Tips for Success at Self-Employment


One of the questions I get a lot when I do office tours or informational interviews is: what makes someone likely to succeed as a real estate agent? It’s a great question and an understandable one. Who wants to invest time and energy and money in becoming an agent if they’re likely to hate it and/or fail?

But it’s also almost an impossible question for me to answer, because there are exceptions to every rule. I see a lot of teachers, baristas and bartenders who rock the real estate game. In the case of teachers, I think it’s the patience that’s required of both jobs that’s the predictor of success. But, I worked in customer service for an airline before starting a real estate career. And you could name any other profession and I’ll bet there are agents who used to do that job before switching to real estate.

So, really there’s no simple answer to that question. At Keller Williams we do have a personality assessment that people can take, which points them in the direction of careers within the company that are probably a good fit for their personalities. That’s really the closest we come to “predicting” here.


There are some tips I’d share with anyone considering becoming a real estate agent at a brokerage where they’ll have lots of autonomy. They probably apply to anyone considering self-employment of any kind though, so please read on even if a real estate career isn’t in your future.

Startup Stock Photos

Stay humble. I have seen people make the mistake of believing that there is nothing they can learn from anyone else. This is totally untrue. I’ve been doing this since 2003 and I still look for opportunities to learn and I accept coaching from people who know more than I do.

home office

Behave as if you’re at work even if your office is in your home. Get dressed. Maintain a regular schedule. Avoid sending work emails while you’re in the middle of doing yoga in your living room. Sometimes you do have to answer an email at 11:59PM on a Thursday night, but to the extent you can, establish your working hours and stick to them. Plan days off and stick to those too.

Wake Me When I'm Famous

Enjoy the freedom and flexibility, but not at the expense of the work. This is another common mistake I see agents make. If you don’t wake up every day with the realization that but for your own efforts, you are unemployed, you won’t succeed. The freedom that comes from being able to set your own goals and design your own job is incredibly rewarding. But the people who are successful balance that with accountability. They set clear tasks and goals for every day and are disciplined enough to meet them even though no one else is watching. You can probably train yourself to do this if it doesn’t come naturally, but I find that a certain level of self-motivation and discipline is necessary.

Jumping Woman

Be yourself. This is such a cliché, but in any business where you are a big part of the equation when a client is deciding whether to work with you, it is so important. You should know who you are as a real estate agent—what is your philosophy about your work? Why would someone choose to work with you over the agent down the street? What sets you apart?

You must know these things and be able to communicate them to prospective clients in a genuine way.


Have clearly defined goals and a definition of success. If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you’ve arrived. Go through a formal goal-setting process regularly. How often really depends on your business. It can be something you do yearly, quarterly or monthly. But decide where you want your business to be at the end of that period. In my case, I set goals for how many transactions I want to close annually in my real estate business. And then I have separate goals for the other roles I have at Keller Williams. Figure out your metrics for determining when you’ve met your goals and then reward yourself for doing so.

Planner Picture

Be a good boss to yourself. Pay yourself a salary, even if it’s a small one when your business is just getting started. Have a plan for how you determine when it’s appropriate to give yourself a raise. Invest in retirement; have a plan for taking a vacation or for when you’re too sick to work; work the supplies you need into your monthly budget. In short, treat yourself the way you’d expect a good boss to treat you if you were their employee. Otherwise you’ll resent yourself and burnout.

All you other self-employed people out there, please feel free to share any of the tips that work for you in the Comments section below.

Thanks, all! I’ll see you back here again soon.