A travel agency is a business that can be run from your home with virtually no start-up costs, as long as you already have a computer and a phone line. You can build and promote your travel agency with no costs out of pocket. If you are persistent, you can soon have a viable business that earns a reliable income with little to no expense.
Decide on a niche for your travel agency. When you are starting a travel agency for free, you will need to run it on the internet so you don't have to pay for office space. According to the owner of Platinum Vacation Planners, the best way to attract customers on the internet is to have a speciality, such as Disney World, cruises, adventure travel or some other niche.
Find out whether your town or county will require you to have a business license. Even if you are starting your travel agency for free and working from home, some areas still require you to obtain a license. Usually it's just a matter of filling out simple paperwork and paying a small fee.
Find a host agency with which you can work to make bookings. A reputable host agency will not charge you any fees, as they will make their money through taking part of your commission for each sale. The host agency will allow you to use its travel industry association numbers in order to make bookings with vendors. You cannot sell travel as a professional agent without these numbers. Some host agencies will also offer training, customer leads and other support.
Create a free website for your travel agency. Although you may want to purchase your own domain later, there are many free website providers. Choose one carefully, as some will populate your page with annoying pop-up ads or flashing banners. This will distract your clients, and it won't look professional.
Set up a free fax line through a provider such as K7. Although you can use your home phone for regular calls, you will need to be able to receive faxes in order to get confirmations from vendors. There are free online services that allow you to receive faxes through your e-mail.
Promote your travel agency business. There are many ways to promote yourself for free, such as adding a link to your website at the bottom of your e-mails, getting free business cards through a service such as Vista Print, giving talks to local travel clubs and social groups and promoting yourself on forums and social networking sites.
At some point you may want to install a separate phone line for your business, but when you are starting your agency for free, you can use your home phone for business calls too. Answer the phone in a generic professional manner, such as "Hello, this is Jane," and instruct your other family members to do the same. This will cause less confusion to personal callers than answering with the business name.
There are many businesses that will claim to help you become a home-based travel agent for a lump sum or a monthly fee. Usually they will not be helpful, and you'll send up losing money without starting a viable business. A reputable host agency makes its money from your commissions. A company that gets money from you upfront or on an ongoing basis without being based on your sales has no incentive to help you succeed as a travel agent.