For many of us, every day is a new opportunity to pore over the latest financial news and wonder how we will keep ourselves — and our businesses — afloat during the current COVID-19 shutdown. Whether you’re a single agent or a broker-owner, your response right now will have ramifications for months and years to come.
Here are seven things you need to do right now to take charge of your finances and prepare for what’s next.
1. Get a handle on your cash flow
A surprising number of business owners don’t have a firm grasp of where their money is going every month. From media subscriptions to services to discretionary spending, you need to understand how much money is going out — especially if less is coming in.
For your personal spending, an app like Truebill can help you identify recurring charges and areas where you’re overspending. Cancel subscriptions, find hidden fees, and determine where you’re simply wasting money every month.
For a larger team or brokerage, take a look at initiatives, accounts, or monthly charges that might have been started by former employees or services that simply aren’t worth the cost. Cancel or pull back services that are not working for you right now, or figure out how to repurpose them to meet your business’s changing needs.
2. Put your negotiation skills to work
There’s no time like the present to get on the phone with your phone company, Wi-Fi provider, credit card company and other service providers to find a plan that’s more cost effective. Ask the customer service rep to take a look at your recent usage, and find out if they can offer a plan that saves you money.
If your current provider is unable or unwilling to lower your costs, talk to other providers in your area, and see if they are offering incentives to people who switch to their service. Everyone is looking to optimize their customer base right now, so you might find that companies are more willing than ever to accommodate you and meet your budgetary needs.
3. Communicate with your sphere
You may think that “no one wants to hear from you” right now, especially about real estate. However, value-added, sincere and meaningful communication from you to your sphere might just be the best way to weather the current economic storm.
Right now, people are finding out that their home doesn’t necessarily suit their needs in the long term, or they’re facing their own financial challenges. Use this time to update your CRM and get a sense of upcoming real estate needs. The more you stay in touch today, the more likely you are to be top-of-mind when the people in your sphere are ready to make a move.
4. Look for a relevant niche
There’s no doubt that business as usual is out the window right now, but there’s still business happening. Investors are more motivated than ever. Landlords need rental agents and property managers. Geographic shifts — and shifting priorities — are impacting markets worldwide.
Even though you can’t rely on face time to get the deal, you can still reach out online and on social media to find the areas of the market that are most active. Go all in on those narrow niches and create new opportunities that can sustain your business in the short term while providing new revenue streams in the long term.
5. Consider your financing options
You might already have sources of additional operating cash in place, like a line of credit or a savings account. However, the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) is putting into place disaster loans designed to help small business owners, sole proprietors and workers in the gig economy.
Loans are available throughout the 50 states, Washington D.C., and U.S. Territories and include both Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) and even a forgivable emergency cash grant. In addition, the SBA has a host of COVID-19 resources at its website including local assistance and other guidance.
Also, as Jim Dalrymple II reported, “Congress, however, has thrown the real estate industry a lifeline. In a bill passed last week, lawmakers provided for some serious financial aid for small businesses such as real estate brokerages. And incredibly, despite coming in the form of a loan, the money may not have to be repaid in certain circumstances.” Find out how to apply here.
6. Get serious about marketing
If you’ve been putting off content creation and promotional initiatives until after the crisis has passed, it’s time to change your tune. There’s no point in going radio silent right now, then inundating potential leads after the market goes back to normal.
Reach out with local news, including services for the elderly and hungry in your area. Share your latest recipe or tips for ordering online. Include video content to make social distancing a little less lonely. Get active on your blog, your video channel and your social media platforms. Create and share relevant, meaningful content, make new connections, and turn online acquaintances into IRL friends.
7. Collaborate with affiliated service providers
The best news? You don’t have to go it alone. Reach out to colleagues and your professional network to put together content, promotions and reimagined services. Sponsor virtual fundraisers for the local food bank or eldercare services in your area.
Introduce your sphere to your favorite contractor or lender, and let them share your content with their sphere as well. Put together a Zoom classroom for first-time homebuyers or investors, or host a virtual meetup. The more people you add to your network right now, the wider your reach will be in the days to come.
Christy Murdock Edgar is a realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on Facebook, Twitter, Instagr