Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column is published every Wednesday.
As I peruse online conversations about the trials and tribulations of being a real estate agent, there’s a recurring theme that pops up consistently.
Discussions about prospecting and building a business and a steady stream of clientele, are dominant. That makes sense, as prospecting is arguably the most important, and often frustrating, aspect of becoming a successful agent. You only get paid when a transaction closes. That means if you wake up in the morning with nothing in escrow, you’re looking at 30 days before a paycheck arrives. And that’s if you get something in escrow today.
A friend of mine said something long ago that still resonates with me today: “In real estate, you wake up every day unemployed.”
Scary and stressful as that is, it is also one of the many wonderful aspects of a career in real estate sales. Every day is different. You are responsible for your success. You control your destiny. The harder you work, the more you earn. We can say none of that about most professions.
In the countless conversations surrounding prospecting and building a book of business, you will often see statements that start with, “To get more business, I have to ______,” filling the blank with things like:
The list goes on and on and on.
Here is where the recurring theme kicks in. Often these “I have to” statements are directly followed with, “And I hate that.”
“I can’t stand getting cold calls, so how am I supposed to make them? This sucks!”
“Looking at a blank screen terrifies me. I can’t stand writing, so blogging is exceedingly painful.”
“I just want to close my Facebook account, yet I have to have it for business. I hate everything about Facebook and social media.”
“Videos? My voice is cringey, I’m ugly, I’m overweight, being on camera makes me want to puke. Everything about video, from shooting to editing, is pure torture.”
Why? Why are people compelled to take part in activities they hate, they find painful, that make them want to puke?
Perhaps it’s peer pressure. I mean, if you want to be one of the cool kids, get your ass on TikTok, right? After all, if you aren’t, then millennials won’t see you and that demographic buys a lot of homes.
Not all over social media? Well, good luck being successful! Everyone has a Facebook account.
Perhaps it’s fear. After all, every professional and successful agent has a website, a blog, a coach. Without those things, you’ll be perceived as a rank amateur. Fellow agents will laugh at you behind your back. Consumers will question why you exist. That’s all some scary stuff.
So people plod along, grinding through the motions because they are convinced they have to do a certain thing. They will bang their head on the desk, curse those who made these platforms and procrastinate for ages while slogging through an activity that drives them insane.
Find your passion
Here’s a friendly tip that took me too long to realize: There is nothing you have to do to build a successful career, in real estate or any other field.
Well, OK, you have to provide exceptional client service. It’s also super-helpful not to be a self-absorbed jackass (though there are some deeply self-absorbed people out there who are plenty successful).
But no one has to door-knock, cold call, be all over social, etc., ad nauseam to be successful. Again, here lies a beautiful thing about real estate. There are virtually countless ways to be successful, to grow a client base, to not wonder where and when your next commission check will come from.
As a long-time student and observer of human behavior, there is something I can assure you of. If you dislike an activity, if you find doing something is tedious, painful, or barf-worthy, then the fact is you will not perform that activity well. And guess what? There’s no point in doing any business building activity if you don’t do it well or pay someone to do it for you.
So what do you do? Simple: Do the things that you enjoy. The stuff that challenges you (in a good way). The things you’re passionate about. Do what you love.
That enjoyment, passion and love will shine through. People will see it and respond to it. They may not be cognizant of the love you have, but they will feel it and react to it.
Back in the day, I had a very successful real estate blog that ranked well for high-quality search terms and generated a ton of prospects. It led to speaking engagements. It also took thousands of hours of time and tremendous effort.
Why was it successful? Why was I able to dedicate the time it required? Because I loved doing it. I’m one of those people who loves to write. In fact, sometimes I have to write. It’s just the way my brain is wired. Writing helps me think, sort things out and learn.
Writing is also cheaper than therapy. Blogging for business successfully entails a lot of writing, and having a passion for it sure makes it easier to sit down at the keyboard.
That doesn’t mean it was easy. Far from it. While sometimes the words just spill out faster than I can type, there are times when I channel what Ernest Hemingway once said: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
Painful as it can be, I still love everything about writing. So that love was parlayed into a successful client-generation machine. There were other things I did to build my business and brokerage, but none were as successful as the blog because there was nothing I was more passionate about.
You have a passion, or two, or three. Stop thinking there is something, anything, you have to do, and find what you want to do. Turn what you love into something that will help your business grow.
Sure, it may be painful occasionally. But you won’t dread it, hate it or barf over it. Do what you love to do, not what you think you have to do.
Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree who lives in the Texas Coastal Bend, as well as the one spinning the wheels at Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. “Retired (sort of) but not dead,” Jay speaks around the world on many things real estate.