The no-nonsense guide to starting a real estate business

Do you think DIY is only for newcomers to the real estate industry? Find out how to kick-start aspects of your business at any time – and how to decide which skills to bring to the table.

In March’s marketing and branding month, we’re taking a closer look at agent branding and spending best practices with Zillow,, and more. Top CMOs from leading companies also drop by to share their latest tactics. And to round off this themed month, Inman is introducing a brand new set of awards for branding and marketing leaders in the industry called Marketing All-Stars.

If you’ve ever struggled to put on a pair of winter boots, you’ve no doubt seen the genius in a little-appreciated innovation from the late 1800s: the bootstrap. This little leather tab made it easier than ever to leave the house well shod and ready for the day.

This, of course, is the origin of the expression “pull yourself on your bootstraps” and of the modern verb form “to bootstrap”. We talk a lot about bootstrapping, especially for newer agents or those going through 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, starting your business means creating leverage without spending much or no money to do so. Perhaps you are designing new marketing initiatives. Perhaps you are implementing new transaction management processes or going about your day-to-day operations. Bootstrapping allows you to do more with less.

It’s important to know when it’s time to bootstrapping and when it’s not. Always keep in mind that you want to start up the elements of your business that make sense – that you can competently evaluate.

Creating leverage with skills

The first type of bootstrapping occurs when you use your skills to take on a necessary job in your company. It’s important to make sure you’re really proficient before using your skills.

For example, if building your own website or writing your own content is something you’re good at and qualified to do, then that’s a good place to cut costs through bootstrapping. However, if your website looks amateurish and your content is riddled with spelling, grammar and syntax errors, you will end up costing yourself more than you save by undermining your brand authority and image.

Content marketing offers easy ways to leverage one skill over another. For example, if you’re not much of a writer, you can bring your personality into play by creating video content. If you’re not confident about creating on your own, you can start a podcast with a colleague from a related industry, such as mortgage, title, or a staging expert.

When it comes to the intricacies of running your business, if you have a head for numbers, you’ll find that you can get your accounting and tax returns up and running. This is especially likely if you are also very organized, detailed, and efficient with record keeping.

However, remember that if you are not good at this kind of bookkeeping, you could be digging a very deep hole for yourself and spending a lot of time and money correcting your self-imposed mistakes.

Creating leverage with technology

Sometimes the leverage you create comes through a groundbreaking platform or mobile application that allows you to take on a job you otherwise couldn’t do.

For example, if you don’t have an eye for graphic design, a platform is nice Canvas – with its huge number of templates and pre-existing designs – can make a huge difference when creating content for social media or your blog. Likewise, PosterMyWall can help you create professional-looking flyers for your new ad.

Can’t afford a transaction manager? It may be that optimizing your use of a transaction management platform is almost as effective. Do you want to keep a closer eye on your business results? Financial management apps may be the answer.

Creating leverage with training

Sometimes bootstrapping is as simple as seeking training to get good at a skill you use often. For example, learning more about the capabilities of your broker’s CRM and fully optimizing it can ultimately save you a huge amount of time and money while improving your lead gen conversion rate. It can be as simple as following some online webinars or attending a training session at your brokerage.

Visit your local association for training classes that will help you expand your knowledge base and improve your ability to launch certain aspects of your business. Many of these classes are available at a minimal cost, on a wide variety of topics, and in many cases, hours may apply to your continuing education requirement.

Create leverage over time

When you get the most out of your business, you may have to outsource many tasks that you could otherwise do perfectly. However, if you’re experiencing a slowdown in your business, consider using your extra time to take on some of the tasks you’ve outsourced to freelancers or service providers.

Maybe someone else has been managing your social media feeds. Perhaps you can take on that task by using their recommended schedule as a blueprint for your own social media management. Maybe you’ve outsourced blog writing or property descriptions to a copywriter, but now you need to take those tasks back.

Remember that your business can and should change over time as market conditions change. If you’re gifted in some aspect of content creation, marketing, or management, you can always step back and bootstrap, even if you’re well established.

There is no disgrace to DIY as long as you are 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 review the latest technology and figure out how to add leverage at no extra cost.

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