A Traveler’s Occupational Guide: Company and Freelance Guiding
When starting out as a travel or tour guide, you will likely face a difficult decision: is it better to work with a company or to set out to work independently? Your answer will likely depend on your experience, financial security, and need for adventure. To aid your decision, we have detailed the benefits and drawbacks of each option.
Tour Company—When beginning your career as a travel guide, you will likely work for a tour company in some capacity. Financial and schedule-related stability are the primary benefits of working for a company; guides often have a set schedule and a preferred beat. Your assignment will likely be determined from your resume and skillset. Tour guides may be assigned to cover anything from a historic walk through Cairo to leading a backpacking trip through Thailand.
Furthermore, these tour companies need not entail drab, repetitive day trips to tourist traps. These jobs can include everything from African safari guiding to cave exploring. Of course, some guides might prefer the comfort and security of bringing tourists through the Louvre or helping arrange gondola trips in Venice, but for those seeking a bit more adventure, opportunities are available.
The downsides of working for a tour company include a lack of independence and the relative inability to switch countries. When working for a company, your superiors control your tours, leaving little room for change. However, if you want the security of a company job with the adventure of independence, don’t fret; some companies offer weeks-long multi-country trips that, with enough experience, you may be able to lead.
Independent—Providing guided tours independently—that is, not affiliated with a company—provides the maximum amount of freedom you can obtain within the industry. Unlike in a company position, you choose the tours, the cities, and the countries you want to guide. However, establishing yourself as an independent guide can be very difficult.
Financially, independent guiding can be a tricky business. You are not always guaranteed work, which can lead to difficulties in budgeting and travelling. You need to work hard to establish a web presence, which can be difficult when competing with larger companies. However, your guides can be better-tailored to the needs of your guests, facilitating a closer relationship with clients.
Your decision should depend primarily on your experience and financial security. Most guides gain essential knowledge while working for a company, leveraging their skills and resume when making the move to independent guiding. Ultimately, guides should make the decision that works best with their preferred lifestyle.