July 21, 2024

How to Become an Independent Insurance Agent: A Step-by-Step Guide

Being an independent insurance agent can be a rewarding and lucrative career path. As an independent agent, you have the flexibility to be your own boss, set your own schedule, and sell insurance products from multiple carriers instead of being captive to just one company. However, the process of becoming an independent agent requires several important steps. In this guide, we’ll walk you through what it takes to get started in this field.

Step 1: Get the Proper Education and Licensing

The first step is to complete any educational requirements for your state and obtain the necessary licenses to sell insurance products legally. Here’s what that typically involves

Education – While a college degree is not always mandatory, most states require you to take pre-licensing courses approved by the state’s insurance department. These courses cover topics like insurance principles, laws and regulations, policy types and provisions.

Licensing Exams – After completing the pre-licensing education, you must pass the state licensing exam(s) for the lines of insurance you wish to sell, such as life, health, property and casualty. These are separate exams with a mix of state-specific questions and general insurance knowledge.

Background Check – States require a background check as part of the licensing process to ensure you have no criminal history or other issues that could disqualify you.

Continuing Education – Most states mandate a certain number of continuing education credits every 1-2 years to maintain your license(s) active and stay up-to-date on the latest rules and products.

Step 2: Decide Which Insurance Lines to Focus On

Insurance agents commonly specialize in one or more specific lines of coverage. The most common options are:

  • Life Insurance – Includes term life, whole life, universal life policies, and annuities.
  • Health/Medical Insurance – Major medical, short-term, dental, vision, and supplemental policies.
  • Property & Casualty – Home, auto, renters, business, and liability insurance products.

You’ll need to research which lines fit your interests, skills, and target market. Many agents start in just one area (e.g. home/auto) before potentially expanding their offerings.

Step 3: Choose to be Captive or Independent

There are two primary paths for insurance agents:

Captive Agents work exclusively for one insurance carrier selling just their products. This often provides more training, marketing support, and leads from the carrier. However, you’re limited in what you can offer clients.

Independent Agents have the flexibility to represent multiple insurance companies and provide more customized solutions. This path requires more self-motivation but allows you to meet clients’ specific needs by shopping different carriers.

To become an independent agent, you’ll need to be contracted and appointed with the insurance companies you want to represent.

Step 4: Decide How to Operate Your Business

As an independent agent, you have the choice to operate in different capacities such as.

Individual Practitioner – Strike out completely on your own by getting your own office space, hiring support staff, funding your own marketing/advertising, and keeping 100% of the commissions you earn.

Join an Agency Team – Get hired by an existing independent insurance agency. You’ll have an base salary but share commission rate and the support of an established agency.

Become an Exclusive Agent – Work as an independent contractor exclusively for one insurance company, but still with the ability to shop other carriers for clients.

Work Virtually – Use cloud computing, insurtechs, and remote tools to operate an agency without a physical office location, in essence running your own virtual agency.

Step 5: Set Up Your Agency’s Legal & Financial Foundations

Before you begin operating as an independent insurance agent/agency, take these key steps:

Form a Business Entity – Decide whether to be a sole proprietor, LLC, S-corp, etc. and register appropriately with your state.

Obtain Tax ID Numbers – Apply for necessary tax ID numbers like an EIN for federal taxes and state tax ID.
Secure Insurance – Get liability insurance, errors & omissions coverage, and potentially other business insurance to protect your agency.

Open a Business Bank Account – Separate your business and personal banking activities.
Establish a Marketing Presence – Build a professional website, set up social media channels, consider advertising/mailing lists to attract new clients.

Set Up Office Systems – Whether operating virtually or in a physical location, get customer relationship management (CRM) software, agency management systems, phone/internet services and other tools to efficiently run your agency.

Step 6: Find Clients and Generate Revenue

The final step is to consistently market your services and build up a base of clients to generate consistent revenue. Effective strategies include.

Networking & Referrals – Attend community events, join business groups, and incentivize existing clients to refer friends/family.
Content Marketing – Provide free educational content like blogs, videos, guides to attract prospects and establish expertise.
Lead Generation Services – Pay for exclusive leads from companies that advertise and capture consumer information.
Strategic Partnerships – Develop relationships with other professionals like accountants, realtors, attorneys to receive referrals.


The path to becoming an independent insurance agent requires dedication, effort, and an entrepreneurial mindset. However, the rewards of being your own boss, controlling your income potential, and providing customized solutions that truly serve your clients’ needs make it an enticing career choice for many.

By following the steps outlined above – getting licensed, deciding your specialties, choosing your agency model, laying the legal and financial foundations, and implementing consistent marketing – you can successfully navigate the process of establishing your independent agency.

The insurance industry is massive, with premiums totaling over $1.3 trillion in the United States alone. As an independent agent, you have the opportunity to claim your share of this market by building a loyal client base who trusts you as their knowledgeable adviser.

Embracing the flexibility and freedom of being an independent insurance professional does require a greater amount of self-motivation compared to being a captive agent. However, many find the ability to be a true entrepreneur by running your own shop incredibly rewarding, both personally and financially.

While launching your independent agency involves upfront effort, the long-term benefits can be immense – unlimited income potential, the chance to build a business to your vision, the freedom of being your own boss, and most importantly, developing lasting relationships by protecting what matters most to your clients and their families.

If you’re willing to put in the work, follow regulations, market persistently, and deliver exceptional service, then the path to becoming a successful independent insurance agent can be an extremely gratifying journey. Build your agency the right way, and you can create a thriving business serving clients’ needs for years to come.

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