Charging a fixed per ticket fee for airline tickets is one thing, but if you really want to get serious, you might want to start thinking the way lawyers do.
That’s what one travel agent did after getting fed up with clients who ate up his time for help with elaborate wedding trips and then booked much of it direct with suppliers.
“I charge a consultation fee based on an hourly rate, with a two hour minimum,” he says. “If something like a wedding is involved, I’ll set a separate fee for that, with the travel research billed separately.”
Just like a lawyer, he has clients come in so he can explain his procedures and have them sign a contract that spells out all the fees in detail. These include pure research, billed in 15 minute increments at $100 an hour, phone time spent with the client at the same rate, making overseas phone calls ($5) and receiving overseas faxes ($3), and so forth. He also insists on receiving his minimum fee upfront, before he’s done any work.
“They’ll either tell you to go to h—,” he notes, “Or they’ll pay. Either way, you’re not wasting your time.”
Another cornerstone of his system is keeping detailed records of the time spent on the client’s behalf, again just like a lawyer. He’ll track individual phone calls to the minute and then add them up before billing. If his time and services add up to more than $200 (his minimum fee), he presents periodic itemized bills detailing all time spent and miscellaneous fees, such as those overseas phone calls and faxes. If he spends less than two hours, then his minimum fee still stands.
I’m not sure this travel agent fees strategy will work for everyone, but I do know from what I hear on the grapevine that it is working for some travel agents. If you decide to go this route, just make sure everything is spelled out to the client, in detail, before you start presenting him or her with bills for your services.
Of course it will also help if your knowledge level is such that paying you to do research is worth the client’s hard-earned cash. Paying an expert $100 for an hour of research is one thing, paying an amateur $500 for five hours of research to come up with the same information is clearly unacceptable.
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