Should You Start as a Travel Agent Employee or Independent Contractor? | TravelResearchOnline


Should You Start as a Travel Agent Employee or Independent Contractor?

I have enjoyed the articles that I have been reading on your website, very informative. I’ve been doing a lot of research on being a travel agent and if it is the right career change for me. There is a lot to learn! One of the questions I have would be: Would it be more beneficial to try and get a job at AAA as a Travel Agent first and learn the ropes or to sign up with a Host Agency? There is a AAA position open in my area and the more I was reading it, it sounded like a lot of sales (possibly more geared towards selling memberships). I’ve had 1 experience doing sales back in the 90s selling Tupperware and I wasn’t good at all. So sales in general aren’t my thing. So would that hinder me as a Travel Agent? I’m not a high pressure, cold calling, sales kinda person.

My daughter is encouraging me to give this Travel Agent thing a try – I’m the one always researching and booking our family reunion homes at OBX. My family tells me that I should “do that for a living”. When you have 10 adults and 10 kids – it’s important to look at bedrooms and the beds in them! I just don’t know if that is an actual “thing” in the Travel Agent realm. I’m sorry for going on and on. I appreciate your help and advice.

Thank you so much!!

Heather Anton


Hey Heather!

This is a good question and it’s tough to say because working as an employee is so different from working as an IC…especially if the AAA job is primarily selling memberships. (You can read up on the importance of distinguishing between an independent contractor and travel agent employee here.) But here’s a few things I’d also consider to help you figure out what’s the best fit for you:

●    It’s all about Sales: Selling travel is a sales job whether you’re a travel agent employee or independent contractor with your own agency. A lot of people go into selling travel because they love to plan travel and/or they personally love to travel. This is great, and it’s an important quality to do a good job; but, at the end of the day, there is a ton of sales and marketing involved in opening your own agency. After all, you need to get clients in order to make a sustainable living! That said, when you’re doing sales for yourself, you get to do it in a way that’s comfortable/more natural for you.
●    Do you need immediate income? When starting an agency, it can take time (approximately three years) to get rooted in the industry and start making income. Of course, there are exceptions; but it can take time to find clients, plan and book their vacations, and ultimately get the commissions from their travel—since commissions don’t come in until after the travel is complete, so that creates a payday delay too.

●    Startup Costs: Starting your own agency will take some startup costs too. According to our 2018 Travel Agent Income Survey, the average startup cost is $1,563 (if you want to get exact :). You can read here on what to expect in when starting up an agency.
●    Education: One of the benefits of starting on your own is that you’d be able to tailor your own travel agent education. Granted, this will take time and resources, but you can pick and choose what and how you want to learn. You can read up more on travel agent education here.
At the end of the day, it just really depends on what would satisfy you more. You could always apply and interview just to see what working at a storefront agency is all about. But in short, if that job focuses on membership sales, it may not give you the preparation you’d want/need to start your own agency if that’s your end goal.

I highly recommend checking out the 7-Day Setup Travel Agency Challenge. It consists of daily emails for a week that walk aspiring agents through the steps they need to take before they open a travel agency! It includes info on naming your agency, finding a niche, choosing a business structure, setting up financials, picking a host/franchise/accreditation organization, and so much more. Even if you don’t end up starting an agency right away, it will give you a real detailed sense of what it would entail.

Good luck with your decision!



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