Success in real estate begins with self-discipline

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

From the outside looking in, a career in real estate looks like a walk in the park. You get to spend your play with the kidsdays looking at houses, making new friends, and taking time off whenever you want to meet friends for lunch or goof off with your kids.

Once you’re in the trenches, you realize that while some agents do treat it that way, success requires a considerable amount of self-discipline to stay on track.

With no employer to set your working hours, direct your activities, withhold your taxes, possibly provide your insurance, bring in the customers and clients, it’s all up to you.

Your working hours: Although you can schedule your time to be present for your children’s events, and you can schedule lunch with a friend or take time off for a dental appointment without having to get permission, you do need regular working hours.

It takes discipline to get up and get moving when there’s no one but yourself to answer to. So be a stern taskmaster. Don’t allow yourself to sleep an extra hour or two in the morning, and don’t put off getting to work just because you don’t happen to have a pressing appointment.

Your daily activities: Who knew that there would be so many choices – and so many things that really need to be done?

Perhaps the fact that there ARE so many things to be done is what stops so many agents from doing them. They’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. So – instead of getting busy, they gossip with their office mates, spend time discussing last night’s TV shows, or go on line to shop, play games, or while away their time on Facebook. They may go to the office, but they don’t “work when they’re working.”

make a planTo avoid falling into that trap, make a plan, then make a list. Put the most important, most urgent items at the top and get to work on them any time you have a spare half hour. It wouldn’t hurt to make two lists – one with items you can do in 15 to 30 minutes. You may be shocked at how much you can accomplish taking “One small bite at a time.”

If you’re feeling stuck, come over to my new agent website and print off the 14 activities you can do to make profitable use of an “empty week.” I challenge you to try to do them all!

Your finances: It takes discipline to put money aside to pay your income taxes, dues, business insurance, health insurance, etc. but failure to do so can be your ruin.income tax

I’ve known agents whose spouses worked, so they didn’t have to have their income from real estate for daily living expenses. Because they had no discipline, they spent every dime of every commission check on things they and their families perhaps wanted but didn’t need. When it came time to pay Uncle Sam, pay their annual dues, or renew their licenses, the money wasn’t there.

Self-employed individuals like us also have to plan ahead for business expenses such as new equipment and software, and we have to budget both time and money for marketing.

Your Marketing: It takes discipline to keep marketing yourself when you’re busy – and sometimes even when you’re not. It also takes discipline to keep marketing when you feel like you can’t afford it. But failure to do so can lead to months without income. So don’t go overboard and put yourself deeply into debt, but don’t stop marketing.

It’s a fact that most of us pay first attention to those activities that that have urgency because someone else is involved. For you that might be a meeting with a client, getting documents to a closer, attending an inspection, etc.

And that’s fine – those do have to be done on time, but so does marketing. Just because there’s no one demanding that it be done is not a reason to let it slide. Just like with budgeting, you ignore it at your peril.

To market effectively, you must first decide on the outcome you want. Is it more listings in a certain area? Is it more listings of a certain type – such as homes in probate, vacation homes, or homes belonging to divorcing couples? Perhaps you’d rather serve buyers – do you want first time buyers, move-up buyers, vacation home buyers?

Next decide how you’ll reach them, both on line and off.mailbox

  • Will you use postal mail to send prospecting letters, just listed cards, and just sold cards?
  • Will you use email to prospect to internet leads?
  • Will you create a monthly or weekly newsletter?
  • Will you place newspaper or magazine ads?
  • Will you use social media?
  • Will you blog about your listings, your market, and your community?
  • Will your blog include advice for buyers and/or sellers?
  • Will you hold open houses, knock on doors, or network extensively?
  • Will you cultivate your sphere of influence and past clients?

Usually, it takes more than one form of marketing to keep your pipeline full, and each of the activities you choose should be done both consistently and on schedule.

Consistency and continuity are crucial to an effective marketing campaign, so decide what you can do and when you’ll do it – and then stick with it.

Turn on your self-discipline and don’t cut yourself any slack.


