This article is the first in a 5-part blog series that explores five key habits of highly-successful agents. 

As a real estate professional, odds are, you’re working for yourself. Even if you operate under a large brokerage, you essentially run your own business. It’s up to YOU to make your deals flow and your income grow.

All real estate agents experience ups and downs in the market. Maybe you’ve had a few slam dunks, and they were very exciting and motivating — but then things dried up, and you suddenly realized that, in order to be a success in this business, you have to know not only how to sell houses, but also how to sell yourself!

You want to do well. You want to be a top producer. That’s why you got into this business! But, what separates the average-producing agents from the TOP producers? What are their secrets and how can you achieve their level of success? If you want to experience success in any area of life, it is essential to do one thing: create good habits — both personally and professionally.

Just how long does it take for a habit to become an automatic behavior, forming what’s known as “automaticity?” The jury is out on this one. Some experts say it takes 7 occurrences, or 21 days, or other studies report that it takes 66 days. Regardless of how long it takes for full automaticity, we’ll show you how to incorporate these powerful new practices into your business  right now, making you a more successful agent — as soon as overnight.

Habit #1: Top Producers Set Goals.

“Wait — I have to set goals? Can’t I just focus on running my business?” You ask. Tim Ferris, author of the successful “4-Hour” self-development series of books, says: “What can be measured can be improved.” Goals are crucial to measuring improvement and planning for success. If you set a goal as part of your roadmap to success, you’re affirming that you believe it’s possible. It gives you a starting point, a destination point, and attainable segments in between. Also, seeing it written out (digital is fine – you don’t have to print it!) helps you understand what’s important to you.

Successful business woman in sunglasses next modern buildingOne of the best ways to start setting goals is to create a business plan. For many of us, the thought of writing a business plan can seem intimidating, and we often associate business plans with start-ups that require funding. But the truth is, your plan can be as simple as you’d like, and business plans are a helpful tool for any business – not just companies that require funding. explains, “A business plan is a written description of your business’s future, a document that tells what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. If you jot down a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you’ve written a plan, or at least the germ of a plan.”

Basically, your business plan will help you map out where you’d like to be in 3 to 5 years and provide some strategies for getting there. Writing out a business plan can help you prioritize goals, stay on strategy, delegate (we’ll write more about delegating in the next article), understand your market and your relationship to it, and it can provide options for altering your course when necessary.

When creating your plan, be specific and realistic about your targeted income, how many homes you want to sell, what specializations you want to get, and any other factors that will pave the way to becoming a top producer. Make sure these goals are time-bound so you have consistent motivation for achieving them. Even better, work rewards into your plan! How motivating is that?

It doesn’t have to be so serious! A business plan can be a fun exercise in what is possible! Once you get started, you’ll be surprised by how much it motivates you to think like an entrepreneur and how you’ll be running your business like a business, not like a job. Every choice – every option — will be seen through the filter of how or if it will help you achieve your goals.

Take a few moments to jot down some ideas on where you’d like your business to be in 3 to 5 years, then write down some basic steps you think it will take to get there – from long-term steps (such as continuing education or large-scale purchases or investments) to what you can do today, right now, like signing up for a class or contacting LegalZoom or other legal service to get advice on how to structure your business. At the very least, you’ll be planting some seeds.

For help getting started on a business plan, check out Palo Alto Software Inc.’s Business Plan Pro. You can also find some sample plans and a business plan template here.