As a women owned, built and led host agency we understand the challenges of starting a business. We know how valuable it is to receive advice from those who have gone before us. That's why, this week we asked our network of travel advisors the following question:
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to yourself when you were starting your own business, what would you say?
The responses we received were insightful, practical, and heartfelt, and we're excited to share them with you below. Whether you're just starting out in the travel industry or you've been in business for years, we hope that the advice offered by our network will inspire and encourage you in your journey as an entrepreneur.
1. Network, Network, Network!
"You truly don’t know what you don’t know, so network, make as many connections as possible, and learn from those you admire," said GTN Advisor Julie Ann Hargett of H Luxury Travel.
The best way to start networking is by attending industry events, trade shows, conferences, and FAM's. These events provide opportunities to meet suppliers, learn about new travel products and services, and connect with other travel advisors who may be able to offer mentorship or guidance. Connect with other advisors on social media, send them a message and continue to stay in touch, you never know when an opportunity could come your way
2. Charge a Fee
"Always charge a fee, even if it is small" said GTN Advisor Debbie Ellis of Good Life Travel.
For something as valuable as their vacation, clients will gladly pay a fee IF they understand the value they are getting. Think about all you do for your clients. It is a lot! From your expertise in crafting the perfect vacation to all of those amazing documents and gifts you send them. They should be paying for that service!
3. Create Processes & Systems
Carol McKee, Owner of McKee Travel and GTN’s Travel Business University Travel Tech Mentor, said:
Create a process for how you handle your clients from your very first client. Implement boundaries that you can live with, not just for your clients but for yourself! You do not have to be available 24/7/365 for non-emergency questions, for example. But also think through how you are handling things like emails that have been answered, documents sent from suppliers, and even small things like how you title things you touch and save (last name, first name - in a folder on your desktop or in your email, etc.) Really giving thought to doing things that you can maintain and live with, in the long run when you become really busy, is important to the health of your business and in managing your own mental well-being!
4. Build Your Mailing List & Start Your Newsletter
"Build your mailing list asap and start sending your newsletter asap. To me, that's more important than the website," said GTN Advisor Krista Nannery of Antidote Travel.
Building your mailing list and starting your newsletter are two of the most powerful ways to stay in touch with clients and potential clients, while showcasing your expertise, and building trust and credibility. The best way to keep your list engaged is by sending a weekly, monthly or quarterly newsletter with exciting travel promotions, opportunities and updates. This not only helps you to stay top-of-mind with potential clients, but it also positions you as a trusted travel expert and builds a loyal following.
5. Take Time With Your Branding
"Be flexible with your branding and niche - most likely you will change your mind after you’ve had a few clients. Don’t buy every course promising quick money and clients - this is a long game in the beginning - be patient - it will come," said GTN Advisor Jennifer Verville of Gourmet Adventure Travels.
be flexible with your branding and niche - it's normal for your focus and branding to evolve as you gain more experience and work with different types of clients. Don't be afraid to experiment with different branding strategies, but always keep your ideal client and unique selling proposition in mind. With time and dedication, you can establish a strong and recognizable brand that sets you apart in the travel industry.
6. Attend An In-person Event With Your Host in the First Year
"Making in-person connections is so important - these will be friends and mentors who will be your lifeline in this business!" said Heather Parker of Bliss Travel Experiences.
If your host agency has an annual conference, hosted experiences, or other in-person events throughout the year, make it a priority to attend at least one of them! Here at GTN, we always say when our members get together, magic happens, and it's true. The power of being together in person, connecting, masterminding, learning, and building key relationships is one of the most important "parts" of the job!
7. Prioritize Your Health
"Prioritize exercise, hydration, vitamin D breaks outside, and sleep. This job can be around the clock if you allow it!" said GTN Advisor Nicole Becker of Travel Designs by Nicole.
As an entrepreneur, it's easy to get caught up in the demands of running a business and neglect your personal health. Take time to prioritize your physical and mental well-being through exercise, hydration, and adequate sleep. This will improve your productivity, focus, and creativity, allowing you to tackle challenges with greater clarity and resilience.
8. Set Clear Boundaries
"Do not feel like you have to jump whenever someone calls you. Have set business hours and take time for yourself. Set clear boundaries, you will be happier and be able to best serve your clients this way!" said GTN Advisor, Jamie Paul of Elite Travel Designs.
It can be tempting to constantly be available to clients and potential clients, but it's important to remember that you have a life outside of work as well. By setting business hours and taking time for yourself, you'll be able to recharge and ultimately provide better service to your clients. It's easy to feel like you have to jump whenever someone calls or emails, but setting boundaries can help alleviate that pressure and ultimately lead to a happier and healthier work-life balance.
9. It's OK to Say No
"Don't try to be everything for everyone. Hone in on what you love to plan and focus on that. Say no to things outside that scope, as hard as that is when you're new and desperate for clients," said GTN Advisor Julia Matheson of Travel Julia's Way.
Saying "no" is often one of the hardest things to do, especially when you're new to the industry and eager to build your client base. However, it's important to remember that you can't be everything for everyone. By focusing on your strengths and passions, you can provide your clients with exceptional service and stand out in a crowded market. Be selective about the clients and projects you take on. In doing so, you can build a sustainable and fulfilling business that aligns with your values and goals.
10. Mistakes Will Happen, Choose To Embrace Them
"Know that no matter how many systems, email templates, workflow pieces, mentors, and knowledge you have in place, you will still mess up and get stuck occasionally. Embrace the chaos and hiccups, and know you will be fine and better even on the other side of them," said GTN Advisor Diana Hetzel of Mer Bleue Travel.
Making mistakes is a natural part of learning and growing especially when you are new to the industry. Instead of dwelling on your mistakes, learn from them and use that knowledge to become a better travel advisor. Remember that every successful entrepreneur has made mistakes along the way, and it's how you handle those mistakes that will set you apart. So, don't be afraid to embrace the chaos and keep moving forward towards your goals!