Sarah Paterson, Mum of 2 from St Albans has lived in Dubai since 2009 and recently decided to set up her own business as a Travel Counsellor.
What made you decide to set up business as a Travel Counsellor?
Primarily because I LOVE travel!! I saw an advertisement online and it really grabbed my attention. I have travelled extensively myself and love doing the research and putting the itineraries together. That combined with the fact I could run the business from home and its totally flexible, I knew it was perfect for me.
What was your background prior to becoming a Travel Counsellor?
When I moved to Dubai 9 years ago I retrained and got into teaching. Prior to that in The UK I was a financial planning consultant, helping companies with their budgets and forecasting - which has come in useful now I am running my own business. However, having a career in travel was a total change of direction which meant the Travel Counsellors Academy programme was ideal for me.
How did you find the initial Travel Counsellors Academy induction?
The induction was great, I was a bit worried when I first started that I’d find it a lot to learn and it could be overwhelming however after the 3 weeks initial training that I had I found it a much easier transition that I had expected. The ongoing support I’ve received from the head office team both here in Dubai and from the UK has been amazing. Any queries I’ve had one of the team will pick up the phone and reassure me and keep me moving in the right direction which has been valuable.
Where did you initially find your customers?
Most of the people who initially booked with me were friends or friends of friends. I have had so much support from them it’s been incredible and what’s been lovely is the positive feedback I’ve then had. My customers are great at sharing things on social media and recommending me and I’ve been getting lots more enquiries through that which has been very good.
Being a busy working Mum how have you managed juggling your business with your home life?
Its actually not been too bad. I am fortunate that my daughter is now 13 and my son 10 so they don’t require the same level of attention from me as they did when they were younger. I do still try to get the majority of my quotes done while they are out at school though and enjoy the peace and quiet. As the business is so flexible and I can have my laptop with me wherever I go I have found myself working a bit at the weekends by the pool and even in the evenings whist watching TV, I can quickly log on and pull quotes together whenever it suits me which is great.
How do you find working from home? Do you ever get lonely?
I had come from a busy school and office environment so it was a change for me but I have adapted to it really well. I still see lots of my friends and take the opportunity to meet up for coffee during the week and often end up talking about travel. I also meet up regularly with the other Travel Counsellors who I trained with to catch up, share ideas etc. Also, as Travel Counsellor there are regular opportunities for training, conferences and hotel site inspections so I can be out of the house quite a lot if I choose.
What about when you want to travel yourself and take a holiday how do you manage the business?
At Travel Counsellors there is a buddy system in place, so I can have one of my colleagues look after things whilst I am away. I also tend to take my laptop with me when going back to the UK, so I can still run the business and work on itineraries from there.
Is being a Travel Counsellor as career path you would recommend to other Mums?
Absolutely it’s just been incredible. I didn’t expect to hit the ground running as quickly as I have. I have been busy booking lots of family holidays for the Summer and now we have the dates for next term I am getting lots of enquiries for later in the year. We are very lucky that people living here tend to travel so regularly.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about joining Travel Counsellors?
My main concern was where I was going to find my initial customers – its really worked for me being with friends and contacts through social media. Reach out to everyone and keep in touch its maintaining and building those relationships that have really helped me. You do have be proactive though you can’t just sit back and expect enquiries to be flooding in, its important to keep reminding people what you do and how you can help them. I got lots of ideas for networking and marketing my business during my initial induction and it’s important to follow then through. I’d also say be organised it helps me maximise what I get out of the time I spend on my business.
What goes on at a Travel Counsellors discovery presentation?
After I had seen the advertisement for Travel Counsellors I registered for the next discovery event and went along. For me it was an opportunity to understand fully the business model, to put my mind at rest that it’s a professional franchise business and to better understand the earning potential. There were some existing Travel Counsellors there on the morning too and it was good to hear from them what life was like as a Travel Counsellor. I left the presentation still very interested, so I pursued it further.
What is the best thing about being a Travel Counsellor?
For me it’s been dealing with travel which I thoroughly enjoy and am truly passionate about, plus the flexibility of the role. For me it doesn’t feel like hard work, I just love talking about travel to people, putting holidays together and getting the positive feedback when people have had amazing time away.
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