#IAlife*

What is it like to be an independent adjuster who works all the cat deployments they want every year, and maybe has a fun hobby side hustle they do in their downtime?

What does it look like on the other side of all of the chaos, dead-ends, false-starts, expensive gear, and even more expensive training that has no guarantee of getting you anywhere? 

All of the headaches you encounter getting started are just a bootcamp for what's to come.  Because if you can navigate your way through all of this getting-started stuff, if you can pick yourself up and dust yourself off when you get knocked on your rear (and you WILL get knocked on your rear), if you can set your jaw and grit your teeth and really put your shoulder into this - and just not take no for an answer - then you'll be the kind of person who will do very well as an Independent Adjuster.

I've been a field adjuster for 20 years. 

19 of those years it was as an IA and one as a staff adjuster.  I didn't start out as a staffer, like so many folks do.  But instead, in late 2016, my wife and I decided to plant ourselves in one place so that we could have better access to our fertility doc.  

But after some frustration getting pregnant, we moved on and I left my staff position after a year.  Very soon after that, I founded AdjusterTV.

And AdjusterTV was something that I had been thinking about and dreaming about for a long time.  It's just one of those things - nothing will happen until you take the some action, right?

So I've been not taking no with ATV for going on 2 years now.  And you know where that NO comes from?  It comes from me.

In the form of:  

  • Procrastination

  • Not believing that AdjusterTV will help anybody or that anybody will even watch

  • Not believing that I can truly add value to our industry

  • Wondering if all of the long hours and late nights will ever add up to anything 

Ironically, it's my career as a cat property adjuster that has actually made AdjusterTV possible.  If I had a regular 9 to 5 job that I had to show up to year round, I would never have had the downtime between cat deployments that I really needed to get the foundation for AdjusterTV built.

Everything I’ve had to do building AdjusterTV I also had to do in building my career as an adjuster.

You know, video is a passion of mine.  I love the gear, the storytelling, the technical side of it, and the people side of it.

It’s what also draws me to claims.

So for me, one of the greatest things about being a cat IA is that I can explore my personal passions - in depth and with extra money if I need it - on the side.  In the off-season, I can travel and shoot video and hone my craft so that I can actually make money with it on the side if I want to.

And I can live wherever in the country I want to.


Everything you need to know about getting started as an Independent Adjuster, in one 40 minute video. Check it out!

 
 

It wasn't always like this though.  When I got started I made some pretty serious mistakes that held me back from getting on first call lists for years longer than it should have.

  • I didn't network. This alone would have made a massive difference in the number of deployments I received early in my career. I didn't go to my first adjuster conference until 2012 and that was the Xactware Elevate user conference. I didn't do a ridealong with any adjusters when I got started, which would have been invaluable for me to see how a good adjuster gets things done AND to make friends with more experienced adjusters who could give me the inside track on deployments and other opportunities. Which is the heart of networking.

    • For AdjusterTV AND as an independent adjuster, I'm attending at least one good conference a year going forward.

  • I didn't get deeper training in damage ID and construction. The quality of my early files wasn't the best. I was getting dinged for missing damage, for paying for stuff that WASN'T damaged, and for writing incomplete estimates because I just didn't know what drip edge was or if drywall texture can be spot repaired or not.

  • I didn't get MORE licenses. Yes, I complain about working in New York state. But every IA firm I've spoken to calls NY the Golden Ticket license. And why? Is it because NY deployments are better? Not necessarily.. The reason they call it that is because if you apply to their roster and you have a NY license on your resume, they'll fast-track you to the front of the line of people applying to be on their roster - of all the things you can do to demonstrate to an IA firm that you're serious about being an IA, there's really nothing better than the cumbersome and time-consuming licensing process for NY. It's THAT important. I don't have a NY license because I prefer to not to work in New York. But an adjuster with my level of experience can walk on to pretty much any roster they want to. However, when I was getting started? If I had known that the NY license would be so valuable to IA firms, I would have definitely gotten the NY license AND would have dropped everything to run up there and work doing whatever they asked me to for as long as they needed me to.

