Is homeworking rig

It’s not just about the commission. Head office support, lead generation and technology are among the other key issues to consider, says Samantha Mayling

Becoming a self-employed, home-based agent can be daunting in the best of times. But in the middle of a pandemic, with travel bookings reduced to a trickle, it might seem foolhardy or, worse, reckless. Yet hundreds seem undaunted by the

prospect of launching a travel business amid an unprecedented crisis, as homeworking agencies all report rising enquiries. Business models vary widely, with different

commission splits, training, support, leads and fees – even within organisations – so careful research is vital. However, the variety means there’s likely to be a model to suit every different agent.

Opportunity knocks John Milburn, head of homeworking and telesales at Hays Travel, says: “It’s become much more accessible and diversified. “It’s now seen as a real business opportunity as well as a lifestyle choice. “We have seen an increase in applications

due to the current market. Lots of people in the industry have been working from home and really enjoyed the balance it brought to their lives – so why not make it a career?” Kirsten Hughes, UK managing director

at Travel Counsellors, says: “We’ve seen an increase in interest from people who’ve been made redundant or are worried about their future, particularly from corporate travel.” US firm InteleTravel recruited 4,000 UK homeworkers during a three-month period in the pandemic. Tricia Handley-Hughes, its UK director, says: “Covid accelerated the WFH trend; people are reassessing their lives and some have lost jobs. “If you have a mortgage and bills but yearn

to work in travel, there can be a huge risk to starting.” However, she says the company’s low costs means it can offer a “low-risk entry” to the sector.

8 29 OCTOBER 2020 Pros and cons

Weighing up whether homeworking is right for you? Here are some factors to consider:

PROS ✪ Flexible working and work-life balance

✪ Control your earnings ✪ Be your own boss ✪ Choose what to sell ✪ Work from any location

✪ Build personal client relationships

CONS ✪ Short-term finance issues

✪ No guaranteed salary ✪ No employee benefits ✪ Hard work ✪ Can be lonely ✪ Customers may call late or at weekends

Do your homework Richard Dixon, Holidaysplease director, has also recruited agents during the pandemic but urges would-be homeworkers to “think very carefully”. “Lots of people are wide-eyed. There are lots

of different propositions, so it is more important than ever to research,” he says. “Is it right for you now, next year, in three

years, in five years?” Dixon recently held a webinar in which he highlighted 50 questions that would-be homeworkers should ask an agency. These covered topics such as reputation, position in the market, lead generation, fees and charges, supplier deals, commission, average earnings, support staff, training and technology. “You need to be honest; it’s hard to find clients beyond friends and family,” he warns. “You need to be super-motivated and resilient.

Create a clear plan for year one and a vision for where your business will be by year three. If you’re desperate for money, this may not be for you. It’s a great opportunity but it may take six to 12 months to build up a decent level of income regardless of when commission is paid.”

Money talks Alistair Rowland, chief executive of Blue Bay Travel, says a good homeworker should have 200 or more clients and turn over between £500,000 and £1 million in a normal year to generate a good income. Top earners can turn over £2 million a year, he says, but start-ups can target £300,000 from about 100 clients. However, in the current crisis, there are few bookings, so Blue Bay’s new homeworking offering will pay half the commission upfront to help cashflow over the winter. That model may not suit all homeworkers as commission has to be repaid if a holiday is cancelled. The new model from Advantage levies 2% of the turnover of Travel Specialists homeworkers, as well as its share of commission. But in

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