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Backer of self-employed agent model admits: ‘There are risks’

One of the biggest supporters of the self employed estate agent business model admits there are risks and it’s not for everyone.

Nicky Stevenson, managing director of Fine & Country UK, says the pandemic and this year’s better-than-expected housing market will lead many agents to rethink their goals this winter.

But she says the self-employed approach - called the associate business model by Fine & Country - Is not risk-free and there are several aspects that agents should consider before taking the leap from employed to self-employed. 


Stevenson claims the associate model suits driven, entrepreneurial-minded people willing to take risks to achieve their personal goals. “There is also the matter of being self-motivated. With autonomy comes the need to be disciplined and have the ability to hold one’s self accountable.”

She says there are seven factors overall to take into consideration: 

1. Grit Not Glamour: “Being a self-employed agent is not all Selling Sunset. You don’t get given leads on your lap, you have to generate them, win instructions, market properties, find the buyer, and see the process through to completion. In the case of a self-employed agent, failing to win the listing and complete on a deal means not earning, and as the commission stakes are higher, it is a bigger blow when it doesn’t work out.”

2. The Benefits: The self-employed don’t have the benefit of paid holiday, sick leave, pension planning and private medical insurance, unless of course they pay for it themselves. 

3. Flexible Isn’t Always Flexible: One reason many agents go self-employed is autonomy. “However … often as an agent your working hours are determined by your clients’ and buyers’ schedules, which could mean working outside of the usual nine to five, and on weekends. Buyers will want to view properties when they are not working, which means agents will be” says Stevenson. She adds: “To hit the ground running quickly it will require a huge investment of time and energy to get going, meaning you may end up working more hours than you ever have before.”

4. No Security of a Monthly Salary: “While self-employed agents have the potential to earn large sums, it might take a few months - six months even - for an agent to complete on the first transaction, so in the short term they would have to have savings set aside to carry them until they are able to build up their pipeline. It would be a short-term hit to achieve a long-term gain, but it is still a hit that the agent will need to be able to take. Also, every fall through is hugely more significant than when you are an employee.”

5. Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable: “Not knowing when the next payday will be can be extremely stressful, along with being your own boss. There is a lot of comfort in joining a cohort of people who are in the same environment, but it will still take time to adjust and sssociates need to learn to be comfortable with initially being uncomfortable.”

6. Monotonous Hard Work: “In the beginning, it will be monotonous, doing the basics brilliantly. Variety will not be the spice of life as the lead generation activities to get off the ground will be repetitive. Eventually, it will get to a point of doing things most estate agents love to do, such as negotiating and being face-to-face with a vendor on the sofa, but initially it is a sleeves-up attitude that will be required to hit the ground running.”

7. The Buck Stops With You: “Amongst all the benefits of being self-employed comes all the responsibility - the buck stops with you. You need to have the knowledge and experience, know your AML and CPR, you need to be competent and confident in your own knowledge and make your own decisions” Stevenson comments.

  • Simon Shinerock

    Most people are not self motivated or resilient enough to succeed and the attrition rate will be staggering. Those made of the right stuff will start there own businesses on the high st, there will be exceptions but his will continue to be the rule

  • icon

    It's a business
    You are on your own.
    It's all down to you.
    Plenty agents will make good money esp they embrace new tech and invest their energy in being high profile in their area.
    Brands and franchises are dying off as they really don't deliver much.Invest in tech data and analytics pay someone to do that for you and keep pressing the flesh...people remember you

  • Chris Arnold

    Don't confuse desire with ambition.

  • icon

    Just look overseas the top ten -20 pc generaly are independents...if they stay they are unhappy but greenmailed

  • Hybrid Agent

    What is a Self Employed Estate Agent?

    With the developing movement towards being a ‘Self Employed Estate Agent’ is this the best approach or terminology for the newer hybrid estate agent?

    A philosophy of being an ‘Estate Agency Business’ rather than thinking of yourself as ‘self-employed’ will serve you better. Calling yourself self-employed in any field has become a kind of personal social branding by which you offer yourself to others to be judged, it makes you sound better at what you do, you must be good because ‘you work for yourself’. However it’s too easy to give up being ‘self-employed’ and get a job, if you have a successful local estate agency business you will not be able to walk away easily until you sell or retire, a big difference. So which are you going to be?

    Feeling like a Self-employed agent will have you thinking in a short-term transactional way; a self employed plumber or carpenter will focus mostly on the current job and the next one. As a ‘self employed’ agent you will lose longer term focus by only thinking about where your next valuation/property sale is coming from reducing your ability to progress over a longer period. Thinking like a proper local estate agency business by monitoring growth and profitability and using local marketing, branding, service and your reputation will see your business develop well beyond its first year. Working one property to the next is not sustainable over a longer period. You need to build a framework that the transactions will stack-up within in a more automated or ‘production-line’ way. This will enable you to manage your business to long-term success rather than have your head spinning chasing the next instruction or house sale alongside the other daily business responsibilities.

    This ‘framework’ is best considered in terms of service and pricing in the local market you operate in so that your clients are always left contented with the outcome after their sale completes having received what they were promised (and more) at an understandable cost. A recommendation to other clients is then far more likely and your business will grow over time. Thinking “that’s another instruction” and will pay me £X now or later will make for a ‘roller coaster’ feeling in your working life. It will shorten your time working outside the traditional employed model as an agent as you stress over how many instructions you are getting this week or month to pay your bills. Doing the things that get your local brand known and appreciated will give you a natural level of instructions each week, month or year to make your working life far more flowing and less stressful by not just chasing the next property or deal.

    But how do you operate in this way? One small tip would be that you split your day. Be a ‘maker’ in the morning and a ‘manager’ in the afternoon as someone once said. Start your day by doing the things that will grow your business, the creative things that produce a unique and appealing offering to clients and helps them know about you and be interested in your services. Use the afternoon to do the jobs that will get you paid sooner. Plant the seeds in the morning and pick the crops in the afternoon.

    So the next time you read something about being a ‘Self Employed Estate Agent’ under a network or big hybrid operation consider whether it actually provides the tools to create for yourself a long term business in your location. Does the network give you the ability to create a personal legacy? May sound dramatic but if you are going to put 12 hour working days into a business you will want to know that something tangible will be built in the long term.

    The future of estate agency cannot be on the high street 9-5 by phone, so home-based local agents with great technology will become the way that consumers, both buyers and sellers get what they need from their property transaction. If your local operation is structured to provide this you will succeed in this new version of the industry. Bumping from one instruction to the next will become too tough and will likely see you fall back in to the employed high street role quite quickly.

    Read more about being a Local Hybrid Estate Agent in the book "The No.1 Hybrid Estate Agent, How to Evolve in Property Selling" available on Amazon


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