In March’s Marketing and Branding Month, we’ll go deep on agent branding and best practices for spending with Zillow, Realtor.com and more. Top CMOs of leading firms drop by to share their newest tactics, too. And to top off this theme month, Inman is debuting a brand new set of awards for branding and marketing leaders in the industry called Marketing All-Stars.
If you’ve ever struggled to pull on a pair of winter boots, you’ll no doubt see the genius in a little-regarded late-19th-century innovation — the bootstrap. This little tab of leather made it easier than ever to step out of your house well-shod and ready for the day.
This is, of course, the origin of the phrase “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and of the modern verb form “to bootstrap.” We talk a lot about bootstrapping, especially for newer agents or those who are weathering an economic downturn.
What does it mean to ‘bootstrap’ your business?
Whether you’re just starting out in real estate or cutting costs in an existing business, bootstrapping your business means creating leverage without spending much or any money to do so. Maybe you’re designing new marketing initiatives. Maybe you’re implementing new transaction management processes or running your day-to-day operations. Bootstrapping allows you to do more with less.
It’s important to know when it’s time to bootstrap and when it’s not. Always keep in mind that you want to bootstrap the elements of your business that make sense — those that you can competently evaluate.
Creating leverage with skills
The first type of bootstrapping occurs when you leverage your skills to take on a needed task in your business. It’s important to make sure that you are truly competent before you leverage your skills.
For example, if building your own website or writing your own content is something that you’re good at and qualified to do, that is a good place to cut costs by bootstrapping. If, however, your website looks amateurish and your content is filled with errors in spelling, grammar and syntax, you’ll end up costing yourself more than you save by undermining your brand authority and image.
Content marketing offers easy ways to lean in and leverage one skill over another. For example, if you’re not much of a writer, you can put your personality into play by creating video content. If you don’t feel confident creating on your own, you can start a podcast with a colleague from an affiliated industry, like mortgage, title or a staging expert.
When it comes to the nuts and bolts of running your business, if you have a head for numbers, you may find that you can bootstrap your bookkeeping and tax preparation. This is especially likely if you’re also highly organized, detail-oriented and efficient with record-keeping.
Remember, however, that if you’re not good at this type of accounting, you could end up digging a very deep hole for yourself and spending a great deal of time and money correcting your self-imposed errors.
Creating leverage with tech
Sometimes the leverage you create comes about because of a game-changing platform or mobile application that allows you to take on a task you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
For example, if you don’t have an eye for graphic design, a platform like Canva — with its vast number of templates and pre-existing designs — can make a huge difference in content creation for social media or your blog. Similarly, PosterMyWall can help you create professional-looking flyers for your new listing.
Can’t afford a transaction manager? You may find that optimizing your use of a transaction management platform is almost as effective. Want to keep a better eye on the numbers of your business’s bottom line? Financial management apps may be the answer.
Creating leverage with training
Sometimes, bootstrapping is as simple as seeking out training to become great at a skill you frequently draw on. For example, learning about and fully optimizing the capability of the CRM your broker provides may end up saving you a tremendous amount of time and money while improving the conversion on your lead gen. It may be as simple as taking in some online webinars or attending a training session at your brokerage.
Check out your local association for training classes that might allow you to expand your knowledge base and improve your ability to bootstrap certain aspects of your business. Many of these classes are available at minimal cost, on a wide array of topics, and, in many cases, hours may apply toward your required continuing education.
Creating leverage with time
When you’re maxed out in your business, you may need to outsource many tasks that you’re otherwise perfectly able to perform. However, if you’re experiencing a slowdown in your business, you may want to consider using your extra time to take on some of the tasks that you’ve been outsourcing to freelancers or service providers.
Maybe someone else has been running your social media feeds. You may be able to take on that task, using their recommended schedule as a blueprint for your own social media management. Maybe you’ve been outsourcing blog writing or property descriptions to a copywriter but now you need to take back those tasks.
Remember, your business operations can and should change over time and as market conditions change. If you’re gifted at some aspect of content creation, marketing or management, you can always step back up to the plate and bootstrap, even if you’re well-established.
There’s no shame in do-it-yourselfing as long as you’re able to operate at a professional level and put your best face forward. In addition, as AI and proptech continue to add new capabilities, it’s always smart to revisit the latest tech and figure out how you can add leverage without adding costs.
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.