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I’m asked all the time for advice about starting one’s own business, and when it comes to launching a real estate business, my ideas aren’t much different than what I would offer for any small business—the main things are to be smart, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and take advantage of what social media can do for you.

In my book, Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business,” I prove that you don’t need to be a brainiac to reach the American Dream; you just need to have a clear vision and savvy social sense. Plus, as a small business owner, you’re going to need to think outside the box. Be bold and courageous and take chances that separate you from the competition.

Consider concentrating on a niche or under-served market in your real estate dealings, perhaps specializing in luxury homes or relocation services. Eventually, you can distinguish your business with its high performance, but at the beginning, it’s good to have something that makes you different.

Never underestimate the importance of social media. Optimizing your online presence is basically free advertising and will grow your network quicker than anything that can be done with cold calls and referrals. Start a Facebook business account, link in Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, and be sure to post regularly with interesting news items or photos about real estate happenings in the area. You want to give people a reason to come on back and hear what you have to say, so they grow to consider you an expert.

Homes.com offers a great Online Reputation ebook, which provides tips on expanding your brand’s visibility and how to access more prospects and convert them into brand champions.

People respond positively to numbers, so one of the best ways to show your worth is to create an industry report full of positive numbers about your local real estate market. Break down statistics of current home prices and prices of homes you have sold and compare them to other real estate professionals in the area. If you regularly get above asking price, don’t be afraid to flaunt it. Fill the report with plenty of housing numbers to show prospective clients that you know your stuff.

A good example of an industry report can be found in the most recent Homes.com Local Market Index, which tracks repeat sales of properties for both single family and multi-unit/condominium sales in the top 100 metropolitan markets and index data for 200 additional midsize markets in the U.S.

Finally, market yourself at all times. Send your report to members of the press and let local real estate reporters know you are available if they need a quote about something happening in the neighborhood. You want your name out there so people get familiar with you and think of your business when the time comes to hire a real estate professional.