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What to weigh when considering becoming an indie broker

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The indie itch

So, the itch has gotten to you. You know, the indie itch… You’ve found yourself increasingly discouraged, just not truly motivated. That spark you had when you first got licensed is gone or dwindled. You just feel something missing. You feel blah.

Perhaps your current brokerage just isn’t helping to fully develop you, you are clashing with another agent in the office, your manager doesn’t seem interested in keeping up with today’s world, your current company was branded fifty years ago as the place to be and the ship suddenly passed it by three years ago, or maybe you just feel like you have so many ideas as to how real estate SHOULD be and you are on a true mission to eradicate and change an industry from the ground up. There are plenty of reasons why the “independent” in you may be rearing its fantastic head! Ahhhh yes!

Dreaming aside…

But really… Dreaming aside…What are your core reasons? Do you feel a passion burning inside that you just can’t shake? If so, please read on. If not, you may exit now!

There are several things to seriously consider when truly thinking about your wants:

  • What do you love (not just like) to do? Do you love to work with buyers and sellers? Do you love technology? Do you love to handle accounting or dealing with agents issues?
  • Do you want to manage a whole office?
  • Do you want to make more money? (note: at first, you will most likely make less, but if done well… who knows?!)
  • Do you crave more control over the brand which your current brokerage offers?
  • Do you want to see your own name on a sign (and no, this is actually a pretty normal characteristic of a successful entrepreneur, so it’s ok if you do!)?
  • Do you want to be a broker that runs a company, a team leader with buyers agents, marketing specialists and admin help, a visionary brander, or an agent that has a better split?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? Be honest with yourself! No one is perfect at everything! By acknowledging this, you should start focusing on surrounding yourself with others that possess those missing opportunities.
  • Are you tech savvy? Do you believe a corporate franchise really offers better tools? You would be really surprised at the amount of technology available to small companies that can rival the biggest “big box.” So what if you don’t have billboards quite yet surrounding the world? Let yourself think that could someday happen! In today’s game, I would say that if you don’t have a real knowledge or at least someone on your team that does, being a branded team under another company may be the way to stay.

Other considerations before jumping ship

Do you need extra classes for your brokers license? How long does this take? In my market, it typically takes six months to wait for all the needed classes to be offered in one location. I’m personally not known to be the most patient person, so I decided it would be a good idea to take all my classes in three months… traveling all over the state (two hours each way) to catch each series as it came. Oh, and did I mention I was a single mom with no financial support and still an active working agent? So no excuses here, people!

But seriously, if six months works better, that’s perfectly ok too. Even after I finished my full time job as “real estate student,” I still took another six months building a small reserve budget, getting legal paperwork together and finalizing the “brand.”

Realize that owning your own company doesn’t mean you will make more money, have more time or be able to take weekends off. You’ll most likely work more, have ten times the amount of bills and be responsible for employees, agents and expenses!

It is a tough decision, and while it is a move I personally made, it is much more complicated than slapping up a “hiring agents” sign and sitting back to collect residual income. Becoming an indie broker is a major responsibility, but with great risk can come great reward – carefully consider your personality and your goals before making your final choice.

Amanda Lopez is a real estate broker and founder of Style House Realty in Baltimore, Md. She has worked in the real estate industry for over 6 years and prior to that studied advertising, branding and web design. Refusing to believe the real estate industry had to be bland and boring in design and appeal to everyone, she set out to bring some style and technology into the mix. Amanda can most likely be found with coffee that got cold, great shoes, her mind in the sky and her evernote app open.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Lainie Ramsey

    February 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Great article! I would say my decision to pursue becoming an independant broker really comes down to just a few things: I am a mobile agent that works out of my car and my own house, I do all my own marketing, I pay for my own signs, lockboxes and I have a very prominent web presence. I do not have a desire to become a big company or have many agents working under my license. My goals are simple – I want to have my own company that is branded around me and I want to keep more of my own money. People work with me because of my expertise, not because of my company. It is a daunting task, but I know I can do it!!

  2. Grace Walter

    February 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Great article Amanda! Although I am not in this industry, this is solid advice for anyone that is thinking about entrepreneurism! You are right, you have to really want it and be willing to work hard to get it.

  3. Charles Mackenzie-Hill

    February 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Great article! The indie Broker has a nice ring to it. Pretty sure working from smaller units and cars will be far more likely now with the internet. We also feel as small units that videos will pay a huge part in ones marketing. Also believe if one can get the videos right your clients can be viewing listings as if they were there in person silting in the comfort of their own home or office be it in front of their own 42 inch plasma or on a bus with a smart phone. All the technology is there to provide answers to the entire necessary question in an easy to understand format.
    Absolutely , a great time to be, as you call it and Indie agent

  4. Lisa Heindel

    February 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    My partner and I made the jump to indie broker just a few short weeks ago. After spending 3 years branding ourselves, generating our own business and basically being on our own anyway, it was the next logical step. I had no desire to build a team within someone else's brokerage. Currently, it's just the 2 of us and any agents that we end up bringing on board will be carefully vetted, because we don't want anyone to screw up our vision of what our company will be.

