TC Life

Taking the leap: How Caroline left agency life to work for herself

__Since joining Travel Counsellors, ‘travel puzzle solver’ Caroline Cameron has gone from strength-to-strength. Making the big decision to try your hand at running your own travel business is a nerve-wracking choice, but one that’s proven to be a highly rewarding for many Travel Counsellors just like Caroline Cameron. __

Based in the coastal hamlet of Smiths Lake, New South Wales, Caroline has managed to build a flourishing travel business in a quiet, regional community. With no shopfront or retail space in a buzzing mall, Caroline is just one of many Travel Counsellors doing business a bit differently all over Australia.

With a background working in retail travel agencies, Caroline joined Travel Counsellors in March 2018 and fast discovered the benefits of running her business. Working her own hours, setting her own goals, choosing from a wide range of suppliers and working with a network of likeminded travel professionals all rate highly with Caroline.

“I love the flexibility of being able to work for myself. I also love being able to book a wide range of suppliers as I’m not locked in to book a preferred supplier as you often are when working in a big, retail agency,” says Caroline.

“With Travel Counsellors, you’re really in the driver’s seat. So you can choose to set your targets and decide what types of clients you choose to take on. If I want to specialise in something, I can.” And in her own way, Caroline found her niche.

Solving the travel puzzle

Some agents specialise in booking cruises, others build a reputation on arranging business trips for corporate executives. Caroline has found herself a niche in booking unusual, complicated, bespoke trips.

From booking a cat to travel from Western Australia to Port Macquarie, to putting together a luxury bucket list trip to Hawaii using small, boutique suppliers, Caroline arranges a diverse range of travel experiences for people (and felines) from all walks of life.

“I love it when people come to me to book out-of-the-ordinary holidays. I love the process of sitting down and working it out, and I’ve got the time to do that now,” says Caroline.

“Since joining Travel Counsellors, I haven’t booked many of the standard Bali, Fiji and Thailand trips. I get handed travel puzzles. I love sitting down and working on a travel puzzle until it’s solved. Once I’m on a puzzle, I won’t rest until I’ve solved it. Actually, I have to remind myself to get up and go for a walk to take a break from it!”

Becoming a Client Whisperer

Apart from being a puzzle master, Caroline is also a bit of client whisperer.

Many travel agents considering moving away from working in retail travel agencies wonder how on earth they will find clients. So how do you find clients without having a shopfront in a high-traffic mall or shopping strip? For Caroline, it’s all about putting yourself out there.

From joining clubs to connect with locals, to walking her dog on the beach while wearing her Travel Counsellors shirt and putting Travel Counsellors branding on her car, Caroline enlists many creative ways to increase her visibility within the community and start conversations that often lead to new customers.

“At first, it’s very scary putting yourself out there but I’m now out in the community more than ever before. I’m reconnecting with childhood hobbies like public speaking and I’ve even got my own radio show”.

Caroline believes that building strong, genuine relationships with her clients is the key to her success as it leads to repeat business and high referral rates. Taking the time and effort to personally meet with her clients and uncover their travel dreams and needs, Caroline’s client-focussed approach has seen her business thrive.

“I’m not one of those travel agents who likes to get people in and out as fast as possible. I like to sit down and spend time with my clients,” explains Caroline. “With Travel Counsellors, I can spend plenty of time with my clients to get to know what they want. If I want to meet with a client to organise their holiday over a glass of wine at the local club, I can. If I want to meet a client in their home to have a look at their travel mood board, I can. If I worked in a retail store, I couldn’t do that.”

Tapping into the social network

Of course, running your own business comes with challenges and just like many other small business owners, Caroline has those days where things don’t go to plan. This is where her support network comes into play.

While Caroline works from home on her own business, she never feels isolated. From talking challenges through with her Business Development Manager, to Skyping another Travel Counsellor for help with a complicated airfare, and watching Travel Counsellors TV to see what everyone’s up to, Caroline is connected to a big, social network of friends, colleagues and supporters. “I’m never alone. I’ve got a network of help available at all times. I haven’t met a Travel Counsellor I haven’t liked. There’s no hierarchy. I have colleagues, not competitors.”

As someone who thought about becoming a Travel Counsellor for a good 18 months before committing, what would Caroline say to someone considering joining? “What are you waiting for?” she asks.