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How to Start Your Own Insurance Business

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On the lookout for a recession-proof business? Insurance is one of the businesses that are largely untroubled by the state of the economy.

The reason is that most insurance products are an essential part of modern life. You can’t have a car without auto insurance, and while your mortgage company may not require that you have homeowners insurance, would you consider leaving the single biggest investment of your life-threatening?

The individual mandate of this Affordable Care Act guarantees that there’ll always be a continuous supply of medical insurance customers. Of the significant insurance types, the only one that’s considered optional by a few people is life insurance coverage but in the more fiscally savvy world, that is less accurate than ever before.

However, for all the reasons that insurance is a great company to be in, there are many facts to consider before taking the jump yourself.

What Is Necessary to Setup Shop

In many ways, insurance is no different from any other business opportunity. But it also includes some more unique considerations. First and foremost among them is the licensing process. In order to sell insurance anywhere in the USA, you must first pass a state licensing examination. Other insurance-specific factors include getting appointments from insurers so you can sell their products.

Keep reading to see what’s required to set up shop as an independent insurance broker.

Personality Test

If you’ve never worked as an agent for a broker or as a captive agent to get one insurer, then you need to carefully consider when you’ve got the personality for your insurance enterprise. Apart from licensing and product knowledge, being a successful independent insurance broker requires having the right character for your job.

All companies require that you’re a great supervisor. But this company is all about more than handling — it is about selling.

It’s one thing to be a people person who enjoys talking to anyone and has a profound desire to help individuals understand new things. It is another to be a commission-only salesperson.

Getting personable at a dinner party or on a revenue floor is not the same as sitting down face-to-face together with complete strangers in their house, where they have all of the control, and convincing them to trust you, your knowledge, along with your advice.

You shouldn’t only be able to do that, but you must be able to do it almost immediately after completing with somebody else that rejected you — and all the while knowing that if you do not create a sale, then you don’t eat.

Thriving under that sort of pressure is just one of the personality traits you’ll need to be successful. Another equally significant trait is subject. Have you got the discipline to generate the hundreds of cold calls per week necessary to build a book of business and grow a reputation as a trusted and knowledgeable representative?

Eventually, will the fire in your belly for success burn hot enough to endure these struggles in and day out?

If you have the right character, it’s time to talk about becoming licensed.

Getting Licensed

You must be licensed to sell insurance in each state which you intend on soliciting business. While some states allow you to transfer your license, some do not.

All countries require that you take and pass between 20 and 40 hours of general insurance education courses and around 12 hours of ethics classes before you’re able to take their licensing exam. The classes you take must be from the state you are thinking about becoming licensed in. This is because state laws vary from one to another. A number of the classes are available as online self study, self-paced programs.

Licensing tests are multi-part, which means in the event that you pass the entire life, accident, and health portion, but neglect the house and casualty part, you can become licensed but might not sell homeowners or auto insurance. Typically you can retake a failed section a minumum of one time without the necessity for a new application fee.

In most states, if you choose to run your business as a sole proprietorship and don’t hire different agents, your individual license is usually all you need. If you plan on bringing different brokers into your business, or you choose to incorporate, you might have to acquire an agency permit.

Rules differ from state to state but, generally, no further testing is necessary. But, there are applications and related fees for becoming a certified agency. Agency licensing is not required in most instances if you’re only hiring service staff, such as office assistance and telemarketers.

Start-Up Costs

Starting your own independent insurance provider demands startup capital. The sum that will need can range from as little as $5,000 to $50,000 or more, based factors like where you’re located and how you plan to operate your business.

By way of example, starting your agency as a home-based company gets rid of the requirement to cover rent, buy extensive furnishings, signage and other expenses connected with a commercial location. The cost of office or storefront space can differ by 100% or more from one area to another; the gap in cost between an office in nyc and one in rural Pennsylvania could differ by 200% or more.

Purchasing a Book of Company

The most straightforward way to hit the ground running as a newly minted independent agent is to purchase a book of business from another agent.

A publication refers to the customers and their related policies. When you buy a publication, the selling agent transfers their standing as the agent of record for the accounts to you.

This means that if policyholders have a question they will call you and you are responsible for servicing their accounts even though you haven’t got any commission from them as yet, and actually have paid for the right to provide your services for free.

You do gain the advantage of getting their renewals and any related commissions. However, clients are under no duty to remain with you, and may transfer their accounts to another agent at any time.

