Balancing Real Estate Investing with a Full-Time Job

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I have a full-time job, outside of real estate. I suppose you could say that real estate is my “side hustle.” Some people have side businesses doing consulting or freelance work. My side business is owning rental properties.

But here’s the rub. Unlike complete Type A-workhorses, I don’t want to consistently work 80-hour weeks. I want to exercise daily, spend time with family and friends, and read books. And of course I still have to buy groceries, renew my car registration, take the cat to the vet, and do all other types of time-consuming tasks.

That means I have less than 10 hours per week to devote to real estate activities. I can beef it up to 20 hours a week during “crunch time,” but I don’t want to maintain that level of work on a regular basis — at least not in addition to my ‘normal’ job.

And I like my ‘normal’ job. Some people are yearning for the day they can quit their full-time job in order to focus on real estate. Not me. I’m self-employed, running a business that I built myself. Of course, I also enjoy real estate, too. But if I were forced to choose between the two, I actually prefer my “day job” (which is the reason why I do it full-time).

The point, though, is that I need to balance real estate investing with my full-time job (and balance both of those with life). And that itself is quite a feat. How do I maintain balance?

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#1: Stay Flexible

First and foremost, my schedule is supremely flexible. And that’s critical. Tip #1 that I’d give to anyone trying to balance real-estate investing with a “day job” — make sure your day job is flexible.

Because people will need to be able to reach you mid-day. Even if you outsource everything, a tenant will call you with a question that needs to be answered ASAP, or another agent will need to get ahold of you “by the end of the business day,” or a contractor will show up three hours late.

When those things happen, you’ll need a job that’s flexible enough to, at a minimum, let you field a phone call or fax a few documents or run home for 30 minutes to check on something.

I’m quite fortunate in that regard — I work from home. I can make appointments or meet with contractors or field phone calls in the middle of the day. And every time I do it, I wonder: how on earth do people with non-flexible jobs make this work?

#2: Try the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is one of my favorite time-management tips. The idea behind this technique states that a person can’t devote more than about 25 minutes of full, focused concentration at a time, so you should work in 25-minute spurts, followed by a 5-minute break. After 4 of these spurts  (2 hours), you should take a longer break, between 15-30 minutes. (I use an online timer, like e.ggtimer.com, to keep track of 25/5 increments).

I’m a big believer in this method, since I also heartily recommend its correlary: when you find your focus and attention fading, walk away and do something else. Run an errand. Don’t just sit in front of your computer with a flagging attention span. You’ll end up whittling away the hours watching cat videos on YouTube.

#3: Delegate and Opt for Convenience

I don’t need to explain this one — I’m sure most of the people who read BiggerPockets understand the importance of delegating tasks. As a corollary, when I’m not delegating (e.g. if I’m running errands), I’ll often make choices that save time, even if they cost a little more. For example: CostCo is a one-hour roundtrip drive from where I live. I’ll go there perhaps once every four to six months to stock up on household goods (toilet paper, etc.), but I’m definitely not going to drive there on a weekly basis, even if I could save a net $20 or $30 after gasoline costs.

That said, there are some ‘convenience’ items that I won’t partake in — like frozen dinners — but that’s a choice driven by health, not penny-pinching.

#4: Set a “Start” and “End” Time

Have you heard the expression that work expands to fill the time that you allot for it? Putting a defined “start” and “end” time during your working hours forces you to be more productive during that time. After all, you have a 5 pm deadline … after which, you’re scheduled to go for a two-mile stroll!

Photo: Duane Hess

About Author

Paula Pant

Paula Pant quit her 9-to-5 job, invested in 7 rental units, and traveled to 32 countries. Her blog, Afford Anything, shares how to shatter limits, build wealth and maximize life. (At AffordAnything.com, she shares EXACT numbers from all her rental investments -- costs, cash flow, cap rate; it's all published for the world to read.) Afford Anything is a gathering spot for a tribe dedicated to ditching the cubicle. Read her blog, and join the revolution.

