The following is an excerpt from the new edition of the firsttuesday Career Manual, a best practices guide to help new real estate licensees establish their personal brands and boost income.

Step 1: Decide on a field of expertise

A DRE Salesperson License opens up opportunities for you to perform various real estate professional services as your chosen livelihood. Categories of real estate services you might engage in include:

  • single-family residential (SFR) sales, a low-, mid- or high-tier price range;
  • multi-family residential sales;
  • commercial sales and leasing:
    • retail space;
    • office space;
    • industrial and warehouse;
  • property management;
  • mortgage loan brokering
    • Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO) endorsement required for services in consumer mortgage lending;
  • business opportunities; and
  • mobile home resales.

When deciding the professional services you will provide, research each of these real estate fields for the conduct required of a licensed agent. Although the services rendered by an agent all involve a client in a sale, lease or mortgage transaction, the routine tasks of analyzing and marketing property, and yourself, are different for each path.

Step 2: Find a broker to employ and train you

As a salesperson engaged in rendering services for a fee in real estate transactions, you need to be employed under a written agreement by a real estate broker, corporate or individual. Thus, you “hang” your license with your broker and represent clients on your broker’s behalf as their employee.

To select your broker, distinguish between those offering hands-on training and those providing little more than brand-name recognition. Some brokerage offices coach and groom their agents; others leave you to independently determine how you best deliver real estate services.

One method for locating a broker is available at Broker Search.

Interview numerous employing brokers, big and small, to make a comparison between the client services and agent training each offers. During the interviews, do your research by asking:

  • What level of mentoring programs or training do they offer?
  • Do they require participation in a team for several months of on-the-job training?
  • What is the type and price range of properties they will assign to you to market?
  • How many transactions are you likely to close in your first year?
  • What cash reserves do you need before your first sale closes?
  • What business equipment and supplies do you need to provide?
  • Is the model of your car sufficient for showing properties?
  • What special knowledge is needed to handle the class of sales, leasing or mortgages the office handles?
  • What initial fee split can you expect to receive?
  • What are the office charges you are to pay? Are the charges paid per transaction or on a monthly basis?

When employed by a broker as an independent contractor, you are not paid a salary or wages. The compensation you receive from your broker is based on a percentage split of the fees you generate on transactions you close as an agent for the broker. The broker retains a share of the fee to cover costs of their administrative support, training, time they commit to your oversight, office overhead, advertising, and a profit for their efforts.

Brokerage offices providing more training and assistance than others typically offer you a lower fee split during your first year of employment. Often, when you ask, fee split percentages are adjusted periodically based on your production.

Further, determine the deductions the broker takes from your share of the fee. Common deductions are transaction-related expenses and include:

  • a monthly or per-transaction errors and omissions (E&O) insurance premium, approximately $25-$100;
  • a monthly desk or cubicle rent to cover the office overhead on a per-desk or cubical basis (in lieu of a lower split), typically $50-$100; and
  • a transaction coordinator (TC) charge per transaction for administrative staff support and oversight.

Further, when the brokerage office you work for is a franchised operation (e.g., Century 21, Coldwell Banker, etc.), there are additional franchise and advertising charges, typically between 5%-8% of the fee received. Franchise charges are deducted from the total fee received by the brokerage office before the split is applied to set the dollar amount of the fee you receive as your share.

Most brokerage office charges are on a per-transaction basis. However, you need to verify whether any monthly charges accumulate to be deducted from future fees you earn or are billed to you whether or not you close a transaction.

Step 3: Develop a business operating plan

Goals are personal objectives you set before engaging with clients. Goals are not left to organically evolve after you start functioning as a sales agent. Also, your goals need to be realistic when set, the result of your inquiries and forethought. Once set, you know what to expect of yourself and your broker.