  5. Amanda Lopez

    February 28, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Congrats to you ladies for making the switch! There is always a lot to think about and whether you decide to be a small team or brand, the feelings of it being your own are the whole reason it's worth it!
    Charles, you are right that the technology is there for those who chose to embrace it. It's also great to know how many solutions there are to compete with any of the bigger budgeted companies. Besides nationwide branding reach, the tools are there and often better utilized per local agent to obtain leads from website from SEO than a majority of large brokerages (notice I didn't say third party non brokerage sites! I still think they are the main ones which the agent or brokerage can compete with. At least in my market, large brokerage sites often come up page 5-6 of search results. One being trulia, zillow, Redfin then it's about 6-7 smaller companies, then corporate)

  6. stephanie crawford

    February 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Great job! I am considering going indie – I already work at a boutique brokerage. Would LOVE to see more “how to” indie articles. Perhaps interviews with the Jay Thompsons and Krisstina Wises of the world.

  7. Amanda Lopez

    February 29, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Stephanie, please stay tuned! I’m glad you enjoyed 😉 I guess some of these points rang true if you are considering it while at a boutique now!
    Krisstina has several outlets I am sure you can tap into to learn from and I’m not sure about Jay but perhaps you can ask around. There are a lot of people who can offer solid advice, experience and perspective too that may hit a different type of chord for each person. Best advice I ever got from a competing broker…
    “There is enough to go around for everyone. Don’t ever lose sight of that or let anyone make you think different.”

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Business Entrepreneur

11 productivity tools for entrepreneurs that work from home

(BUSINESS) We asked remote professionals what some of their favorite (and most necessary) productivity tools were for the home office, and have 11 ideas that you might not have tried yet.

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Working from home comes with its perks – comfortable pants (sweat pants*), working at your own pace, and not having your boss breathing down your neck are only a few. But staying productive and on-task can be a challenge when the only one watching is you (and your cat [who requires frequent cuddle breaks]).

We asked remote workers how they collaborate, stay on top of their work, and get shit done. Here’s what they said are their most reliable and necessary work-from-home tools:

First, let’s check out collaboration and team productivity tools:

Time Doctor

timedoctor780x433
Manage a remote team? When you need them focused on that time-sensitive report you needed yesterday, we’ve got a solution.

We use our own time tracking tool which we find essential for remote work and remote teams. It has everything you would need to give you an analytics of your workday and managing remote teams,” says Carlo Borja, Online Marketing Head of Time Doctor. This includes real time updates, gentle nudges to get you and your employees back on track, and a free trial run.

Azendoo

azendoo
Stop miscommunication in its tracks.

One of the best tools that we use to keep in contact and make sure everyone stays on task is Azendoo,” says John Andrew Williams, PCC, Founder and Lead Trainer at Academic Life Coaching, “It is an amazing tool that allows you to assign tasks to members of your team, leave comments and messages, and organize everything based on projects. It has truly been the best thing for us to improve our productivity and stay connected when we all work remotely.

RealtimeBoard

realtimeboard
What about brainstorming and collaborating with your team in real time? “RealtimeBoard is an online whiteboard and super simple collaboration service for marketers, developers, designers and creatives worldwide with user list exceeding 675k. It’s frequently used for project management, user experience planning, creative concepts visualization, story mapping, brainstorming, etc,” says Anna Boiarkina, Head of Marketing at RealtimeBoard.

Popular Favorite: Slack

slack780x433
Without question, it is Slack! With our marketing team spread from San
Antonio to San Francisco, Seattle and Madison, we couldn’t do our job
efficiently without this messaging communication tool,
” says Marcia Noyes, Director of Communications with Catalyze, Inc.

Noyes adds, “Before I took the job with Catalyze, I wondered how I could possibly stay on top of the very technical subjects of HIPAA compliance, digital healthcare and cloud computing, but with Slack, it’s easier than email or being there in person at corporate headquarters. I don’t think I could ever go back to being in an office. With this tool and others, I get so much more accomplished without the commute times and interruptions from water cooler talk and discussions about where to go for lunch.”

Now, let’s move on to tools and tips for your health:

A treadmill desk

treadmill desk
Slump no more.

Gretchen Roberts, CEO of Smoky Labs, a B2B digital and inbound marketing agency says that her treadmill desk helps her fight through the afternoon slump. “The endorphins that are released from the walking get me right into a feel-good mood again, same as a conversation and piece of chocolate would.

