Career as a Employee, Self-Employed and Business Owner
Updated: Jun 18
I have been a self-employed realtor since 2006. Wow, 14 years already! Time flies by! My real estate career began after I left The Arts House in 2006. That was my first experience as an employee after graduating from Queensland University of Technology with a Degree in Mass Communications.
The Arts House at The Old Parliament (Image taken from Travel Triangle)
At a company retreat in Batam with ex-colleagues in 2005
An Employee Experience
Good Paper Qualifications Do Not Equal Good Pay
Growing up, I believed obtaining a degree qualification would secure me a good job and good salary. However, I graduated just after SARS and a lot of potential employers would not give me a chance seeing I had no real work experience.
I had to "work" for free for a television production company. They didn't manage to get the project from Discovery Channel so I was not able to get hired for a paid position and had to work in event planning. There's how I chanced upon Arts House.
Even when I was working in Arts House for two years, I barely earned enough to cover my monthly expenses. In 2004, I only had a gross monthly salary of $1600 - $1800.
Exchanging time for money
I felt time flew quickly and I hardly spent any time with my family working Monday to Friday, sometimes Saturdays, even Sundays. And when my father had a health scare in 2006, I decided to change career paths to being a self-employed. It was also a dream to eventually have my own business. I thought being a realtor would provide me a stepping stone to that goal.
Good Colleague Camaraderie
One thing I miss about being an employee is having colleagues to banter with and work together as a team.
Self-Employed at 25
Entering real estate at age 25, it is the best job anyone could ask for! Though my ex boss at the time told me that he thought the real estate career is more for someone who is in their 40s and have a primary school education. I don't think he meant it in a bad way, but at the time I entered the market, a lot of the realtors do have primary school education only and spoke a lot in mandarin and dialect.
Education Background Does Not Restrict Your Earning Capability
Back in 2006, even if you had a primary school education, you could become a real estate agent. However, the qualifications today required are not high as well as long as you pass the examinations required.
And it is not uncommon for realtors to be earning 5 to 6 figures a month even during "down times". If you worked the same number of hours in an employee position, you may not come close to earning that monthly.
I was very blessed when I first entered real estate I had the support of my relatives who had multiple properties to sell and buy.
On stage sharing tips on being a Top Rookie
Flexibility in Working Hours
The flexibility I had in managing my own time was a double edged sword. I enjoyed the freedom I had and nobody to "report" to. However, sometimes I lacked the discipline to work everyday.
I never really appreciated this flexibility until I started my own business when I had to open shop five days a week from 8am to 3pm and work also on Sundays. There are days when your employees report sick and you have to take their place. And hiring employees meant you are responsible for their salary at the end of every month.
This flexibility is also wonderful when you start a family. I gave birth to my first child in 2014, second child in 2018 and this job helps me spend a lot of precious time with husband and children.
Being a Business Owner
My Husband, Roger, and myself in front of our retail shop in the CBD area
My father was unwell at the time, a condition that began in 2006. His medical condition was a mystery. After he began juicing and changing his diet to be more plant-based, he improved significantly. With this testimonial, we began our cold-pressed juice retail in the CBD (Central Business District) in March 2014.
Managing Finances and Cashflow Is The Key
I was pregnant at the time too and gave birth in July the same year. We signed the lease in October 2013. We took the one month rent free period to renovate the place. But we only opened in March 2014 when we decided to do an extensive renovation. After which we had issues obtaining the NEA license to open.
After going through many rounds with NEA, we were finally given the green light to open but we already paid many months of rent with no incoming cash flow. We also had to obtain juicing machines from overseas which costed us a tidy sum of money.
Managing Staff was a Challenge
We had to hire staff to run the shop. The staff were unreliable. We had a staff who decided not to come to work one day and her mom gave us back the shop key and told us her daughter decided to quit. She was 37 years old!
Overheads like rental, staff salaries are starting to take a toll. I was starting to look back on my real estate career with envy. After almost two years, we took over a business with a central kitchen in order to supply to other restaurants. We took on even more overheads. For the last six months when I was running the business, I had to top up the shortfall in overhead with my own savings.
It was a nightmare that did not seem to have an end. I have to find a way out. Thankfully, after searching for many months, I finally found a buyer who was willing to take over my business lock, stock and barrel.
Keeping a Sharp Eye
Later on, I found out from the new owner that my head kitchen manager had been stealing our raw material for her husband's food stall. This amount is about a few k a month! I was dumbfounded. We also had an incident with an ex staff stealing our customer data and moving to a competitor's company. All these are the heartaches of doing your own business.
All the while since 2006, I held on to my real estate license. So after selling the business, I returned to real estate and felt ever so grateful for this job. Real estate can give me the flexibility I require for my children. Though this time, performing well is not as easy as before.
Back To A Self-Employed
I am grateful to be in Navis Living Group, a division in Orange Tee. They give me absolutely every tool I need to do well in real estate. They organise different prospecting groups - HDB, landed, commercial, etc.
When I felt ready to commit my time after giving birth to my second child, I dove straight in and signed up for the prospecting groups as well as digital marketing, headed by Stuart Chng. I am truly blessed to have a leader like Stuart who spearheads a lot of initiatives in Navis.
A colleague from Navis, Calvin, and myself during a commercial prospecting group when we gained 4 leads
Having been in real estate for 14 years, I am convinced that this job holds a lot of opportunities for those who are willing to work hard.
Even though in the early years of being a realtor I had it easy, I had tongues wagging behind my back and also got my fair share of getting "makan"ed (eaten) by "sharks" (more experienced agents and possibly unethical). I tried my best to be authentic, honest to my clients and give my best effort to meet their requirements. This round wouldn't be any different.
Though starting from ground zero after spending some years in running my own business and then in full-time motherhood, I believe that hard work will yield results as well as being in the most awesome real estate team!
If you have any property to sell or you're looking to buy or invest, please do not hesitate to schedule a Property Wealth Planning session on a video call.
A PWP consultation includes:
- An in-depth financial affordability assessment
- Highly relevant investment insights
- A clear and customised investment road map for your real estate investment journey ahead.
About the Author, Susanna Wong:
Susanna has been in real estate since 2006. She has transacted many private properties including GCBs (Good Class Bungalows) and Sentosa landed properties and of course HDBs. She is married with two lovely girls, Sophie, 6 and Sage, 1. Her husband, Roger and her share an obsession for MMORPGs and scrabble. They met on OKCupid (dating app) while challenging each other on Words with Friends (iphone App game). She loves watching binge watching Netflix in her free time (very rare with two children!) with a tub of Ben and Jerry's.