One of the most enticing aspects of choosing real estate as a career is the flexibility that it offers you. You can work as much or as little as you decide is right for you, and you can maintain those hours as long as they work for you.
The hard part, of course, is realizing when you need to make a change in your career that better reflects your lifestyle. Although any agent can at any point decide that it’s time to move from full-time to part-time, not every agent takes advantage of their career’s ability to flex and flow with their needs. If your motivation is flagging and you’re having trouble finding the joy in your day-to-day working life, it might be time to think about a change for the better, and that could mean reducing your hours and transitioning from a full-time agent to a part-time agent.
Why transition from full-time to part-time?
There’s a bit of a stigma against part-time agents in real estate, so it’s understandable that many agents might feel hesitant to cut their hours and declare themselves part-time after living so many years as full-time real estate professionals. But there are plenty of very valid reasons why many full-time agents choose to go part-time — and then they often stay in real estate for many years to come because they’ve managed to reclaim some of their work-life balance and rejuvenate their motivation.
Some agents might be ready to retire financially but they enjoy the business and want to keep doing a deal or two here and there, especially for friends or family members. Others may be exploring a new hobby, launching another entrepreneurial endeavor, deciding to stay home more with kids, renovating a home — the possibilities for other ways to spend your time are truly endless, and there is no single right or wrong reason why you might consider going part-time.
If you’ve had that slightly itchy feeling in your career and you sense that something needs to change, but you aren’t certain what it is, then exploring the possibility of part-time real estate work might unlock the mystery inside your head. This doesn’t have to be a permanent decision; a supportive broker should help you navigate it and give you the opportunity to change your mind and transition back to full-time if you realize that you made a mistake.
How do you know it’s time?
This answer is going to be different for everybody. Unlike many other careers, most real estate agents have to set aside funds for retirement without any help from an employer. The biggest question you should ask yourself before you transition to part-time is: What will this do to my financial situation, and can I afford it?
Perhaps you’re sitting on a sizable nest egg that you’re confident will carry you through your golden years. In that case, maybe real estate is more about a way to keep busy than earning a living, and you can consider cutting your hours and serving fewer clients every month. Or perhaps you’ve been investing in real estate and you’re now in a comfortable enough position that you want to spend some time seeing to your properties — but you don’t want to leave your career behind entirely.
Take a close look at your financial picture and ask yourself how it makes you feel. If the answer is “not the best,” ask yourself what would make it better. How much more money would you need to be making, or need to have saved in the bank, before you would feel safe making a major career change? Would you want to have some additional income streams, and what might those look like?
What does your plan entail? And what’s your backup?
After you’ve evaluated your current situation — and if you’ve decided that yes, moving from full-time to part-time makes good sense for where you are today — you’re going to need to do two things. The first is to define what, exactly, part-time means for you. Will you be scaling back your hours from 40-plus every week to around 30? Or 20? Or 15 or 10?
Again, there aren’t any wrong answers here, but you need to know how much (ideally) you’d like to work before you can decide which work you’ll be referring out and what you’ll want to keep for yourself. The idea is to take a close look at your client mix and figure out what to keep and what to shed — and how exactly you’re going to be shedding that extra weight, so to speak.
Once you’ve got a ballpark idea for how much you want to work, it’s time to take a look at your lead-generation activities and make some decisions. It’s not unreasonable to decide that you want to keep some or most — or even all — of your lead generation strategies in place if the leads you’re getting are high in quality. Referring these leads to another qualified agent who’s able and willing to close the deal can be a lucrative additional income stream for many agents. You might be able to form a partnership with an agent who plans to stay in real estate for a long time, sharing business with them and easing your transition to fewer hours.
On the other hand, you might decide that your sphere of influence and word of mouth from past clients is going to generate all the business you care to handle and save yourself some money on lead gen, in which case you might experiment with scaling back before pulling the plug entirely. That way, if your plan doesn’t go as expected, you still have a pipeline to start getting back into a full-time business as soon as you can.
Speaking of plans not going as expected, it’s probably smart to ask yourself what you’re going to do if your move to part-time doesn’t work out exactly as you’d hoped. Will you ramp back up to a full-time business, or would you prefer to find a different part-time gig to supplement your real estate work? This is another intensely personal question that’s going to depend on how long you’ve been in the industry and why, exactly, you’re hoping to transition from full-time to part-time. But it’s an important one to consider because you want to be very clear on when and how you will make adjustments to your plan.
How will you spread the word?
Depending on the details of your plan, you might want to announce to some or most or all of your clients that you’ll be changing your business model slightly. Or, you might want to keep things quiet and just inform clients on an individual basis when they reach out and ask you for help. It doesn’t matter exactly how you tell the world, or even if you do — but you need to think about it so that you have a plan and can execute that plan consistently.
The beauty of the real estate industry is that you have ultimate flexibility over your career and your schedule. If you think it’s time to consider scaling back your efforts, talk to your broker, and see what your options are. Once you’re certain you’re financially able to make the change, and you have a plan for the transition, you’ll be set up to determine whether this is the next best step for you.