Being a small business owner in a down economy can feel like a heavy burden, but take heart! Rachael Hite offers smart budget tactics and collaborative ideas to help you weather the storm.

September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. Tips for better branding and in-depth features on how to take advantage of marketing tools provided by Zillow, Redfin and other platforms are all in the works in addition to insights from experts. You’ll find it all at Inman, as well as our two-day virtual, flagship event, Your Playbook for the Fall Market, in October.

After the overabundance of the past two years, you might find yourself pushing spaghetti around your plate and longing for last spring’s steak dinner. If your finances are toxic, overwhelmed or just a little lean this fall, you are not alone. Some agents are digging deep in their pockets to stretch their marketing budgets further. Others are regretting not saving more funds earlier in the year while coming up empty-handed on cash for self-promotion.

It’s time to detox, reset and figure out how to get through the rest of 2022. You can start making significant changes with small steps, one day at a time. 

30-day detox plan

Day 1: Admit that things need to change, and remind yourself that budgets expand and contract in all seasons of your life. You are not in this alone, the entire industry as a whole is looking for sustainable solutions for the coming months.

Day 2: Gather all your financial records into one file or email folder for review.

Day 3: Recalibrate your personal budget to reflect rising costs. It’s no secret you are paying more for everything, but how much more? Bite the bullet, and review how much your costs have risen since the beginning of the year. This will help you determine how much of your business budget will need to be trimmed down.

Day 4: Subscriptions can nickel and dime your already over-stretched budget further. Be ruthless, and cut unnecessary subscriptions off. Check your smartphone for apps that may have monthly fees that you have forgotten about.

Day 5: Call service providers, and review contracts to make sure that you are in the most competitive pricing plan possible. 

Day 6: Make an appointment with your broker to go over your business plan for the last stretch of the year. They have been waiting for you to visit all summer.

Day 7: Call your lenders and ask about co-marketing opportunities. Make sure to stay in RESPA compliance, but this could save you up to 50 percent of normal marketing project costs.

Day 8: Make sure that you are not paying for apps or marketing services that have free or cheap alternatives. Many tech services are included in your regular association benefits and agents do not use them.

Day 9: Start brown-bagging lunch and snacks. Save your cash for networking opportunities.

Day 10: Breakfasts are often more affordable than lunch. Aim to switch as much networking to breakfast and affordable, local restaurants as possible to support your community.

Day 11: Clean out your workspace. Look for any unused marketing materials that you can repurpose or reuse.

Day 12: Ditch expensive drinks. Water is not only better for you but more affordable than soda. The cost of soda has risen between 5 percent and 30 percent this year depending on which brand you drink.

Day 13: Diversify your income. If your numbers are down significantly, you may need to “income” your way out of overspending by taking on a side hustle or part-time job.

Day 14: Ask your broker about provided signs, lockboxes and other items to see if there are any free or affordable alternatives to purchasing outright.

Day 15: Create a social media content-sharing group with friends and family. If you have no budget for paid advertising, having your friends or family commit to at least 10 separate shares will still help your content find a healthy audience. You can do this with agents in your team or office as well to market new listings.

Day 16: Research ways to do your own dry cleaning or clothing care services.

Day 17: Create a clean car kit, wash your car at home, and avoid expensive regular car wash fees.

Day 18: If you have to purchase new branding materials, make sure they are “evergreen” and have a long shelf life.

Day 19: Download the RPR mobile app. It is filled with information and marketing that will enrich your current plan.

Day 20: Search for staging and cleaning supplies at discount or thrift stores.

Day 21: Clean out your garage, sell anything personal or business-related that you do not need, and then start adding those proceeds back into your budget.

Day 22: Consider dialing back alcohol expenses. Switch happy hours to coffee meetups and make your own beverages at home. 

Day 23: Cut back your clothing budget by switching to a “uniform,” and stop shopping for fast fashion.

Day 24: Shop around for more affordable catering options for open houses. Connect with local bakers, or dress up some goods from the store on better platters for presentation.

Day 25: Trade marketing services with other agents in your office. If you are better at creating graphics and they are better at posting on social media, share your skills and help each other.

Day 26: If you have been paying for a business networking group, review your ROI to make sure that those membership fees should not be reinvested back into your marketing plan elsewhere.

Day 27: Condense website fees. If you are maintaining multiple sites, it may be time to consolidate and funnel everything into one fully functional area.

Day 28: Research gas discounts, and use tools to plan your showing routes to make them more fuel efficient. Work from home on admin days when you can to save on extra commuting costs. 

Day 29: If you have cut everything back and you still are having difficulty making ends meet, it may be worth the time to explore joining a team or shifting brokerages to see if that can improve your financial outlook and provide stress relief for you.

Day 30: Take a day to relax and not worry about budgets. Managing financial stress is an important part of taking care of your mental health. Remember that small consistent steps and oversight can help you continue to make progress. 

Being a small business owner in a down economy can feel like a heavy burden, but take heart that smart budget tactics and leaning on an experienced leader who knows how to weather these markets can be the two keys to getting back on track. Dial back that overspending, and put your dollars into areas that invest for referral business to come back to you in the future. 

Rachael Hite sold real estate in Virginia and West Virginia for seven years with a specialization in short sales and foreclosures. She has been an office manager, an agent, mortgage marketing consultant and continuing education trainer for agents since 2012. She currently specializes in private business development and digital marketing services for top producing agents and businesses in the housing industry.

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