When you’re just starting out as a health insurance broker, there are a few things you need to do to get your business up and running. But remember, each of these steps doesn’t have to happen right away, they can happen as your career grows. What you need to concentrate on first is networking, getting in front of potential clients, and feeling comfortable with what you’re selling.
But, assuming you work hard and your commission checks start to come in, there will be a time when you want to formalize your business. Here’s a checklist that may help you.
PICK A NAME AND REGISTER IT
People need to know who is behind your business and you want to prevent others from infringing on your company name. When you’re a one-person shop, it’s important to choose a good name for your business – one that reflects what you do and your business structure. Many brokers end up naming their business after themselves, but it’s really up to you. Here are some options:
- DBA (doing business as) or fictitious name – file with the state where you’re located.
- Official business (sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation) – file with your local and state governments where you reside or where your business is located.
- Trademark – file with the S. Patent and Trademark office if you want national protection or if you’ll be writing business outside of your state borders or online. Be sure you do your homework before applying.
You can use your name as it appears on your insurance license or adopt a more “creative” name. You can even start a naming contest online with assistance from SquadHelp. Or, you can do a free business name search at LegalZoom.
Where to Register: Some states allow online registration; others make you file paper documents in person or through the mail. Most states require registration through the Secretary of State’s office, a business bureau, or similar agency. You can find local assistance by ZIP Code here, or general information about launching and registering your business here.
PICK A STRUCTURE
The business structure you choose will affect many aspects of your business – from your personal liability to how you file your taxes. The most common business types are sole proprietorship, partnership (including limited liability partnership or LLP), corporation (including limited liability corporation or LLC), and S corporation. Each comes with different tax consequences, which you’ll want to consider before making your choice. The SBA, LegalZoom, and Entrepreneur offer some guidance here, too.
FILE YOUR START-UP PAPERWORK
This is different from your state insurance license. Most small businesses need a combination of licenses and permits from federal, state, and local or regional agencies. The requirements – and your fees – for each will vary based on your location and government rules and regulations. Your new federal and state IDs will be needed for your tax forms, bank accounts, etc. Tips on starting a new business and filing and paying taxes are available on the IRS website. The California Secretary of State’s office offers information here.
SET UP YOUR BUSINESS WEBSITE
Setting up a website does not need to be as complicated as you might think. Websites like Shopify and Wix offer simple templates where you can choose the design you like and personalize it with your information – no website experience necessary! You’ll also want to choose your website address, so start with GoDaddy where you can find which address names are available and purchase them, sometimes for less than $15.
CHOOSE A WORK EMAIL ADDRESS
Make sure your email address is easy to spell. If you have a difficult name, consider simplifying it for email purposes. Maybe use email@example.com or something similar. If you set up your own website, you may have the option to create an email that matches your website name. It may be priced and billed separately, with a cost for each email user. This pricing table shows some of the available services from Google.
GET A QUOTING TOOL
To sell insurance, you have to offer custom proposals to clients. That’s where we at Word & Brown come in. Our WBQuote quoting tool offers customizable output with highlighted plan differences. It’s easy for you to compare your client’s existing plan to new options, zeroing in on details like co-pays, prescription drug benefits, or other features. Run quotes on your own – or we’ll do it for you. It’s your choice. Ask your representative for more information.
SET UP YOUR BUSINESS ACCOUNTS AND BOOKKEEPING
A separate checking account can help you at tax time, as can professional bookkeeping software. Consider QuickBooks or a similar program to track your income and expenses. Intuit offers free tutorials here, or get info on paid classes.
TALK WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS
New brokers often get their first sales from friends and family. If they are not interested in (or able) to buy something from you, they may be able to share the names and contact information for others who could use your help. Ask for referrals!
TAKE A BREATH
It may seem like a lot of steps, but this checklist includes important information as you start your business and begin your new career.
Another thing to consider – after Step 2 or 3 – is “Set up your business location.” If you’re working from home when you begin, there’s less to do; however, if you’re setting up a shared office space or physical storefront, you will need to think about where you want your business. Close to your home may be convenient, but it may be further from your targeted clients. Consider that as part of your planning.
Best wishes for success!