One of the most common questions I hear from other travel agents is, “How do I outsource?” Or, “What do you outsource?” In general, I hear a lot of other agents express frustration that there is now guidance / education on this topic in our industry.
I think the main reason for the lack of guidance is that there truly is not a one-size-fits-all approach to hiring virtual support. While one travel agent may need help with posting on social media, another may need help writing blogs, while another may need help with bookkeeping, etc.
First, REAL TALK: I know you probably joined this career field because you love the creative process of designing an itinerary. Perfect! You’re in the right place! But, if you are like a majority of travel advisors today – you are an independent contractor. And…much to many people’s chagrin, independent contractor equals business owner. That means, you MUST do so much more than just designing itineraries. You must be the CEO of your business. You must oversee / do the marketing, business operations, financial tracking, customer support, etc. You can’t just happily design itineraries all day.
(Ok. I know MOST of you know that, but, oh, I am so tired of people complaining about doing the *things* that goes with being a business owner. If you don’t want to do those (or, outsource those things) then you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.)
That’s why we’re here, right? #1 You don’t want to do #allthethings (and you shouldn’t). And, #2 you want to know how to effectively hand off those things.
Because everyone has different strengths and different passions/ interests in the varying activity that go into running a business, each individual’s outsourcing strategy will vary. So, how do we decide what to outsource?
I have four questions that will help. Ask yourself the following.
- What parts of my business activities do I love to do and I am good at?
- What parts of my business activities do not like (or hate) and I am not really good at?
- What parts of my business activities do I like, but am not really good at?
- What parts of my business activities do I dislike (or, hate), but I am good at doing?
List all the activities for each of these questions and then consider the following.
Activities that fall under question 1 (What do I love and I am good at?) are things that are probably in your “Zone of Genius” and therefore, you should keep doing! Don’t outsource these. Continue to joyfully execute these activities with your own brand of excellence. This is part of what is your “special sauce” after all.
Activities that fall under question 2 (What do I hate and are not good at?) are things that you should definitely make a plan to outsource. Whether this is bookkeeping or social media posting, or….(you fill in the blanks), list these and start researching the cost to outsource these activities so you can make a plan to budget and hire someone to take it off your plate. (BTW…doesn’t it feel like relief to think of these thing being off your plate?) This will free up some of your angst-filled time for things that are better use of your time and energy.
Activities that fall under question 3 (What do I like but am not really good at?) are a bit more complicated to decide. Ask yourself if it is worth your time (and money) to invest in a course, mentorship, or ways to improve your skills in this area so that you can get better. If it is not worth your time and money, consider letting it go and have it be a 2nd tier item to be outsourced, after your hate/not-good-at items, of course.
Finally, activities that fall under question 4 (What do I dislike but I am good at doing?) are great opportunities for you to outsource, but…you must do something first. First, you must use your skills in this activity to create a standard operating procedure (SOP) for your organization for those activities. You actually need to document how you accomplish these activities in your high-standard of execution, so you can hand these tasks (that you don’t like) over to a virtual assistant with ease. When you document your standard, it can be replicated not only by your assistant, but by subagents (ICs) if you have them or ever chose to bring them on.
What are some other considerations?
- Are you really bad at it? Or, are you just a perfectionist? This happens a lot, especially with women. Many times you think you are bad at something like blog-writing, but in reality you have Pulitzer standards in your head, when your average audience member is just looking to connect with you; therefore, expecting writing more like a letter to home.
- Do you struggle with letting go of control? If so, this will all be hard for you. Start with the stuff you hate and are bad at. Give it a go. Chances are, it’ll go better than you expected and you’ll get the confidence to offload more of your work.
- Somethings can actually be automated rather than outsourced, which will save you a lot of time and money. Where are opportunities for you to automate things in your business, rather than depend on human action?
- If it can’t be automated or outsourced, can it be simplified? For example, itinerary design and research are less-likely to be outsourced. However, you can probably simplify this process, with templates, tools, and procedures.
- Remember your time is money. If you can pay someone less per hour than your personal hourly rate to accomplish what you need done, highly-consider hiring it out. Also, consider which of these activities actually generate income. The specific income-generating activities are what you should put high on your list of things to do yourself.
- Outsource gradually. Start with the hate it/ bad-at-it activities, give it a few months and then move on to the good-at-it/ hate it or the love it/ bad-at-it activities.
If you’d like more guidance on this topic, check out my class “5 Phases of Client Care”. It has a video that walks through how to automate, outsource, or simplify your client care process from start to finish. It includes a handy workbook with a decision tree for outsourcing, a client care checklist, and best-practices on each phase of the client care process. You can find this within our FREE Course: Be the CMO of Your Travel Business that is available to you on-demand. This is just one of the many great classes included in the course.
I’m curious to hear what you’ll be outsourcing at the first opportunity. Tell us in the TATM group!
Ashley Metesh-McCoy is a co-founder of KTA Membership and the founder of Kinship Vacations, an independent host agency that helps train and mentor new agents in the industry. She is the also the creator of an independent education program for travel advisors that led her to win the 2019 ASTA Entrepreneur of the Year. Ashley has been coaching fellow agents for several years now, sharing her expertise in business operations, streamlining successful client care systems, and financial tracking tools. She lives in Carmel, CA w/ her hunky Army husband that she met while in service in Afghanistan, her two precoscious daughters, and a pack of fur babies.