The bail bonds business sees more than $2.3 billion dollars in annual revenue, even after a drop in performance in 2018. The legal system needs many people in different roles to keep working, after all. Bail bonds agents provide a vital service that keeps the legal world going.
It’s not your typical job, either. To succeed, you’ll need to work hard, manage your own business, and understand the law.
The idea of running your own business can intimidate new agents. How do you build your business? What’s the bail bonds business model?
Don’t worry. Keep reading and we’ll go over everything.
Making a Business Plan
You need to remember that the bail bonds business model is still a business model, and still works like a business. Like any business, getting started means you have to have a business plan.
You can make two kinds of business plans: lean startup or traditional.
A traditional business plan lays out everything you’ll need to do to get started. It also covers a lot of market research that you’ll need to do before getting started. Answering questions like, “What’s the market for bail bonds near me?” and “How much revenue can I reasonably expect?” happens here.
A lean startup plan works the same way but strips out what some might see as excess. Listing out major relationships, customer segments, and other key information is enough here. Each section will only be a few paragraphs.
The Small Business Administration makes information on both types of plans available on its website and provides some example plans of each type. Start here if you want to approach the bail bonds business plan like a pre-flight checklist.
Types of Bail Bonds Businesses
Like any business, the type of business you want to be plays a key role in how you’ll interact with government organizations and be taxed. The four most common types of business include sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
A sole proprietorship treats the business and the owner as the same legal entity.
You don’t need to do anything to become a sole proprietorship, other than start collecting business income. If you do business under an organization name, like “Joe’s Bail Bonds,” you’ll need to register that name with the South Carolina Secretary of State.
A partnership works more or less the same way a sole proprietorship does, but with multiple people involved. If you oversee basic bail bondsman duties while a friend handles office tasks, you have a partnership. Much like with a sole proprietorship, you don’t need any formal organization, though it’ll protect you and your partners to sign an agreement on how things will operate.
An LLC adds some complications, but it’s a good way to protect your personal assets while you run your business. You still pay taxes on income from an LLC the same way you would if it were a sole proprietorship, but your liability if something goes wrong stays with the company. You won’t get all the same protections of a corporation, but you get a lot of them.
To make an LLC, you file Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State. These lay out the name of your business, what it does, and how it does it.
A corporation operates as a separate entity from the individual in all ways, but the income from a corporation faces double taxation. You can also solicit investors with more flexibility.
For individual bail bondsmen, becoming a corporation is probably overkill. Bail bond corporations operate as large entities overseeing many bondsmen, rather than individual businesses.
What Does a Bail Bondsman Do?
The day-to-day operation of your business as a bail bondsman will involve posting bonds to the state on behalf of people who would otherwise be in jail. We call the usual form of this agreement a surety bond.
Surety bonds create a three-way contract between the person who needs it (the accused), the obligee (the state), and the entity issuing it (you or your business). The person who needs it agrees to behave in a certain way, and the entity issuing the bond agrees to pay the obligee if the terms are broken.
With a bail bond, the accused pays the bondsman a percentage of the bond, the bondsman gives the full bond to the state, and the state lets the accused out of jail. The accused shows up to their court date, and the bondsman receives the money they gave to the state back.
In the ideal case, everyone walks away happy. The accused doesn’t have to front the full cost of the bond, the state gets its day in court with the accused, and the bondsman keeps the percentage of the bond they charged.
Unique Startup Challenges for Bail Bondsmen
Bail bondsmen have to go through a few extra steps before starting their businesses. In addition to filing with the Secretary of State, they must also get a license from the Department of Insurance.
The Department of Insurance lays out the licensing requirements on its website. In short, bondsmen must take a course, sit for an exam, fill out a questionnaire, and get fingerprinted.
Hit the Ground Running
While this covers the basics of operating in the field of bail bonds, you might still have more questions. You could be wondering, “How do I catch people who skip town?” or “What do I do to keep my license once I get it?”
That’s fine. We’re in the business of helping people start their business. Check out our FAQ on getting started, or contact us if you need more information.