You have decided to embark on an exciting new career in real estate, but are not sure what to expect during your first year. You may have heard warnings about how difficult it can be to build a clientele, or horror stories about clients calling at midnight to back out of a sale. While those tales may be true, they do not tell the whole story. Here is a brief overview of what your first year may entail. Earn Your License No state in the U.S. will allow you to sell real estate without a license, and requirements vary from one state to the next. In New York, you must complete 75 hours of training and pass the school’s exam. Then you can register with the Department of State to take the state licensing exam, which you must pass in order to receive a license. If you are an attorney, the education requirement may be waived. This part of the process should take four months or less; classes may be completed online. Find a Reputable Broker As a real estate salesperson, you will work for a broker. Your broker will have more education and experience than you, and will have fulfilled additional state requirements to earn a broker license. For these reasons, your broker will be an excellent source of knowledge, advice and general guidance as you start your career. Launch Your Business Real estate agents are generally self-employed independent contractors, not employees. Rather than punching a clock to get paid, you will make your own hours. However, you will need to put in many hours of sheer hustle. Your real estate license is an opportunity, not a guarantee. At this point in your career, your job is mostly generating leads. You can generate leads in a variety of ways. Cold calling is a tried and true method, but it can be fruitless and discouraging. You may find it best to reach out to friends and family, asking for referrals. Network with fellow agents and other professionals, particularly those in related industries such as construction and community development. Attend neighborhood events and become an expert in your region. By displaying eagerness and commitment, you may get leads from agents who are too busy to take on more clients. A stellar website can be an invaluable tool for real estate salespeople. Make your site a resource for those looking to move into the area by including information about the local arts scene, youth recreational programs, crime rates, shopping, unique eateries and outdoor attractions. Draft Your Business Plan While you are starting out, you should be writing and rewriting your business plan. Include goals for yourself, including contacts made, houses shown and deals closed. Outline how you will handle tax issues such as tracking deductible expenses and setting aside a portion of your earnings for taxes. Taxes can be daunting if you have never been self-employed before, so have a plan. It may help to consult a tax professional in the first six months. Your business plan will also cover your strategies for maintaining a positive online presence, keeping in touch with potential clients, following up with past clients and soliciting referrals. Systematically track the sources of your most fruitful leads and concentrate your marketing efforts in those areas. As you gain experience, your business plan will evolve. By the end of your first year, your business plan should provide solid guidelines that put you on the road to success. Continue Your Education Your education should not end when you complete your last required class and pass your state exam. Real estate markets can fluctuate wildly; part of your job is to stay on top of changes. So many factors affect home prices — politics, financial markets, current events and housing trends — that a layperson can easily become confused. Buyers and sellers may feel wary about the future. Continue to learn all you can so that you can provide informed answers to your clients’ questions.