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Behind the Scenes: The True Life of An Independent Insurance Agent

What happens when you have two of the leading independent insurance agents collaborating on stories, making fun of each other’s writing habits, and wanting to give an in depth look inside what really happens in an Independent Insurance Agency.

Meet, Erin Nutting. Erin has been a licensed insurance agent for 10 years and prides herself on finding new innovative ways to bring her clients the latest and greatest that the insurance industry has to offer.

Joshua Lipstone is the Vice President of ISU-Lipstone Insurance Group based out of Cary, North Carolina. He has been a licensed insurance agent for 7 year and his passion is finding you the coverage you need, the experience you deserve, all at a fair price.

Together, these two agents have accepted the challenge of blogging about some of the industry’s biggest myth’s.

The stories you are about to read are real… (insert Law and Order theme music here)

 A Day in the life of Crazy- Erin Nutting

As an independent insurance agent, in most cases, I don’t function on a 40 hour work week. I just don’t. We would like to pretend that on Friday we run out of the office and don’t think about it again until Monday at 9 am but… the reality is… that doesn’t happen.

My entire family functions with my agency.

As a mom of 4… yes, you didn’t mis-read that. I said 4. My day normally starts with a 10 month old begging me for a bottle from her crib. I flip on Frozen (for the 260th time), and run downstairs with every intention of drinking that hot cup of coffee today. However, in my head I know I will end up drinking it cold 2 hours later after I finally sit down at my desk.

I gather the rest of my crew, my composure, and try to remember I will never gain back my sanity. It’s a miracle if we make it out the door by 7:30 am. On most days we get close, albeit without shoes on 2 of the 4 children, but hey at least we tried. We pile into my car (and no I don’t rock a mini-van) and pull out of the garage.

The phone starts.

See what most people don’t know is that some insurance agents like to give out our cell phone numbers on most occasions. It creates a peace of mind for our clients that no matter when or where you can get us or at least be able to leave us a message on our personal lines and we can get back with you when we aren’t shoveling children in and out of a vehicle.

I roll up to the office and finally am able to gather my brain.

Phone calls, renewals, premium increases (not controlled by us), re-writes, referrals, and most importantly claims.

I finally get to drink that cold coffee I have been trying to get to for hours.

Before I know it its 5:30 and the kids require pickup, fed, homework, and the dreaded game of “how much water can we splash on mom during bath time”. After all is said and done… kids in bed… I should go to sleep but the reality is the business side of my business needs me.

All in all my day is Crazy. With a capital C. However, if we didn’t love what we did, this would be the easiest career to just say enough. I say that not because it’s easy to get out, but because we are faced with so many daily challenges that it would be easy to find an emotional reason as to why you have to just stop functioning in an insurance agency. However… when you find how passionate you become about this business it truly takes you as a person to another level of commitment.

The dreaded 4:55pm phone call- Joshua Lipstone

Picture this I’m sitting at my desk on a Friday afternoon. I’ve had a long week with a several ups and a couple downs, but it comes with the territory. I have managed to return all calls, emails, faxes (yes faxes still exist in the insurance world). I’m getting ready to pack up my stuff to head home for the weekend. As I begin to shut down my computer it happens…

The dreaded 4:55pm phone call on Friday.

My hand nervously reaches for the phone and with attempting to sound professional I utter the words, “Thank you for calling the Lipstone Insurance Group, this is Josh, how may I help you?”

As the voice on the other end begins to speak a thought flashes through my head, “This is why you do what you do.”

I realize in that brief moment that this is why I’m an independent insurance agent.

This is why I tell my clients and future clients to call me because I’ll be there for them.

I’m there when they are at their highest of highs and lowest of lows.

I’m there to answer the phone when for you to tell me that you your son or daughter is getting their license.

I’m there for you tell me about the accident your son or daughter just got it.

I’m there to hear about the first home you are purchasing.

I’m there to listen when you tell me you are quitting your job to venture out on your home and plant the entrepreneurial flag.

I’m there for you to cry on my shoulder when you tell me about the fire that consumed your dream home.

All of these things, and so much more, are the reason that I pick up the phone at 4:55pm on Friday. This is why I stay late when you call to tell me about the new car you are buying, the new house you are going to look at this weekend for your ever-growing family.

Listen I’m human just like you and in that first moment I cringe thinking about answering the phone five minutes before I’m headed home for the weekend, but I always remember that the reason you placed your trust in me is because I care.

And because I care I pick up the phone.

Where do your insurance premiums go?- Erin Nutting

“Hey Josh… I need a new pair of Louboutins so I hope Mrs. Smith renews her insurance policy this month”.

Two things are wrong with this sentence.

  1. Josh had no idea what Louboutins were… and almost passed out when he looked them up online.
  2. The idea that insurance agents pocket your insurance premiums is completely false… or at least the honest ones.

When you are an insurance agent you make money three different ways. These three components vary from State to State as far as how much you benefit financially from them… but ultimately these top 3 components are what keep every good insurance agency functioning.

New Business Written Premium

We make money when we sell a new business insurance policy. We don’t walk away with the premium you pay monthly, quarterly, or even annually.

What we do get is get paid a commission of that premium. Depending on the company itself it can range from as little as 5 % to 15-20%. Again, this varies between states.