Not only is it great for you, but it keeps you awake and alert so you can fight the urge to take a “quick nap” right around 3pm. Good weather not required.

Lumbar support

lumbar-support
Then there’s always the issue of your health. We asked Dr. Barbara Bergin, M.D., Board Certified orthopedic surgeon her thoughts on how to best furnish your home office, and she had a few simple ideas that go a long way.

Invest in a good chair, a McKenzie lumbar pillow (because no work chair has the perfect lumbar support), and a drop down tray for your keyboard and mouse. If you have short legs which don’t quite reach the floor, either adjust your chair (which means adjusting everything else) or get some kind of a platform on which to rest your feet. I recommend those old bench step aerobics steps.

These are all suggestions that are easy to implement and positively impact your health (and wallet, when you consider chiropractic visits, massages or even surgery).

And some of our favorites – tools to manage time, data, and communications:

ClockingIT

clockingIT
In a similar fashion to Time Doctor, ClockingIT is a time-tracking application that logs everything you do. This allows you to keep track of how much time you’re really spending on a project (or time spent off-task on a project).

I work from home exclusively as a freelance communications and marketing manager. One of my clients, Simon Slade, CEO of SaleHoo, introduced me to ClockingIT. ClockingIT, a free project management system, is now a tool I can’t work from home without. It provides an easy way for me to log my time on different tasks and communicate project updates to colleagues without sending cumbersome mass emails. I like ClockingIT so much that I’ve created an account separate from SaleHoo’s, just for myself, and I use it to manage my work for other clients as well.

This would be a great tool for freelance designers and writers who need to keep track of time so they can appropriately charge their clients.

Zoho Vault

zoho vault
Throw away the Rolodex. With all of the social media information, websites, passwords, and logins a company might need to remember, there is a better way. Molly Wells, an SEO Analyst with Web301 believes in the power of Zoho.

The one tool that I can’t work at home without is the one that stores our many clients personal information. Links to live websites, production websites, their social media usernames and passwords. All of our own websites logins, social media logins along with all the tools we use. Rather than storing all of these on our server or on pen and paper, we use Zoho Vault. It’s a lifesaver for accessing information while at home or on the go. All of our passwords are all in one place.

Cloze

cloze
Winner for most comprehensive all-in-one freelancing app goes to Cloze, which does… pretty much everything.

As a freelancer, the tool I absolutely can’t live without is Cloze,” explains JC Hammond, “Cloze is a contact management app and website that is perfect for freelancers because it is highly customizable, links email, social, phone and notes in one place, lets you track interactions and statuses of projects, companies, and people and even delivers an informative “Morning Briefing” to help get your day off to a great start.

She thinks one of the most useful tools is the email read receipts and the ability to link with your cell phone provided to track calls. It also schedules and posts social updates to Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and other platforms. Because it’s designed for individual or very small team use, it’s easy to use and a user can efficiently run their entire day from the app.

Uberconference

uberconference
When it comes to phone conferences, meetings and client phone calls, Jessica Oman, Planner-in-Chief at Renegade Planner loves Uberconference.

She says, “As a business plan writer who in 2014 made the transition from leasing an office to working from home, I can say that Skype and Uberconference are the tools I can’t live without! Uberconference is especially wonderful because it easily allows me to record calls, use hold music, and connect with people who either call in from computer or phone. It allows me to have a 1-800 number too. It’s like having a virtual assistant to manage my calls and I love the professional feel of the service.

My Tomatoes

mytomatoes
And finally, a quick and simple idea – a timer. Jessica Velasco, Senior Editor at Chargebacks911 works exclusively from home. She uses the Pomodoro technique of time management: work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, work for 25 more minutes.

She says, “I use My Tomatoes. I like this particular timer because the countdown is shown in my browser tab. I can be working on other things and quickly glance over to see how much time is left. I like to race the clock; see how much I can get accomplished before the timer goes off. I also use it to limit my unproductive moments. Fun things like checking social media must end with the timer dings.”

Got a favorite?

All of these tools are yours for the taking, so why not give them all a shot? Then, even if you’re wearing your most comfortable pants (sweat pants*) – with all of the right tools, you can run your business from home like a boss, and give people the impression that you probably showered today.

*no pants


This article was first published in 2017.

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs thrive because they are easily distracted?!

(ENTREPRENEUR) If monotony and boredom at work- well bores you, it’s possible you may fit with the other entrepreneurs with a quick and constantly changing career.

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When Bill Gates was a kid, he knew he liked messing around with code. He couldn’t have known how it might evolve, but he was willing to live in the distraction, focusing on details when needed, but always learning, moving on, taking risks and growing in the process.

