How to Get Started as a Freelance Tour Guide

So you want to be a freelance tour guide? Good for you. This is the perfect career for anyone with an adventurous spirit who is excited to set their own hours and entertain travelers from around the world. While you may be excited to get out there and begin showing people your favorite places, there are several aspects of the job that you need to consider, especially if you are going freelance.

When you work for an existing company, they take care of the business aspect of the organization, which includes marketing services, bringing in new customers, and handling the finances on an employee’s behalf. When you work freelance, you have to take care of all of this yourself. While it may seem daunting, many people enjoy the job of a freelance tour guide, and you can too with these tips.

Jobs, Skills, and Requirements

The first step is to decide the type of tour guide you want to be. For some, a love of history and a slower pace are key as they lead a more mature audience through the sights and sounds of a forgotten city. Others thrive on excitement and like the idea of bringing youngsters through the mountains of a European country or showing guests a good time on an amazing skiing adventure. There are also wilderness guides, nature guides, museum guides, and more. The point is that you want to find your flavor and hone your hosting skills in that niche.

In addition to your sense of excitement, you may also be required to hold a work permit or passport, especially if you are working and residing in another country. You will want to check out all of the requirements at your tour spot before you pack up everything and go. If you are looking to be a tour or adventure guide for a type of trip that may be considered dangerous, then you may be required to have a first aid certification for CPR or to take industry-specific training, such as wilderness survival or a rock climbing exam.

Beyond the mandatory requirements of your particular specialty, you will also need other general skills to be the best tour guide possible. For instance, you will need to be a great communicator with a strong and clear voice, along with the ability to excite a crowd by telling them the story of the place they are visiting. You need to captivate them and keep them excited at every turn. You will also need a great memory as you will have to remember many important details about specific locations and be able to answer audience questions without hesitation. Of course, you will also want to be very organized and punctual, so you never leave your guests waiting. You will also want to ensure that you are an expert at minimalist packing not only for yourself but for your guests. You will need to be able to help them pack all their gear and souvenirs in the few bags and suitcases they are allowed to bring.

Marketing and Attracting Customers

As you will be a one-person business, you will not have the luxury of a company working behind the scenes to find and obtain customers for your tours. You will have to do this on your own and keep up on your efforts so you can have continued business as you grow your enterprise. Start by creating a website that promotes your tours while also providing easily accessible information, including prices, what to expect, and more.

A lot of success in touring is shared via word of mouth, so you want to dedicate a portion of your website and marketing to customer reviews and referrals. Ask satisfied customers to post their opinions of your service on the website. Doing so will work wonders to build your authenticity as a tour guide and lure in new customers. You should also consider a referral bonus or reward, such as a coupon or free tour for those who bring you new business or join your mailing list.

In addition to your website, you should also have a presence on social media. Create an account on all of the major platforms and use it to spread the word about your services, any specials you have, or just to post humorous pictures that will pique the interest of those scrolling by. When it comes to social media, you want to post consistently, so you are always in the mind of potential customers. Make the process easier by setting up a content calendar of what you want to post and when, so you are always ahead of the game and not struggling to come up with new content. 

Considerations for Freelancers

Many people in the tour industry are drawn to the idea of working freelance because they like the idea of making their own schedules and being their own bosses. While there are plenty of perks to being an independent contractor, there are also major considerations to be made that you may take for granted when working for a company. For instance, you won’t have access to the benefits provided by corporations, such as health insurance. Instead, you may have to get insurance through the employment of a spouse or go through an insurance exchange. 

Along with a lack of benefits, you are also going to have to create a budget and be very careful with your finances as income may ebb and flow as your business grows. In the beginning, as you are earning less and estimating your expenses, you may have to consider a side hustle like working for a driving service on the side. There is also the matter of paying taxes as a freelancer, which is much different than as an employee of an organization. Check with your respective government to learn which forms are necessary as a self-employed individual.

You are also going to need to protect yourself against lawsuits if a customer were to be injured during one of your tours. Have an attorney assist you in writing up a liability waiver that each customer must read and sign before they start the tour that explains the potential risks and states that the participant assumes all responsibility if an incident does occur. When signing up new customers, you should also request payment upfront, so you are set to go, and you don’t have to worry about collections later on.

For those with an adventurous spirit, the title of freelance tour guide is the dream job. However, before you jump in, take the time to get your affairs in order so there will be fewer surprises along the way, and you can enjoy the job without worry.