It’s getting close to that time of year again. The winter frost coats our windows, and we get together with friends and family to celebrate where we have been in the past year and look towards what the future may hold.
It’s with a heavy heart that I acknowledge that many individuals get frustrated or even give up on their real estate goals. I am all too familiar with this. I see many would-be real estate investors start eagerly at the beginning, only to find their ambition wane as they see their own goals slip behind them into obscurity.
There is nothing wrong with goal setting, I think it’s a critical part of setting a plan into motion, but you must understand if you don’t quite reach your goals, it’s ok. Too many times I see people who set expectations so high that they burn themselves out with frustration. Which leads me to another point: Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Don’t aim for mediocrity — but at the same time, don’t set your sights so high that you are dooming yourself to failure.
Let me share with you a little bit about my story, how I struggled and overcome obstacles, to hopefully inspire you to dig in and give it your all in order to reach your wildest goals.
How I Bought, Rehabbed, Rented, Refinanced, and Repeated for 14 Rental Properties
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It Takes Time
None of us built a real estate business overnight. For me it took many years, lots of time, and money spent before I was able to get a firm grasp of it all and really begin to reap the benefits of my hard work. I remember what it was like to start out. It started with deciding to get into wholesaling after being laid off from my corporate job. I took all the money I had in savings, formulated a plan and stuck with it even when the outlook looked bleak.
I can remember being in the fourth or fifth month of marketing, spending thousands of dollars every month to only get a few (or no) phone calls. Good thing I stuck with it since I didn’t close my first deal until 7 months in. But after that, closings started to happen about once a month. Then a few times a month. Then several houses a month. You get the idea. But I can remember like it was yesterday what it was like to struggle — I didn’t have enough marketing dollars as I would have liked to meet my goals. In addition to my savings, I also did some freelance work on the side and used every little extra dollar I could to bolster my marketing budget. Even given all of my best efforts, I was still falling a bit short, so I had to improvise.
I started to save money here and there by automating some of the process myself. Instead of outsourcing the data collection process, I did it manually. I started to research my local Central Appraisal Districts (CADs) to see both how they were collecting data and what type of data they were storing. At first this was manually intensive. Now I am intimate with the data, and I know what every code and abbreviation means. This in-depth knowledge allows me to automate much of the process using Microsoft Access queries today. I know exactly what categories and combinations of data will produce the best leads for me after much failure and success. Fast forward to the present, and this has turned into a huge advantage in my business. I am able to pinpoint and target very specific leads that have a very high conversion. This helps me spend my marketing dollars very efficiently and allows me to scale.
It Takes Momentum to Build Moment
Unfortunately when you are at the bottom you have to fight, claw and scratch to make any sort of progress. After a while it really starts to feel like you are spinning your wheels and creating the illusion of progress, but in reality have very little to show for it. There were several points where I felt so discouraged, I almost gave up, but luckily I had just a little bit left in me to keep going. After amassing as much money as I possibly could to put towards marketing, I started to send out yellow letters. But I hit another snag in the road — the direct mail outsourcing company I had planned on using decided to hike their rates by .11 cents a mailer. Now, that may not sound like a lot, but when you are sending several thousand pieces of mail, it adds up very quickly. They were the cheapest outsourcer I could find at the time, so there really was no alternative.
Faced with this dilemma, do you cut back on the amount of leads that you mail to? Instead, I decided to get creative. At the time I was using yellow letters, so writing over 3,500 letters a month would have become very tedious and time consuming. That was out of the question. Instead, I decided to automate some of the process myself. I figured out a way to print my own yellow letters where they looked convincingly like someone had authentically written them by hand — except they were generated by a computer.
I created a template letter that would fill in with variable fields, such as [first name][last name]based on the data based queries I produced. I even overlaid a subtle texture for the text that made it look like a person had naturally written it with heavier pools of ink in some areas where the hand would rest; some areas of the text that were lighter, and there were other areas where the pen didn’t connect with the page completely. I was really proud of this back then — but nowadays I am a big proponent of basic postcards over yellow letters for reasons I won’t get into here. The computer had automated much of the process, but there was still a little bit of work to do. We still had to put stamps on these mailers, and my wife would help out over the weekends to make it happen.
Building Your Momentum
Momentum is like a snowball that you are rolling up hill. At first, you start with only enough snow to fill the palm of your hand. It has an awkward shape that isn’t quite spherical no matter how much you attempt to sculpt it in your hand. And in the beginning, this is worsened by the uphill battle you face. Not only that, but the path forward isn’t clear. Imagine trudging forward in a winter storm with limited visibility. Eventually you find your way despite all odds and reach a tipping point where you are starting to go downhill.
Now suddenly the momentum is on your side. The storm subsides, and you can much more clearly see the path you are moving towards. You are no longer working feverishly hard to scrape by. That is not to say anything in my business is “downhill” at this point in a sense of not having to work for it. What I mean is that you build a sense of momentum where you no longer have to fight tooth and nail at the bottom like when you first started. This might mean different things for you personally — whether finding your first deal as a wholesaler or locking up your first luxury listing as a real estate agent.
Like a snowball, your lead funnel will start off leaving much to be desired. But as you gain more momentum, as you close more deals, the longer you do this with persistence, the more that funnel will fill, leading you to more and more business.
If you struggled through this year, then take heart: Nearly all of us have been in a low place at some point in our business. My advice to you is keep your head down and work through the tough spots with every inch of your being, and before you know it, you will look up one day and the world around you will have changed for the better. With that, let me leave you with a quote from Aristotle that always inspires me when I feel discouraged:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Investors: How have you struggled to find success (or how are you STILL struggling)?
Let’s encourage each other in the comments section below!