13 Comments

  1. Great article! I just bookmarked the egg timer page – love the idea about 25 minute spurts. I also work another business and enjoy the different streams of income. I had rentals in the past, but lost them all through the bust. Starting over now, but excited to make this run my final one in real estate investing

  2. Love this idea, but any advice for someone who doesn’t have a flexible day job. I hope to one day make Realestate my full time, but for now I need insurance and a stream of income. I was thinking my wife could manage phone calls and such while I’m at work or would it be better to take the hit and get a property manager?

    • Paula Pant

      Get a property manager!!!!! Remember: you don’t make higher “returns” by doing the work yourself. You create a job, award that position to yourself, and then pay yourself for that work. That’s active income (as a property manager), which is different from passive income (as an investor).

      If you’re not ready or able to take on a second job, then award that position to someone else … and make sure the investment is good enough that you’ll still earn passive income (a profit) by doing it.

  3. Thanks Paula, good article. I’ve been working a full-time job and rehabbing homes for more than six years now and plan to do it a few more years until I retire. What I find work best for me is partnerships. In my first couple years I worked full-time and ran my real estate business on my own with the help of my wife. Since then I have found that joint venturing has allowed me to do more projects, earn more money and meet the demands I have at work. I now have a partnership with just one friend and our business is growing each day.

    For those people looking to partner with other investors I suggest getting involved with a local real estate investment group. There you will likely find someone who is looking to expand their business whom you can work with and develop your own skills.

  4. Paula, you are a woman after my own heart. I am in the process of closing on my first multifamily after looking for the right property for nearly a year. I will manage the property myself, but I would never consider doing that if I, like you, did not have a “supremely flexible” schedule. I also work from home. Not only do I telecommute, but I am a project manager and completely control my own schedule and deadlines (as well as everyone else’s, so I pretty much know when to expect interruptions and when I will have space). The other thing I have done for years to allow myself utmost flexibility is maintain wireless modem service so I can keep my laptop with me when out running to non-work appointments or errands and still be online with full access to all files, etc. that I may need if a work issue does arise while I’m managing the rest of my life. If I had an inflexible day job, I would likely still be getting into this multifamily, but I would definitely get a property manager. I also really agree with delegating and sometimes paying more for convenience. My time is money. I know exactly what an hour of my time is worth. If paying a little more but saving time and hassle nets better for me, it is definitely the route to go in my opinion.

  5. Paula,

    Nice article but you deviated from the topic after 1st or 2nd. You started talking about saving time and heating frozen food in general not pertaining to real estate investment. It might bit related but not totally. I also do consulting full time but not flexible. I am Realtor myself and Investor with currently 3 homes. I also meet with my investor friends to mentor them. I start my day 5:30am, get to work at 7:15 and work till 4:45 and get back home if I don’t have any showing with client.

    As you said, I agree with keeping track of time, delegation but flexibility doesn’t come cheap. At that point, you need to work with your team to take care of things. I have set of handyman numbers whom I can call and take care of any urgent needs. I don’t collect rent every month since 2 tenants deposit the rent in bank and only one tenant I need to go get cash. Still a pain but I like cash as well. I just moved to a new home which is in totally opposite direction from old home which I rented. Other homes are closer to my old home as well which makes things bit tricky but working it out with help of friends, handymans. It is not easy. Many new investors don’t expect put lot of time in the property you are renting, they think its all easy. I tell them upfront, its hard work. You can delegate everything if its cost effective but if its just changing plug or caulking and you need to hire who is going charge $50-$75 and you can take care in 15 mins. You better do it and learn from it and save few bucks. That’s my strategy for delegating. It’s different to everyone depending on their comfortable level but I would say an investor should also try to learn from the rental property and able to fix few small things not just to save money but also to learn and do it when you don’t handyman.

  6. Great post, Paula, and one I can easily relate to. I have a full-time job and a rental. My job is very flexible, but I still use a property manager. Nancy H summed it up perfectly for my situation when she said “If paying a little more but saving time and hassle nets better for me, it is definitely the route to go in my opinion.” I still make a great profit and it’s much less stress on me (I’m not good with stress!).

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