Creating greatness from scratch isn’t always easy
I’ve been working on my site as we discussed last time (as well as working on my career) and as of right now, the site isn’t complete. I’ve had some great ideas (both my own and those from others) and we’ll get into those soon, but in the meantime, in order that you don’t forget me (why would you want to?), I decided to write something to try and help new agents struggling through the same sorts of things I am.
Having scratch to create greatness isn’t always easy either
We all know its not easy your first few months of being an agent. You’re still learning tons, you’re out trying to meet people and get clients to work with, you’re going to training classes, you’re driving back and forth showing people houses, doing open houses, working rentals, and just trying to get your career kick-started. So between the cost of your licensing classes, the test, fingerprinting, local board and national association memberships, MLS dues, SUPRA key cost, desk fees, franchise fees, lunches, etc., you’re probably thinking that this whole idea of being an agent is costing you a fortune and in the first lean months, everything seems a bit hopeless.
Now that you’re a few thousand dollars into your career, the phone calls start. Buy this, order these, we’ll make you rich, we’ll give you leads…you know the ones. Everywhere you turn someone has their hand out and everyone is offering you the solution to your money woes. Some of these companies have great reputations and from my own experience, very well trained sales people. I spent almost an hour listening to a guy one day who talked me into everything he was explaining. Luckily, the one thing he couldn’t do was get me to whip out my war-worn credit cards. I’m a cheap bastard, there’s no doubt about it. I don’t like to get sucked in by these people, but when you’re not selling houses and someone starts explaining how they could help you…well, its as tempting as my wife’s double chocolate fudge brownies.
So, all these people got me thinking. What should I spend my money on? Where can I save money? How can I get stuff for free? So I decided to compile a little list of my favorite ideas for saving my oh-so precious cash.
(Note: For those of you with years of experience, these tips might seem super-obvious, so you might just want to skip to the comments section and leave your best ideas for us new agents to borrow from, I’d hate to bore you.)
Creating greatness from nothing (or little) with help from others
- Title companies. Find a great title company that you like and can get along with. Meet the various business development staff and/or marketing managers. Make friends with them. Title companies are a great resource for goodies of all sorts. They set me apart from the rest, with no cost to me (you’d be surprised how few people take advantage of the freebies being offered). At open houses, I use these marketing materials, a copy of the MLS printout, a custom flyer I make, a business card (ok, so I paid for these) and put them all in a folder provided by my broker (that he didn’t pay for either thanks to the various insurance agents, lenders, and handymen that put ads on them). When you come to my open house, you leave with information on the home, information from the title company (current topics include TX tax rates, energy efficiency, local wineries, and a school guide), and my card, all tucked neatly into a folder that potential buyers will open later that night and look through (hopefully). Not only have you given your potential clients something tangible to remind them of you, but you’ve now begun building a relationship with a title company that you can rely on when the sales start happening.
- Lenders. We all know a good lender can save you in a transaction. One who’s willing to go the distance and turn a crumbling transaction into a happy ending, but what I like about a good lender is their willingness to work with you to help create marketing materials. Need some just listed cards? Get a good lender to advertise with you and split the cost (or get them to foot the whole bill). Want some snazzy flyers printed out to give to potential buyers at your next open house? Ask a lender to make them for you (they’re trying to meet new clients just like you are). The idea is that you do the leg work (hanging out at an open house) and they pay the cost for advertising them (and to your benefit – you).
- Websites. Build your own. Have a friend do it. Have the kid at the local high school do it. Throw out your template site and create – you’ll find it challenging at first, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you will get. I stayed up all night writing my first AG article, then threw it away and wrote something entirely different, but the satisfaction (and feedback) I received encouraged me to do more and to become more involved. You’ll see…the first step is the hardest. This one isn’t exactly free, but the creative aspect of it comes from your mind…and that doesn’t cost a thing, except time (and maybe a few lattes at the local coffee shop to keep you going).
- Software. Don’t throw your money away on the latest trend in contact management. Many solutions are out there and free. Open source is the way to go. Need Microsoft Office? Try OpenOffice (www.openoffice.org). Need Photoshop? Try Gimp (www.gimp.org). Need contact management? Try any decent email program (Outlook, Thunderbird, Mail). Take a look at www.sourceforge.net for tons of great software to fit your needs. Best part is, by getting involved in the open source community you can help shape the software to do the things you want it to do.
- Printing. There are tons of way to go punk-rock-DIY with this. First, there’s some great sites that you can create custom flyers/postcards/brochures and I will be glad to share them with anyone that wants to know (I didn’t want to turn this into one giant ad for all the things I like). Plus Lani wrote a great article right here on AgentGenius about making DIY flyers using readily available items on the internet.
- Read everything you can. Reading has been my best bet in the early days of my career. Taking classes is a great idea and I don’t discourage you from it at all, but the internet is free. Mostly I read other agents blogs and industry news, but some people swear by the various motivational/sales training books available (and there’s millions of them). I prefer the internet blogs and sites, as they are free and more geared towards what I am trying to build for myself (ie, blogging, new technology, creative ways to let your clients know that you’re not just another agent).
Now its your turn…
These are just a few of the ways I’ve found to get things I needed done for free or on the cheap. What are you doing to create greatness without breaking the bank?