1. Make a schedule and stick to it
Working at an office builds some structure into the day simply by having to drive to work every morning. When you’re not physically going to work, you’ll have to create your own structure to stay productive.
“You need to create a schedule and stick to it. Every morning I prepare a strategy for the day,” Rob said. He emphasized that the only way to stay active is to look at your schedule and know what you should be doing at any given time in the day. According to Rob, spending time thinking about what you should be doing is a poor use of your time. “You have to be able to look at your schedule and just get to work.”
Like many parents, her children dictate Kristi’s morning schedule. Once they’re on the bus, however, she’s able to get to work quicker than her commuting co-workers. “I get started very early – my boys are in elementary school so they get on the bus at 7, and then I’ll sit and have breakfast with my husband. By 7:30, I am working,” said Kristi.
2. Set and manage your goals
Setting and managing goals isn’t unique to working remote, but it’s even more crucial when there’s no one sitting nearby to hold you accountable.
“No matter who you are, you have to be accountable. The best way to do that is to set goals for the week, the month or the year. Maybe it’s two hours of calls a day. Think about how many appointments, contacts or lead generations you need per week. You can start big by thinking of how much business you need this year and breaking it down from there,” said Caryn.
Matt mentioned the importance of also setting goals for various digital profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Zillow. “I am pretty active in trying to keep my pages updated and have them represent a true professional. One of the keys to that is having other people speak out on your behalf. In the 50 or so reviews I have on Zillow I have all 5 stars – except one guy who gave me 4 stars because he said he thought people might not trust anyone without a single blemish.”
Matt explained that getting consistent reviews on Zillow and Facebook, or connections on LinkedIn, helps him stay in front of his customers even when he can’t be physically in front of them. Incorporating these metrics into your goals can improve your social following and get you more business.
3. Create a productive space
For Rob, the most important thing for a loan officer working remote is a designated office space. “You need to have an office room – and I’m not talking about a computer or laptop set up in a random spot in your home. You need the ability to shut the door and focus on work. Most importantly, you need to be happy where you work. I created a place where I want to be each and every day.”
Kristi agrees, and emphasized the importance of having everything you’d find at a typical office space. “For the longest time I just worked off my laptop, but my productivity and business evolved when I invested in a home office set up. I now have a docking station, two monitors and a printer – a full set-up. I think a lot of people just try to do it without all that, but in the end it’s just not very efficient. Now I have everything I need, so there’s usually no need for me to get up from my desk. Create your space so it’s professional and you can stay focused.”
Of course, not everyone has the space for a home office, but that doesn’t stop Matt from making it work. “I live in a condo, so I don’t have room for a dedicated office. I do, however, have a desk and a second monitor, which acts as my workstation.” Matt makes up for his lack of a complete home office by splitting his time between his home and work office. “I work from home about 25% of the time, 25% of the work is done from my car or a real estate office, a little less than half done in the office,” said Rob.
4. Be comfortable with your mobile office (aka your phone)
Whether you have a home office that closely mirrors a work office or not, as a loan officer you need the ability to be productive away from your primary workspace. “If clients need to reach me, no matter where I am, I’m available by phone or text. Texting has been a great way to communicate with people – real estate agents especially. I’ve actually found that people tend to respond quicker via text than email – it’s more immediate and everyone almost always has their phone on them,” said Kristi.
Matt estimates that most loan officers probably spend more than half of their time outside of the office making sales calls as it is; being savvy and responsive with his cell phone is just as important, if not more so, than his workspace.
5. Be active on Zillow, Facebook and LinkedIn
While it’s important to get out of the office to build relationships, Matt emphasized the importance of new opportunities in the digital age. Mainly, putting your face in front of people even when you’re not meeting in person.
“Reviews and ratings on Zillow are incredibly important. These are down to earth, genuine appreciation from clients on what you did for them, and people notice. As you get more reviews, you’re more likely to be found in the search pools. Managing your Facebook, LinkedIn and Zillow pages and posting sporadically helps you stay in front of people and increases your SEO. You want to be someone that when they search for you, you pop up,” said Matt. “A lot of borrowers actually enjoy giving reviews because they feel good knowing they’re helping you out.”
6. Don’t completely neglect going into the office
While it’s good to be comfortable working from your home office or on the road, you don’t want to get too comfortable. Working from your office, surrounded by your co-workers, can yield a lot of benefits that you won’t get when you’re working alone.
“Getting face to face with your assistant or processor, and being there when you need to solve more complex issues, is important. Being there in person gives you the ability to bounce ideas off of other loan officers. When you’re running about or sitting at home you don’t have the loan officer right next to you to challenge you or talk to. Picking up the phone is harder than simply yelling out of your office door,” said Rob.
7. Evaluate your system and stay hungry
Maybe it’s 6 months into your new routine as a remote or semi-remote loan officer and you think you’re doing OK. Instead of giving into habit, Rob cites the potential danger of habit and the importance of having hunger for constant knowledge.
“We’re all creatures of habit and we get stuck doing the same thing over and over. You don’t want to coast on the same thing day in and day out. You should be a sponge, always looking for ways to improve. If you’re not sure where to start, jump on YouTube and look for a mortgage coach. When you work from home, you won’t have the guy next to you that’s killing it, or an up and coming guy lighting a fire under you,”