How to Become an
Independent Insurance Agent

Businessman talking on the phone while viewing papers at his desk

Are you interested in finding out what it takes to become and Independent Insurance Agent? This guide has all the info you’ll need to see if that’s the career for you.

What Does an Independent Insurance Agent Do?

Independent Insurance Agents work to sell different types of insurance to customers, by explaining the types of policies and helping customers chose the one that best suits their needs. Unlike “captive” Insurance Agents, who work for a single insurance provider, Independent Insurance Agents usually represent several companies, providing their clients with a broader range of policy options.

Independent Insurance Agents usually sell one or more types of insurance, such as property, life, health, business and long-term care insurance. Independent Insurance Agents often make money off of commissions, so the more policies they sell, the more money they will make. For this reason, the primary focus of Independent Insurance Agents is expanding their client base and providing quality service to the clients they have. Some common Independent Insurance Agents duties and responsibilities include:

  • Expand customer base. Independent Insurance Agents work to contact potential clients in order to bring in new customers.

  • Understand Clients Needs. Independent Insurance Agents interview new or prospective clients to gain an understanding of their existing coverage, financial resources and insurance needs.

  • Explain Policies and Help Clients Chose. Independent Insurance Agents explain the features of different policies available and help clients in the selection process.

  • Handle policy renewals. Independent Insurance Agents make themselves available to their clients to assist them in the renewal of insurance policies.

Independent Insurance Agent Skills

The ideal Independent Insurance Agent is enthusiastic about what they do and skilled at working with people. They need to be an excellent salesperson, confident and trustworthy. Because they often work on their own and make a schedule around the needs of their clients, they should be flexible and dependable. They should also be disciplined and self-motivated, since they often work without direct oversight. Other key Independent Insurance Agent skills include:

  • Experience in a range of financial services and sales

  • Ability to maintain records and prepare reports

  • Up-to-date knowledge of government benefits programs, tax laws and other regulations affecting insurance

  • Strong analytical skills to Analytical skills to evaluate the characteristics of and needs of clients to determine the appropriate insurance policy.

How Do You Become an Independent Insurance Agent?

Education and Training

Although there are no specific education requirements to become an Independent Insurance Agent, almost all have at least high school diploma. A bachelor’s degree will also greatly improve your job prospects, especially if you have studied business-related subjects such as economics, finance, business, mathematics, accounting, marketing, statistics or business administration. Certain colleges even offer a bachelor's degree specifically in insurance.

In order to begin work as an Independent Insurance agent, you will need to be licensed in the state or states in which you wish to sell insurance. In some cases, you may be required to obtain a separate license for each kind of insurance you want to sell, for example, life and health insurance. The licensing requirements vary from state to state, but most states require to applicants to have completed specified courses and to pass a state exams covering the insurance laws in that state.

To learn the ropes of becoming an Independent Insurance Agent, you may be trained on the job from other agents. You may also take continuing professional education courses or attend conferences to gain expertise in specific areas like insurance laws, consumer protection, ethics, and the technical details of various insurance policies. In some states, you will be required to take continuing education courses every few years in order to maintain your license.

Finding a job

Job prospects for Independent Insurance Agents are good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of all insurance sales agents, including both Captive and Independent, to grow 9 percent through 2024. More people are getting insured, and the insurance industry relies on sales, meaning it is constantly growing. Employment for Independent Insurance Agents is expected to be even higher as more insurance companies rely more on brokerages to sell their products as a way to control costs.

A successful Independent Insurance Agent job search should start with a well-written resume that showcases your skills and experience. For ideas to help you create your resume, take a look at our library of Independent Insurance Agent resume samples.

After crafting your resume, begin your online job search for Independent Insurance Agent job opportunities.  As you look for opportunities, think of ways to leverage your professional network, including people you met through school or previous work.

When you are ready to apply for a Independent Insurance Agent position, bolster your application with a strong cover letter that highlights your skills and explains why you’re the right fit for the job. For ideas, check out our collection of cover letter samples.

