By Alex Craig
It’s been a while since my last YPN Lounge post because I fell into the trap many of us are experiencing: the crazy busy spring and summer real estate season.
At the core, I believe my failure was due to a lack of planning. I am personally looking at everything I do and I’m trying to prepare for next year by taking notes for my annual business planning. As I reflect on how I could have handled this spring and summer real estate season while still maintaining some semblance of a life, I wanted to share four tips every real estate agent who is struggling during the busy season should consider.
1. Outsource to Qualified Partners
The key is finding partners that will allow you to scale up or down as needed. For that reason, I believe your best bet is to find a qualified company that can take a task off your hands. For example, a transaction management company will process your transactions for a small fee, like $250 to $300 a transaction.
Why do I advocate for a company rather than hiring an employee or virtual assistant? A few reasons. First, it should allow you to limit the time spent training a person. If you pick the right partner, hopefully, you don’t have to spend any time training. Second, you can scale up or down as needed. A company that specializes in a task, like transaction management, should have the resources for what you want to do. So, if you’re busier than you thought, you can push more work to the partner company.
The same might not be said about an assistant. They might only be able to commit to 10 hours of work each week. If you need 15, what do you do? You would have to take on the work yourself, hire another assistant, or find a qualified partner company anyway. Plus, the person you hire will eventually go on vacation. Who takes the workload during those times? For an independent real estate agent, this can be a significant burden to your already busy schedule.
While there are pros and cons to both outsourcing and hiring, for me, outsourcing is the better way to go.
2. Automate When Possible
I traditionally used Quickbooks Desktop because it has far greater functionality than Quickbooks Online. However, it typically requires significantly more data entry compared to the options available with Quickbooks Online.
For example, I can plug a single credit card and business bank account into Quickbooks Online and have all of my transactions imported automatically into Quickbooks. All I have to do is match and categorize them. Over time, Quickbooks gets smarter and automates the process further.
This is the power of automation—it allows me to simplify or delete some of the tasks that typically did or tried to pass on to a virtual assistant.
Bookkeeping is an easy example and a small win. I am currently looking at other areas in my business for ways to save time. I recommend looking at your sales cycle, marketing, and service delivery process. For example, one thing I have available as a Century 21 agent is MarketLeader, a system through which I’m able to automate my marketing.
Every month, Century 21 creates a marketing e-newsletter. All I have to do is add my contacts to the list and BAM, they receive my email with little effort on my end. If your brokerage doesn’t offer something like this, I know there are private companies out there that can do something similar.
3. Don’t Stop Marketing; If You Did, Start Again
Do not stop marketing, no matter how busy you get. In the real estate industry, most marketing takes about 90 days to start producing results. Meaning, the marketing you do today will have an impact three months from now.
That’s why it is critical to continue your marketing efforts all year.
The first and fourth quarters are usually the slowest times in our industry. It’s pretty much unavoidable. However, it doesn’t have to be as slow. By marketing today, you are ensuring that you find leads that will be ready to sell in the next three to six months. This means you can have a higher producing fourth and first quarter ahead.
If you get too busy to do your own marketing, go back to tips one and two—find qualified partners (e.g. a marketing agency) or automate some of your marketing.
One thing I will do better next year is that I’ll write more blog content during the first quarter so that I can set up a publishing schedule for the spring and summer months. For example, I will write an article in January, upload it to my WordPress site, and schedule it to publish in July.
4. Take Your Personal Life Into Account
I had a lot of personal responsibilities this year that, at times, pulled me away from my business and career. As a result, I dropped some tasks, like contributing to the YPN Lounge. Most of my days during the spring and summer seasons have been spent just trying to survive. Once you’re buried in work, it’s tough to get out of it.
Next year, I plan to do a better job at analyzing how much time I have available for various business and personal tasks. As a result, I will do a better job at pushing myself to find more qualified partners and automation. It’s critical to set these up early, like in the first quarter. If you wait too long, you will become buried in your work like I did, and you won’t have time to find solutions or delegate to free up some of your time.
For example, previously, I would write out the same waiving inspection contingency for my clients every single time because I felt like I didn’t have the time to figure out how to put this in my system. Eventually, I figured it out. I was tired of the proverbial “death by a thousand papercuts.” So, I spent about 30 minutes entering all of the common clauses I use during a transaction. That 30-minute task has saved me many hours since then.
The Main Takeaway
If you don’t want to get caught up in the craziness of the spring and summer real estate season, then you have to lay the groundwork in the fourth and first quarters of the year—between roughly October and March. However, it doesn’t hurt to get started today, if you can take the time.
Think about what tasks and processes you can delegate or automate, make sure you continue your marketing all year, and figure out how much time you can commit to your business each season. Try to not get stuck on what you’ve done in the past—think forward—especially as responsibilities increase in your life.
Reflect now and implement in the coming months. Hopefully, you will enjoy a smoother busy season in 2022.
Alex Craig, a real estate professional with Century 21 Looking Glass in Lansing, Mich., helps homeowners sell their homes for maximum cash in their pocket by taking a data-driven approach and executing a systematic marketing plan that uses current digital marketing strategies. Craig also runs the Dolinski Group (www.dolinskigroup.com), a company focused on helping real estate agents get more from their careers and earn more without the heartache.