A day in the life of…a Travel Councellor

Travel Counsellors Ltd, franchise, flexible franchise


Meet Katie Kirk, mum of three-year-old Max, who left her high-flying marketing job when she and her husband began planning to start their family.  Katie said goodbye to the security of full-time employment in search of flexibility and the time to be the mum she wanted to be.

Tell us a little bit about your career Katie.

I’ve worked in travel since I left school.  I did my training at Lunn Poly, then completed a  teaching qualification and went on to train and develop other travel agents.  From there, I started working at an airport and they put me through my marketing CIM degree.  I worked my way up to be marketing manager for the Manchester Airport Group – covering four airports – working with all Airlines, Tour Operators and supporting travel agents.

Why did you decide to leave all that behind?

My now-husband and I wanted to start a family.  And we couldn’t do that if I was going to continue to commute up to two hundred miles a day – not if I was going to be the sort of mum I wanted to be.

What made you become a Travel Counsellor?

I knew about Travel Counsellors – it was one of the travel companies I worked with at the airport group and all the people there are lovely, there’s a really nice company ethos.  I knew if I ever went out on my own I would do it through them.

Although it is a franchise and they support you and put all the systems in place, you are totally self-employed and in charge of your own destiny.  And they have a good reputation; Travel Counsellors are very highly thought of within our industry – so it was an obvious choice for me.

Did you have any reservations about the change?

Of course, it was frightening.  I had a very good job which was brilliant and well paid.  I had to give everything up – my car, my phone, my salary – so I could build a business up from scratch.  I didn’t know if it was going to work, but I knew I had to give it a go because I wanted a family but I still needed to make money.

It was frightening, but I just thought: “if it works, it will be amazing.  If it doesn’t, ok, I’ll have to rethink”.

How did it work out for you?

I joined Travel Counsellors in February about five years ago.  By the November, in the annual conference, I won the award for best newcomer.  I’d made a turnover of half a million pounds in that first year.

That’s an incredible achievement.  How easy has making the change been for you?

I’ve just been getting busier and busier, and the business has grown year on year.  In my second year, I got pregnant – which was brilliant.  It didn’t hinder the business at all – the business grew again that year.  When Max was born I thought it would slow me down – but again the business grew that year – and I became a Gold Travel Counsellor.

It’s been amazing.  I love what I do and I don’t miss out on anything.

I do have amazing support; I couldn’t do it without my husband or the grandparents, who are brilliant.  But I really don’t see it as a job – it all works so well around Max.

Would you recommend this career path to other working mums?

Yes, absolutely.  I’ve made the change even with all the obstacles in the way – a house move, a baby, a wedding.

I do work hard, but I’m there for bedtime every night.  And I can help out on trips.  Max is now three and he is going to nursery two days a week.  Last week they had a mothers’ day breakfast.  There weren’t many mums there – a lot of them are working and it was at 10am on a Wednesday – but I was able to be there.

Describe a typical day for you.

Max.  Work.  Relax.

Every day is different.  On Mondays Max and I have a day out together.  On Tuesdays he goes to his grandparents.  Then on Friday mornings I look after his two little cousins as well, so it is like a nursery here!

But today, for instance, I’ll try to go to gym two or three times per week, so I get up early and go before Max gets up.  I get back about half past seven, so I wake the boys up and we all have breakfast together.  We’ll pack Max’s letter bag, then I take him to nursery.  I’ll work until I pick him up at 4pm.  We have some time together – doing jigsaws for instance – then tea and bath and stories and bedtime.  Max goes down about 7 o’clock so I catch up with my emails then and do a bit of work.  I try to stop by 9pm so that my husband and I can spend some time together.

How easy is it to strike a balance between work and family?

It’s a lot easier than you think.  My family will always come first – and I think you have to be honest about that with your clients.  But it works well – a lot of my clients like the hours I work because they have kids too and they want to spend time with their families as well.

What tips do you have for other mums thinking about making the switch?

  • Go for it!
  • Don’t think that you need to be sitting in an office. As long as you have your phone with you – and your clients know they can reach you on that – its fine. Your clients don’t care if you are sitting at the desk or if you’re out and about, as long as they can reach you.
  • Go out and meet new people – that’s how I get a lot of my new business – I just get talking to people when I’m out with Max.
  • It’s really important to do what you enjoy. If you are going to be successful, you’ve got to love it.

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