Mums in pyjamas and millions in the bank? These stereotypes conceal the diverse range of homeworkers and their many ways of working, says Samantha Mayling.
Since the Covid crisis hit, thousands of us have become homeworkers, experiencing what a career beyond the office or shop could be like.
Yet there are still many misconceptions that bosses are keen to dispel – so we take a look at some of the most commonly held assumptions about homeworking.
Traditionally, it has been seen as the domain of mums, eager to balance family commitments with work, but the mix is changing. Claire Willoughby, business development manager at Personal Travel Agents, says she sees plenty of male applicants and has recruits with a range of backgrounds and ages.
Will I really earn that much?
The amount homeworkers can earn is also often overestimated, especially early on.
Alistair Rowland, chief executive of Blue Bay Travel, urges homeworkers not to get “carried away by marketing hype”.
“Some do really well, perhaps the top 20%. Many earn a nice living with a good work-life balance. The more serious you are, the better results you’ll get,” he says.
“The £1 million sellers had to start somewhere; they didn’t earn £60k in their first year, they were building their database.”
Ivrie Cohen, business development manager at Inspire, warns: “The first 12 to 18 months are definitely the hardest and a lot of people give up as they can’t see immediate returns.”
Do I have to work from home?
Meanwhile, Travel Counsellors is on a mission to show that agents don’t have to work from home.
“I prefer to use the term ‘flexible working’ as you can do it anywhere,” says Kirsten Hughes, UK managing director.
“Our business has evolved over 26 years: some people work on a laptop at home but others work as pairs or teams, in an office, employing staff.”
Paula Nuttall, The Holiday Village chief executive, says some workers are even based overseas in countries such as Spain or Turkey. Using 0330 numbers means agents can work anywhere.
“Get out there, engage with people, make business happen. We had someone making a £16,000 booking for travel this weekend.”
Paul Harrison, co-founder of The Travel Franchise and Not Just Travel group of companies, is keen to allay fears about “doom and gloom” in the market.
“We dispel the fear – for every 100 people a homeworker will contact [about holidays], a third will say ‘sod off’, a third might think about it but a third may well book,” he says. “Get out there, engage with people, make business happen. We had someone making a £16,000 booking for travel this weekend.”
Will it be too quiet?
Another myth is loneliness, says Gary Pridmore, chief executive of Aquilium Travel Group. “They say it can be soul-destroying and lonely,” he says. “So, what can you do? Do a pop-up shop with a hairdresser once a week or in a Tesco store, or a travel clinic in a staff room once a month.”
“Don’t worry if they don’t book – build your own client base and it’s a nice surprise if they come to you.”
Jacqui Cleaver, head of communications at Protected Trust Services, warns agents not to rely on selling to friends and family: “Don’t worry if they don’t book – build your own client base and it’s a nice surprise if they come to you.”
Gary Gillespie, managing director of Independent Travel Experts, says the public too have misconceptions, adding: “The public perception is that you’re on holiday a lot and get paid lots of commission.”