Starting a home-based agency 101

By Tom Stieghorst
CruiseWorld and Home Based Agent ShowFORT LAUDERDALE -- More than 100 travel agents crowded into a standing room-only workshop to learn how to start a home-based agency Wednesday at the Travel Weekly CruiseWorld and Home Based Agent Show here.

Presenters Tom and Joanie Ogg, who literally wrote the book on the subject, offered tips on ways to leverage the latest technology, along with some time-tested small-business strategies.

One idea, for example, was to set up two business bank accounts, not one. The first is for operations, and the second is a trust account to sequester client funds so they are never confused with agency money.

"When you write a check to the supplier," Tom Ogg said, "what's left is your commission, and you can then transfer that to your operating account."

Another tip: use Google Voice so that you're always available. The service employs a master phone number that rings through to multiple devices. Tom Ogg said he has seven devices tied to the "For pricing and availability" number on his website, HomeBasedTravelAgent.com.

He recalled recently answering a call in his surfing wet suit on a beach in his hometown, San Diego. "Your high-yield, important clients should have unlimited access to you," he said.

A third strategy: When you see cruise industry VIPs, have someone take your picture with them on your cell phone. Put the photos in an e-library. "Get as many as you can, even if you don't use them," Tom Ogg said.

Then, when there's news involving that cruise line, re-write the press release tailored to your agency and market, and use the photo with it on your website, Facebook page or in an e-mail to your clients.

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly. 
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