By Michael Hessenthaler

I’m a new PI. Now, how do I start?

New PI showing business card

Conjecture. I am sure that the most typical question I receive from new investigators is how to make a start in business. Where is the work, how do you get it, what are the formalities, what are the practices? What are the chances? The requests for help and advice come to me either from people currently doing an investigation course or, all too often, from those who have already completed the course.

It’s a worry. It tells me that people jump at the chance to “become a PI”, pay the money and do the certificate course, yet they haven’t really looked into the realities of finding work. Be that work as sub-agents to an established private investigator or work directly for clients. Indeed, many seem to have no idea about the investigation services market – who needs and uses our services?

Sure, there’s work for private investigators and many do very well, thank you. But they don’t get it just because they are investigators. It is of concern that too many newcomers have the idea that as soon as they have a licence, they will have clients. Nothing could be further from the truth!

I think this is a serious flaw in people’s perception that to be a private investigator, all you have to do is learn how to investigate. But being a private investigator is only half the requirement. If you don’t find out about marketing, the selling, the running of the business, then it’s the same as deciding to become a carpenter without knowing how to get the carpentry work. Or becoming a financial adviser without knowing to whom, or how, you will be selling your advice.

It does not follow that because you have a brand new licence, people will be offering you work. Even if you are a talented investigator, you could well end up starving a lot. And let’s face it, investigating is skill that evolves from experience and experience takes opportunities and time.

The market has grown, in part due to the growth of technology, the internet and therefore exposure of investigators to more and more people, more and more companies. The market has also grown due to the increasing commitment by companies and organisations to expose corruption, to conduct better due diligence, to better protect the interests of shareholders or members, to comply more strictly with law and legislative changes. Thirty years ago our services were used by a few, often. These days our services are used by many more, much more often. OK, that’s all very encouraging, but is it good enough to make a career start?

Research it! A good place to start is a forum like Ask those who’ve done the course and have the work. How hard was it? How easy? How long did it take? How much do they earn? And face the reality that no one knows it all from the start.

Make good and through research your first investigation! Test your talents through the process of discovering what kind of work there is and how do get it.

Copyright Michael Hessenthaler


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