What I Learned From My First 10 Cases As a Private Investigator

I love helping new private investigators.  By all standards, I am still a relative newcomer myself and very much remember how daunting it was to get started.  I think this is why I want to help others like me.  To make it less daunting for them.

It hasn’t been all that long ago when I was scouring the Internet for useful resources, helpful advice, the most well-known investigators in the industry, educational books, and just about anything that would help me learn more about my new profession.

Heck.  I am still doing all of these things.

Now that I have a decent collection of cases under my belt, I’d like to share my own advice, tips and tricks, observations, and mistakes.  Maybe you’ll read something that will help solidify your own strategies before you take on your first ten cases.

You Can’t Help Everybody

You can’t help the would-be client who either can’t afford or doesn’t want to spend the money necessary to complete the required work for their case.  No need to waste their money or your time.

Sometimes, you will get requests from people that fall outside of the capabilities of a private investigator or outside your own purview of expertise.  Either way, refer them to the appropriate person and move on.

Sometimes Turning Down a Case is the Right Thing To Do

If a client asks you to do something illegal with full knowledge that it’s illegal, walk away immediately.  Don’t even entertain the thought.

When a would-be client has a budget of $500 and you know it will take at least $1,000 to do a sufficient job, don’t waste their $500 and hand them an incomplete case.  Be completely up front with them that $500 won’t get them the information they seek.  If they still want to proceed, that’s up to them.  Just always be completely honest in your communication.  Every client will appreciate it.

Money Isn’t Everything, But Don’t Shortchange Yourself Either

Set your rates and stick to them, but always let kindness and compassion drive your conscience.  Don’t be taken advantage of, but don’t be so hard-nosed and rigid that you forget why you do this work in the first place… to help people.

It’s Easy to Get Sucked Into a Person’s Story

Nearly every client will tug at your heartstrings in some way.  Just be aware that this might happen and plan for it.  Stay objective, do the work, find the facts, then call it a day.  It’s only human to feel empathy for others and their plight, but just remind yourself that you are helping them by doing the job you were hired to do.

Don’t Make Any Promises

Some clients will ask you to make promises.  Don’t do it.  Resist the urge every time.  You cannot guarantee results.  You cannot predict outcomes.  There are surprises in just about every case you work.

Stick Only to What You are Capable of Doing

Don’t get sucked into a story and agree to take a case when it is outside of your expertise.  Either refer it to another investigator or find an investigator who can help with the portions of the case you are unable to do and subcontract with them.

It might be tempting in the beginning to take every potential case that comes your way, but you must stick to only what you are capable of and comfortable doing.

Admit Your Mistakes, Then Do Everything You Can to Fix Them

If you make any mistakes, and you will, tell your client what happened and what you intend to do to fix it.  I made a mistake in my third case, nothing colossal, but I ended up finishing up part of the case at no charge to my client.  He not only forgave the mistake, but he gave me a raving review after I completed his case.

You Will Spend More Time as Role of Counselor Than You Want To

Be a good listener.  If you’re not, then you’re going to have to learn to be.  Sometimes your clients just need you to listen.  Save your judgment, practice kindness, and do your best work for every client.

You Will Hear Something New Every Time You Pick Up the Phone

Of my first ten cases, I tracked down deadbeat roofers, found a birth father, uncovered evidence of an affair, assisted with a custody battle, looked into issues with a dead man’s estate, and taught an abused woman how to better stay under the radar by way of social media and other publicly available information about her.

Ask Other Investigators for Help

As mentioned already, you can always subcontract with other private investigators when you have portions of a case that fall outside of your expertise.  But also don’t overlook the help and advice you can receive by reaching out to other investigators via a phone call, email, social media, forum, or other communication.  The advice I’ve received from putting myself out there has proven invaluable to me time and time again.

Discouragement is Normal

You will very likely be in the thick of it when you freak out a little bit.  I experienced several moments in which I felt inadequate, inexperienced, discouraged, and over my head.

I still have these moments.

If we all threw in the towel every time we experienced discouragement, we would be wandering around, bouncing off of each other, trying to figure out THE thing that will produce immediate results, make us rich, and give us ultimate fulfillment and accomplishment of our dreams.

That’s just not real.

Plow through the discouragement and those days when you feel directionless.  Keep moving.  Keep learning.  Keep developing and improving.

Don’t Give Up

Very few things in this life require little effort.

Chances are, you are going to have to dedicate a lot of time, energy, hard work, and creative juices into your new endeavor as a private investigator.  You won’t become popular overnight.  You won’t open your doors and have clients rushing in.  You won’t make enough money at first.

But with patience and sticktoitiveness, you might just find yourself gaining enough clients and making enough money to support the professional life you’ve created and a job you love to do.

So don’t give up.  I’m glad I haven’t.