How To Become An Independent Tour Guide [3 Steps]

In 2018 there were 1.4 billion tourist arrivals internationally. There’s a great number of tourists going to places that they don’t know a lot about, and they could use a tour guide to show them around. Maybe that’s why you’ve considered becoming one.

But how do you become an independent tour guide?

Well, with websites like ToursByLocals and Shiroube, the process has been made very simple for those who have knowledge about great places to go and things to do in their local area.

In this article we will go a little more in depth about how both of those work, and if there are any other options out there as well!

What Is An Independent Tour Guide?

An independent tour guide is someone who takes travelers around the area that they live in to show them the various hotspots/unique locations around town. This can be anything from amazing nature spots to great places to eat – anything that makes your town truly stand out!

Probably the biggest benefit about being an independent tour guide is that you can get paid to show people around somewhere that you know and love. You’re getting paid to share some of your favorite places with them!

There’s always a demand for tour guides because people are always traveling and always looking for someone to show them around. Travelers want to experience the genuine, local culture – not just see the tourist traps.

If you love your town, know your town, and want to show people what makes it so great, you should consider becoming a tour guide yourself.

Becoming An Independent Tour Guide

If you want to become an independent tour guide, you need to find people to tour around. That can be done very easily now, thanks to the internet.

It may seem difficult to find travelers to take on tours and even convince them to pay you for your expertise in the area. However, we are going to show you just how easy it can be.

If you’re looking for travelers to get started with your venture, the best way to go would be to sign up for a website. There are two main websites that we are going to delve into, and those are:

  • ToursByLocals
  • Shiroube

No matter which company you go through, you’ll want to think about a niche area that you want to focus on. This is especially important in highly populated areas where there’s a lot of competition.

Do you want to be known as the expert on delectable local cuisine? Or maybe you want to showcase your city’s art scene. Either way, having a specific niche and becoming the expert in it will help get you more clients (and potentially more money) in the long run.


ToursByLocals was founded in 2008 by Paul Melhus and David Vincent. This company was formed out of the desire to connect travelers with local guides through an online platform.

They have a yearly revenue of $45 million and it is used by around 400,000 clients a year.

To become an independent tour guide through ToursByLocals, you first fill out an application which includes information such as:

  • Name
  • Birthdate
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Email
  • If you’re a licensed tour guide
  • Tour transportation method
  • Why they should hire you
  • How you heard about them

After this application is submitted, you will have some phone interviews. Then, if you’re approved, you get to start touring people around.

You get to pick your rates, but ToursByLocals does take a percentage (although they don’t specify how much).

You can do virtually anything for your tour, so long as it stays within all local laws and ordinances. ToursByLocals will make sure of that before they hire you.


Shiroube is a Japanese word that means “to be a guide.” And that’s just what Shiroube is: a website to help local tour guides and tourists get connected. It was founded in January of 2011 by a man named Tatsuo Sato.

Shiroube website

It operates in over 3,000 cities around the world, making Shiroube a pretty big company for the independent tour guide market.

The process to start working with Shiroube as a tour guide is simple. There is no application process, no fees, and you aren’t actually working for Shiroube. Shiroube is essentially like Craigslist for independent tour guides.

You use their website to make an ad for your tours – you can have up to three on their website. This is all absolutely free. Shiroube makes their money through advertisements.

Once you create your ad (or ads), you just wait to receive an email from an interested tourist. Then you can discuss with them all the details and payment arrangements on your own. 

This is one of the simplest ways to do work as an independent tour guide.

Working With Travel Agencies

Some people like the freedom of getting connected with individual travelers on their own, but for others, that step is daunting. If you’re in the latter category, you might be wondering if you can become an independent tour guide and still work with travel agencies.

Well, the answer to that question is yes; however, it may be daunting in a different way. But more on that later. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Create a business
  2. Talk to travel agencies
  3. Get touring

1. Create a Business

The first step to working with travel agencies would be to create your own tour guide business.

This can be simple, and you don’t need employees, but you want to look professional and “official” before you go contact the travel agencies, since they’ll be looking for a more professional guide.

A good idea would be to make some business cards or brochures detailing your expertise in the local area and some things that make you a good candidate to work with. If you have any previous experience, a resume would be a great idea as well.

2. Talk to travel agencies

The next step once you have your business together is to talk to the travel agencies.

You can find any local agencies in your area and reach out to them to see about making a partnership. 

The goal is when tourists book a trip through the travel agencies, they can recommend you as a good tour guide that they can offer to their customers.

You would still be operating as an independent tour guide, as you wouldn’t actually be an employee of the travel agency. You would most likely be working as an independent contractor.

You can also do this option in conjunction with ToursByLocals, as they have the option to work with travel agencies (although it’s probably reserved for their well-rated guides, so you would likely have to build a strong rapport on there first).

3. Get touring

The last step is to get touring! If you can show a travel agency that you are a great tour guide and really please their customers, they are probably going to be more apt to working with you in the future. 

This method of working as an independent tour guide may start off a little slower than the other options mentioned, but it could potentially be the way that could give you the most business.

How Much Can You Earn?

Most independent tour guides that go through sites like Shiroube or ToursByLocals will earn an average of $20-$30 per hour. Although sometimes, highly-rated guides might earn upwards of $70 per hour.

Of course, certain factors can determine how much you earn. These are things like:

  • Where you live (whether or not you live in a popular tourist destination)
  • What your niche is
  • Your rating/reviews

Of course, you will want to account for any fees the company takes (if applicable) as well as any gas/transportation costs when you set your rates.

What I Like

  • Get to share things you love locally
  • You have flexibility with your schedule and rates
  • Fairly easy to start

What I Don’t Like

  • Could be a slow start at first
  • If you live in a highly populated area, there may be a lot of competition

Summing It Up

Being an independent tour guide is a pretty easy thing to do. 

All you really need is some knowledge of the sought-after places or hidden gems in your local area and a desire to share that with others. If you have that, you’re already halfway there!

Of course, if you aren’t a people-person, aren’t overly knowledgeable about your local area, or don’t live in a place that gets a lot of tourism, you might be better off trying out some other side jobs.

Either way, it’s up to you which method you choose to take, and hopefully this article helped give you a little more information!

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