Whether you have made up your mind to pursue this career path, or are simply considering it, we hope this introductory guide will be of service to you.
Ahead you will find real-life, time-tested advice regarding how you can create a successful career in real estate. We offer honest truths about this line of work, to help you understand some of what could be involved for you.
Each real estate licensee is a unique individual, with their own strengths, challenges, and personalities. What one licensee finds challenging in a difficult way, another might find challenging in a fulfilling way. We hope this guide will help you begin to think about what YOUR life might be like as a successful real estate professional. Let’s dive in!
Real-life in Real Estate
The Good Stuff
We’ll start with the positive aspects of a real estate career, which are probably the reasons you’re deciding to become a real estate professional.
When someone pays you a salary, they control at least some of your time and energy. But when your income is based on earned commissions, you control your time, and therefore, your life. A lot of people remain in jobs they don’t like because they are afraid of losing their regular paycheck and benefits package.
Top-producing real estate licensees can make more per hour than many professionals, with far less investment in formal education. The income from a real estate career usually comes in large chunks. Figure out how many average transactions per month you will need in your area, in order to earn the income you need to make this a successful career for you.
Don’t be a secret agent
When attending a gathering, don’t be shy about letting people know you are a real estate licensee. Always have plenty of business cards, and be generous handing them out. You’ll find that people like to talk about real estate—especially with an insider like you. You might feel like a newbie, but everyone will give you credit as an authority because you hold a real estate license. Some of the people you meet will have an imminent need for your services, and you’ll be surprised by how many others will keep your card for future reference.
There are few things as satisfying as helping buyers find a new home or investment property, or helping sellers sell their property—and not just because you will earn a substantial commission: helping people accomplish their real estate goals is a satisfying reward in itself. If you like variety, rest assured that no two days will be the same, and there is a world of difference between helping a buyer or seller with a unique need or problem and just showing up at a job. Every little success promises even greater successes later. It’s an energizing lifestyle that seldom becomes mundane. (We’ll cover those rare mundane instances in a moment.)
As when starting anything new, you’ll need to recognize opportunities, but you’ll also need to recognize the challenges and be prepared to handle them.
The flip side of high income potential is low income potential. New real estate licensees who are accustomed to regular paychecks sometimes take a while to get used to a commission-only lifestyle. Your career in real estate—notwithstanding the lack of a safety net—puts the control of your life firmly in your hands. If you work hard and follow proven best practices, you will learn how to develop a predictable cash flow.
Having nothing to do
The dark side of freedom is inactivity. If you are accustomed to having a boss set your goals, define your tasks, and demand certain working hours, then you must learn how to become the new boss in your life.
Work to live, but don’t live to work.
Employers usually expect you to spend a certain number of hours on the job, whether those hours are productive or not. Not real estate professionals! Stay on task with your priorities, ignore the distracting minutia that clutters your life, and enjoy the remaining free time!
You will probably be working under little or no supervision. (You wanted to be independent, remember?) Even if you have a coach, mentor, or attentive manager or broker, you will have plenty of opportunities to make mistakes.
In time, you will work through all the time wasters, the frustration provokers, the stumbles, and distractions experienced licensees have learned to avoid.
It will take you longer to do things during your first year because efficiency and effectiveness require experience. The key word is experience. You can learn a lot through courses, but you must apply what you learned.
Mistakes are learning opportunities only if you understand what you should have done differently, and understand what to change next time. That way, every mistake is an investment toward your success.
Unusual working hours
A typical workweek might include:
In other words, prepare yourself for a less-than-routine working schedule.
Here is the “silver lining”: You control your schedule. It feels a lot different when you decide to work unusual hours than when someone else (i.e., your employer) requires you to work after hours. When you are pursuing opportunities with large commissions involved, you won’t mind the unpredictable schedule.
There is more good news about your flexible schedule: You’ll have time off when other people are working. You won’t have to ask permission to have time off, and you decide when you need a few days of R&R or an extended vacation.
The Mundane Aspects of Real Estate Work
Paperwork (pulp or digital) might seem mundane, especially after the excitement of a sale or a new listing.
Running a close second to paperwork is systems maintenance. This refers to filing systems, marketing systems, follow-up and contact systems, client mailings, and prospect list maintenance. The good news is that you can automate much of those systems, and the better you maintain them, the more successful you will be. Also, when your income grows—and your available time shrinks—you could delegate those tasks to an assistant.
Best Practices of Highly Successful Licensees
Since the world of real estate involves relationships with people, it can greatly help you to know yourself, and also work to understand others. Proficiency with communications – written and spoken – will improve with practice.
Learn to listen. Listening to someone is the key to understanding them. Your clients want you to understand them more than they want to understand you. Try to spend 15% of your time speaking, and 85% listening.
Approach people. Be the one to introduce yourself first, and to break the ice with polite conversation. If you wait for prospective clients to take the initiative, you’ll have few of them. Smile, speak, and ask a question.
Be prepared to learn a lot
Succeeding as a real estate professional involves learning the right things to do, and how you can do them well. It also involves learning the right things up front; it is very difficult to unlearn bad habits.
Courage first, confidence later
Knowledge about something is not the same as knowing how to do something. For that reason, everything you do will be uncomfortable at first. You will feel unsure. It will seem risky. (What if I make a mistake?) Learn to accept inevitable discomfort during your first year. Don’t let anxiety tempt you to procrastinate until you feel certain about the task—you will not feel any more certain later, and the task will be left undone. Instead, muster your courage.
