How To Become an Independent Insurance Agent

Written by Matthew King, time it takes to read this article is  minute(s).


Are you interested in a career that allows you to help people, earn a comfortable income, and work on your own time? If so, you may consider becoming an independent insurance agent!

In this role, you’ll help people find the best insurance policy for their needs. You’ll be self-employed, which means your work schedule is flexible and you do your job from anywhere, at any time.

If this sounds like a good fit for you, read on. Today, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about becoming an independent insurance agent, including how you can get started as soon as possible!

What Does an Independent Insurance Agent Do?

Insurance agents are also known as brokers. In general, there are two different types:

  • Captive agents
  • Independent agents

Captive insurance agents only sell policies for one specific carrier or insurance agency. On the other hand, an independent insurance agent can sell policies that belong to lots of different carriers.

As an independent agent, you’ll create contracts with the carriers you want to represent. Then, when someone visits your office in need of insurance coverage, you can share all of the options that you have available.

Benefits of Going the Independent Route

One of the perks of being an independent insurance agent is that you’ll have a more versatile and competitive sales approach. If a certain policy doesn’t meet your client’s needs, you can offer multiple other policy options for them to consider. This way, they can find prices and terms that work for them, and they’re more likely to make a purchase.

You aren’t limited to a certain carrier, so you can present your clients with different rates and help them choose the best one for their situation. You’ll also enjoy more flexibility than a captive agent. You’re free to specialize in many different types of coverage, from auto and home insurance to life insurance and even final expense insurance.

Or, you’re also free to specialize in just one type of coverage if you prefer! If you’re just starting out, you might find it easier to start with just one coverage line at first. Then, you can add more options as you grow your business and build your network.

Roles and Responsibilities of an Independent Insurance Agent

Once you begin your career as an independent insurance agent, what can you expect to do on a daily basis? In many ways, your job duties will be similar to a captive agent’s. Some of your main responsibilities will be:

  • Selling insurance policies
  • Finding new client leads
  • Making sales calls
  • Discussing client needs
  • Negotiating with clients and insurance companies
  • Building relationships with prospects and current clients
  • Completing continuing education as required

However, your job will differ in one important way. As an independent agent, you’ll spend a lot of time researching and comparing different policy options to find the best one for your clients. You’ll listen to their needs, show them what’s available, and work with them to find a plan that checks all of their boxes.

For example, say you have a prospect who’s looking for a new life insurance policy. Of course, there isn’t just one to consider. You might represent many carriers, and they each offer their own policies.

To find the best fit, you’ll perform the following steps:

  1. Listen to what the client needs, asking questions to understand the full breadth of what they’re looking for
  2. Consult your portfolio of various policies and carriers
  3. Present several different options for them to consider

If you only represented one carrier, both you and the prospect would be out of luck if those health insurance policy options weren’t a good fit. However, you have more freedom when you work independently. You can present several options at once, increasing the likelihood of making a sale.

Working as an Independent Contractor

While working as an independent insurance agent can be freeing, it’s important to understand that you’ll essentially be a freelance contractor. This means you won’t have an overarching agency that manages your workload, provides you with benefits, or pays into a 401(k).

Those are items that will fall under your jurisdiction. You’ll be responsible for managing every aspect of your business, with steps that include:

  • Advertising and marketing your business
  • Handling all administrative work
  • Managing your finances
  • Paying your self-employment taxes
  • Investing in your retirement

In some regards, this is more work on your shoulders than you would have if you worked for an employer. However, it also gives you freedom and opportunities that you wouldn’t be able to achieve if you worked under a larger insurance company.

The Steps to Become an Independent Insurance Agent

This is a rewarding role that offers a ton of potential. It’s also relatively simple to enter, once you have all of your preliminary steps in place. While each state will have its own specific set of steps for prospective agents to follow, the following pathway is universal in nature and will help you enter the field successfully.

Step 1: Earn Your Education

You don’t have to have a college degree to begin working as an independent insurance agent. However, you do need to have a high school diploma or GED.

While this is the minimum requirement to work in the industry, it’s a good idea to look into higher education. With a college degree, you could increase your earning potential. You’ll also gain skills that will help you network, communicate with clients, and grow your business, especially if you major in subjects such as:

  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Business management
  • Business administration

Depending on your location, there may be local colleges or universities that offer an insurance track or even an insurance degree, so be sure to check out all of your options.

Step 2: Prepare for Your State Exam

Before you can apply for your independent insurance agent license, you’ll need to pass your state-specific licensing exam. This is an important exam, and you want to be as prepared as possible.

Before you sit for it, take the time to review all of the material that it will cover. You can find study courses in-person and online that are designed specifically for this purpose. These courses will cover the test material, as well as other important insurance topics you’ll need to know.

Pro Tip:  Some states require prospective agents to complete a training program with a licensed insurance agent before they’re allowed to sit for the licensing exam. Other states will not require this step. However, it’s smart to seek out on-the-job training wherever it’s available!

