Tips for Being Your Own Boss

It’s what drove you into the real estate business, but it turned out to be more work than you expected. Learn how to manage your most difficult employee — you.

June 1, 2008

Real estate is the ideal profession for self-starters — as well as anyone who doesn’t want to be confined to a cubicle all day, or report to three different bosses. Best of all, it’s for those who are motivated by the fact that unlike a salaried employee, there’s no limit on how much money you can make.

But being your own boss isn’t as easy as it sounds. Many people enter the real estate business with the goal of building a thriving enterprise and becoming a financial success, yet they fail to envision all of the hard work and discipline that’s required to achieve such victory.

In this article, we’ll look at some steps to help you become more self-disciplined, as well as some key strategies self-disciplined individuals use to achieve success in their lives.

How's Your Attitude?

When you wake up in the morning, what’s your attitude about your job? Do you see yourself as a winner who’s on top of your real estate career, or do you envision struggle and pain in your daily work?

Successful individuals tend to see themselves flourishing; they have a have a winner’s attitude. Having the right attitude works hand-in-hand with self-discipline. When your attitude is upbeat and you have a desire to work (rather than feeling you are being forced to work), powerful things can happen.

But you can’t just change your attitude overnight. Begin by changing your thoughts and visions about yourself and your goals. Write out several positive statements about why you have a good attitude and why you are a successful real estate professional. Also, keep a running list of your career goals. Revisit these statements daily until they become a part of you.

Second, fill your head and your free time with good stuff! Read or listen to motivational books when you have the time, meet with people whom you admire in the business, and associate with other professional real estate practitioners. Get involved in industry networking events where you can broaden your sphere of real estate contacts and meet people who inspire you to become the best in your field.

Everyone Has Bad Habits

When you’re your own boss, you don’t have anyone else to give you annual reviews and tell you about your bad habits. You’ve got to take on this duty yourself. Unfortunately, recognizing your own bad habits can be tough — if they really are habits, they’re probably ingrained in the way you do business. But if left unchecked, bad habits will sabotage success.

Procrastination (in returning phone calls, filing paperwork, sending out marketing pieces, etc.) and poor time management are some of the most dangerous bad habits in real estate, and ones that most of us are guilty of on some level. But if you’re really, really serious about becoming a success in real estate, you will get really, really serious about turning bad habits into good habits.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that it takes 21 consecutive days of continuously doing the same thing over and over to create a habit. Identify the behavior you want to change and tell yourself what new habit you’d like to replace it. Then do it for 21 days … mark it on your calendar, set reminders on your desk, and be disciplined about changing your ways for those 21 days.

It won’t be easy. Unfortunately, the business of real estate can throw an array of new obstacles at your schedule. But self-disciplined practitioners understand that certain tasks — such as prospecting, marketing, and follow-up — must continue each and every day if they want their business to grow.

Don’t allow bad habits to rob your time of what is important and what needs to be done. Use every minute of your day wisely and focus on activities that will produce results. Review your day’s activities at the conclusion of your workday. Spend a few minutes going over your calendar and figuring out where your time is profitable and how you can improve your time-management skills tomorrow.

Are You Training Yourself?

Education builds confidence, and confidence breeds self-discipline. If you work for a large brokerage, you may already have a good training and continuing education program to tap into. But even so, it’s up to you to make the most of every opportunity to learn.

There are many excellent real estate designations to help you build real estate knowledge and become a specialist in a given niche. There’s also a wealth of free information from and REALTOR® magazine online that you’re entitled to as a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Make it a point to read one new article every day that can help you build your real estate career. Many successful practitioners I’ve worked with find this exercise invaluable to building their real estate business. You’ll find it only takes a few minutes each day to do this, and the rewards will be overwhelming.

Obstacles Are a Given

Everyone has bad days. But when you’re your own boss, it’s part of your job to keep yourself motivated. Self-disciplined individuals will tell themselves to never give up! The typical business day can bring a variety of surprises and challenges your way. Meeting those challenges with confidence and enthusiasm is key to your success.

Marathon runner Joan Benoit Samuelson underwent knee surgery 17 days before the time trials for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, yet she did not use that as an excuse to give up. Not only did she make the team, she won a Gold Medal for the United States. A self-disciplined person understands that challenges and obstacles are a part of life, and looks those challenges straight in the eyes with a winner’s heart. Regardless of the frustrating situation or circumstance — a market slowdown, an unsuccessful listing appointment, a stressful day of showings — remind yourself that quitting is not an option.

If you’re looking for success before work, go to the dictionary, because that's the only place you'll find it. But if you’re looking for true success, take charge by being the best boss you can be to yourself. Keep yourself motivated with some of the ideas I’ve included here and you’ll move your real estate career in the right direction.

John D. Mayfield, ABR, CRB, e-PRO, GRI, is a sales coach, author, and broker/owner of Mayfield Real Estate in Farmington, Mo. You can contact Mayfield through his Web site,