  • I didn't get advanced Xactimate training. Let me just humblebrag for a second: I'm fast in Xactimate. But it took me YEARS to get that way and it was all trial and error and sudden A HA moments when I figured out a hack, workaround, or a new keyboard shortcut.

    • Being fast in Xactimate is more than just using macros and knowing the category code for countertops. You MUST learn the quirks of the software if you want to be able to close claims quickly.

  • Finally, early on, I would have sought out daily assignments in the downtime instead of going to the beach for months on end. Preserving that cat income with quality off-season work that I could start and stop easily, even from the start, would have set me up for an early retirement. In addition to that, building relationships with other daily IA firms (who mostly also do cat), would have provided me with greater deployment opportunities as well (which brings us back to networking).

The rewards of this career are great.  Its not for everybody though.  It's risky, yes.  But it's far riskier for people who don't have the courage and perseverance to keep pushing through when big challenges get in their way.  It's not for the faint of heart. 

But if you've got some grit and you're not afraid to take a leap into a risky, but very much worth world where you get to decide how you want to work, then becoming an Independent Adjuster is for you.

Thank you so much for watching and have a great storm!

In this video, I share some insights into why I love being a cat IA. I also show a bunch of the best footage from some of my side-hustle video projects I’ve done for clients over the years.

Enjoy!

*I almost used #CATlife buuuuttt…..

 
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Claims Process Checklist + Download

One of the most important things you can do to improve your time management skills as an adjuster is to plan.

Having a written checklist that's taped to your wall or is a doc on your computer is an excellent way of keeping track of the critical required tasks you have to complete in order to have a complete claim to send up.

Also, using a checklist along with a timer, you can see how much time you spend on each item on your list and then work to figure out how to reduce that time so you can close claims faster.

It's one thing to say we're streamlining our workflow.  That can and should mean we cut things out that aren't contributing to our outcome of a closed claim.

However, not everything can be cut out and in some cases, the process can't be trimmed any further.  

So how can a claims checklist make you faster?  

Reason #1

Building speed in claims requires repetition.  And when we know exactly what's required, we can concentrate on building up smoothness and speed.  If we're winging it and counting on trying to remember each step as we go, we'll lose momentum because we're spending energy trying to remember.  Also, imagine if you were trying to remember how to drive a stick, but you didn't know how many gears there were or when to shift?  You'd spend all your time trying to figure out how to do it and not really getting anywhere.

So in order to build that muscle memory, we want to be able to move from step to step without flailing around trying to figure out what's next.

Reason #2

So much time is wasted doing corrections.  Many times those corrections are a direct result of forgetting to do something in the claim.

If we run through our checklist as we're doing our claim, we're far less likely to forget steps (for example: "complete hail damage evaluation;" "complete preferred contractor questionnaire").

Reason #3

Time lost doing reinspections and supplements because we missed damage.  Your checklist can and should include steps for different kinds of claims - something as simple as reminders to ask about interior damage on hail claims or to check for personal property damage in the yard, etc.  

It can also save time in your scheduling if you ask ahead of time how many outbuildings there are (strangely, nothing adds time to your field inspections quite like outbuilding inspections).  You'll know ahead of time what you're getting into if you add things like this to your workflow checklist.

I recommend putting a full one up on your wall in your hotel room and having another field one attached to your clipboard for quick reference (you can even laminate it and attach it to your clipboard so that you have a quick reference).

Download a free, editable Claims Checklist with Intake, Scoping, and Estimating checklists:

 
 

Plan Your Year Month by Month

OOPS!! In the video I say that hurricane season peaks in mid-October - I misspoke! The peak is mid-September.

Make sure that you’re being productive every month!

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As cat adjusters, we’re not always working, but we should always be finding ways to protect our savings and make ourselves more marketable.

Check out this episode of AdjusterTV to learn more!

