A Day in the Life of a Private Investigator

Answering Phone Calls

A Missouri woman calls me about her husband who is chronically unfaithful in their marriage.  She knows he has been in regular contact with a woman in California.  He has recently changed all of his passwords and restricted his wife’s access to his computer.  She wants to know if I can hack into his accounts.  The answer is no.  We chat for a bit about her options and I help her come to the conclusion that she really doesn’t need the services of a private investigator just yet.  She thanks me for my advice and time, tells me she might need my services in the future if she decides to take action, and hangs up.

An attorney from up north calls me to chat about two potential clients he might have for me.  I met him last month at a conference.  He has a buddy with a son whose doctor, he believes, is overprescribing medication.  He wants to know if I can dig into this doctor’s history for possible clues that might point to unethical behavior, a pattern of overprescribing medications, etc.  The other potential client is his brother who needs me to check the criminal record of an acquaintance.  I can do both of these things.  We chat a bit longer about his own law practice and the different kinds of investigations I perform that can help him.  He hangs up, promising to pass along the information I gave him and to contact me himself when he needs me.

A local man calls me about finding his birth father whom he has never met.  He has a small amount of information about his birth father, but definitely enough to pursue.  Throughout the conversation, the man is extremely fixated on price.  I do my best to explain how an adoption-related search works, the typical costs involved, and the time I would likely have to spend on his case.  When he realizes I can’t do a search for under $100, he decides to forego a search for now.  I tell him to contact me again if he ever decides to pursue his search through a private investigator, then point him to a few blogs I’ve written (here and here) on my website and some other resources that cover pointers on searching for a birth parent.

Responding to Emails

I have an email from an attorney I met at that conference last month.  I’ve already conducted a few investigations for him.  He advises he has another deadbeat roofer he needs to find for his client.  For this one, the client is willing to spend up to $1,000 for a current place of employment and any information I can give on assets and possible bank accounts.  I respond to his email, making sure he understands that the only legal way for me to try and uncover any bank account information is through public record, such as divorce records, previous judgments, etc.  He emails back his understanding and I tell him I will start on this case over the weekend.

I have an emailed receipt from MailChimp for my monthly subscription charge.  I use MailChimp to create, maintain, and automate an e-newsletter I send out to a mailing list every few weeks.

I have a trip confirmation email for my flight to and from Myrtle Beach later this year.  I’m attending a conference for open source intelligence investigations.

I’m excited to open my latest email from Justin Seitz, creator of Hunchly.  I use Hunchly to track, analyze, and store web pages as I conduct online investigations.

I see I have a signed contract and statement of work from a client who just hired me to find her birth mother.  I send a quick reply, thanking her for the signed forms and telling her I will be starting her case tomorrow.

Developing Marketing

I have currently been investigating the use of Facebook ads, as well as the steps and money involved in boosting posts.  I keep meaning to get to this, but other work constantly pushes it aside.  Once again, I spend my time today working on more content for my e-newsletter.  I need more content to finish out the year and since this is a time-sensitive task, it gets priority.


I am going to finish up the latest case I’ve been working on for the attorney who has a list of deadbeat roofers.  For this one, all he has asked for is a current address and place of employment.  I found the current address yesterday, so now I’m looking for a current place of employment.  I look over the 150-page database results I ran yesterday and identify potential employers.  I start making a list.  I sit down at my computer in my home office to look for leads online.  I find the deadbeat roofer’s Facebook and LinkedIn profiles and add a few potential employers to my growing list.  Michael Bazzell’s Intel Techniques search tools available to anyone is an awesome resource here.  I also use Google’s boolean search tools to try and find any other information that will be helpful to my investigation.  During my searches, I am getting several of the same hits, so those go to the top of my list.  Due to my client’s budget, I stop my research here and start calling every potential place of employment on my list until I hit pay dirt on the fourth one down.  I’ve found Mr. Deadbeat Roofer’s current place of employment.  This case is closed.  At least the investigating part is finished.

Writing Reports

I have to wrap up my deadbeat roofer case so I can send the report to my client.  I enjoy writing, but sometimes report writing can become redundant and ordinary.  However, I know this is my opportunity to shine in the eyes of the client.  I need to give them a polished product, free of grammatical errors and misspellings, and one that gives a very clear picture of all the steps I took during the investigation, details and citations included.  So I gather my notes and begin writing all the details of the case.  I write for over an hour.

Other Writing

I post a weekly blog.  My blog is one of my favorite tasks for several reasons.  I enjoy writing.  Writing about what I do is good for me because it helps me get my thoughts organized.  It helps me research and learn more about my trade.  My blog has opened several doors and is my most useful marketing tool thus far.  I’ve made several private investigator friends through their feedback on different blog posts I’ve written.  It’s kind of become my tool for staying in touch with other private investigators and networking.  Being a sole practitioner who works in a home office lends itself to isolation.  My blog, along with social media, keeps me connected.  So today, I write to get my current post ready for publication next week.

Creating Invoices

I have one invoice to send to a client, so I get that ready to go via my invoicing program, Wave.  Wave is a free small business accounting website that I’ve used since my company’s inception.  It’s super easy to use and very professional-looking.  I log in, create my invoice, and email it to my client.  It takes all of two minutes.

(Side note:  If you are a small business owner or freelancer, you should check out a really great article that gives a side-by-side comparison of the best accounting software out there, including Wave. Get it here).


My best brainstorming happens in the shower and as I fall asleep at night.  Often, I grab my phone off the nightstand and type my ideas into my notes app so I won’t forget them the next morning.  Tonight, I create a few more ideas for future blog posts and get them written down.  I think about the birth mother search I’ll be starting tomorrow and come up with a game plan in my head.  I think more on my marketing strategy.  I’m always thinking about marketing.  I really need to get started on a few ideas I have.  Maybe this weekend…