These are in no particular order of need – all are important!

Owning your own travel business is more than booking awesome vacations for your clients.  It’s a business, not a hobby.  My English teacher in High School always talked about Prose versus Pros.  As an English teacher she was always talking about Prose, not the people who play professional sports.  You are a professional travel agent if you are being paid commission on the bookings you make. 

As with any business there are guidelines, tasks and procedures you must to do in order to be recognized by your clients and often by local, state or federal governments.  I talk to so many agents who start a travel business and say they just wing it with the business side of things.  They love to sell travel and leave the business side of things to chance, doing only what they must do.

Regardless of how long you’ve had your own travel business, you need to have certain things in place in order to operate.  Here are 10 things you need to do if you own your own travel business.

1.  Deciding on the real reason you became a travel advisor.
      If you want to travel for free and travel all the time those are not
      good enough reasons to start a business.  If you thoroughly enjoy
      helping people, if you feel accomplished by serving your clients well,
      like to travel, are a problem solver, and want to make money, those
      valid reasons to start your own travel business.

2.   Education
      You wouldn’t open a dentistry practice without going to a dental
      school, would you?  Then why would you start a travel business     
      without some form of training.  There is training available from host
      agencies, travel vendors, tourism boards, travel industry technology
      companies, sales and marketing specialists, and Social Media.  The  
      key is making time for education.  Once your business is functioning
      like a well-run machine, you get too busy to take time to update
      your knowledge.  Set aside time each week – 45 minutes to an hour.
      Think of it as an appointment with yourself.  You wouldn’t cancel an
      appointment with a client, so don’t cancel this one.

3.  Setting Up Your Business
      Choosing a business structure is something you should discuss with
      your attorney or accountant.  Deciding on if Sole Proprietor, LLC-
      Limited Liability company, S or C Corporation is best for you after
      seeking professional recommendations.  Setting up how your taxes
      will be paid is also important.  Do you have employees?  You need to
      take in consideration both business and personal taxes.

      Travel Seller Laws are in 13 states.  Five of those require registration
      or licensure if you want to sell to clients or advertise to people living
      in that state.
       Naming your business, buying the domain name(s), obtain any
       licenses, building your website, decide on a logo, a tag line and your
       printed materials is all related to your business name.

      Determining if you want to be Hosted or Independent will be a
      decision that you need to consider.  Do you want to build your
      business on your own or have assistance with a host agency?  Check
      out or to
      research your best host agency options.

      Errors & Omission insurance is often provided by a host agency
      however, you should carry your own policy for added protection.
      The policy your host offers covers every IC they have which could be
      in the 1000’s.  Having your own policy is going to ensure you have
     adequate coverage should you need it.

      Will you specialize in a certain area of travel, a travel niche?
Focusing on a niche will allow you to focus your education,
      marketing and sales on a travel such as luxury,
      family, cruises or romance.                                                          

4.  Knowing the World You Sell
      Understanding Geography is very important when you
      sell travel.  Knowing how the time zones work and crossing the
      International Dateline affects your client’s travel is necessary when
      planning arrivals and departures. 

5.  Set Goals
      Too many times we get busy and don’t take time to set goals for our
      business or personally.  Goals for sales with your preferred
      suppliers, or sales and marketing goals should be S.M.A.R.T. goals –
      Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic, and Timely.
      Your goals aren’t set in stone so they can be adjusted if need be.
6.  Lack of Funds
     Too many businesses open and close soon after because they don’t
     have enough working capital to get them started.  You can’t rely on
     commissions that haven’t been paid yet to pay your bills and
     operate your business daily.  Sometimes it takes years
     before you can pay yourself.  Accurately determining your
     startup costs will allow you to create a budget and determine what
     financial obligations you will have.

7.  Time Management
      Time is one of those things that there is never enough of and using
      it wisely is the best way to be productive, successful, and sometimes
      stress free.  Prioritizing your To Do List, checking email and Social
      Media at certain times of the day, and staying on task will help you
      utilize your time and save you from working way more than you
      should.  If you are going to work from your home, you must be able
      to stick to office hours.  It’s too easy to throw a load of laundry in or
      start dinner when you should be working on a quote.  Take a
      morning and afternoon break as well as a lunch break.  Use that
      time to do things around the house or run errands.

8.  Not understanding the sales process.
      A travel agency is a sales business. You are in the business of selling
      travel.  Your product knowledge, marketing skills, relationship
      building and active listening are all core to closing a sale.  Being
      able to turn a feature into a benefit is part of the sales process. 
       Having a set follow up plan is crucial to any sales business.

9.  Having a back up plan
      A back up plan is more than storing your data in a cloud.  It’s having
      resources in case of an unexpected expense or what happens if you
      or a family member get sick or have a family emergency?  Do you
      have someone you can trust to cover for you?  Your host agency
      may provide coverage (at a cost) or maybe another agent that you
      know from the same host.

10. Not having a business or marketing plan
      Both of these documents don’t have to be numerous pages.  A
      business plan maps out your business objectives and strategies
      and serves as a guide to help you reach your goals.  A marketing
      plan is for your goals, objectives and strategies on how you are
      going to promote your business.

Many of these may seem like a no brainer and any business owner
would do them but you would be surprised at how many start a travel business without some of these things.  All too often I hear from
agents who didn’t plan for extra expenses, or an opportunity presents itself like an amazing fam trip or a great marketing opportunity and they must pass because there were no funds. Most business owners reinvest any profits they make from their business for a few years.

Being in business for yourself can be very rewarding but it can also be very stressful if one of these things isn’t in place.  Take time to evaluate how your business is running, what needs to change and what you are leaving to chance.