Yes, you can make more than that, and yes, you will put in a lot of 80+ hour weeks to do so. The upside is that your time as an IA is rewarded with bigger checks, rather than the occasional bonus or "outstanding employee" trophy for your mantle. The only positive affirmation that IA's get is a paycheck. There are rarely pats on the back or "hey, great job!"s. As an independent contractor, you are expected to do a good job, so nobody feels the need to tell you if you did. On the other hand, we are all happy to vocalize our displeasure :).
You might want to consider what kind of adjuster you plan to be: daily or catastrophe?
A lot of people claim to be both, and they are to a degree, but I can tell you first hand that the guys that are "both" are relegated to the "b-list" on the daily side of things, no matter how good of an adjuster they may be. Daily business yields similar money to catastrophe, but you tend to work all year to get it (usually), whereas catastrophe business is a lot of rushing and longer hours punctuated by larger checks and lots of dead time (depending on the year), and sometimes some fretting about the next time the wind will blow. Keep in mind that if you leave a daily vendor (or several of them) to run catastrophes, it can take a long time to rebuild your daily business, as you will be replaced and the act of leaving the territory open will foster competition in your daily territory. This can ultimately cost you much, much more in the long haul than a single catastrophe event will bring.
If you genuinely plan to go independent, plan on it taking several months to build enough business to pay the mortgage (unless you are going cat, in which case disregard all of this and don't quit your staff position till you are asked to deploy). Plan on taking claims 300 miles away with no mileage just to "get your foot in the door". Plan on working a lot of weekends and evenings revising reports that your supervisor/examiner at whatever vendor ends up hiring you wants "just right and done yesterday". Plan on driving hundreds of miles and spending quite a bit on hotel rooms to attend conventions that usually don't yield claims but do yield certifications that you may or may not have use for, all in the name of "networking". Plan on missing a lot of birthdays and barbecues. Plan on a great surge of pride when you realize that you are doing it all to work for yourself and get out of the cubicle. Plan on there being 2-3 slower months per year (which months will vary depending on your location), and these will require proper financial preparation. If you have squirreled away a healthy winter nut, these slow times can be very enjoyable.
The trick to being a great IA (and we have a lot of them at Accelerated) is to make sure you are insanely self motivated. This means that if you get a claim this afternoon, if you are not scheduled out, go see it, this afternoon. Write it up tonight. If you get a revision request, and you are on the road, stop for coffee, pop in the changes and get it off your desk. Be unusually responsive to your clients; always answer the phone or call or email back within minutes. When you get a claim assignment, make first contact as soon as you get the claim
. Maintain constant communication with insureds (this keeps them calling you with questions, rather than the agent, broker, carrier or DOI). And last but not least, remember that the key to being successful as an IA is to adopt the Accelerated company motto:
Today's business, today!