Some of the most successful folks among us are not content to sit and make widgets every day. They cannot thrive in a detail and focused work environment. So, it may come as no surprise to know that people who are more easily distracted are also more likely to thrive as entrepreneurs.

According to this study, if you are intelligent and get distracted more easily, those two qualities combined will likely enhance your creativity. And, that creativity and ability to use distraction as an advantage can be channeled to create new things, jobs, companies, etc.

For those of us who are more easily distracted, who enjoy doing different things every day, and who like learning, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggests a good option is to find a career path that provides the right amount of distraction and which is a great fit for your personality. If you do that your talent is more likely to be apparent because you are playing to your strengths. Also, if you are working in your sweet spot you will be more productive and motivated.

Maybe not surprisingly, the top job for those who live in distraction is entrepreneur. The term “easily distracted” often comes with a negative connotation, but considering an entrepreneur is taking risks, making things happen and creating companies, ideas, products that may have never existed, this spins that idea on its head. Entrepreneurs are the chief cooks and bottle washers of the world. They ideate, create, hire and inspire. None of that is possible in a monotonous work environment.

“Unsurprisingly, meta-analyses indicate that entrepreneurs tend to have higher levels of ‘openness to experience,’ so they differ from managers and leaders in that they are more curious, interested in variety and novelty, and are more prone to boredom — as well as less likely to tolerate routine and predictability,” according to the HBR story.

Other careers that are great fits for those of us (me included) who enjoy distraction are PR/Media Production, Journalism and Consultant. What these fields all have in common is, there is never a dull moment, switching from task to task is pretty commonplace, and you will do well if you can be a generalist – synthesizing information and weeding out the unnecessary.

Not sure where your strengths lie? Here’s a quick quiz to give you some feedback on how curious you really are.

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Business Entrepreneur

6 entrepreneurial tools for startup productivity

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Whether you’re a small business or startup, improving efficiency means more money and less stress. Here are six tools to help do just that!

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Truly great entrepreneurs are also well organized and know which tools will help them see their ideas to fruition.

That can be key for getting a startup business off the ground. Good ideas and a strong entrepreneurial spirit aren’t always enough on their own. Sometimes you need the right mix of technology and tools to keep the more mundane and tedious tasks from bogging down your efforts.

Here are six tools almost any entrepreneur can use to help keep productivity high when starting a new business:

Lawtrades: For legal help

For most entrepreneurs, it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but making sure you have your legal ducks in a row is important for any startup. Lawtrades helps with that while trying to keep costs down — music to the ears of any startup business owner.

The service is a legal marketplace of sorts designed specifically for startups and entrepreneurs. It connects business owners with legal professionals that it claims don’t charge “bloated law firm hourly rates.”

Lawtrades offers a number of services, including business formation, employment and labor, contracts and agreements and intellectual property.

Do: For productive meetings

Anyone who has started a business knows that it doesn’t happen without a multitude of meetings. Do is a service that can help make your meetings productive so you can waste as little time as possible.

The app allows you to plan and share an agenda to make sure everyone is on the same page. Other features include the ability to track accountability by showing you which points and/or tasks have been covered.

1Password: For easy password management

Starting a new business likely means starting and managing lots of online accounts. The 1Password app from AgileBits helps you save time by remembering passwords and other information for you.

The app helps you generate strong and unique passwords for your many accounts, and secures them behind one safe password known only by you. The app doesn’t only work for passwords — it can also help remember other information such as credit card numbers, safe combinations or street addresses.

Kanbanize: For product development

If your startup involves a specific product or set of products, Kanbanize helps you develop them with your team without bogging down the process. The software allows you to post and share boards that include product information and progress, and you can choose which people see which information.

For example, if you want to update investors on the status of your product development, you can share certain boards with stakeholders and no one else.

Evernote: For organization

There are many applications available that aim to help team productivity, but Evernote is one of the best.

The software allows you to collaborate with your team all within one workplace, keeping projects and other work together. You can also give feedback on ideas and share notes while syncing the data across computers and phones.

There are many other features as well, including in-app chat functionality and integration with Google Drive.

TaskHusky: For web development

Almost any new business will want some sort of business, but a staff of web designers and developers isn’t always an option for startups. That’s where TaskHusky comes in.

TaskHusky is an on-demand service for small businesses that need help with one-off tasks with the Shopify, Bigcommerce or WordPress platforms. The company has a simple three-step process: You create a task and pre-pay, a TaskHusky team member is assigned the task and gets to work and the task is completed and is sent back for your approval.

The takeaway:

Smart entrepreneurs understand they can’t get everything done on their own when it comes to starting a new business. These six tools may not be everything you need to launch and maintain a startup, but they will go a long way to helping you keep productivity at a high level.

#productivity

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