Forget About Hurricanes

The first time most adjusters heard about catastrophe claims was when a hurricane hit and somebody they knew was gone for a couple of months - and then came home with a pile of money in the bank.

But hurricanes don’t happen every year so how does an IA make any money doing cat work?

Learn more in this episode of AdjusterTV.

Haag Engineering Certified Inspector Program: https://haagcertifiedinspector.com/

(SHOCKING) Some Roofers Cheat

It’s a sad fact, insurance claims and the restoration contracting work that arises from it can be fraught with dishonesty - yes, on both sides.

When an adjuster denies obvious damage because they have an ax to grind with a roofer, that’s as bad as a roofer who is trying to get an undamaged roof bought.

Thankfully, in my experience both of these situations are pretty rare.

And, admittedly, just as rare is the scenario I present in this episode of AdjusterTV..

I’ve caught it three times in my career, but I’m sure it occurs much more often. What is it?

A roof salesperson overcharges a customer.

I know, I know.. it’s probably not all that rare.

NOTE TO ROOFERS and other contractors: Situations like this make it difficult to take the tears and bellyaching that comes when we tell you we can’t pay extra for plain ridgecap or 4 extra roofer hours for realigning satellite dishes.

But in this case, the roofer overcharged the insured by at least 5 times.

The two prior times this has come up, it was when I went to settle with the insured and they flipped their lid when they saw how much I was going to give them for their roof. They frantically shook the paid invoices for when they had the roof replaced the year before and in both cases paid at least 3 times what Xactimate came up with.

So what do you do in this situation?

Calmly explain that you’ll be happy to work with whatever contractor they choose. Let them know that once they start getting estimates to call back if they’re coming in higher for the same scope of work.

In the first case (Wisconsin 2008) the insured called me back 3 weeks later to apologize. He learned that he got taken to the cleaners. He told me he should have gotten more than one estimate to get the work done.

Never heard back from the second guy (Brooklyn, NY 2012).

I will always maintain that contractors are, by and large, an honest bunch who are just trying to build their businesses and make a living.

But there are bad apples among them and it’s an uphill battle for them to overcome the conventional wisdom about contractors.

Same goes for IA’s.

Ten of My Favorite Books

I love reading and am always reading something..

I read fiction on my Kindle, business books on Audible, and I buy cookbooks so I can have them open in the kitchen without worrying about splashing my phone or computer with animal guts.

Anyway, the following list of books is just a small sample of the business/personal development books I’ve read over the last few years and are some of my favorite.

If you love book lists like this, let me know in the comments and I’ll make more videos like this!

7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey https://amzn.to/2DQPW84

Financial Peace Revisited Dave Ramsey https://amzn.to/2raLwkK

Profit First Mike Michalowicz https://amzn.to/2KIMhdU

Meaning of Marriage Timothy Keller https://amzn.to/2Rou203

Benjamin Franklin Walter Isaacson https://amzn.to/2KHrs2w

Organize Tomorrow Today Selk, Bartow, Rudy https://amzn.to/2rdUMEY

The Obstacle Is the Way Ryan Holiday https://amzn.to/2P9Xmp8

The One Thing Gary Keller and Jay Papasan https://amzn.to/2P7Iyal

Atomic Habits James Clear https://amzn.to/2TWubtb

Independent Adjuster's Playbook Chris Stanley https://amzn.to/2SiVegM

Disclosure: these are affiliate links which earn me very small commissions if you use them - at no cost to you. If you’re not into that, don’t worry! My feelings aren’t hurt. But no matter where or how you buy them, let me know if you’ve read any of these in the comments!

You've got your adjuster license.. now what??

Okay, so you got your adjuster license..

What’s next?

  1. Don’t quit your day job!!  I highly recommend that you ramp up your claims career starting as a side hustle for your regular current job.  Two ways to do this:

    1. Property photo inspections

    2. Auto photo inspections - and auto - at this point in 2018 is probably the best option in the short term.  You can get up and running extremely quickly and do everything through an app.  Property is good for this as well, but it’s mostly wind/hail at the moment.  That’s changing, but it might be a couple of years before there are property photo inspection opportunities on more complex claims like water claims - GET STARTED HERE.