An apprenticeship or internship allows you to familiarize yourself with how the industry works and the type of work you can expect. Be sure to check with your state licensing body to understand the exact requirements you’ll need to follow.

Step 3: Understand Licensing Requirements

Passing your licensing exam will be a major pre-requisite on your path to becoming an independent insurance agent. However, it’s not the only step you’ll need to complete.

Make sure you completely understand what your state’s licensing board requires before granting a license. For instance, you won’t be able to begin work if you have a criminal record, though some states will allow minor infractions, such as traffic violations.

You don’t want to get all the way to your exam only to find out that you cannot move forward due to a detail you missed. In addition to checking your criminal record, most states will also perform an extensive background check and take your fingerprints to learn as much about you as possible.

Step 4: Take Your Licensing Exam

Once you’ve completed all of the requisite training and studying, you can finally sit for your state licensing exam! Before you sign up to take the exam, think about the specific type of insurance products that you want to sell once you start your own business. This will determine the type of license you’ll need to pursue.

The two most common options are:

  • Property and casualty (P&C)
  • Life, health, and accident

You’re free to offer all of these options at your office, but you may need to take different licensing exams to make sure you’re qualified to offer the full range of policies. Let’s take a look at the basic requirements for each option.

P&C License

Do you want to sell property and casualty insurance? These are policies that cover a prospect’s:

  • Automobile
  • Home
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Commercial liability
  • Commercial property

To obtain your P&C license, you’ll need to take a pre-licensing review course online or in person. Then, you’ll pass the specific P&C licensing exam. Once you’ve completed and passed your exam, you can apply to your state’s department of insurance to get your license.

Life, Health, and Accident License

As its name implies, this type of license allows you to sell policies that cover a prospect’s:

The steps to get this type of license are the same as described above. You’ll need to complete the pre-licensing course, pass the exam, and apply for your license through your state’s department of insurance.

Step 5: Create a Business Plan

Once you have your license in hand, it’s time to start thinking about the type of clients you want to serve. Do you want to cater to personal clients or commercial ones? What about both?

If you go the personal route, you will sell insurance products that individuals will need for themselves and their families, such as:

  • Auto insurance
  • Home insurance
  • Medicare insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Disability insurance

If you sell policies to commercial clients, you’ll focus on policies that cover areas such as:

  • Commercial properties
  • Commercial auto
  • General liability
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Business interruptions

There isn’t one option that’s better than the other. It comes down to the type of deals you like to work with and the areas that interest you the most. You may even decide to sell both personal and commercial insurance!

When you’ve made your decision, it’s time to make a business plan.

This is a comprehensive document that lists the ins and outs of your business, including your:

  • Company description
  • Short-term and long-term goals
  • Areas of specialty
  • Methods
  • Marketing and sales approach

You can use the plan to make a roadmap for your business. Think about all of the investments you’ll need to make to get your agency off the ground. If you plan to keep a brick-and-mortar office, remember to budget and brainstorm all of the requirements associated with that venture, including:

  • Building rent
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Internet connection

Step 6: Reach Out to Insurance Carriers

Once you’re all set up, it’s time to get your name out there! Before an insurance carrier will agree to work with you, they’ll want to know more about your target market and the type of prospects you plan to advertise to.

They’ll want to make sure the products that they sell are a good fit for your business. If they partner with you as an agent, this means you’ll have the authority to act on their behalf. Naturally, they want to do their due diligence, first.

Some of the aspects they’ll consider include:

  • The financial stability of your business
  • Your business plan
  • Your past history of carrier appointments
  • The level of automation your business uses

As you establish yourself more in the industry, these appointments will be easier to complete. The ultimate goal is to connect with well-established carriers who have many different lines of coverage. These companies are more likely to offer attractive agent commissions, as well as opportunities for you to grow within the industry.

Step 7: Advertise, Advertise, Advertise

Your final step is to market yourself! In today’s Digital Age, there are a few different ways you can do this, including:

  • Promoting your business on social media
  • Creating a robust, responsive website
  • Sending an e-newsletter to prospects who opt-in
  • Designing traditional print marketing flyers, brochures, or business cards
  • Encouraging and rewarding word-of-mouth marketing and referrals

All of these can be valuable tools and can help you get where you want to go! If you’re new to the industry, don’t underestimate the value of referrals and reviews. A staggering 84% of people now trust online ratings as much as personal recommendations, so word-of-mouth outreach is essential.

Start Your Journey to Become an Independent Insurance Agent

Are you interested in becoming an independent insurance agent? If so, we’re here to help you kick off the process. We know the world of insurance can be tricky, so we’ve designed comprehensive training programs that make it easier than ever to get started.

With more than 200 training videos, exclusive software discounts, and direct coaching services, you’ll have everything you need to get up and running in no time.

Ready to learn more? Enroll in our Insurance Advisor Elite Training Program today to unlock exclusive training, content, tools, and resources to help you get started.

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