Representatives are there for the good times – and the bad

Nache, a Prescott Valley insurance agent who has owned his business since December 2000, said his route from clerical and warehouse duties to owner of an insurance business was a long one, but he added that young people with a propensity for sales can climb the ladder more quickly.

"If you're hired by an insurance agent," he explained, "and you do clerical work at first, you can work your way up to getting a license."

Nache said a person who wants to become an insurance agent can get started by working as an administrative assistant, and then often, agents will sponsor these assistants to get them through the licensing process (which costs between $150 and $200).

"If you start with an insurance office with the intention of working your way up, then you'll make above minimum wage," Nache said. As an agent working for another agent, people make a salary plus a commission. Then after building a client base, agents can open their own offices, like Nache has done.

Nache and other agents who sell insurance policies for a single company enter into contractual agreements with that company. Some agents, Nache said, choose to sell policies from more than one company.

"The toughest part of this job is prospecting," Nache said, referring to "cold calls," in which agents call the homes of prospective clients and try to set up appointments. After selling someone a policy, however, the agent can count on continued income, since policies are renewable.

To become a good insurance agent, Nache said, a person must have an outgoing personality for networking, be good with numbers for financial planning, possess leadership skills, want to learn about financial planning and want to help other people. Prospective insurance agents must also have a thick skin, since clients often call in angry after a car accident or a robbery.

Nache said insurance agents' families generally require two incomes, especially at the beginning of a career. But when agents own their businesses, they make more money and can make their own hours, leaving time for children's school ceremonies, soccer practice or special meetings.

"None of us is against hiring young people," Nache said of insurance agents in general. "When I started, I hired a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old. They were bright and ambitious, so I hired them."

While Nache said a college degree is not necessary for an insurance agent, his degree in business really helps.

Nache said he likes meeting with his clients during the day – "that part's really fun" – and loves being a problem solver for people.

"You learn a lot about crisis management in this job," he said. "It's good training for life."