Goal setting for your first year as an active licensee gets underway as you consult with brokers you interview and agents you know. The first year’s objectives you set out to achieve include:

  • your income expectations;
  • the number of closed transactions needed to obtain your income goal;
  • the number of prospective clients you need to contact weekly to meet these goals;
  • prospecting and marketing methods you will use to attract sufficient numbers of prospective clients;
  • daily activities required to meet prospecting and marketing goals; and
  • a routine monthly schedule allocating days and hours for:
    • client prospecting and promoting your professional services;
    • office meetings;
    • real estate marketing sessions;
    • market data search and analysis;
    • education and training;
    • civic and social involvement; and
    • personal time.

A detailed business plan lays out in a spreadsheet form the various tasks you intend to complete daily or weekly to achieve the goals you have set for yourself.

Evaluate your activities and production achievements at the end of every month. When necessary, adjust your business plan.  Make it evolve to keep you on track.

Step 4: Know your market area

Familiarize yourself with the market you intend to work. Fully immerse your curiosity in market information and data:

  • study multiple listing service (MLS) activity in your market area;
  • become fully conversant with market data through conversations with agents;
  • preview all properties in your chosen market;
  • attend open houses; and
  • go on appointments with other agents:
    • shadow an agent (as a team member) on their appointment with clients; and/or
    • have another experienced agent accompany you on your client appointments (again, team).

Step 5: Create and market your personal brand

Develop a unique brand that is you, an image of yourself that stands out from your competitors. Your brand is the background you use to promote and market yourself to attract clients.

Your identification as a specialist in your expertise also separates you from the crowd. As a specialist, you define what you do to market property and how you assist clients.

To create your unique brand:

  • develop a personal logo/slogan to convey the message about your expertise;
  • determine the style and content of your personal promotion; and
  • use your logo/slogan on:
    • personalized “For Sale” signs;
    • business cards and stationary;
    • direct mail campaign materials sent to your geographic farm; and
    • advertising and marketing materials, both in print and online.

Create and register a unique personal domain, such as “,” through a web hosting company. Establish your separate, individual online presence. Add and update content on a set schedule, say every week or so, to make it grow with you. People notice whether your online presence is routinely updated or is stagnate and unattended. They attribute that demeanor to you.

One resource for marketing materials can be found at: Farm Letters.

Step 6: Build an affiliation of service providers

Organize a team of service providers who consent to affiliate with you for mutual benefit as your “favored provider” to close transactions. These service providers are the facilitators of transactions you have negotiated on behalf of clients. Consider them an extension of your services — providers you surround yourself with to reflect your high level of professionalism.

Service providers vary depending on the field of expertise you choose. They include:

  • a mortgage loan originator (MLO)/loan officer;
  • an escrow officer;
  • a title company representative;
  • a home inspector;
  • a contractor/handyman; and
  • an attorney and CPA.

Step 7: Plan your future education

Set your sights on becoming a broker. Begin enrolling and complete broker licensing courses while you acquire the two years of full-time real estate experience, a requisite to qualifying for a DRE broker license.

You benefit by becoming a broker:

  • Prestige – Attract more clients organically. Status as a licensed broker reflects your higher education and experience, an edge you need to better compete for clients;
  • Income – use your upgraded status as a broker to negotiate a larger split as a broker-associate with your employing broker, or work independently and do not share your earned fees; and
  • Independence – Take control over the further advancement of your career. Operate independently or open your own office as a corporation, hiring salespersons and broker-associates to work for you.

In addition, continue to educate yourself by attending:

  • all types of trade group meetings to develop greater knowledge about your specialty, listen to their presenters, and acquaint yourself with other like-minded licensees; and
  • sales and marketing sessions to improve your skills and sales techniques.

Step 8: The Growth of your income

The number one reason for becoming a real estate licensee is the unlimited earning potential offered by a real estate career. To best present yourself to others in the real estate industry, continue reading this Career Manual for step-by-step guidance.

Learn the elements of a power base to expand your influence. It’s part of your brand, and, critically, it improves your income.