Other brokers may sell part or all of the book of business for a variety of reasons which range from retirement to scaling back in size or relocating.

The cost per customer or policy is dependent upon the market you are in and the types of policies that are in force. A publication of automobile policies is worth more than the usual book of life insurance business because automobile policies renew annually, making new commissions, whilst life insurance doesn’t.

Agency Management System

As with other types of businesses, you will find specialized tasks and actions that must be carried out on a regular basis. Agency management applications is not necessary, but it might go a long way toward lowering the total amount of time spent completing administrative tasks.

Agency management software is particularly valuable if you do not have experience conducting an independent insurance agency because lots of the features and functions of the software are made to keep you in compliance with state laws and ease marketing, revenue, and customer service jobs. Many packages are currently leased and may cost from $50 to $300 a month depending on features.


To be able to sell insurance, you need insurance. In the minimum you may require a company proprietor (BOP) and E&O insurance.

A BOP could be customized with a number of different protections for everything from the gear to the vehicle that you use for company.

E&O stands for mistakes and omissions and is sometimes called professional liability insurance. It functions in much the same way as medical malpractice insurance as it protects you from errors you could make — that is the mistakes part. Omissions will also be errors you make, like forgetting to advise a customer that their policy is due for renewal.

If you employ office or service staff you may also have to carry employee’s compensation insurance depending on your condition and the amount of employees you hire.

Finally, you will have to secure a surety bond. A surety bond guarantees to cover one party, such as an insurance provider, if you fail to satisfy your obligation. States need you to have a bond in case you amass a client’s premium and run off to Brazil with your secretary rather than remitting the payment into the insurance provider. Its purpose is to protect your clients from you.

It takes more than being licensed and hanging a sign up to be an independent insurance broker. You need to be able to sell unique types of insurance, preferably from many different companies.

However, unlike other companies where suppliers will usually wholesale their products to anyone who will purchase them in sufficient quantity, insurance companies will not let you sell their product until you’ve sold enough of their product already. If this sounds like a catch-22, that’s because it is!

The larger and more prominent an insurance provider is, the higher their production minimums are for you to be able to provide their merchandise. The way around these mandatory minimum requirements for new and small independent bureaus is to join with a bunch group or master agency.

The cluster group is an association of sorts, comprised of independent representatives who pool their company in order to meet the requirements for appointment by top-rated insurance companies. Cluster groups offer other advantages such as:

Greater negotiated commission rates
Discounted E&O insurance
Agency management applications
The ability to quote specialty insurance
Continuing education opportunities

Safety Net

Of course, you would like to begin earning money the day once you open for business, but experience dictates that it takes time to get rolling up and generate enough income to become self-explanatory. That’s why you need to allow for at least a couple of months of cash book as part of your startup costs.

Having money set aside for utilities, rent, wages, and other expenditures can help reduce your stress level since you won’t have to worry about being forced out of business before you even get off the ground.

Leaving the Fold

For some, the path to becoming an independent broker begins with working for a different broker or as a captive broker.

Many insurance experts suggest taking advantage of the more secure and supportive environment extended by a position as a captive agent, saying it is the perfect method to achieve the necessary expertise and to build a reputation as an experienced professional before striking out on your own. There’s a lot to be said for working under an experienced sales manager who can demonstrate the principles and lead you through what could be a steep learning curve.

Non-Compete Agreements

The advantages that come from working as a captive agent can include a cost called a non-compete arrangement. These agreements, intended to keep you from leaving and learning, include clauses that restrict your ability to set up shop as an independent broker or work for a rival. These constraints may be bound by time limits, for example, one or 2 years out of separation, or by geography, prohibiting you from working in a specific radius of your now-former employer.

State legislation and court decisions differ in various states and authorities. In some areas they’re prohibited and cannot be a condition of employment, and in others they are legal but not enforced. Another jurisdiction can and do apply these agreements, which is why you should consult an attorney both in your present field of employment and where you intend to begin your own organization. You can also check out Leland West Insurance

There’s More!

It’s necessary to keep in mind that all of the different components of beginning a company applies as well.

This means you will need to find an accountant and a lawyer that will help you register your name and make a decision as to what sort of business entity you would like to be and help you do tax planning and bookkeeping. You will need to employ a web designer to make an internet presence because more often than not, which is how potential clients are likely to find you.

Updated: March 22, 2020 — 10:14 am

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