For me, an independent fitter is a fitter who does not work for any companies directly. Can you provide truly unbiased opinions on saddle fit while still accepting pay checks from other companies - sure. Each company that hires brand representatives operate differently but many have sales goals and pressures placed on the fitter that make it hard to operate truly "independently". Many of the brands also have limits or restrictions on if/when and how many other companies one of their representatives can sell for.
For me calling myself an independent fitter means that I have no conscious or subconscious obligation to encourage you to buy any particular brand. There is no additional pressure real or imagined to push you toward one brand or not. This frees me up to advise and fit a variety of saddles and be honest when I don't feel comfortable fitting a saddle to a horse. Being an independent fitter allows me to choose models and brands based on horse, rider and budget needs with no pressure from one individual company to promote their products specifically. It means that I can choose the brands and models I sell and work on based on what seems to work in my hands and how well the companies support me and my clients if and when concerns, questions or issues arise. It also means when you call me out you will get me, my knowledge base and a variety of saddles and options to order spanning over 10 different labels. You will not get a "company" line. It does not mean that I will know the ins and outs of every saddle brand produced but it does mean I have direct experience with quite a few different companies and models.
As an independent saddle fitter I have a degree of control that affords me the ability to set my schedule and attempt to find a work/life balance that suits me, it allows me to say "No" when I don't think I'm the right fit or my books are too full to be of service to new clients. It allows me to offer riders what I think they need not what I think needs to be sold. It allows me to attempt to control my inventory based on models and brands that seem to work best with no pressure to sell the newest thing.
What does hiring an Independent Saddle Fitter mean to you. What do you hope and expect to gain when hiring a fitter?