We have all heard that “time is money.” Indeed, much of the way we speak of time has a monetary ring to it. Your time has a real value and spending it poorly is a dangerous thing to do. Carl Sandburg once said that if you don’t spend your time wisely, others would spend it for you. If there is any skill that comes to the fore during periods when you are very busy, it’s time management. Strangely, time management appears to be a skill even when we are sidelined. In a one-on-one service industry like travel consulting, keeping track of your time can be a very difficult thing to do. We build our travel practices not on an hourly basis, but on the satisfaction of the clients we serve, so we naturally invest a great deal of time ensuring the quality of the experiences we create.
But there is still a very important lesson to keep at the front of your mind at all times: if you don’t value yourself, you won’t correctly value your time.
Coronavirus – 19 has further distorted our sense of time, from losing track of days to tasks that used to take hours now taking days. Much of the last few weeks has been about completely necessary but unproductive time on hold trying to cancel reservations for clients and income for ourselves. On the other side of all the pain there are probably very solid lessons to be incorporated regarding fees.
This is a tough lesson for travel consultants to accept and to integrate into their travel practice. Ask a room full of travel consultants how many of them charge a fee for their services and only a few will raise their hands. There is the natural reluctance to chase away all of those hard-won clients who may not agree to pay a fee. Except if they won’t pay a fee, they aren’t “won” at all. Your clients are not clients until money exchanges hands. How many stories do we all have about the client who took our research and booked elsewhere? Is there any more a common story in that same room full of travel agents?
To be willing to pay a “plan to go” or a research fee, a client must be absolutely convinced of the value of the agent’s work product. If the travel agent is not convinced of the value of the services they are rendering beyond all doubt, they will not be able to convince the client and the relationship will remain on tenuous grounds.
So how is charging a research fee related to time management? Is it possible you’ve been allowing too many bad clients to kill your time, and you have been an accomplice? Maybe it’s time to kill off some bad relationships, to let go of the bad clients. The one that ask a thousand questions, takes up your valuable time – and then disappears. The time waster who never buys anything through you, but is always willing to take plenty of free advice. The client who uses you as a free information resource but never books. The clients who won’t sign documents and who threaten charge-backs. Don’t worry about losing the losers. We have all taken these types on at some time or another. When we accept these characters as clients, the message we send is that we don’t think our time is very valuable. We are complicit in killing off our income potential.
If you don’t value yourself, you won’t value your time.
One of the great ways to demonstrate the value you put on your time is to require a research fee. It takes practice and courage, I know. More than those qualities, however, it requires a real belief in your inherent value.
Don’t be anything other than polite and professional, warm, and friendly… and firm. You only have a few hours each day to build your practice. You would not waste a professional’s time yourself, so don’t let others waste yours.