Insights from an Independent Insurance Agent

To provide you with some insider knowledge of how to become an Independent Insurance Agent, we talked to Anthony Martin, owner and operator of Choice Mutual, a nationwide independent life insurance agency. Here’s what he told us.

What is the common career path for an Independent Insurance Agent? 

I would say the most common career path for an independent agent is to specialize in a specific line of insurance. Instead of trying to be a jack of all trades (life, health, auto, home, life, etc.), most independent agents I have heard of, read about, and come across are ones who specialize in specific line of insurance and become really good at that particular niche.

What should someone consider before becoming an Independent Insurance Agent? 

First, decide if you are going specialize and focus on a specific line of insurance versus trying to sell all of it. Second, and most importantly, consider what your marketing strategy will be. You must develop a plan that puts you in touch with prospects who might want or need the lines of insurance you are planning on selling.

What type of person excels in this job? 

Honestly, being an independent agent is not for the meek. Furthermore, it takes a highly disciplined entrepreneurial type individual to make it work. You work for yourself, so you must decide each and every day that you are going to hit the pavement. A person must understand and appreciate the concept of investing time and resources with no guaranteed payoff. You have to be willing to put in much time and money without knowing how it will turn out. Ultimately, it takes a very disciplined, coachable, hardworking person to produce success at being an independent insurance agent. Without these qualities, there is zero chance for success.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being an Independent Insurance Agent? 

The most rewarding part of being an Independent Agent is the combination of limitless earning potential and value we present our clients. It's the perfect marriage of benefits for both parties. An Independent Agent can unequivocally better serve a person's insurance needs compared to a captive insurance company. In addition, there is no limit to how many customers you can acquire, or how big you can grow your agency. It's a win-win all around. Where else can you start a business that has zero inventory, delivers massive value to clients who needs your products, and gives you the entrepreneur the ability to scale it as large as you could possible dream of?

How Much Do Independent Insurance Agent Get Paid?

Most Independent Insurance Agents are paid by commission, meaning there is a large range of wages in the field. The median annual wage for all insurance sales agents is $48,200. The lowest earning 10 percent make less than $26,330 a year, while the highest 10 percent earn more than $122,590.

Top 10 States for Independent Insurance Agent Salary

Insurance Agents, including independent Insurance Agents, in the following states make the highest median annual wages in the U.S.

    New York

    $64,220

    Massachusetts

    $62,910

    Rhode Island

    $60,690

    Minnesota

    $60,550

    New Jersey

    $59,520

    Connecticut

    $57,030

    Wisconsin

    $55,070

    Pennsylvania

    $55,000

    North Dakota

    $54,740

    California

    $54,610

    Independent Insurance Agent Resources

    If you’re looking for more information on becoming an Independent Insurance Agent, here are some additional resources to help you in your career search.

    On the Web

    BizzGrizz
    Insurance sales expert Brent Kelly shares his experience and expertise in this blog.

    Insurance Thought Leadership
    This blog brings in some of the brightest minds in insurance to share their experience, tips and tricks.

    Independent Agent Magazine
    IA is the number one source of information for Independent Insurance Agents, with insight and analysis on critical trends and tools to help them sell efficiently and effectively.

    Industry Groups

    Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America
    This is a national alliance of more than a quarter million Independent Insurance Agents and their employees, offering education, advocacy and news.

    National Association of Professional Insurance Agents
    PIA is a great source for news and resources, and also provides networking opportunities.

    ISU Insurance Agency Network
    The ISU Insurance Agency Network is an organization just for independent insurance agents. It offers a cohesive national database of insurance knowledge.

    Independent Insurance Agent Books

    How To Build An Independent Insurance Agents Business (Special Edition): The Only Book You Need To Launch, Grow & Succeed
    This guide will tell you all you need to know to launch your own Independent Insurance business.

    The Complete Dictionary of Insurance Terms Explained Simply
    This handy guide explains the complicated and confusing terms used in insurance in jargon-free language, and is a great resource when studying for licensing exams.