Graham Wood is senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who Needs a Life?
In real estate, you’re responsible for your own success. So if you choose this career path, be prepared to put your business before everything else.
May 1, 2014
At 6 a.m., Candice Wilson is working. Hell, sometimes at 4 a.m., she’s working.
“I don’t love what I do for the awesome hours,” jokes Wilson, an agent with RE/MAX First in Clinton Township, Mich. “I just love it when people say that they want to be in real estate so they can work whenever they want. I work every day, about 12 hours a day.”
It’s true that the real estate profession gives you much more freedom than others. But it doesn’t buy you more time to do anything other than work. Building your own business often demands your attention 24/7, and finding a balance between work life and personal life can be challenging. Wilson admits that even now, two years into her career, she struggles with it. You have to truly own your business and put it ahead of other things, she says.
“Nobody teaches you what you need to know and pushes you,” she says. “This is your own business. We aren’t independent contractors for nothing.”
In between chasing leads, showings, pulling comps, gathering information, and taking advantage of educational opportunities (just this year, she has already attended more than 20 seminars), Wilson finds little time to herself.
“Being young and not having a clientele is hard,” she says, looking back on her first year in real estate in 2012. “I don’t turn down business, so even if a client is more than 60 miles away, I will satisfy them and do whatever I need to do to make sure they are happy with my services.”
Wilson says that though she usually gets into the office at 9 a.m., she begins answering texts, e-mails, and phone calls from the moment her alarm goes off at 6 a.m. And if she’s having a restless night, she’s on call even earlier.
“My e-mails are the first thing I check in the morning, and I check them until I fall asleep at night,” Wilson says. “Sometimes I answer e-mails in the middle of the night if I wake up. I am a light sleeper, so if I see something needs to be done, I make sure it’s taken care of. I get approximately 500 e-mails a day.”
She does try to commit to leaving the office by 3 p.m. every day, but “whether I finish working from home or on the road, I don’t stop until about 9 or 10 at night.”
Not even Sunday is a day off, as we at REALTOR® Magazine recently learned from practitioners across the country (click on the comments section of the Facebook post below to see how people responded to the question):
Think Wilson’s earned a vacation? Forget about it.
“I very rarely take time off or go on vacation. It’s hard to do when you are serious about your business,” she says. “Me taking a day off consists of my phone glued to my hip and my e-mails being monitored 24/7, but I don’t like to take time off.”
So how do you manage personal time and work time when you’re starting your business from scratch? Well, you basically don’t.
More 'First Year' Stories
We have a collection of stories from practitioners who faced all kinds of challenges in their first year on the job. Read all of them here.
“It’s very hard to balance personal time and work time. I kept it more work the first year,” Wilson says. “I put a lot of personal things and events off to make sure business was my first priority.”
She even put her relationships on the back burner for the sake of making sure her business didn’t suffer.
“My friends and family have been very supportive of me, but there are times where they say, ‘Can you please just put your phone away?’ But now, they get it and understand,” Wilson says. “I have missed family functions and parties with friends — and sometimes I regret it and wish I hadn’t put clients first. But the people that understand will understand.”
All this isn’t to say that new agents can’t have a life at all. But making sacrifices in other areas of life to put business first can yield a whopping first year in the business: In her first year as a licensed salesperson, Wilson closed $1.76 million in transactions.
She might not always follow her own advice when it comes to taking a breather from work, but Wilson has picked up a few tips to get more of her own time on her hands.
“You just have to make time and say, ‘I’m not going to answer calls or e-mails from 6 to 8 p.m.,’ and stick with it,” she says. “Sometimes you are just beat, and you have to let it go for a few hours. Or pick one day every week that you don’t focus on business.
“However, I can’t. My body is just programmed to always worry about it.”
Wilson’s best advice to real estate newcomers is to plow through that first year. Make it all about your business, and relax later after you’ve got an established clientele.
“The first year is the toughest because you have to make sure your brand is always represented well. If you like to party and expect to make the big bucks, you may want to try a different career,” she says. “There are no more ‘free nights.’ You must constantly answer every phone call — no matter if you know the number or not. There is no room for error. One missed call could cost you $1,000 plus referrals. You want to be the best you can be.”