The good news!
Anxiety quickly gives way after a bit of experience. After you do a task for the first time, your learning curve will soar. You’ll immediately begin to feel confident and in control! After that initial scary experience, you will have broken the fear barrier forever because you will have cast light onto the unknown. And you’ll realize that most of the things you fear will never see the light of day.
Reasons some real estate professionals give up
Below are some reasons some licensees have not continued practicing real estate, and how you can prevent these pitfalls from happening to you.
1.”I didn’t have enough money.”
It’s hard to stay excited and focus on your clients’ needs when you’re struggling to meet your own financial needs. Below are three ideas for solutions:
2. “I didn’t have enough nerve.”
No customers, no closings, no activity—and no hope. It’s a downward spiral that needs immediate corrective action. Here are three remedies:
3. “I didn’t have enough support at home.”
It’s hard to stay enthused if your spouse or partner asks, “Did you make any sales today?” every time you come home. Perhaps your partner doesn’t understand the nature of the real estate business, or maybe they sincerely think you should give up and get a “real job.” To make matters worse—if you are like most independent-minded, budding real estate professionals—you might not have asked for support from them before you started. You’ll need it, so ask for it!
4. “I didn’t have enough time.”
Are you too busy for real estate because you have another full- or part-time job, family obligations, or other distractions too numerous to keep track of? The antidote for this dilemma is a well-formed business plan. Also, it is a fact that we live in a highly-distracted culture, and that social media, smart phones, etc. are causing us to “lose” time. If you are intentional with your time and proactively plan, you will likely find that you have more time than you think!
5. “I couldn’t find anyone to help me.”
This isn’t a realistic reason for leaving the business, because help is available to new licensees. The key is that you have to look for it and ask for it. No one will drop in on your life and offer solutions to your problems. If you take the initiative to seek help, you’ll find it!
6. “It wasn’t my fault.”
“I started at a bad time of the year…entered during a down market…went with the wrong company…I had a lot of personal problems at the time.” Any of those problems could present challenges to a new licensee’s start in the real estate business, and they are also possibly rationalizations for one or more of the preceding five reasons.
7. “It was too hard.”
Look at it this way: if it was easy, it wouldn’t pay very well. Your first year in real estate will be the hardest. You are doing so many things for the first time, your marketing plans haven’t developed traction, and you don’t have a successful past in the business to predict how things will be in the future. Whether it’s too hard depends on what you are comparing it to. Compared to building a spaceship, it’s not so hard. Compared to mowing grass, it is very hard.
8. “I didn’t like selling real estate.”
It’s not for everyone, but you’ll probably like real estate sales better when you start making a good income from it. We sometimes compromise a certain amount of fun in order to reach financial and lifestyle goals. It’s also hard to like something when you don’t know how to succeed at it. After you successfully practice using the tools and skills of a professional real estate licensee, you’ll experience just how much fun it can be!
A tip for part-timers
Becoming a full-time real estate agent is the best way to concentrate all of your energy and make a successful start. But that’s not always possible, or even advisable. You might have to work at another job full- or part-time to pay your living expenses. Agents who are able to successfully sustain a part-time real estate career devote specific time blocks to their business. They have marketing systems in place, and they diligently attend to those systems. They are also willing to work longer hours than most people.
But be advised that this will be a difficult balancing act. And if you are producing a comfortable income somewhere else, you will be comfortable without succeeding in the real estate business. (Where’s the motivation to do the difficult tasks necessary to succeed in real estate?)
If you do start as a part-time licensee and notice down the road that your income-per-hour is greater in real estate than in your other job, your income will likely be even greater when you make the switch to full time. If you decide to switch to full time later, we suggest you decide on a transition benchmark, such as a number of scheduled closings, a certain amount of money saved, or a certain amount of income over a period of time. If you don’t set a benchmark up front, you might find yourself waiting for the transition to feel comfortable—a feeling that might never come.
A few words about competition:
Focus on the buyers and sellers, not phantom competitors.
Finding a Brokerage to work for
Though you will basically be your own boss as a real estate professional, it is still required that you work for a brokerage. To help you figure out what type of company would be a good fit, review our guide to Choosing a Real Estate Company.
So… what do you think?
We hope you now have a greater understanding of just some of the realities of, and tips for success in, your real estate career. Being your own boss, setting your own schedule, and carving your own path involve a mix of excitement, challenge, and sometimes boring moments, too.
You will learn a lot about yourself, and grow personally and professionally, year after year. You will stretch and develop skills in time management, organization, prioritizing, working with clients, flexibility, creativity, courage, knowing when to ask for help, and more. You will savor the free time you carve out for yourself, and reap the profits you’ve earned – all while helping clients achieve their dreams and goals!
Ready to get started?
Your first step is education, and to complete the required the pre-license education in your state. We offer pre-license education in the following states. Click on your state below to learn more about the licensing requirements, how our courses work, and to get started on your education!
We’ve created Study Guides to help you get the most out of your education. We highly recommend you take a few minutes to review the specific study guide we developed for your state. These were created based on valuable feedback from customers who were prospective licensees just like you!
Try our Demo Course to see how user-friendly our courses are.
Our helpful Customer Service representatives are happy to answer any questions you may have, and direct you to the resources you need. Contact us with your questions.