What is a “gig economy” real estate agent? According to MacMillan Dictionary, “People who work in the gig economy have small jobs instead of—or as well as—full-time jobs. Instead of a salary, workers get paid for the ‘gigs’ they do, like a food delivery or a taxi journey.” You probably associate “gig” with Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other services in which the employee or subcontractor is largely his own boss, setting his own work schedule and sometimes his own fees. But unlike in most other gig work, the rewards for a gig-economy real estate agent are much greater.
Per Upwork’s and Freelancers Union’s February 2018 survey “Freelancing in America,” there are 56.7 million freelancers in the United States. Freelancers represent one in three U.S. workers (35 percent), and their numbers have increased by 3.7 million over five years1. Americans are working more than one job, and real estate is one of them.
Why the trend in gig work? From the employer’s perspective, hiring part-time workers largely eliminates the need to pay benefits or make long commitments. From the employee’s standpoint, work in addition to salaried job improves quality of life and “is the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose.”2
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could have it both ways? If you could keep your “day job,” which may not be emotionally fulfilling or pay enough, and significantly boost your income with a gig job that rewards you both financially and emotionally? Regardless of age, you can, with real estate sales.
You are gold because of your contacts. They, plus the experience and credibility provided by a top-producing agent—together you create a synergy that is greater than the sum of its parts. That’s why Facebook bought Instagram, AT&T bought Time Warner, and Compass is now the biggest real estate company in the San Francisco Bay Area by dollar volume, having acquired Alain Pinel Realtors, Paragon Real Estate Group, and Pacific Union International. Those acquisitions grew the parent company’s sphere of influence. Real estate sales is all about relationships and connections.
You have friends and current or previous clientele who trust you
They are your Sphere of Influence and position you to increase your income dramatically. It doesn’t matter what your previous occupation was; 70 percent of real estate sales agents come from unrelated fields such as teaching, government, retail, and the armed forces, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Like Steve Young of RE/MAX, former rodeo professional, union ironworker, and teacher, who became the 1990-91 Arlington (Texas) Board of Realtors Rookie of the Year because he worked his contacts. Like Robert Kauffman, of Keller Williams, Austin, Texas, whose insurance and roofing clientele boosted him to such success that he’s now coaching mentees of his own. Like Kathryn Hoffman of Century 21 Real Estate in Naperville, Illinois, who went into real estate sales in her fifties after raising her family and credits her success to her previous work greeting clients at a builder’s sales office. Regardless of your “previous life,” this could be you! Every adult you know is someone who now needs or will undoubtedly in the future need to buy, sell, or rent real estate.
When I recruited new agents for RE/MAX (and won a company award for it), I interviewed engineers, gardeners, PhDs, moms, military personnel, even musicians. Many of them went on to become top agents in RE/MAX. When I began my career with Coldwell Banker, I was inspired by a young mother and former restaurant server who had cornered the market where she lived. Every week she’d come in with three or four listings. Why? Because she knew lots of other moms and they could relate to her. Are you part of a particular ethnic or religious group? There’s often built-in trust (deserved or not) in that community.
You are about to retire or are already retired but not living the lifestyle you want
Bob Pisani, CNBC financial news reporter, writes, “There’s a retirement crisis in America where most will be unable to afford a ‘solid life.’” 3 A 2018 study by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies determined that Americans ages 50 to 55 have saved an average of $124,831—a far cry from even conservative estimates of what it will take to get through their retirement years.
Few retirees today would say that they have enough money to guarantee the lifestyle they’d envisioned, and many anticipating retirement worry that what they have is not going to be enough.
For once, age is an ally! Clients sense that with age comes wisdom and that you aren’t some whippersnapper who just graduated college. And your employer won’t “downsize” you or give your job to a younger person to whom he can pay less.
You ever wanted to go into real estate sales and become a full-time agent
There’s a right way and a wrong way to change careers. Packaging yourself as instructed in this book and teaming with a successful agent will prevent you from becoming a statistic. If you do decide to quit your current job, though, be sure you have enough staying power (i.e., money) to carry you while you’re getting established.
But, but, but…
Don’t believe you’re the sales type? Perfect! Because real estate is not about selling—it’s about educating clients and concern for their welfare. Question your knowledge? You’ll become more comfortable once you realize that even with limited experience you probably know more about real estate than your clients do. Not a great conversationalist? Real estate provides endless hours of chat; you’ll never run out of things to talk about. We’ll cover people skills later.
True, 80 percent of new real estate sales licensees quit within the first two years, and another 10 percent drop out in year two because they don’t know what to do or with whom to do it. Many of them had great contacts; they were known as good engineers, day care workers, yoga instructors—not as real estate professionals. They had lots of friends. But without an experienced Realtor partner, they had little credibility in real estate. Would you trust your best friend, the dentist, to sell your home all by himself? Probably not. However, you would be receptive to his recommendation for a great Realtor, especially if you (trusted friend) had recommended him and would be handling some of the work.
Yes, there will be competition. It’s everywhere. And, in fact, some Realtors pay lots of money to lead-generating companies to keep the client pipeline flowing. But you will intercept many of those leads, because your sphere already knows and trusts you.
When I began my real estate career over 30 years ago, agents worried that our closely guarded Multiple Listing Service database would become public and we “gatekeepers” would be rendered dispensable. As discount brokerages opened, we worried that our livelihoods would be jeopardized. When online real estate sales became common, we were afraid everything would go to the cloud and we’d become extinct. None of that has come to pass. Why? Because when people are buying or selling one of the biggest investments in their life, they want professional advice. As buyers and sellers become more educated (thanks to the internet that many thought would put us out of business), they come to realize the importance of expertise. Every year the number of real estate agents grows. The profession is not going away.
You can supplement your current income, improve your quality of life, and earn far more than in most other part-time work by becoming a gig economy real estate agent. But if you’re a beginner and need the money to feed and shelter a family, I would advise against quitting your current job. The stress that move creates takes all the enjoyment out of real estate. Someday, if you truly love the work so much and become established, then make it your full time career.
You can do this! Seize the opportunity now.