Most days, the work I do to earn a living doesn’t seem like work. I spend time driving, walking, writing and on social media. I meet with people, I tour houses with and without clients. I have lunch or coffee with people I enjoy spending time with and call it a meeting.

  • Most of my job doesn’t feel like work. And a lot of the “hard work” I see in the industry is either beneficial to the agent or simply looking busy for the clients’ benefit.

Most days, the work I do to earn a living doesn’t seem like work. I spend time driving, walking, writing and on social media. I meet with people; I tour houses with and without clients. I have lunch or coffee with people I enjoy spending time with and call it a meeting.

Some of my time is spent reading, learning and analyzing data. I also take pictures, write flowery words for marketing, update websites, blog, process pictures, answer the phone and prepare reports. I write a few advertisements, too.

Is this work?

I do more, but it is hard for me to decide what is work and what isn’t. If I had to dig ditches all day, that would be hard work. Driving in traffic and 90-degree heat or in a raging blizzard can feel like work, even if it is only a few miles.

There was a posting over the weekend on a neighborhood network from a neighbor who is looking for a “hardworking real estate agent.” I did not jump all over that one, but I noticed that some of my neighbors recommended agents they have worked with.

The individuals who were recommended are all local agents with a lot of experience. I have no idea how hard they work, but I know they do a good job. I could have added my own name, but I didn’t think these people would be much fun to work with.

As I read through the thread, I could tell they have a bunch of preconceived notions about real estate agents that would make working with them hard work — and they want their home sold too.

Some clients are more work than others.

Some are fun to work with. I would do most anything for them, and it doesn’t feel like work. Others are a struggle from start to finish and, if I let them, they suck the joy out of the work I do. I look forward to the end of the contract.

Work smarter, not harder

Part of working with clients is having them judge how hard I work. I like to keep the focus on what I accomplish for them — not how much or little effort went into it. When I had a traditional job, I often got my work done quickly; as a result, I was usually given more work.

I hated it when I got my work done on a beautiful summer day and did not get to leave the office early because I was expected to do more.

As a business owner, if I get my work done quickly, I can do more work and make more money, or I can go do something fun while pretending to work hard.

I like to think I work smarter not harder, as I take my various electronic devices with me and go read a book at the park by the lake.

Recently, I had some buyer-seller clients tell me that they should get a discount from me for my services because they are going to do most of the work finding that perfect property. They plan to do most of the hard work and feel that I won’t earn a full commission.

They can’t pick out a property that’ll work for them by themselves — or with my help. It is very possible that what they want does not exist, or if it does, they won’t be able to agree with each other and buy it.

It will end up being my job to help them change their dream. I won’t charge them double, but it would be justified using their logic and math.

What do agents do?

My dad is always asking me what I do when I tell him I need to go to work. I am never sure what to say, so I tell him about an appointment I have with a client, a closing I need to get ready for or even a property that I will put on the market.

If I had to write a job description for myself, it would be tough.

I have been working every day since July 4. Most days I have worked more than eight hours, but rarely more than four in a row, which is why I have the time to explain to my father what I do when I work.

It’s hard to even keep track of what day of the week or month it is. I don’t feel like I am working hard, but I do feel busy.

The agents I know who spend the most time working generally are not working extra hard for each client. They are working with many clients and are working extra hard at finding more clients or working to build a team.

Hard work is a perception we give our clients

Some sellers see open houses as a sign that their agent is working hard. I used to do a lot of open houses, and they never really seemed like hard work. But if a client thinks they are part of the job, then they should be.

When I sign a contract with a buyer or seller, I do not become an hourly or salaried employee. I don’t even get paid unless real estate is sold — and closes. I don’t make any commitment to work a certain number of hours. Most of my clients are hourly or salaried, and I think it bothers them that I don’t have a job.

If I answer the phone too quickly, then it might look like I am not busy. And if I am not busy, then I must not be working hard.

If I don’t return calls fast enough, then I am too busy and people want to know if I have enough time to work with them. No one wants to “bother” me just to see a house if I am busy.

From a business perspective, I want to make as much money as possible with the minimum amount of time and money. At the same time, I want to look insanely busy, hardworking and successful to my clients.

We all know that being busy and making money are two different things.

People often tell me that being busy is a good thing, and when I am busy, I am working hard. I really don’t see it that way, but if looking busy looks good to my clients — I’m all over it.

What is a hardworking agent, and why would I want to be one?

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman

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