up fee, some even have no fees. Actually, there's a Host for every type of experience (including no experience), budget, and business goal.
Well, I'm a bit anal when it comes to business ventures, so I made a list of pros & cons. Here is what I came up with:
-Complete control of my own business (advertising, hours, clients, etc)
-Discounts on travel
-Everyone travels, so it's just a matter of letting them know I can help them
-Already have family and friends who travel that would let me take care of it for them
-Very low start-up and monthly fees (with some of the Hosts)
-Growth potential - as big or little as I'd like
-People will be much more open if I tell them I'm a Travel Agent vs. that I'm trying to sell them something or have them sign-up for a business
-Tax write-offs for a home business (including just about every vacation I take)
-Training (some Hosts offer training)
-Support - most hosts offer some type of support network, contacts, etc. so I have resources when I need help
-Coverage - some Hosts will offer the opportunity to be placed on their Errors & Omissions insurance (business protection)
-It's not a get rich quick business, it will take time and effort to build a clientele
-Need to get local business licenses as required by my city/county/state (some Hosts have the state licenses so you won't need to get it)
-Advertising - it's going to take some work to get my name out there
All in all, the Pros out-weighed the Cons - so I signed up! It's been about 8 months now and business is really starting to roll. The first thing I did was tell everyone I know that I was an agent. From there, I got enough requests to jump start my business and start earning some commission here and there. I then started advertising online and locally and got some more clients. Now, I mostly get clients by word of mouth and repeat business (treat them like royalty and they'll be your best advertising). It's enough that I always have some trip or another that I'm working on.
If you think this might be an option for you, here are some things to consider before signing:
-Make sure the Host you choose is reputable (member of BBB, professional organizations, etc.)
-Make sure they have the proper licensing/registration for your state (usually called the Seller of Travel registration). If they don't, ask them to get it - if they refuse, go to another Host
-Check with www.sba.gov, www.irs.gov, and/or a tax professional so you know what will be required of you in starting a business, what can be written off, what receipts to keep, etc.
-Talk it over with your family. Make sure they understand that you'll be spending some time on the computer and phone each day so they'll understand and agree with the commitment
I've really enjoyed the business and see myself doing it for years to come. I'm so thankful my friend told me about it and that I now have the chance to contribute to our income. Not to mention my pride in having my own business. If this is something you might enjoy, I wish you the best of luck!
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