Tax man courtesy of Stuart Miles

Planner courtesy of arztsamui at

Red mailbox  courtesy of digitalart /

This post first appeared at:

Comments (34)

Daniel Ramsey
MyOutDesk - Sacramento, CA
MyOutDesk - Real Estate Virtual Professionals

Thanks for this, couldn't agree more. For solo agents discipline is the key, especially learning to prioritize, leaving time for the real revenue producing activities. And at a certain point it is about knowing when you need help. For any hope of work life balance any successful agent will eventually have to delegate, right?  

Jul 14, 2017 08:52 AM
Marte Cliff

Yes Andrey Polston - there will hopefully come a time when you're too busy to handle the routine tasks yourself. Learning to prioritize is important to avoid falling into the trap of doing "busy-work" when you should be doing income-producing work.

Jul 14, 2017 09:09 AM
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Lack of discipline is a breeding ground for failure.

Your list should be posted by the computer as a daily reminder.


Jul 14, 2017 09:02 AM
Marte Cliff

Yes it is, John Wiley - in business and in life.

Jul 14, 2017 10:22 AM
Jerry Murphy, CRS, SRES
Long Realty West Valley - Anthem, AZ
Anthem, Phoenix, and Scottsdale AZ Real Estate

Glad you wrote this post Marte. I think DISCIPLINE is the #1 key to sucess in real estate.  Best wishes to you.

Jul 14, 2017 10:47 AM
Marte Cliff

Yes Jerry Murphy, CRS - and to success in any business.

Jul 14, 2017 02:24 PM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Self motivation and discipline is very important, esp when you run your own business.  And if you enjoy what you do--and see the results--much easier to stay motivated!

Jul 14, 2017 01:57 PM
Marte Cliff

Yes Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR - good results are powerful motivators.

Jul 14, 2017 02:25 PM
Eva B. Liland Century 21 Doug Anderson
Century 21 Doug Anderson - Lancaster, CA
Glad to be of Service 661-714-1643

This post will have to be read over and over, again and again. Without self motivation and discipline and nedless to say, continuity, you are doomed to fail.

Jul 14, 2017 04:18 PM
Marte Cliff

Thanks Eva B. Liland with Century 21 Doug Anderson - I agree, continuity is vital.

Jul 15, 2017 08:45 AM
David Wright
Benchmark Realty, LLC - Brentwood, TN
Real Estate Refined

Marte what you have written is what guides me in this business. I tend to overwork for fear of failure. The listed points are great and people should consider doing 2 or 3 at a time to see which ones work for their personality and style. Keep working the list, 2 or 3 in several month periods until one knows what is best for them. Can't tackle them all at once. Experiment, implement, evaluate this is the cycle.

Jul 14, 2017 07:06 PM
Marte Cliff

So true David Wright - you can't do it all and you do need to give each marketing method enough time to work. I've known agents who sent one prospecting letter and then declared that "Prospecting doesn't work," which is nonsense. Marketing gurus say it takes at least 5 "touches" to get through to people who don't know you.

Jul 15, 2017 08:47 AM
Lisa Blenden REALTOR, RSPS
Austin, TX
Building Wealth, Dreams, and Luxury Lifestyles

Love, Love, Love this post!  Thank you for keeping us motivated!!! 

Jul 14, 2017 07:41 PM
Marte Cliff

Thank you Lisa Blenden REALTOR, RSPS - I love helping you stay motivated.

Jul 15, 2017 08:47 AM
Francine Viola
Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Olympia WA - Olympia, WA
REALTOR®, In Tune with your Real Estate Needs

As always, words of wisdom!  Lots of good info in this post!

Jul 14, 2017 08:11 PM
Marte Cliff

Thanks for your kind words Francine Viola.

Jul 15, 2017 08:48 AM
Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
Serving the Greater Phoenix and Scottsdale Metropolitan Area - Scottsdale, AZ
Haven Express @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty

Marte Cliff "...make a plan, then make a list. Put the most important, most urgent items at the top and get to work on them any time you have a spare half hour...You may be shocked at how much you can accomplish taking “One small bite at a time.”"

Right on target - and - re-blog!

Jul 15, 2017 05:06 AM
Marte Cliff

Thank you Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers.

Jul 15, 2017 08:48 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Great post, Marte, and congratulations on the feature. Discipline is the basis of much of what we do in life professional or personal. But you've laid out a wonderful game plan here especially for new agents.

Jul 15, 2017 05:09 AM
Marte Cliff

Thanks Nina Hollander - Lack of discipline - and direction - derails a lot of new agents. It's importance should be taught as part of licensing classses.

