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knowledge selling from home Time management

No time like the present

Working for yourself is more flexible, but using your time effectively is a challenge. Debbie Ward asks homeworkers and a training expert for tips for fruitful office hours

PRIORITISING WORKLOAD. Future Travel homeworker April Stepek works

afternoons and evenings, ensuring she is at her desk from 11am and available for calls from 1pm. She not only works around her children but also her suppliers, using knowledge she has gleaned from working for an operator to manage her time more effectively. “Tour operators will get into work about 8am or 9am and will decide what discounts they are doing. There is no point in me putting any offers up between say, 8am and 10am, as the prices can change and it messes you about,” she says. “Many homeworkers work until 10pm or 11pm, so the first thing operators are going to do is find out what has gone and decide whether they will put their prices up or down.”

Most homeworkers treat requests for quotes on a first-come first-served basis, rather than prioritising regulars or bigger bookings. “A new booking could be a future regular,” Stepek points out.

But Travel Counsellor Emma Parry-Thorpe warns that quot- ing on sketchy email enquiries is a

potential time-waster. “If people email, sometimes they don’t leave a phone number and are shopping around, so I get a number first and ring them for a chat,” she says.


Hays Travel homeworker Sarah Munro, a top seller after only two months homeworking, recommends clearing the decks each day. “I put my phone on voicemail between 8am and 10am, so I can make sure everything from the day before is actioned immediately, then I can log on to the switch [of offers] afterwards.” With two children, Parry-Thorpe is adept at multi-tasking, keeping an eye on them and the dinner while she works in the evenings. But she reserves her quietest time for admin. “When the kids have gone to bed, I do the paperwork, as I can’t afford to make a mistake.”

Travel counsellors have an electronic diary system to remind agents of admin tasks and “golden habits” such as thank you and welcome home cards. “If I make a book- ing today, in two days’ time it will ask me whether I have sent a thank you card to this customer.” A hit Parry-Thorpe has


Graham Allcott, founder/director of time management training company Think Productive, offers some advice on time management

■ Have a morning list: work out which emails or phonecalls you’re putting off and start with the worst, so that the morning ends with a little celebration.

■ Empty your inbox every night: file things that are for reference and move emails still needing replies to an “action” folder.

■ It takes 15 minutes to get back into a task following an interruption, so turn off your email alerts and Twitter. If you really need to concentrate, switch off your phone.

■ Allocate times of the week when you are most “brain frazzled” for mundane tasks such as filing.

■ When on the move, take a list of pending calls with you. Take opportunities such as waiting for a train to make one or two.

■ Make a weekly review of your business goals and check you’re still on target.

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