    3. One of the major benefits of doing this is so that after you quit your day job to go on a cat deployment, you will have built up a nice side hustle that you can stop and start whenever you want - for example:  when you get home from your first storm and don’t know when the next one is.

  2. Save back some money - how much?  Well, this is what I recommend:

    1. An emergency fund of at least three months of living expenses for your family

    2. A storm fund of at least 4 weeks of expenses that you’re likely to have on a cat deployment - fuel, hotel, food, supplies, Xactimate subscription, etc.

    3. If you don’t already have your storm gear (laptop, ladder, etc), you’ll need money set aside to pay for those things BEFORE you get deployed.  

    4. And for training, which we’ll talk about in number 3:

  3. Get trained up yo - The only time I will ever tell you to go on a storm without some kind of training under your belt is if hurricane Katrina is about to make landfall.  With some guidance, you can stumble your way through a huge event like that and have a chance of coming out the other side with some money and the start to a career.

    1. But because those kind of events don’t happen every year, you need to get training

    2. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say forevermore - you can make more as a cat adjuster than 99% of people coming out of college with BA.  

      1. So I don’t want you to skimp on your training.  Switching over to becoming a cat IA is a big deal and to make the kind of money that you’ve heard you can make, you have to be ALL IN.  So much so that it’s really a lifestyle more than a career.

      2. So dig around and find the absolute best training you can get and spend the money on it.  

      3. If you look at it this way, if you get top-shelf training and get your career started properly, you’ll probably be able to pay yourself back for that high quality training in a season or two.  

      4. I mean, would you spend $10,000 if you KNEW that it would return 10x that?  

Wrap up - So there you have it:  the top three things to do after you get your license:

  1. Start a photo inspection side hustle so you can ease in and get paid while doing it.

  2. Start saving for your emergency fund, your gear and expenses, and your training

  3. Get the very best training you can

Make Money on Your First Hurricane - Extended Training Video

I thought it would be helpful for you to have as much info as I can give you to help you do well on your first hurricane deployment.

I was planning on doing this live, but because I jump into xm8 and xactanalysis I decided to record it and release it here instead.

It’s a long one, but I did my best to not ramble. There’s a lot of info here!

What's the Best Ladder for Catastrophe Claims Work?

For property catastrophe claims, your ladder is one of your most important pieces of gear.  

Choosing a ladder that's sturdy, safe, and easy for YOU to handle is very important.  

Find out more in this episode of AdjusterTV..

How to Get Your Files Approved (Fast and Easy)

The gatekeeper to you getting your billing invoice paid is a very important person called the FILE REVIEWER.

The IA firm will have a team of file reviewers who's job is to make sure that the files the company is sending to the insurance company are good quality and follow the carrier estimating guidelines.

The Carrier will have teams of file reviewers to make double sure that the IA firm is giving them a quality product.

For IA's, our closed claim files are our product.  

So it's extremely important for us as adjusters to do the very best job we can on every file, large or small.

In this video I start at the beginning and walk you all the way through a typical file review.  You'll learn:

  • What things are automatic kickback triggers

  • How to properly respond to a correction request

  • Why doing your own mini file review on every claim before you send it up is so important

Thanks for watching and I hope this helps you save time and get more assignments on your deployments!

Water Claims 101

 

In this video, I talk in depth about the three biggest things I do to make quick work of large water losses.  

Water claims can be great money and you can do them pretty fast if you have a detailed plan for getting through them.

We also go over how being thorough when putting together your claim file can have a really beneficial effect on your career.

Water claims can be daunting, but they're not that bad if you muster up a little courage and follow the steps I outline in the video.  

This video is a bit longer so let me know if you like a longer format in the comments.

Enjoy!