Jul 15, 2017 08:50 AM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Aunt Marte

Jul 15, 2017 05:42 AM
Marte Cliff

Hi Richie Alan Naggar.


Jul 15, 2017 08:50 AM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

Taking a small bite rather than trying to swallow a mouthful is the tortoise and the Hare race....and we all know who won !

Jul 15, 2017 06:57 AM
Marte Cliff

Sally K. & David L. Hanson - Yes we do know - and it's too bad more people don't pay attention to that old parable.

Jul 15, 2017 08:51 AM
Sham Reddy CRS
H E R Realty, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH

Yes it takes lots of discipline to stay on track being independent contractors!!!

Jul 15, 2017 10:13 AM
Marte Cliff

Right, Sham Reddy - it isn't anything like having an employer to tell you what to do and when to do it.

Jul 15, 2017 10:28 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

What a fantastic post, Marte! Discipline is everything - especially when you're self-employed and a 100% commission-based income! I don't lack disipline but, I do find myself reeling back into remaining focused, especially on marketing for additional business. I'm great with seller marketing but, I get 'carried away' with that and don't pay attention to my own personal marketing!

Hope you're having a fantastic weekend!

Jul 15, 2017 08:04 PM
Marte Cliff

Thanks Debe Maxwell, CRS - I hope you're having a wonderful weekend as well. I managed to get a haircut, so I'm happy!

Jul 15, 2017 08:11 PM
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

Absolutely! I agree. 

Last year I did not work much and had terrible results. This year I'm fully focused and results are much better. 

Jul 15, 2017 11:00 PM
Marte Cliff

Good for you Inna Ivchenko!

Jul 16, 2017 08:33 AM
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA


how have you been?! How are your furry babies are doing? 

Jul 15, 2017 11:00 PM
Marte Cliff

Hi Inna Ivchenko - furry babies are still ordering me around, as usual.

Jul 16, 2017 08:33 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

These are good tips!

Self-discipline along with some flexibility can be needed at times. Yesterday I had plans to show some houses in another county, then call a new contact/friend in that area and go visit, then go back to my home office and get a few things done, then relax.

What actually happened was I did the first showings, and my client wanted to make an offer on one of the homes we saw. I also realized I needed to head to my office to drop off closing documents. So instead of calling my new contact/friend, I drove to the office, dropped off the paperwork. Then I raced to my home office to do some pricing research, talk to my client and write up an offer. Meanwhile I realized I needed to prepare contracts for two rental listings, but one of the signers had technical challenges so I had to work with him to get the documents to him another way, and then .... well, needless to say, I didn't get any down time until we left for an evening party. 

I was determined to get everything done I needed to do, but flexible enough to work through changes that were needed in my schedule. That's what we all do!

Jul 16, 2017 05:45 AM
Marte Cliff

Kat Palmiotti - If you want to be successful, t's all you can do when circumstances change.

I hope your new offer gets accepted!

Jul 16, 2017 08:36 AM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Great post!  It's so important to stay in line with what is needed to run this business and continue to get new business. All too often the latter suffers!  I'm no stranger to that either.  

Jul 16, 2017 10:11 AM
Marte Cliff

Me either, Jan Green - when you get busy it's all too easy to let marketing fall by the wayside. That's one reason I believe in putting as much as possible on autopilot.

Jul 16, 2017 10:24 AM
Stavrula "Sam" Crafa, RNC,GRI, CDPE, PSA
Future Home Realty - Seminole, FL
Providing the integrity and service you deserve.

An agent can't survive in this business unless that have self discipline. Time blocking is a very important part of that. Time blocking keeps me on track. So much to do and so much to keep track of. Must be organized also. Great post !!

Jul 16, 2017 08:25 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Stavrula "Sam" Crafa, RNC,GRI, CDPE, PSA - Time blocking was always difficult for me - perhaps because I worked in the office, where I was always visible and anyone and everyone felt free to walk in the door and interrupt my day. I think it's probably easier for agents who work from home - or perhaps behind a closed door in an office.

Back in those days the phrase "She's working from her home office today," meant "She's taking the day off." Today it's accepted as a good way to get things done.

Jul 16, 2017 08:47 PM