When you’re starting out in real estate, everyone tells you that an admin is your first hire. It’s in all the books, on all the podcasts and in just about every article you read.
When I started out, first in real estate and later as a content writer, it was after years as an administrative assistant then as a schoolteacher. There was nothing an admin could do for me that I couldn’t do myself, often faster, better and with one hand tied behind my back. (As you see, humility is not one of my gifts.)
I was a master at Canva, Wix, and a host of other platforms designed to get things done. When clients asked me to go all-in with Slack, Trello or Asana to integrate with their teams, I did so quickly and seamlessly. The idea of an admin didn’t enter into my thinking. What would I have them do? Wouldn’t it take me longer to get them trained up than to do it myself?
Do you know what I needed? Someone to clean my house. Someone to get the groceries. Someone to help my girls with their homework. Like most women in this country and around the world, the responsibility for childcare and homekeeping rested almost exclusively with me and not with my (now ex-)husband.
Having my home in order was and is integral to ensuring that everything else is taken care of professionally, at least for me. It helps me to ensure that the time I spent with my family is about more than a list of chores and errands. It allows me to be more present, especially in a work-from-home environment. It helps me to understand the tradeoffs I was previously making in time and energy.
Not for nothing, it also helped me employ some truly wonderful women who themselves needed jobs. My shopper is the mom of one of my daughter’s classmates and she has been a godsend during pandemic shortages. My housekeeper is like family, literally. She texts me on every holiday, brings gifts to my pets, and has been by my side through thick and thin.
We are our own worst critics, and often we allow guilt (mom guilt is real, for one) to keep us from taking care of ourselves or our businesses properly or stifle growth due to an inability to let go of limiting beliefs.
Whether you’re just starting out as a real estate agent, you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed or burned out, or you are looking to add more leverage so that you can scale up, here are my best tips for women who are entrepreneurs and business owners.
I’ve put them in the form of permissions because sometimes we can’t let ourselves off the hook. We need a friend to do so instead. Let me be that friend for you.
1. It’s OK to put your personal priorities first
For me, organizing my household was top priority in getting my business running smoothly. It was the first step in helping me to create additional time that I could devote to my business while also helping to offset the “Mommy guilt” that I felt if things weren’t on track.
Your mileage may vary, and you may have very different priorities. You may need time in the great outdoors or time for a workout each day. You may have hobbies or interests that take up a lot of your bandwidth.
You’ll be happier and more fulfilled if you keep those priorities on deck while you’re building your business, but it might require you to outsource the things that you don’t want to spend precious free time on.
2. It’s OK to ask for help
Sometimes that help will come in the form of a CPA to handle your finances and taxes. Sometimes it will come in the form of a copywriter to create your property descriptions or a transaction coordinator to manage contract requirements. It may also come in the form of a support group or therapist if you need an unbiased person to lend an ear.
They don’t give any prizes for making a martyr of yourself or juggling everything all alone. No one can do that, and no one really should. If you find yourself wishing that someone could do “XYZ” on your behalf, start googling. There’s probably someone who can handle that task for you and free you up for the things that only you can do. (Check out Instacart, Fiverr, Task Rabbit and other apps to lighten the load.)
3. It’s OK to find a space for yourself
A couple of years ago, we were living in an open-concept home that afforded no privacy or peace. There was literally nowhere I could sit and work uninterrupted. With a marriage on its way out, two teenagers, and three pets, getting work done felt like an endless uphill climb.
I found a welcome respite by joining a co-working space and holing up there a few hours a day. It made such a difference, and I found that I could get much more done in just an hour or two than I used to get done in an entire day.
Although many of us have been housebound thanks to COVID, you may now feel ready to get out and find a little spot of your own. Don’t have the budget for a co-working space? Consider a study carrel at the public library or a quiet table at your favorite coffee shop instead.
4. It’s OK to nurture your support network
One of the first things to go by the wayside when you are building your business is your personal time — book club, wine tastings, or hanging out with friends watching the latest celebrity documentary. Now, however, is the time you need your support network most, so don’t lose touch with friends and family.
Whether it’s lunch with a mentor or a weekend away with your significant other, work-life balance means factoring in time to spend in a relationship with those you care about and who always have your back.
Even just reaching out throughout the day with a text or sharing a “So you!” Instagram post keeps the lines of communication open so that you can stay connected.
5. It’s OK to prioritize your well-being
When you’re working all the time, it can be so hard to take care of yourself. Doctor’s appointments, workouts, eating right — it may all feel like too much trouble. The problem, of course, is that when you don’t take care of yourself, you’re likely to end up rundown, sick or operating at less than the 110 percent you pride yourself on.
Make your well-being a priority, from checkups to daily habits. If you find yourself stopping for fast food too often, take some time to look for ways to integrate healthy eating into your schedule. If you are behind on your checkups, sit down right now and start scheduling them. Can’t fit in a spin session? Look for ways to work out at home, with or without fancy equipment.
6. It’s OK to not be Superwoman
There’s a myth that every woman is supposed to look perfect. You’re also supposed to be whip-smart, completely organized, and have a pristine house decorated in the latest fashion. You’re supposed to, in the words of the old song, both “bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.”
Ask yourself this question before you judge yourself: If I visited my best friend, my sister, or my daughter, and she was working as hard as I am, would I judge her for not doing enough or lend a helping hand because she’s doing too much?
Nine times out of 10, you’ll probably find that you’re failing to offer yourself the same grace you would to anyone in your life. Practice positive self-talk. Love yourself enough to stop trying to do it all.
7. It’s OK to create some backup reminders
This is a practical piece of advice that works for me, perhaps as a holdover from my old days as a schoolteacher. I live my life by alarms, reminders and timers.
I set multiple timers throughout the day to help me shift to various tasks. I color-code my calendar and create alarms for the different events, calculating how much time I’ll need to transition, or travel, from one task to another.
It takes a little time to create a system that works but giving yourself plenty of reminders will help you to feel more organized and in control.
Although there are, of course, many things that come up in a day that are unexpected, getting a handle on the non-negotiable items and providing auditory reminders will keep you from losing track of time or feeling that sinking feeling of having forgotten something important.
Most of all, it’s just nice to know that you don’t have to remember everything; you can let that little alarm take on that burden.
8. It’s OK to continue perfecting your systems
When you create a system that’s working, remember, it’s not the be-all, end-all. There’s always room for adjustments and improvements.
I’m constantly revisiting and refining my systems, from the way I organize my calendar to the way I optimize my phone’s capabilities. The more you can learn about everything — your computer, your apps, the platforms you use — the more efficient and effective they’ll be for you.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut or to feel that you don’t have time to fix what’s not broken. You’ll find, however, that your tech keeps getting better and better, optimized by the feedback from users and regular product updates. It just makes sense, then, to check in from time to time and see what’s improved and what new feature you might want to integrate into your routine.
9. It’s OK to know when to say ‘when’
Maybe it’s a client who is unreasonable or just downright disrespectful. Maybe it’s the end of your bandwidth where you just can’t take on one more task. Maybe it’s a brokerage environment that’s not working for you. Maybe it’s a friendship that has run its course or a family member who’s constantly critical.
You know when enough is enough, but when you’re socialized to please others and pick up the slack yourself, you may not be good about setting healthy boundaries. Learn to know when it’s time to say “no” or to sever that toxic relationship.
Know when you need a break or when you need to change direction. There’s no shame in saying “when.” Instead, there’s freedom, peace, and a new level of satisfaction when you start giving yourself permission and standing up for yourself and your needs.
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.