Starting A Private Investigation Agency: The Cold Hard Facts
Posted by Pamela S. on Monday, August 6th, 2012
Sooner or later, almost every private investigator has the notion that they would like to start their own private investigation agency. They start calculating the hourly rate that investigative agencies charge, look at their income, and figure that they could do it on their own and reap all the benefits. There are many sites on the Internet that provide guidance on how to start your own investigation agency. They make it seem easy. It is as easy as herding cats.
I have known many P.I.s over the years who have pondered this option or even asked me to join with them in starting an agency. They aren’t always thinking it through. Even though I was an investigator for many years, the thought of opening my own agency never appealed to me. I’ll tell you why, and if you still want to take that plunge, I wish you the best.
Owning your own business, no matter what kind of industry you work in, is a challenge. In most businesses, you need to have a particular skill, or skills, and if you are a landscaper or a plumber, you can do most things on your own. A private investigator has to be a jack of all trades. Let’s say you have been conducting surveillance for 10 years and you decide it is time to strike out on your own. Yes, you can conduct surveillance, but can you also conduct background checks, locate individuals and do that kind of research?
In order to get clients, you need to be a salesperson. If you like surveillance because you truly want to be alone, you may not have the personality for sales. If you are like me, just getting your invoicing done is a pain, because you don’t care for numbers.
What does all of this mean?
It means that your one person operation now requires a background investigator, a salesperson, a bookkeeper and an administrative assistant to answer the phone and type reports. That doesn’t include start up costs of incorporating a business, insurance, office space and equipment, advertising and all of the other costs that go along with starting up a business.
Suppose you get clients and all of a sudden you have to be in two or three places at the same time? You will need to hire more investigators.
I’m not saying you can’t do it, obviously everyone who owns a private investigation agency started somewhere. Many P.I’s have one person operations and do quite well.
Remember that you will have to go up against the big guys. Investigation agencies, such as Sheer Investigations have a wide range of services, a staff of expert investigators who specialize in various fields, and numerous resources that the mom and pop shops can’t offer.
You will have to carve out your own niche. Many investigators who work on their own do a lot of domestic work. If that is what you are interested in, you should be able to make a go of it. You can also subcontract work from many of the larger agencies, if you can prove yourself.
When I started researching this topic, I found many articles giving advice on this topic, such as this eHow article: “How to Start a Private Investigation Business”. I’m not saying that the information is incorrect, but eHow writers are not private investigators.
Many of the sites that provide information on how to start an investigation agency have nothing to do with investigations. They don’t understand the difficulties involved in this business. They start by telling you to get a licence and work for an agency for a while until you get some experience. A while? Honestly, I’m not trying to be negative here, but it takes years to become an accomplished investigator. If you take a look at the bios of executives for the top investigation agencies, you’ll note that most, like Tom Sheer, (former Director of the FBI’s New York Office) have prior experience in law enforcement or a related field, or many years working as a private investigator for a large agency.
If you have no experience as an investigator, read my post, “Do You Have What it Takes to Become a Private Investigator?”
This is a highly competitive business. Like everything, the cream rises to the top. To continue with the food analogy, probably the only thing more difficult and risky, is opening a restaurant. If you have what it takes, you will make it happen.
Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Sheer has recruited the best from the FBI, DEA, IRS and Secret Service to build a formidable team at Sheer Investigations. Our private investigators have the sensitivity and experience to handle the most delicate investigations.