The risks and rewards of a home-based agent | TravelResearchOnline

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The risks and rewards of a home-based agent

Some days it’s great to walk down the hall to your office in your pj’s, slippers and cup of coffee in hand. Especially when the temperature is -2 with a wind chill of 10 below. My dog is curled up at my feet and the cat is sitting on the copier. This is what I dreamed of when I worked in cubicle world. Then reality hits you smack in the face. Two phone lines are ringing, the dogs are barking at the UPS guy, the cat is in a snit and one of your kid’s is yelling, “Mom I just threw up in the living room.” Sigh. Chaos, calm or somewhere in the middle. Then there is the loneliness factor and not another human around to talk to all day long. No wonder my husband eats quickly and bolts for his “man cave” after dinner. He’s had enough of listening about Susie and Joe’s honeymoon and Corporate Bob’s misadventures sitting on a runway.

Working from home is great and has its advantages. Like not having to pay rent in an office. Work your own hours, not having to listen to co-workers prattle on how they spent their weekend lurking in singles bars. Then there is the flipside- distractions, kids, dogs, cats, UPS, phone ringing and no chirpy secretary answering “Good Morning.” Did I mention the neighbors think you don’t really “work” and send their kids over to your house on snow days for you to supervise. Have you tried to work with 7 kids running in and out of the house, snow dripping on the floor and making more of a mess? Then there is the house keeping issue. I really need to clean my house but I need to get that cruise quote to Mrs. Smith. There’s always tomorrow. Then there is the tendency to work all hours of the day & night. My computer is my best friend at 3 am.

I hate the term home based agent. Too me there are too many negatives associated with that term. I call myself a ‘travel consultant.” And, when people ask me where I work I tell them I work out of my home office. End of story. The other issue is setting up appointments. Unless it is my neighbors who book a cruise etc., I make appointments in restaurants and coffee shops with wi-fi access. I have also found there are virtual offices here in town where you can rent a desk (or an entire office) for as much or as little as you want. They will give you an office address, access to an office, conference room and equipment. I have not grown to the point of needing this but it is an option if I do.

I also love it when the so called “experts” give you tips on how to work from home. Dedicated work space. Got that. Set hours. Yup. Keep kids out of your office. Yea right. What planet are they from?  Get out of the house more. That’s hard to do when the wind chill is 20 below. What amuses me about these experts is they probably are sitting in a nice cozy office far away from their house, kids, dogs and cat and giving me advice.

So there you have the anecdotes. Now, here is some real advice and tips from a real person. Been there, done that on working from home.

  • Set up a dedicated office space. I have turned a spare bedroom into an office. Get the best equipment you can afford, computer, copier, VOIP.
  • Invest in a good office chair. My chair, I kid you not, was my anniversary present. My dear husband asked me what I wanted and I told him I needed a comfy office chair.  When I tell that to my friends they roll their eyes and look at me like I should be committed. But hey, a good chair is essential in keeping you comfy, happy and your back will thank you at the end of the day.
  • Check to make sure your home owner’s insurance covers you. Make sure you have permits and anything else you need from your local jurisdiction. E&O insurance is a must.
  • Set boundaries for your kids. And, when the neighbor’s send their kids over for a snow day you need to put your foot down and politely tell them they have to either play outside or go to their house.
  • Get out of the house. Grab your laptop and go sit in a coffee shop. Make lunch dates. Set up appointments out of the house.
  • Network, network, network. I belong to the Chamber of Commerce and 2 networking groups. This not only gets me out of the house but gets me referrals and I get to be around adults.
  • Find a friend to call during the day who understands what it’s like. Vent, rave and laugh with them. Online communities are also good ways to replace the office watercooler.
  • Take a break. It’s ok to take time off once in awhile to get a massage, manicure, go shopping. We all need a break.
  • Learn how to turn work off. Hard to do when working from home. Don’t be like me working at 3 am.
  • Learn to delegate. Kids can help with the housework. So, can hubby. If all else fails hire a cleaning service or find an obsessive-compulsive relative who likes to clean.
  • Above all have a sense of humor. When the dogs are barking at the ringing doorbell, the cat is hissing, the kids are yelling and you are on the phone with a vendor and they ask, “Is that a dog I hear?” or “Are you working from home?” Nope, I don’t hear a thing.

What about you? can you share any tips for effectively working from home?

Mary Stephan is the President of Allons Travel based in Powell, OH. For more information, you can contact Mary at mstephan@allonstravel.com.

  6 thoughts on “The risks and rewards of a home-based agent

  1. Lynda says:

    Boy, can I relate. However, you didn’t mention the lack of exercise, food available anytime of day or night, and the fact that all your clothes are mysteriously shrinking more with each wash!

    Got to love working from home! After 3 years as a home-based agent, many interrupted meals, phone calls at 9:00 on a Sunday night, and always being “available” so you don’t miss that sale, I’ve finally learned that its OK to turn off the office phone ringer once in a while.

    As a wise person once said, “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

  2. Julia Reid says:

    Just had to add my 2cents. Been there and done that! Do mission/humanitarian groups all over the world. Office is on lower lever of my home. Went to bed this morning at 445am. Had a small groups coming from 3places in the US to an island and trying to return them on 5 or 7 July! THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN SHUT OUT THE WORLD IS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT WITH NO DISTRACTIONS!!!
    j reid

  3. Laura says:

    Great advice Mary!

  4. TravelLisa says:

    Mary, this had me laughing because everything you described is my day to a T. Its hard to turn work off when you know you can get stuff done in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep. I have a 2 year old toddler here, the dog, the cat, a hubby who sometimes works from home as well, and my 8 year old son whos bored when he comes home from school. I sympathize with all of us who do it everyday, yet still manage to remain professional and try and laugh the rest off.

  5. Debby Hughes says:

    I am enjoying every one of Mary’s musings and look forward to reading and relating to the next one!

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