Is a Career as a Real Estate Agent the Right Choice for You?

What to Know Before Becoming a Real Estate Agent

Jacqueline Kyo Thomas

Jacqueline Kyo Thomas


It's an exciting proposition: as a real estate professional, you're the boss. You can make your own hours. You can choose your strategy. And you're never limited to a set salary. In fact, you can make as much as your hustle can bring in. Plus, unlike other careers where you may never make a difference, real estate offers a fulfilling career that has a direct impact on others. Your hard work and expertise will help your client reach their goal.

If you're considering a career in real estate, you're not alone. Currently, there are over 1.39 million real estate agents in the U.S., and the numbers are expected to climb as more people discover the benefits of a career in real estate.

It makes sense. What's not to love?

It's not all roses. While it may look easy, a career in real estate is hard work, and it's definitely not a one-size-fits-all type of job. Not every personality is suited for a job as a real estate agent. The most successful agents are positive, persistent, hardworking, passionate “people” persons.

The good news is that if you like the idea of a career in real estate, you may already have the chops to become a successful agent. But here are a few questions that you should ask yourself before you decide if you should pursue a real estate career:

Do you like real estate?

While you may like the benefits that a career in real estate can bring you, do you actually like real estate?

Real estate is more than property tours and open houses.

If you decide to launch a career in real estate today, you’ll spend the foreseeable future learning about all things real estate, including contracts, ethics, and financing.

Even after passing the state-required exam to get your real estate license, your education isn’t over. You’ll need to learn everything you can about the neighborhoods and niches in which you’ll specialize. You’ll also invest a lot of time into studying property listings, tracking market conditions, comparing properties, and staying up-to-date on the latest trends in interior design, marketing, and real estate.

Do you crave independence?

Some people work best when held accountable by a boss, while others like having someone there to hold them accountable. What about you? Can you work independently, and do you want to?

As a real estate agent, you have the freedom to grow your business as you choose. But that freedom means that you're solely responsible for your success. Even though you work under the authority of a brokerage, you are likely to be classified as an independent contractor. That means that you own your own real estate business, and that you're ultimately in charge of your own success. You’ll never have to clock in or account for your hours with a boss. You’re the boss. So you'll need self-discipline to make sure that you actually work, and succeed.

Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and work?

man-sitting-on-green-chair-while-using-laptop-374831

While it may look easy, forging a successful career in real estate takes a lot of hard work. A successful career in real estate is not like reality TV would have you believe. You may wake up before the sunrise and work late into the night as an agent, especially in the beginning when you’re still making a name for yourself.

Plus, you’ll juggle multiple tasks at the same time. On any given day, you may be a marketer, negotiator, advisor, administrator, appraiser, and therapist. The constant shift from one role to the next isn’t easy, though it does keep things interesting. If you prefer the routine of a steady 9 to 5, real estate may not be for you. But if you enjoy variety and are up for a challenge, real estate is a great choice.

Are you self-disciplined?

Being a small business owner requires resilience, focus, enthusiasm, creativity, and self-discipline. And that's what working in real estate really is, when you think about it: you're basically running a small business. You will need to be disciplined, and manage your time and resources in accordance with your goals to succeed.

For example, you’ll need to exercise discipline in how you handle your commission checks. Instead of getting carried away with shopping sprees or big purchases, you’ll need to be financially responsible, and budget your commissions based on your key objectives and needs. This is especially true given that you'l be working with a variable income.

You’ll also need self-control to avoid burnout, which happens as a result of working too much. This is important but often ignored. Burnout can undermine your progress and threaten your success. Those with self-discipline can set office hours— and stick to them. While you can’t always stop clients from calling you at all hours, you do get to determine when, and if, you’ll engage with them.

How do you feel about not making a steady income?

One of the toughest parts of working in real estate is the variable income. It's not uncommon to make nothing one month, and then make a bunch of money the next. This is especially true when you’re just starting out. As you’re building your list of clients and your referral network, you won’t have a steady, reliable income. To account for this, many agents continue to work at their current jobs, or have savings before making the jump into real estate full time. And you'll likely always need to account for some lumpy cash flow, since you'll be paid commission, rather than salary.

The good news is that once you build your brand and clientele, you’ll be able to depend on and budget for your income as a real estate agent. Depending on your market, you’ll need to work with an average of 12 clients (buyers or sellers) per year to make a steady, livable income. If you’re serious about building your business and put in the work, you can become self-sufficient in six months to one year.

Are you able to bootstrap your first year in business?

man-wearing-a-business-attire-3756884

When you first start up your real estate business, you’ll be hit with a lot of expenses. Here’s a look at some of the things you’ll need to buy/ invest in during your first year as a real estate agent:

  • Association membership fees (MLS, REALTOR, etc.)
  • Advertisements (Business cards, website, direct mail, Facebook ads)
  • Car expenses (Gas, washes, repairs, insurance)
  • Desk fees (You must work under a broker’s license, and some brokerages charge fees)
  • Equipment (Laptop, camera, printer, tape measure)
  • Utilities (Cell phone, Internet, answering service)
  • Wardrobe (New clothes, dry cleaning, laundry)

This is just a sample and not an exhaustive list. Altogether, these items can add up to thousands of dollars. Fortunately, many of these items are also tax-deductible. Find out more here: Tax Tips for Real Estate Agents

Final Thoughts

A career in real estate can be rewarding, but success is not guaranteed. It's important to set realistic expectations and commit to the long game. Good things come to those who are realistic, make a plan, and hustle to execute it.

Check out these additional resources:

Interested in getting your real estate license?


Start your real estate classes today!