Recently I have had many conversations with travel agents who have talked about how “busy” they are. They don’t get a good night’s sleep. They start work early. They stay late. They work all the time. They have no work/life balance. You might think that they are complaining when they tell me these things, but in reality they are bragging. They have bought into the American mindset of “busyness equals success”.
Here’s the problem with that mindset: It’s not good for you and it’s not sustainable. I know from first-hand experience the toll it takes on you mentally, physically, and emotionally. Before working in travel I had my own business in another industry and I was that same person bragging about how I was so busy I couldn’t keep up. I really was incredibly busy, but I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t making a lot of money. I was doing lots of damage to my health – mental and physical – all because I bought into the belief that this is what success looks like.
Thankfully I realized this wasn’t sustainable and I hired a business coach who helped me realize there is a better way to live.
Sure, I am “busy” now, but not too busy. I will never again sacrifice my well-being. It’s too precious.
If you are in this situation you may be wondering how to change your path. I have some suggestions I hope will help.
First, awareness truly is the most important place to begin. If you aren’t aware of the importance of having balance in your life, then you aren’t going to take the steps needed to achieve balance. Because in our culture it isn’t easy.
Second, recognize that you must take responsibility for your well-being and that no one else can or will do that for you.
Next, determine your pain points so you know what to fix. Are you (like many travel agents) working a lot of hours on bookings that make you very little money and aren’t your ideal client? Stop it! Yes, I am talking about turning away business. If you want something new you have to make space for it. If you are already working 12 hours a day 6 or 7 days a week you aren’t going to have time for that ideal client – and are probably so tired you won’t recognize opportunities when they are put in your path.
How do you turn away clients? The first step is one that the majority of travel agents need to work on: Get super clear about who your ideal client is and what you have to offer them so you know who you don’t want to work with. If you can’t currently articulate that, take time to figure it out. Don’t worry about whether or not those people live in your community. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t have even one of those people now. They ARE out there and you can reach them.
A great way to weed out time wasting clients and those with really low budgets (who often take as much time as luxury clients), is to charge a professional fee. I am honestly perplexed as to why every travel agent doesn’t do this. Seriously, if you are a professional you should be paid for your time. Period. Commission is a thank you from a supplier and has no bearing on your professional fees. Implementing a fee will not only help improve your financial picture (especially if you are an IC because you can often process those yourself and keep 100%), it will also reduce your workload by eliminating high maintenance/low spend clients.
A word of caution here: Before you implement fees, please make sure that you have gotten really clear on who your ideal client is and what you offer them. When you get to that point you will be far more confident in discussing your fee structure with your clients. If you implement fees because you feel you should or have to and don’t really feel confident about it, clients will detect that and will balk at paying the fee. Then you will end up waiving it and feel resentful toward the client. A bad scenario all the way around.
Also be prepared that at least one client you want to work with is going to say “no” to your fee. AND THAT IS OK. You might have thought they were your ideal client, but if they don’t want to work with you enough to pay your fee, then they aren’t your ideal client after all.
Imagine having even 20% fewer clients while making the same amount of money or more likely even more. How much would your life improve? That’s what can happen when you implement fees.
Sometimes though you need to turn away a client because they aren’t a good fit. They might be willing to pay your fee, but if it isn’t a good fit, don’t do it. Remember, just because you can help a client doesn’t mean you should. Keep focused on the highest and best use of your time and energy. Both time and energy are precious commodities you need to protect.
The travel industry is enjoying a bit of a renaissance right now and part of that is changing the way we work. Many people have figured out the incredible value of working with an advisor, and that is leading to a lot of demand for skilled travel consultants. That means it is a great time to have a great business, not because you are constantly hustling and working a lot of hours, but because you are passionate about what you do and have a tremendous amount of expertise to share with clients.