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How to Become a Bail Bondsman in 8 Steps | Requirements and Licensing

Read Time: 9 min

Figuring out how to become a bail bondsman is a surefire way to get started in a lucrative, fast-paced industry. The benefit of starting a bail bondsman business is that not only is it a necessary service, it also allows you to bring about real change. By using the following steps to starting your online bail bonds business, you have a good chance at becoming a reliable and profitable bail bondsman. Learn about the bail bondsman requirements, how to get a bail bondsman license, and gaining clients to get your business up and running.

The Importance of Bail Bond Companies

According to a study done by the Prison Policy Initiative, the nationwide median bail amount for felony charges is about $10,000. Combine that with the fact that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and it quickly becomes clear: people need a bail bondsman they can trust if they get arrested.

bail bondsman - court gavel on a table

For many people, making a living with bail bonds has paid off. Every year, the bail bondsman industry makes over $2 billion in profit. But even so, not many people have a large share of that. It is still an easy business to get going with just a little bit of work to get started.

Despite bad reputations, bail bond agents offer much-needed services to the communities they work in. Judges will often set a bail amount that a defendant cannot afford; a bondsman would then step in to pay the bail on their behalf. This allows the defendant the freedom to prepare for their court date as they wish.

Additionally, bail bondsmen offer their experience and knowledge of the court system to the family posting the bond. Many people and their families are unfamiliar with an arrested and don’t know how the bail process works. Knowing that someone they love is in jail can add even more stress to the situation. A good bail bond agent educates the family on the bail process, goes over their contract in detail, and reassures them along the way.

How to Start a Bail Bonds Business

Follow these eight steps to fulfill all bail bondsman requirements and start a bail bonds business of your own:

  1. Do your research
  2. Ensure you meet the requirements
  3. Take the pre-licensing course
  4. Pass the bail bonding license exam
  5. Apply for your state license
  6. Find a surety company with a good reputation
  7. Register your bail bondsman business
  8. Set up high risk bail bonds merchant services

1. Do your research

First, you’ll want to determine whether a business in the bail bonds industry is right for you. As a company that will deal with people that have been arrested and charged with a crime, it’s not enough to know the steps on how to start a bail bonds business – you need to know if this is something you want to commit to as well.

If you’re confident that a career in bail bonds is right for you, you’ll want to get a sense of the market you’ll be working in. Talk to local law enforcement officers, defense attorneys, and even judges. Research your competitors and how often people need to post bail in your area. The relationships you build will be a great resource down the road.

2. Ensure you meet the requirements

Many states have instituted requirements for those applying for a bail bonding license. The most common requirements include:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Attain a high school diploma or GED equivalent
  • Take a bail bond pre-licensing course
  • Pass the state exam
  • Be able to cover all surety financial obligations
  • Get endorsed by a surety company

Each state may have slightly different bail bondsman requirements, so make sure to check with the department of insurance or police department first.

3. Take the pre-licensing course

The pre-licensing course covers everything you need to know for the bail bond state exam. In addition to learning about your state’s bail bond laws and practices, it will also provide you with the information you need to complete your licensing application.

Not every state requires you to complete this course, so you will want to verify the licensing requirements for the state you live in.

However, consider taking these educational classes even if they’re not required. Not only will you learn the basics of the bail bond profession, you also build connections with your instructors who have had years of experience navigating the industry themselves. Because learning about the industry is much different from working in it, listening to their experiences will help you determine if a career in bail bonds is right for you.

4. Pass the bail bonding license exam

Once you’ve completed your classes and received your certificate of completion, you’ll be able to take your state’s licensing exam. In most states, examinees are given one hour to answer 50 to 60 multiple-choice questions. These questions cover the breadth of bail bond law, practices, and general knowledge.

The bail bond license exam is offered by many different providers, so there may be differing requirements.

Before your test date, make sure to double-check the guidelines to ensure you have everything you need. If you are unable to, say, prove you completed your pre-licensing classes or pay for your fingerprinting fee, you will not be allowed to take the test. If this is the case, you will be forced to surrender your exam fee and reschedule your test for another day.

5. Apply for your state license

Once you’ve fulfilled all of your state’s bail bondsman requirements, you’ll have the opportunity to apply for your bail bondsman license. To find the application, visit your state’s department of insurance website.

In addition to the application, most states will require you to submit the following:

  • A licensing fee
  • Your scores from the licensing exam
  • Proof of sponsorship from a surety company
  • A surety bond (the exact amount will be determined by the state)

Keep in mind that bail bondsman license requirements must be renewed every one to three years. You may be required to take continued education classes to qualify for the renewal process.

6. Find a surety company with a good reputation

Finding a good surety company is an essential requirement to starting a bail bondsman business

Bail bondsman informing clients

When a bail bond agent posts bail on behalf of their client, that money is returned when the defendant appears for their court date. However, if the defendant flees, that money is forfeited – a huge risk for any bail bondsman. When this occurs, a surety company backs the agent and provides any additional money needed to pay off the amount. 