Should You accept work as a Virtual Assist?

 

If you've spent any time on social media, you have likely seen some heated discussion about Virtual Assist.  Or it may not have even been discussions.  It may have been that somebody posted a question about it and then 150 comments appeared almost instantly that completely bash the idea and calling anybody who wants to do it a bunch of names that would make even a sailor blush.

What is a Virtual Assist (VA)?

In a nutshell:  A VA is a person who performs only the inspection in the claims process.  

They'll use an app on their smartphone and get on a live video call with a licensed desk adjuster (DA).  The desk adjuster will direct the VA on how to scope the house and what photos to take.  

That's it.  

There's nothing else to it.

A VA gets a notification on their phone that there's an inspection available and they can either accept or decline it.  All the rest of the work - contacting the insured, writing the estimate, labeling photos, making a policy decision, etc. - is handled by the trained and licensed DA.

There are pros and cons, of course, but in this case the pros heavily outweigh the cons.

In my opinion, two big pros are that for the companies who also hire licensed field adjusters being a VA can count as experience and in some cases is a first step towards getting on the IA roster.  The second one is that a VA will be able to learn how to scope a lot of houses under the direction of an experienced adjuster - there's no pressure to do anything else so the VA can focus on this one very critical piece of the claims handling process.  When the opportunity comes up to handle a full claim file, the person who has experience as a VA will easily be able to hit the ground running.

Pros:

  • no license required

  • no certifications required

  • no phone calls

  • no negotiation

  • no estimate writing

  • counts as experience with some companies

  • allows a newbie to learn how to scope without too much pressure

Cons:

  • only wind/hail right now

  • volume is relatively low, but quickly increasing

  • pays less than what a licensed field adjuster would make for the same claim

What does it pay?

As of right now, I only know what Madsky and Pilot pay for their programs.

August 2018: 

  • Madsky is paying a flat fee of $150 per inspection

  • Pilot is paying between $72.50 and $202.50 per inspection

I asked Pilot how they've structured their pay and they said this:

"Inspectors currently receive anywhere from $72.50-$202.50 per assignment, depending on what the assignment entails and their experience level. For example, the most common inspection type currently pays $110 at the low end and $132 on the high end. Your manager can explain how your pay is structured and how it is determined. You will know what your pay rate is for each type of inspection prior to you accepting or rejecting an assignment.”

Should you accept VA work?  As somebody who's done VA work, I can tell you that it's an easy way to make $150 in about 35 minutes without all the hassle of a full blown claim.  But as an experienced adjuster I will only accept VA work in the absence of regular cat work.  

For new people, I think it's an excellent way to get started in property claims.  

What I Learned Selling Roofs

As a long-time cat adjuster, it was VERY difficult for me to say to a friend who offered me a job as a roof salesman on a hail storm some years back.  But things were a little slow and I figured at the minimum, I could make a little extra money.

I got way more than I bargained for!

The insight I got into how contractors are treated by adjusters has helped shape how I run claims today.  

Oh man, was it ever eye-opening!  

Check out the video below and if you're a storm restoration contractor, on behalf of all my adjuster brothers and sisters let me just say:  "I'm sorry."  

Three Keys To Success on Your First Hurricane

Ever wonder why so many new adjusters quit or get kicked off of their first hurricane?  

They got the training, they have licenses, they did a couple of ridealongs..  so why isn't that enough preparation?

The thing is, the only way to TRULY learn how to do this job is trial by fire.  You have to be deployed to truly understand everything.  

No book, video, course, or bootcamp will truly prepare you for a hurricane.  

So you MUST have a plan for your schedule that allows you ROOM TO LEARN.  It's going to be chaos, I promise.  

In this video, I go over the top three things you can do to create that space so that you can get all of your work done and still have time to learn the process.

Manage Your Storm Down to the Hour

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As a cat adjuster, your priority is volume.  If you’ve never worked cat, but you’ve worked daily claims or worked as a staff adjuster or contractor, understand that closing as many claims as possible during the day is the name of the game.  If it’s light out, you’re on a roof.  You’re not getting paid by the hour.

