Start a bounty hunter business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your bounty hunter business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a bounty hunter business?
Every bounty hunter has their own arsenal of tools, which can include anything from walkie-talkies to a firearm and a taser. Bounty hunters will need to purchase handcuffs and potentially leg restraints. They should also invest in protective clothing, such as a tactical vest with ballistic panels.
What are the ongoing expenses for a bounty hunter business?
As long as a bounty hunter is buying durable equipment, they likely won’t have too many ongoing expenses. They may need to replace their clothing or repair their communications equipment, but for the most part, the initial capital will be the biggest expense.
Who is the target market?
Most of the time, it’s bail bondsman who hire a bounty hunter. However, friends or family members who scraped bail money together may also hire a bounty hunter to recover their savings.
How does a bounty hunter business make money?
Usually, bounty hunters only charge people if they’re able to catch the fugitive. This way, bounty hunters are highly motivated, and bondsmen have every incentive to hire them to get the job done.
How much can you charge customers?
Bounty hunters perform their job at great risk and they can take on cases with bails set as high as seven figures. As such, it’s not unusual for some agencies to pay up to $500,000 to get their clients back. Usually though, a bounty hunter charges between 10–20% of the amount of the bail.
How much profit can a bounty hunter business make?
A good bounty hunter can make $1 million a year, though the average salary is about $70,000. These numbers account for costs of travel and equipment. Most bounty hunters will need to take on at least 100 cases per year in order to achieve the average salary.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Successful bounty hunters can consider starting their own education courses for up-and-coming bounty hunters in their area. Or they may choose to offer additional consulting services to bail bondsman. For example, they may give specific tips so a bondsman can spot someone who's likely to run.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your bounty hunter business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Check out the Top Business Formation Services from our friends at StartupSavant.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Find the right bank for you, read our review of the Top 5 Banks for Your Small Business
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a bounty hunter business. It is especially important to note that some states and counties prohibit the business of bounty hunters completely, so it is important to know local legislation in order to avoid legal trouble. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
It is important to run your bounty hunter business out of an office in order to protect your personal information such as place of residence. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a bounty hunter business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your bounty hunter business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a bounty hunter business
Bounty hunters need to know the bail bondsman of their county before they can generate business. Even if a bondsman is used to working with a specific bounty hunter, it’s worth making those relationships to get your name out there. You can also try online advertising if you’re looking to attract attention from civilians, but this will generally be only a small fraction of your business.
How to keep customers coming back
Bondsman aren’t just hoping that you’ll bring the fugitive back — they’re hoping you’ll do so quickly and without a lot of drama. The more efficient you are, the more likely it is that people will count on you in the future.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Bounty Hunter Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
This business is good for someone who wants to be a combination of a stand-alone police officer and private investigator. Not only is it risky to become a bounty hunter, but it’s also incredibly time-consuming. You’ll need a flexible schedule to track a fugitive down (in some cases, traveling thousands of miles to find them). And while it likely won’t be anything like a reality T.V. show, it’s worth understanding and accepting the risks before choosing this line of work.
What happens during a typical day at a bounty hunter business?
Most cases start with a call from a bail bondsman. A bondsman has put up the money needed for a criminal's bail and desperately wants to get the money back by bringing the fugitive to court. Bounty hunters will typically travel to the bondsman and obtain power of authority, which allows the bounty hunter to arrest the fugitive. Then, the bounty hunter will get the personal information (e.g., financial data, car make and model, etc.) before setting out to track the person down.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful bounty hunter business?
State requirements vary when it comes to bounty hunters. Some will make you take general coursework related to criminal law and/or obtain an official license. Additional formal education is not required, though a degree in law enforcement will certainly be helpful.
Bounty hunters need to be curious, organized, and quick thinkers. Fugitives will likely have a few tricks up their sleeve to stay out of sight, and bounty hunters need to be prepared. You’ll also need to be assertive to work with people who may attempt to harm you after you find them. You don’t necessarily need to be a bodybuilder, but you should understand self-defense enough to apprehend someone without risking life or limb.
What is the growth potential for a bounty hunter business?
Bounty hunters who are efficient at what they do have an excellent chance at achieving growth — even if the competition in an area is fierce. Bounty hunting is not an exact science, and it's inevitable that some will be faster and more productive than others. Bondsman will look for these qualities before deciding who to hire.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a bounty hunter business?
Bounty hunters are in a dangerous line of work, so it helps to anticipate the risks ahead of time. For example, it may seem like you should work out of your home to cut costs — except that you may end up endangering your family if the wrong person finds out where you live.
Good bounty hunters have to be relentless to find people, but they also have to be clever. The idea is to never use force unless it’s absolutely necessary. Some bounty hunters will try to confuse or trick a fugitive to ensure they have the time to peacefully apprehend them. They may jam the locks of their car or their home so it’s easier to make the arrest.
You’ll also need to learn about the restrictions in every state before you begin bounty hunting. Some states don’t allow bounty hunting (or bail bonds for that matter) of any kind. These states will typically enforce their own laws rather than the laws of the state in which the fugitive originally ran from. In other words, you may be held liable if you catch a person in a neighborhood that doesn't allow bounty hunters.
How and when to build a team
Some bounty hunters prefer to work alone, but many will want a partner or even a full team to make it easier to catch a fugitive. Having several pairs of eyes on any given person can make it easier to spot the potential happens before they happen. If you do choose to work alone, ensure you have an organization system that will help keep track of the billing and scheduling necessities.