To apply for bail insurance with a surety company, fill out all of the application forms required by the company and your state. Make sure that you understand all of the terms set forth by the surety company; consulting with your business lawyer at this time is highly recommended. 

7. Register your bail bondsman business

Next, you must register your bail bond business with your state. After you choose an appropriate name for your business, visit the secretary of state website to register your business as an LLC or a corporation. You will also need the following:

  1. Tax identification number from the IRS
  2. Bank account under your new business name
  3. A business lawyer familiar with your state’s bail process

If you don’t have an office to work from yet, consider opening a P.O. Box and setting up a Skype or Google Voice phone number. Due to the nature of the business, it’s best to avoid listing your home address and phone number on your paperwork. 

8. Set up high risk bail bonds merchant services

Finally, you will want to set up your bail bondsman merchant account. This will allow you to process your clients’ payments quickly and easily. 

Compared to other industries, banks see bail bond businesses as higher risks. When defendants don’t appear in court, bail bondsmen must pay the entire bail amount in their place. Starting a bail bondsman business also comes with the risk of fraud, higher chargeback rates, and clients that refuse to pay. This puts strain on your application when underwriters are considering the many risks involved with approving your account.

Because banks typically won’t want to work with high risk companies, your best bet is to apply for a high risk merchant account instead of a standard one. This will simplify the way you collect your payments, while also minimizing the financial risk to your business. 

Once you find online credit card processing that’s right for you, all there’s left to do is submit your online application. Make sure to have the following information on hand when you do:

  • Banking information
  • Credit score history
  • SSN or EIN
  • History of sales and chargebacks, if applicable
  • Working online website

Benefits of Online Payment Processing for Bail Bondsmen

Although you have many payment processor options to choose from, choosing one that specializes in bail bonds payment processing will help you avoid the pitfalls associated with standard merchant accounts. Problems high risk businesses may encounter with a standard payment processor range from account freezes, an inability to conduct transactions, and more. However, with a high risk merchant account, the only thing you’ll need to worry about is taking care of your business and clients.

High risk merchant account brokers understand the problems that bail bond companies encounter, so they are fully prepared to help you tackle them. From setting up an online payment gateway to educating you on the latest credit card fraud prevention for merchants, think of your account representative as an extension of your team.

Choosing a high risk merchant account is an essential step to starting a successful bail bondsman business. Because you’ll be involved in an industry that moves large amounts of money around constantly, you’ll be glad you did.

How To Make Money as a Bail Bondsman

The primary way to make money in the bail bonds industry is through the non-refundable deposit. This usually comes out to 10% of every transaction. Another way that they make more profit is if the defendant doesn’t show up in court. In that case, the bail bondsman business has to pay the full price of the bond to the court, but also receives the collateral from the defendant in the form of cash, property, or vehicles.

On of the many bail bondsman industry requirements is that you will need to have secure agreements in place to give yourself the security from the risks of starting a bail bond company.

Make sure that you have regular check-ins and the contact information from their friends and family in case something happens. And if something does, it’s important to have a recovery agent on board to find and return the defendant before their court date.

Benefits of Starting a Bail Bondsman Business

There are many reasons that a person might decide to open a bail bondsman business. It is a recession-proof industry that typically becomes busier year after year due to the increasing number of arrests in the US. It also shows little seasonality changes, which are not typical for most other industries out there. While many businesses struggle to find clients, there is a constant need for bail bondsmen and the marketing typically holds up with word of mouth.

Additionally, there are a plethora of reasons that people look to creating a bail bonds business to stay afloat. Here are a few of the most notable benefits:

  • You get to be your own boss. When starting a bail bondsman business, the first benefit is that you’ll be working for yourself. This means you’ll need to be disciplined to get your business off the ground. It also means that you won’t have a boss micromanaging you all day. You’ll be able to set your own hours and determine what works best for you.
  • Your day to day is never the same. Many people find it boring and monotonous to do the same thing everyday. As a bail bondsman, you have the benefit of variety. Bondsmen often need to travel between their storefront or office and the courts. This means that there is no restriction in which you need to sit behind a desk for most of the day.
  • You get to interact with a variety of people. Even if you’re not the most outgoing person, each new officer or bailiff or client that you meet can help you grow your business. Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to find a bail bondsman. Everyone has their own background and story, so as an outgoing person, this could be a great opportunity to get to know others as well as do your job.
  • Your job makes an immediate impact. In your business, you will be interacting with folks who have gone through hardships and made the wrong decisions. Being able to impact people’s lives directly in this way is moving for many.
  • You can make a decent amount of money. While the average salary of a bondsman varies, it can definitely get into the six figures yearly. Starting out in the industry typically shows an average salary of $55,000. But as the years go on, those numbers balloon. This is most likely due to your reputation growing as you stay in business. After a few years in business, the average bail bondsman makes well over average.