NEWS & VIEWS
Freedom Personal Travel Advisors - Readers' Lives: Antonia Simcock
Freedom Personal Travel Advisor, Stoke
Within a year of becoming a homeworker, Antonia Simcock was ranked as one of The Freedom Personal Travel Advisor’s top 20 sellers nationwide. She explains how she has social media to thank for getting her business off the ground
Q: You left your job as a high street travel agent to become a childminder before returning as a homeworker nearly two years ago. What made you come back to the travel industry?
A: I wanted to get back into travel because I love it. I hadn’t left because I didn’t enjoy it, it was more for financial reasons. Having been self-employed for a while as a childminder I wanted to work for myself, so I looked at homeworking. I like my own space and can’t imagine working in an office now.
Q: What was your biggest fear when you became a homeworker in January 2014?
A: I had gone to Freedom because I knew them and they were a well-known brand in the area, but I was apprehensive because I didn’t know where my business was going to come from.
Q: So how did you build up a client base from scratch?
A: I set up my Facebook page and that was it. I got a booking in my first week and it just went from there, through recommendations on Facebook. I asked everyone who booked if they would share my page. I have now got a bank of repeat clients but new clients still come from Facebook or from customers recommending me to friends on Facebook. I was going to send out leaflets to market my business but they are still all boxed up at home.
Q: You are one of Freedom’s top sellers. How do you manage your work-life balance?
A: If someone had said to me I would be a top-selling homeworker two years ago I wouldn’t have believed them. It’s quite overwhelming when I think about it. It is hard work and constant: I get messages in the middle of the night. I used to work while cooking tea and putting my son Rory to bed but I found myself not giving him the time he needed so now I work mainly school hours. I am stricter with my time but often get the laptop out after Rory is in bed.
Q: What has been your most rewarding experience since doing this job?
A: As a Disney specialist homeworker, I benefit from dedicated marketing support. I decided to complement the Free Disney Dining campaign with a prize draw to win some extra spending money to use at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. The lady who won was so overwhelmed she cried on the phone. I took the gift card to her house and when I got there she threw her arms around me and said this meant so much to her as a year earlier she had lost her three-month-old baby girl. She showed me a photograph and we were both in tears. She said she felt winning this prize would help her to turn a corner, knowing that her other little girl could have anything she likes on holiday next year. That was the best moment in my career.
Q: Have there been situations where you have helped clients in ways you couldn’t as a high-street agent?
A: When flights stopped recently to Sharm el-Sheikh I was able to let my client know about it first thing in the morning. I had been watching the news and checked the Thomas Cook website at 6am. She was due to travel that day and I had found her an alternative holiday by 8.30am – before any of the shops opened. She really appreciated my work and it made my job feel worthwhile.
2014 to date: homeworker, Freedom Personal Travel Advisor
2008-14: Took time out of the industry to be a mum and did various jobs, including childminding
2005-08: travel adviser at three stores in Staffordshire: Going Places in Longton, Thomson in Hanley and Freedom Travel Group in Meir
Keep in touch with clients: I send a short message before and after the holiday.
Have confidence in your product knowledge: Tell clients what you can offer them.
Manage your time well: Be realistic about when you can work and when you can’t.
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Freedom and CPTA chief reveals expansion plans
After a year of consolidation for Freedom Travel Group and Freedom Personal Travel Advisors, it's time for the retail consortium and homeworking network to expand. Juliet Dennis speaks to Kelly Cookes, to find out about the plans.
Kelly Cookes may not be a familiar face to many in the trade, but having started her career in Thomas Cook's graduate trainee scheme, she is well known in her own organisation. Just over a year ago, she took the helm of Thomas Cook’s consortium business, Freedom Travel Group, and its homeworking network, Freedom Personal Travel Advisors (FPTA). The former boasts 142 branches, while there are currently 130 of the latter... READ MORE