 
 

So your main tasks during the day are:

  1. inspections

  2. corrections

  3. callbacks

  4. first contacts

Inspections are the most important thing and will take up the bulk of your day.  But if you build in an hour or 90 minutes to get caught up on calls and to call any new claims you get that day, you’ll thank yourself later.  Getting back to your hotel room at 8:30pm isn’t a great time to make calls.

If you get claims sent back to you - and you will, everybody does - you have 24 hours to make the corrections and reupload.  In many cases you have to call the insured if the corrections resulted in a change in their settlement amount.  Corrections WILL happen so why not build in some time to deal with them during your day so they don’t get lost in the shuffle?

The bottom line is that you need to be closing quality claims quickly and the only way to do it is to be hyper organized.  

Claim Workflow

In a nutshell, these are the things that will almost always happen in a claim, no matter if it’s a tiny water spot on the ceiling or a 30 building apartment complex that’s burned to the ground (you could probably retire for the year on that claim)

  1. receive claim

  2. print claim

  3. route and schedule claim

  4. contact insured and set appointment

  5. inspection:

    1. scope

    2. write

      1. estimate

      2. diary/GLR

      3. claim summary

      4. damage eval

      5. invoice

    3. settle on site

  6. upload completed claim

Each part of this process presents opportunities to streamline your workflow and make it more efficient.  

The Four Day Cycle

Manage every hour of your storm with the following Four Day Cycle guide:

Days One, Two, and Three

  1. your first inspections. 9am. If you’re brand new, I recommend doing just this one today. After you complete this inspection, head back to the office and sit down with a field support person or your manager and get this claim closed all the way.

Day Four

  1. paper day - today is the day that you set for yourself as a buffer. Some people call it an admin day, an office day, or an underwear day (because you’re in your undies all day in your hotel room).

    1. use this day to get caught up, to return calls, to write up supplements and corrections. Keep in mind that you should be doing these things EVERY day, but your paper day is for making sure that you don’t fall behind.

    2. guard the underwear day. It’s here to help you win.

Repeat until you’re done with your claims.

What Is a Cat Adjuster?

 
 

What is a Cat Adjuster anyway?  Before I started doing this back in 1999, I had never even heard of a catastrophe adjuster.  I peripherally understood that insurance companies had people who handled claims, but it was the same awareness I had that oil companies hired geologists or cruise ships had pursers (I still don't know what a purser is).

In the context of this blog and my career, a catastrophe adjuster is an independent contractor who works on an event-by-event basis.  That is, we get a call from a vendor - aka an IA Firm - to go to Wisconsin or Colorado to handle claims for an insurance company.  Once we finish with the claims that have come in, we go home to wait for the next one.  While we're home, we make sure our licenses and certifications are up to date.  Other than that, we do whatever we want.  Ideally, we will work enough during storm season to support ourselves throughout the year.

The type of claims we do are generally weather-related but can also include man-made accidents, geologic catastrophes like earthquakes and mudslides, and wildfires.  What we don't do generally are thefts, regular house fires, vandalism, and other regular claims that insurance companies let staff adjusters or independent daily adjusters handle.  In general, independent adjusters are there to handle the overflow, the extra claims that staff people can't handle because they've already got a full workload of regular claims.

Many insurance companies keep people on their payrolls to handle catastrophe only claims, but many don't.  Both will generally need to hire extras when there's a large number of claims coming in.  It's more cost-effective for them to pay independent contractors a fee per claim because there are always years where there are no catastrophes for an insurance company and why pay for company cars, laptops, cell phones, health insurance, etc., for somebody to sit at home waiting for the phone to ring?

It's a great career and I've done very well with it through busy years and even the not so busy years.  

Have more questions about being an independent adjuster?  Come and talk to us over at the AdjusterTV private Facebook group:  www.facebook.com/groups/adjustertv