It’s a new year and the worst of the housing market crash is behind us, so maybe you have been thinking about switching to a smaller brokerage or starting one of your own.

If you are happy where you are, stay. But if you are not happy, then it’s time to take advantage of your independent contractor status and move on.

Change is scary, but no more so than working on a 100 percent commission basis and navigating the new health care system.

The price of being unhappy is high. So is the cost of the security some people feel they’ve gained by staying put.

I started out at a big-box brokerage. The main reason I left was because I felt I could make more money on my own. I didn’t think I really needed to pay for a brick-and-mortar storefront, or for technology that was mostly obsolete.

It turned out I was right. But even if I had been wrong, I really needed to move on.

I’ve learned that it’s possible to make the same amount of money, or more, selling fewer homes on your own. And I’m having more fun.

Which isn’t the same as selling more homes than any other agent and being as rich as Zeus. But even if that were my goal, I believe I could accomplish it more easily outside of a big real estate company.

What’s holding you back? I sure hope it isn’t all the branded marketing pieces you paid for.

By leaving the big-box brokerage, I gave up having that well-known logo on my business cards and for-sale signs. I learned what to say when a prospect asked why he shouldn’t list with brand XYZ if it sells more homes?

The first step is to acknowledge that because brand XYZ has, like, 1,000 agents in the area, they do sell far more real estate than I do. But your prospect needs to sell only one house — his own.

There are many potential buyers and sellers that believe real estate agents are employees of real estate companies and that somehow those companies “sell” real estate or help agents sell real estate.

What about market penetration, they ask? Exactly how does that work in real estate? Buyers flock to homes listed by one brand while ignoring those listed by another?

Once I educate the consumer and explain what real estate companies do, I can easily overcome that objection.

Real buyers and sellers usually just want to see the house, or want to know if you can sell theirs. Some sellers prefer the big brand. But there are plenty of sellers who do not, and there’s always enough business to go around.

Our clients are not always loyal to us or to a brand, no matter how good a job we do. I have never had any problem explaining my brand to people who then become past clients of the biggest real estate companies around.

If you want to leave your brokerage, start by making a list of services that you depend on from the brokerage and then look at alternatives.

Many of the services that real estate agents get through real estate companies are available through the Internet, or not needed at all.

One of the first things I had to do many years ago was to start using my own phone number and email address. Don’t stay at a brokerage just because you get a “free” email account and Web page.

Moving will cost money and some loss of business, so it’s a good idea to do it right the first time. Draw up a transition plan.

Technological advances make it easier than ever to operate a small independent brokerage. The Internet is now the water cooler where agents can interact, network and socialize. Realtor associations provide educational opportunities.

Leaving the big brokerage isn’t for everyone, but there isn’t much point in being self-employed and not loving every minute of it.

Stay because you like the people you work with and you think the company is the best in your market. Love it or move on.

Do not stay and complain, or hope things will change, because they probably won’t. Being an independent contractor means you have the freedom to move on.

If you’re an agent and you’re unhappy with your real estate company, either learn to love it or move on. Even failure is better than never having tried.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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