#AskMeredith: What are some easy tips I can do so that my friends, family and colleagues start taking my business seriously (and stop treating it like a hobby)?
You might have figured out already that there are very low barriers to entry to becoming a travel agent. There’s no license needed. No certification needed. No investment in expensive equipment. No office space needed so no investment in rent and furniture. Basically, it’s pretty easy, inexpensive and simple to find a host agency and hang a shingle on your door that says, “I’m in business.”
This is great from the perspective that anybody has the opportunity to become a travel agent. But it’s not so great from the perspective that anybody has the opportunity to become a travel agent. Ironic, right? Here’s why. There are a lot of people who become a travel agent, but aren’t committed, aren’t professional and don’t take it very seriously. Because of that, the profession gets a bad rap. So your credibility starting point is a lot lower as a professional travel agent than it is as a professional attorney or medical doctor.
There are simple things you can do (maybe even MUST do) to overcompensate for the less than professional reputation of the travel agent. Here are my top 10 tips that will give you credibility and establish yourself as a travel expert in business:
1) Invest in a professional email address. In other words, drop the free email address that results in @gmail.com; @hotmail.com; @comcast.net, etc.
2) Set up a separate legal entity. It can be a sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation. No matter which you choose, it’s important you draw a legal line between your personal assets and the assets of your business.
3) Pick a name that sounds professional … not cute! For more on this read the #AskMeredith article, How Do I Pick a Good Name for my Travel Agency?
4) Hire a graphic designer to create a logo and business card for you.
5) Invest in a professionally designed website that acts like an electronic brochure (don’t worry about getting website traffic yet or having an online booking engine.)
6) Invest in a virtual phone system, like RingCentral, Nextiba or 8X8 Communications. This will give you the ability to have a toll free number and a different phone number for business calls even if you direct all calls to your own cell phone.
7) Establish a business Facebook Page and post regularly.
8) Write and Post about inspirational or informational things, not deals.
9) Send a Warm Letter to all your friends, family and colleagues announcing your business and in the letter, tell them who you help, how you help, why you help them and ask them to refer people to you that fit your ideal client profile.
10) Send a weekly electronic newsletter using an auto responder system and follow the GIFTE formula.