What does it cost to be a bondsman?

Depending on what state you plan on doing business in, the cost can vary greatly. For instance, in Mississippi it winds up costing almost $2000 from start to license. If you want to own a company, it costs 3 years of your life and another $30,000 +. But these costs are pretty minor compared to the true costs. See, the previously stated is merely a few dollars and some time. The real cost is much greater. The real cost can’t be put on a spreadsheet, you can’t save up for it or budget it. It can’t be quantified with a dollar amount. The real cost isn’t something that the agent pays the majority of. The bonding business, no matter what side of the business you’re in, is a very costly business.

When I first started in this business, I was a young man starting a family. My 1st wife hated it and I loved it. She detested every time I walked out of the door to go after my bounties, but I walked anyway. The draw of the hunt was too great. We would argue, we would yell, she would remind me that the money wasn’t worth the hours. The bills came in like clockwork but the pay didn’t. But still, I walked out that door. In addition to this new side gig, I had my full time job, but I couldn’t wait to get out on the hunt again. I didn’t consider that the protest may have been less about the job and more about the amount of time it took me away. “She just doesn’t understand me” At this point I only had my toes in the water but this is where I want to be. She eventually got me to stop temporarily but I went back, I had to. Ultimately, she became wife number one. It had to be her fault, right, I mean, who wouldn’t want a guy that works weird hours and has an unstable income?

On to wife number 2. Alright, I’ve got it figured out by this point! When she met me I was already in the business full time. If she takes me now, it must be ok. Well, we have a couple of kids and life seems ok on the surface. Little did I know, lingering in the darkness the business was slowly eating away at this marriage too.

This is what it really costs. I can’t count the number of family functions that I missed because I was either asleep, too tired or not home at all. I wouldn’t begin to be able to tell you how many nights she slept wondering where I was or if I was ok. When I became a bondsman, I had to live 2 lives. Most of the time my bonding life took priority over my family life. This was never a conscious choice. I can’t control when the phone rings or when I have to go. This is the business, this is how I put food on the table. It has to take priority. She seemed to be ok with that arrangement for a long time, but I imagine she had hoped that it would get easier or better. It didn’t. I opened my own company and as the company got busier and made more money, I got more ingrained in the day to day and I was home less and less. As the company owner, I had to make sure things got done or the business would fold. Since I enjoy bounty hunting, I do all of the in house hunting. I never hire a bounty hunter. I had gotten so use to our arrangement that I stopped considering the toll this life was taking on the kids and family. In my eyes, life was great. Little did I know that the costs were rising. We would take 2 cars when we went places, in case I got a call and had to go. Family functions became optional for me. The kids had gotten use to daddy being asleep on the other side of the door or not seeing me for days or sometimes weeks at a time. But I was making good money and we got to go on really cool family trips. The trips and loaded Christmas trees made the missed birthday parties and absent Thanksgiving dinners ok. It was, after all, the cost of doing business. Now, I know what your thinking, I could have stopped at any time. That’s the curse of the business. You don’t schedule it, the business schedules you. Otherwise, you miss money. It did all eventually come to a head. The wife got tired of making excuses for me, so she stopped. The kids start acting like I’m a temporary fixture in the house because they know I won’t be there long. Life just started happening whether I was there or not. Eventually she became wife number 2.

Don’t get me wrong, the business wasn’t the only factor in the end of either relationship but I know it played a major role. Ultimately , it cost me the wife AND the business. I suddenly found myself, in a short amount of time, divorced, losing my house (I couldn’t afford it anymore) and I wasn’t even a bondsman anymore. This situation allowed for some deep reflection. The realization of the absentee father and husband I had become and was quite content being was painful. The justifications for missing all that time with the kids and family quickly turned into thin excuses. They were all excuses, the real reason was always, I love what I do. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my family but they did suffer for my love of the job.

Fast forward to today, I am now married to my 3rd and if she allows it, last wife. But you had to know by now, it didn’t end in the last paragraph. Once again, the business started pulling me back in. I made shallow attempts to fight it but everyone around me knew what was going to happen. There I was, in the office of the bondsman that gave me my first job as a licensed agent, she needed an agent. We talked and then I went home and talked to my beloved about the opportunity. I had opened another business but hated what I was doing. I was just doing something that I knew well. She knew I hated it and I wasn’t making decent money at it. Right away she saw how excited I was to get back in, even though I was trying to dissuade it with my words. She saw the desire in my eyes and my voice like a junkie trying to convince her that I didn’t want the needle. I think she knew, it was inevitable.

She hired me to be her office manager and agent. It was just a matter of some paperwork to put things in motion. I was glad to not be the owner, it would be a whole lot less stressful and I wouldn’t be the one with everything on the line. I could just make money and go home at night. Ooooooookkkkkkkkk……..

As I was settling in to my new position as office manager I got a phone call. The situation that had cost me my license had resolved itself and there was a slim chance I could get my professional license back and not just be an agent. I had already told myself the lie that I didn’t want to own the company. I almost believed it too. But then, it’s easy to not want something that seems so far out of reach. After all, it was only a slim chance. After I submitted my paperwork, all of the thoughts of being back on top cane flooding in. Oh crap! What am I doing? It was time to be honest with myself and my very new employer.

We both spoke frankly and were honest with each other about the potential outcome if my license were to be restored. I had to admit that the appeal to have my company back was too strong. She simply said, I knew it would be. At that point, a new plan was hatched and an unorthodox partnership was born. If I were to get my license restored, we would run each other’s companies together and out of the same office. And, it happened! I got all of my lost money back, took care of some paperwork and my former license was restored to its previous status. Our new partnership has begun.

So, back to my beloved wife and our new life together with me back in the business. I’m older now, I knew where I went wrong before. I can do it different this time. All I have to do is put family first and make sure the wife and kids get me at least 3 out of 4 weekends. With this new plan, I could have the best of both worlds and everybody wins.

Now, raise your hand if you already know how that turned out. The curse of the business, the number one cure in my opinion, is if you aren’t ready to make the money when it’s ready to be made, somebody else will make it. If i don’t answer my phone because it’s a weekend or family time, I’m not making that money. There are also lots of aspects of this job that just can’t be done Mon-Fri 9-5. It just doesn’t work that way. But I struggle all the same. It’s a constant battle between doing the job and being a family man.

It’s unfortunate that in this life, at least in mine, that what time I give to the business , much of it is taken from the family. That also stands true in reverse. This means that I will not be able to reach my full potential as a bondsman and my income might not make it back to what it was. But worse than that, I will not be able to reach my full potential as a husband or father and my relationships be what they should be. What to do now?

The easy answer would be to get out of the life and get a job that was more stable. I think we have already established that’s not going to happen. All I can do, all any of us can do is keep working at it the best we know how. My wife is a pretty amazing and strong woman. I have no doubt that in the end we will be ok but the business is taking it’s toll. She and the kids are feeling my absence more and more. My time and my attention are needed to keep the company rolling, but I try. I try with everything in me to do right by both of my lives but one always has to suffer while the other has my attention. Every time I hear that song Rodeo by Garth Brooks, I feel like the song could easily be about me and bonding. Then I hear Cats in the cradle and I feel like I’m listening to my future. Regardless of either, I still walk out that door. If you’ve ever wondered what it really costs to be a bondsman. There’s my tally sheet, can you afford it?

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