Making a Career Out of Miles and Points

Reader Justin asked,

Hi Gary – Do you have any recommendations for points or miles careers working out of Boston? Maybe working in the loyalty space or for a blog? I have a financial services consulting background and recently left my firm. I am an avid traveler and would love a career where I could pursue my passion. I have been reading your blog for over 6 years now and would love any advice you have to offer. Thank you so much!

Justin, the best advice I can offer is run. Run away. As far and as fast as you can.

The travel industry generally is a really tough place to make money. And while there are certainly large and enduring contracts — such as providing new CRM systems to loyalty programs, and even managing those programs for instance the Lacek Group has been providing services to Starwood for as long as I can remember — it’s hard to imagine too many places where consulting will make you less money overall.

Most travel in travel consulting is utterly pedantic, you fly to – say – Chicago or Houston or Atlanta or Dallas. For sure there are international conferences and potentially international clients. You may not indulge your love of travel by working for clients in travel.

I’d think though the first question I’d ask is, what is the unique skill or service I have to offer? If it’s financial-related, these aren’t usually the best clients, and it’s often big firms that provide those types of services for them anyway. Of course airlines buy financial services, and database services, and all manner of technology. There are loyalty consulting practices.

I imagine the worst thing you could do is to work for a blog, but perhaps I’m the wrong person to tell you that since I don’t have any employees and I don’t hire anyone to write posts. I’ve had some very modest tech consulting.

If it’s your passion by all means start your own blog, but don’t expect it to make money or make money quickly (I wrote for more than 2 years before there was even an ad on the site, and for over 6 years before the site generated $250 a month, although others of course have been more successful more quickly).

For sure, love what you do, and if you have unique skills to offer you can offer them in the loyalty space. I’ll just suggest that there are often more lucrative places to ply one’s trade.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Reader shouldn’t require Boston as a base.

    Outsourcing firms especially newer ones have US people constantly going back and forth.

    And for travel consulting Bain, Oliver Wyman, McKinsey do a lot of work and global travel.

  2. I have been in the travel business for 50+ years, and people usually ask me if I travel a lot. Yes, I do, but my own travel costs me money, maybe I get a discount, maybe not. I MAKE money when I am in my office and my clients travel. You are right Gary, if you want to travel, stay away from the travel business. We look at people who love to travel as customers not as colleagues. Make your money at the job you like and do best, and you will make enough money to travel where you want to go for pleasure.

  3. 1. Set up a blog.
    2. Sell the “life style”.
    3. Sell credit card to support the lifestyle.
    4. Sell award travel service.
    5. Magically maintain credibility

    Plan B.
    Travel college campuses. Sell newbies CCs and make some good. It may cost you a t-shirt or soda.

    Plan C.
    If you love to travel for free, become a salesperson.

  4. The best way to enjoy travel is to do what I did for 16 years in finance – a non-travel job which pays hugely well, gives you 6 weeks holiday time and does NOT require travelling – because travelling for work kills the fun of travelling. I still get a buzz when I board a flight and that wouldn’t happen if I did it every week.

    Of course, I then retired (involuntarily) and started a blog for fun which happens to have done well. When your hobby becomes your job, though, you need to get another hobby.

  5. There are, by the way, companies who specialise in developing loyalty programmes and consulting on them.

    Look at the website for Collinson Latitude for example. I am sure there are similar US groups.

  6. Gosh, this sounds exactly like the advice existing live theatre actors give to those considering acting as a career path – don’t even consider it unless it’s the only thing you want to do in life. And, indeed, many actors feel blessed to be paid well in less tangible currencies than money. I suspect the same is true for many travel bloggers.

  7. If Justin does start a travel blog, and say with 1% probability, his blog will generate a lot of readership and eventually cc ads revenue. Would the existing bloggers give encouragement to potential future competition to share the pie?

  8. I’ve had people tell me I should “start a business” doing this stuff. Um, no. The points and miles space is better covered by current providers (see Gary and lucky, et al) and I won’t do it cheaper than they will.

    The planning is a big pain in the ass, and I’m too worried about disappointed customers who can’t get for qf f seats to Syd for new years.

    Then there’s the people who want free advice when they find out this is what you do. And has already been stated, when your hobby turns into a business, you need a new hobby. And yup, can’t forget the low margins!

    Is rather keep this a hobby and dole out advice for free.

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