Make yourself at home

Travel Counsellors has cited escalating pressure, inflexible hours and a decline in focus on the customer as the key reasons for agents turning their backs on the high street to start their own business.

Bolton travel counsellor Sharon Benson, who joined the homeworking company in April 2003, worked in high-street shops for 25 years, including eight years as a manager for one of the big four.

She said: “The regime I worked under in the last few years on the high street made me feel unhappy.

“The pressures they put me under took away the pleasure I feel about selling and travel. I would never go back.”

Cheltenham-based travel counsellor Janet Evans shared a similar experience. She said: “I worked for a multiple, but bosses were more concerned with the colour of my shoes than the things that are really important, such as service.”

New homeworker Deborah Price, based in Cardiff, joined Travel Counsellors in April. She said the homeworking company has “far better” technology than her former employer.

Meanwhile, homeworker Tracy Kemp, who joined Travel Counsellors in May after five years on the high street said not getting caught up in ordering brochures is one advantage of working from home.

Nicky Hill, a new homeworker from Harlow, agreed. She said: “You don’t have the rules and paperwork of a retail agent, and this allows you to focus on your clients and customer service.

“It’s scary. You are moving from a confirmed salary to a commission. But I think I will make more than I used to within one and a half to two years.”


ADELLE SALISBURY is typical of many Travel Counsellors’ homeworkers. Unable to see how she could juggle her job at a conventional travel agency with raising her two young children, Adelle bit the bullet and resigned from Bridge Travel to start homeworking last month.

She is the 500th agent to join the Travel Counsellors’ network since it started in 1993. “I want to combine a career with a family,” Adelle said. “In most agencies you have to do the 9am-to-5.30pm. I like not having to sacrifice one part of my life for the other.”

Adelle said she didn’t expect to make too much money initially, but is confident she can earn more in the long term.

She likens setting up her new office to the feeling of getting the house ready to have kids. She said: “When you set up a nursery for your children, you get a real buzz.

“It has also been a nice experience moving into this new stage of my life.”

Homeworking sounds like a great idea for those who find it hard to stick to a 9am-to5pm routine, but is it all it’s cracked up to be? We hear from agents who have taken the plunge.

“I joined Travel Counsellors when I was made redundant, aged 40. The upside is you’re your own boss, however, you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time alone.

I’d advise would-be homeworkers to research the concept thoroughly. You must have the confidence to grow a good customer base because you must earn enough money to support yourself.

Once, I was conducting a booking to Cuba for a client and we talked for an hour or so. I heard some splashing and asked where she was. She’d been sitting in a bath!”

Brian Telfer, London

“Before Travel Counsellors, I worked for tour operator Travel 2. You can work around your lifestyle, but when you are out and about, you are never off-duty. My advice for would-be homeworkers is to work hard, enjoy what you do, and get out and meet people.

My most unusual booking was made when I was in a car on my way to a training session at Manchester Airport. My partner was driving – obviously.”

Shirley Greig, Bolton

“I spent 25 years on the high street and was a Thomas Cook manager for eight years.

I love the flexibility, independence and the better quality of life of working from home and I cannot think of a downside. To succeed, you have to believe in yourself – you really can do it.

The most unusual place I’ve taken a booking is while I was watching a football game at Manchester United Football Club.”

Sharon Benson, Bolton

“Before Travel Counsellors I lived in Holland and worked for 25 years in the industry with both airlines and travel agents. The best thing about working for Travel Counsellors is the personal advice we can give is our advantage over traditional agents. But because we are passionate about our work and our office is at home, the danger is you find it hard to switch off. When I started, I was checking e-mails at midnight. You have got to be able to turn off. To succeed, you need to be very confident and a good networker.

The most unusual place I’ve made a booking is in the bath.”

Janet Evans, Cheltenham

“I worked for an independent and in a call centre before taking the plunge into homeworking. I love the flexibility. I found working in shops quite boring actually, and call centres very hectic. I would advise anyone to go for it because you are not tied to it like a normal 9am-to-5pm job.
The most unusual place I took a booking was while sunbathing in my garden, wearing a G-string! I jumped up and grabbed the call but couldn’t help thinking ‘Gosh, if only they could see me now!”

Annette Denby, Swansea

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