Renewal Business

Ever wonder why your insurance agent stalks you before renewal? Welp, it’s because we want to make sure you are happy. Your happiness with our agency and with your insurance policy is what makes us money. Let me do the math for you here on policy renewal commissions.


Claims Ratio’s/Loss Ratios

This again varies between companies but the idea here is if we are writing good insurance business we are more profitable because money isn’t flying out the insurance companies back door. By writing “high risk” business we are taking on further exposure to ourselves and the insurance company and ultimately its not great for our business. Furthermore, not great for our bottom lines.

So now that we have covered how we as the agency makes money… we can talk our favorite thing to do.


Contrary to popular belief, we actually enjoy saving our customers money. If we can do it… we will. That is the most often misperceived thing in our industry.

We are not used car sales men/women (well most of us aren’t anyway). We are coming out the gate with our best policy and best rate all the time. If we can save you money on a policy but are cutting your coverage then we won’t do it. We will be honest with you, discuss with you, and help you implement a policy to best protect your family.

Ultimately, if you are under insured or over insured you are wasting your money. It is important to get the right amount of coverage so that way when you need it… it is everything you need it to be. Your agency must be everything you need it to be and in some cases more. Trust us… ask a ton of questions… but ultimately trust us.

We ain’t LAZY! – Erin Nutting

When you pick up the phone or search online for an insurance agent what do you picture in your mind?  Do you picture some guy smoking a cigar and laughing like a buffoon?

Because if that’s the case let me share with you that not only do we not get to “slack off”, we don’t have time to typically golf on a Tuesday mid morning, smoke cigars, or Don Draper it and drink Scotch in our offices. The generation of that insurance agent (for the most part) is gone.

In this day of the insurance age it is imperative that not only are we not lazy about our agency growth but that we are continuing to need to find new ways to bust open the seams that have been created for us with new innovative ways of marketing and driving business.

We have to be better than the “big names” we compete with. We have to be more efficient than Joe Bob down the street, and we have to be able to give back to our community to show how important it is to us.

We never ever stop moving.

So the next time you walk into an insurance agents office and he/she is sitting at his cluttered desk (or if you are like either one of our agencies) the clean paperless desk… just know we look calm on the outside but on the inside our brains our moving trying to think of everything that needs to be accomplished for us to look like we half way have it together.

Sure, are there exceptions to this rule? Yes of course. As with everything there are those exceptions, however check back in 2 years… they won’t be in business any longer.

I wish we got discounts- Joshua Lipstone

I can still remember these conversations. While I was in high school and throughout college I worked at a local golf store in Cary, North Carolina called Carolina Custom Golf. It was a wonderful family owned business with several locations across North Carolina.

As you may imagine there was a lot of downtime where we would all stand around and chat. We talked about anything and everything from sports to politics to religion and even insurance. Yes, I did say insurance.

Since my parents owned an insurance agency people would say to me, “Hey Josh, can your parents get me a discount on my insurance?”

Every time I’d have to answer with, “No I’m sorry they can’t get you a discount, even they don’t get a discount on their insurance.”

This would often perplex people that my parents didn’t get discounts on their insurance. I mean all companies, maybe not all companies but 98% of them, give discounts to their employees and most certainly the owners get discounts too.

Sadly in the insurance world we do not get discounts. We do however receive the commission from the policies we write. So in a round-about way we do get a “discount.”

But we still have to service ourselves.

We still have to pay our premium just like you do. It would be great if the insurance company would give us a discount because we do business with them, but sadly that is not the case.

I often tell people when their insurance premium goes up my premium goes up the same and I feel the pinch too.

Not another commercial- Joshua Lipstone

You can’t watch a TV show, a sporting event, or even something on Hulu without being bombarded by insurance companies advertising.

From the Gecko to Jake to Flo (yes I know I represent Progressive Insurance, but she gets on my nerve anyways) to Mayhem we are overwhelmed by the $6 billion plus, yes with a B, dollar’s that insurance companies spend on these commercials.

Some of them are better than others. One of my favorites is the Liberty Mutual one with the woman talking about Brad.


Here’s the problem though, they don’t explain everything.

Yes I know it’s hard to in 30 seconds, but it gives you a false sense of hope.

Most of the commercials that you see talk about things that aren’t available in all states (I’m looking at you Farmers Insurance who no longer does business in the state of North Carolina, but continues to advertise here).

Everyone loves to watch the Professor Burke in the Farmers Insurance commercials and they do a great job of highlighting that what you need is the right coverage, not the lowest price.

As an independent insurance agent what I want to do is find you the coverage you need, the experience you deserve, and all at a fair price.

Just like with anything you can find a lower price, but at what cost to you in the long run.

So as great as Maxwell the Pig is or watching Aaron Rogers do “the discount double check” think to yourself how do these insurance companies afford to spend that much money on advertising?

Think how much less your insurance would be if Geico Insurance didn’t spend $1.18 billion dollars or State Farm didn’t spend $803 billion dollars in 2013.

This is why I am an independent insurance agent because the majority of the companies I represent would rather save their money by not advertising and provide a better price to you.

So the next time you find yourself laughing at the latest Nationwide or Allstate commercial think about how much money that laugh cost you if you buy your insurance from them?

Albeit this article is meant to show you the diverse lifestyle of an independent insurance agent, the main goal is to also show our colleagues and customers that this is the new norm for insurance. We have accepted the challenge that has been set forth and we will redefine our industry one client at a time.

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