During my startup year as a private investigator, nearly every PI book I got my hands on recommended using a client contract. The benefits seemed obvious to me, the most important being a strong safeguard against any potential legal action that could be taken against me in the future. It didn’t take much convincing for me to add “compose a client contract” to my “to do” list. It seemed absurd to me that any private investigator would work without one. Why risk it?
Apparently, there are plenty of private investigators who DO risk it every single day. They are out there accepting cases, working in an industry that requires a solid grasp of privacy laws and permissible versus non-permissible behavior for a professional who consistently handles sensitive information. So if the risk is already quite high simply due to the nature of the work, why are so many private investigators working without client contracts?
I think the biggest reason is laziness. It’s so easy to adopt the mentality that a contract is a waste of money and time, especially for experienced investigators who have never run into any trouble operating without one. Some private investigators even claim that they don’t use a contract because it would scare their clients away. Others shy away from creating a legally-binding contract because it would cost too much to have an attorney draw one up.
If you think that the benefits of contracts don’t stack up against the trouble of creating one, think again.
Benefit 1: A contract that outlines your payment procedures can save you from clients who refuse to pay.
Benefit 2: If a client dispute arises at any point during or after an investigation, the investigator with a signed contract is protected or at least defended with a proper contract.
Benefit 3: A well-written contract gives clients a more realistic picture of what their investigation will entail, therefore unrealistic expectations will be curbed or eradicated altogether.
Benefit 4: Expectations will be clearly defined and met for both the client and investigator who sign a contract for services.
Benefit 5: Requiring potential clients to sign a contract will typically weed out those who are digging for information for nefarious purposes or less-than-honest reasons.
It cost me a bit to have an attorney write up a comprehensive contract for my private investigation business. But he did a much better job than I could have ever done and I know that my contract is legally-binding, properly worded, and covers areas I didn’t even know needed covered. The peace of mind that I have while conducting my investigations is worth every penny I spent on my contract.
I hope I never need it to defend myself or justify my actions as an investigator. I hope I don’t need to use it in court to obtain payment from a tight-fisted former client. I hope every one of my clients is highly satisfied with my work, going into the investigation with realistic expectations. I’ve already seen evidence that my contract has effectively spooked the shady would-be clients away from my services. So even in my business’s infancy, my contract has already proven worthwhile. Yours will too. I promise.
So if you’re a private investigator who hasn’t yet pulled the trigger on a client contract, I hope this article is the final convincing you needed. I’d be happy to share my attorney’s name with you if you want to contact me directly. His work is impeccable and his demeanor is ever-so-pleasant.