After working for Thomas Cook for 26 years, Michelle Wilson, made the leap from travel agent, to business owner in March 2016 – and she hasn’t looked back since.
Here's her story, in her words.
For 26 years I worked for one of the biggest high street travel agencies, working my way up from trainee to Branch Manager.
When I had my children I decided to change to a part-time Sales Consultant so that I’d have more time to spend with my family.
Despite reducing my hours, I was still working 3 out of 4 weekends. I already felt like I was never seeing my children and my husband, and then my manager said we would possibly have to start working every weekend.
We were always so short staffed in our branch which meant we weren’t getting the breaks we’d earnt, so my health was really starting to suffer as a result.
I decided it was time to start considering my future.
I’d heard about Travel Counsellors from my ex-Manager who had joined 3 years before me. We used to meet up for lunch and she kept telling me how much she enjoyed it and that I should consider moving.
So, I made the trip to head office for my ‘interview’ with Cathy in the recruitment team. My husband came with me – he was going to wait outside for me but Cathy insisted he came and joined me. It really felt like chatting with a friend, rather than a formal interview.
Once I’d decided, that was that. If I was going to make the move, it had to be with a company who valued their customers and their people they way I do, and I felt that Travel Counsellors was the right fit for me.
I’m absolutely loving life as a Travel Counsellor.
My lifestyle has changed so much now: I have cut out over 2 hours of travelling every day, my health has improved, and instead of spending my weekends working, I can have lunch dates with my daughter every Sunday.
Now I’m my own boss I’ve got so much more freedom.
The best thing about being a Travel Counsellor is being able to do all of the little things that I couldn’t do before - like being on time for parent/teacher evenings or being able to plan a night out without factoring in getting home from work.
I don’t miss the feeling of juggling everything around work.
I can’t believe how well it’s all gone.
It’s been great to see my business developing and becoming so successful. I’ve sold as much as I did in my previous job, but I have earnt considerably more than I ever would have.
The referrals have been amazing – many of my customers from my previous job have found me through Facebook and have started referring me to their friends and family - now their friends and family are referring me too.
The support from my Travel Counsellor colleagues has been amazing.
I’d set myself a big sales target that I was personally aiming for and they encouraged me all the way – now I’ve hit that target and I couldn’t be happier.
But it’s also the little things that have made all the difference to me – like receiving a card from head office to say well done.
I feel like I received more recognition in the first 12 months than I ever did in 26 years in my old job.
I enjoy my work more, and I earn considerably more than I used to on the high street.
I’d recommend having about six months’ salary to fall back on while you’re getting started – but after only one year as a Travel Counsellor, my salary was 3 times what it was on the high street.
There isn’t one day that I’ve regretted moving.
Today, I'm a ‘Gold’ Travel Counsellor, which makes up the top 10% of franchisee's by revenue.
Whilst it's good to be rewarded financially for the hard work I put in, there are other perks of being a Gold Travel Counsellor as well - annual Gold Weekends at luxurious destinations around the world are just the tip of the iceberg.
My advice for anyone who is considering becoming a Travel Counsellor – just go for it!