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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 1 month ago

Numbers game: Bookkeeper moonlights as insurance saleswoman

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An accounting firm owner decided to augment her company’s offerings by trying out insurance on the side. She's been a quick success — hitting six figures in sales in three months.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Executive: Carmen Luciano, 65, founder and owner of Multi Servicios Latino America LLC, a Port Charlotte accounting and bookkeeping firm that caters to the Southwest Florida Hispanic community.

Side hustle: Insurances sales. Luciano has been one of the most successful participants in Clearwater-based Strategic Insurance Services’ side hustle program, which launched in January 2019. Luciano says she’s tallied $100,000 in sales in a span of three months. “I had always wanted to do insurance,” she says, “but I didn’t have the time for classes.”

‘A lot of people buy insurance because they think it’s cheap but they’re not getting anything; they don’t have the coverage that they need.’ Carmen Luciano, founder and owner of Multi Servicios Latino America LLC

Flex-time focus: Luciano says the flexibility of the SIS program made it possible for her to continue to run her business while she studied for the tests she needed to pass in order to obtain her insurance sales licenses. SIS founder and owner Doug Levi and his staff were there to guide her, she says. “He dedicated a whole year to training me,” she says. “Every time I would call, somebody would help me.” Luciano also traveled to SIS headquarters for a few days in December to get hands-on, in-person training.

Paper chase: The biggest challenge in adding insurance sales to her repertoire is the overwhelming amount of paperwork required. “There’s a lot of paperwork, a lot of signatures required, a lot of forms that need to be filled out and kept,” she says. “It’s a big paper trail. The difference is, when I do a tax return, I send it to the IRS and if it’s accepted, I don’t have to see it anymore. The insurance, it’s always there.”

Time commitment: Luciano’s side hustle consumes about 20 hours per week, leaving her scrambling to keep up with her accounting, bookkeeping, payroll and tax preparation duties. Her four employees have helped ease the burden. “We still keep the same hours,” she says, “and I’m still working the same hours.”

Spread the word: Luciano is fortunate in that many of her existing customers jumped at the chance to buy insurance from her. She still spends about $800 per month for advertising, mostly on ads that run three to four times per day, during tax season, on a Spanish-language radio station in the area.

Do the splits: SIS takes a cut of Luciano’s sales — as much as 40% — but she has no complaints, saying she’s happy to take a 60% commission because of the value she receives from the firm’s support system for its side hustlers, most of whom are new to insurance sales. “Doug has a good group of people there, very professional, a good team,” Luciano says. “They always guide me and help me.”

Fine print: Luciano says you should be prepared to make — and learn from — mistakes when embarking on a side hustle, particularly in a complicated industry like insurance sales. An example stems for a misunderstanding with her son's insurance policy she helped him get, which resulted in spending $18,000 to repair his pool. (She helped him with that cost.) "It was my mistake," she says. "Making mistakes is the biggest challenge, but that’s how you learn.”

Too good? Luciano says she’s lost out on some business because she wasn’t prepared for how successful her side hustle would be. The lesson: Build a cushion in your schedule in case your part-time gig takes off. “I’ll do better this year,” she says. “Last year, sometimes people would come in but I didn’t have the time to go through the whole application and paperwork, and they would have to go somewhere else.”

Fill a need: Luciano says it’s important for businesspeople to seek out markets not being adequately served, and a side hustle is a low-risk way to do that. Not only can it be good for business, but also it can bring a renewed sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. In her case, she’s helping the Southwest Florida Hispanic community make more informed choices about their insurance needs. “A lot of people buy insurance because they think it’s cheap but they’re not getting anything; they don’t have the coverage that they need,” she says. “Sometimes they’re not educated enough to understand, so I sit with them and explain what they have and what they should have. And then they understand and they feel good.”

 

Click here to read more about regional professionals and their side hustles.

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