For Deepa Mahal, a career as a home-based agent is all about making her own schedule.
Specializing in destination weddings, honeymoons and luxury travel since 2010, Mahal brings a wide range of experience to her travel career, with previous roles at Continental Airlines, Manulife Insurance and as a senior kindergarten teacher.
While Mahal attributes a passion for travel and a desire to share that interest with others among her reasons for entering the industry, knowing that she can work her own hours is a key factor behind why she opted for a home versus a storefront agency.
"The number one reason is flexibility", Mahal says. "You simply cannot put a price on that."
Going "above and beyond the call of duty" by making herself constantly available to clients, Mahal says that same level of flexibility also pays off when travellers find themselves in a difficult situation outside of regular office hours, while trying to enjoy their time away. Her commitment to customer service has translated to 95% of clients making repeat bookings, while an estimated 75% of her new business comes from referrals.
Discipline and scheduling are important for a home-based agent, according to Mahal, especially when working in an environment where unexpected interruptions and the needs of family members sometimes take priority. Another challenge she cites is convincing some new prospects that she is a legitimate travel agent despite being based out of her home.
All the same, she says the challenges are worth the rewards.
"I wake up in the morning and get ready as if I'm going into work, which helps with motivation levels and keeps me in high spirits."
Bringing in gross sales of nearly $700,000 in 2014 and forecasting growth for 2015, Mahal says that figure is made up of approximately 80% commission and 20% professional fees, which she adds depending on the complexity of a booking.
"If I was asked to organize the complete wedding arrangements which would also involve a site visit and coordination with the wedding planner, I would charge a professional fee", Mahal says.
Taking an adaptable approach to networking, she expands her client and supplier lists both online and at industry and community events, allowing for important face time with prospects. Alternatively, "simply talking to people in the community results in connections", she says.
And while Mahal admits the discounting of products and low commission markups on group packages are a concern for agents, she is confident that good customer service will always win.
"With me it doesn't matter, as my clients refer me to others because of the excellent customer service I provide."
Source: PAX Magazine
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