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How to Start a Private Investigator or Detective Service

Private investigators and detectives work for attorneys, insurance companies, businesses, and the general public; They can be employees of a large corporation or self-employed. His duties include gathering information for clients, locating missing persons, conducting surveillance, and conducting background investigations for court cases.

Overview of the Investigator or Private Detective Business

You see a lot of drama time on television devoted to private investigators and detectives. In the real world, IP (Private Investigator) they are a small but active part of most cities and towns. If you have a talent for finding information and dealing with confrontation then an IP service might be for you.

Private Investigator Service - Private Detective

Many people who start a private investigation service have spent time in the military. Most Private Investigators and Detectives are at least very familiar with the legal system and how to handle conflicts. You need to have a very good idea of ​​what laws and rules you are required to follow.

You will also have to find the piece so it can blend in with the background. Much of the work involved is in research, but a lot of time is also spent simply observing a subject and monitoring the movements of the subject.

People hire a private investigator or detective for many different reasons. Anytime someone needs information, a Private Investigator can provide a valuable service. In times of economic downtime, the business of repossessing cars and other items can become a significant part of some IP businesses.

Specialties or jobs performed by a private investigator

  • Find missing persons
  • Landlord and Tenant Relations
  • Cheating spouses
  • Runaway children
  • Employee theft
  • Surveillance
  • Collection of vital data

Skill set

  • Be assertive, persistent, aggressive, and logical
  • Be able to protect information and confidentiality
  • Have a lot of common sense
  • You can easily identify clues
  • Can piece together a case and provide evidence
  • Keep excellent records
  • List of common business skills

Consideration of the employee and the work during the initial phase

  • Assistant
  • Investigation, detective
  • Analysts
  • Information verification specialist
  • Common Staff Positions Needed to Run Some Businesses

Approximate daily hours needed

This business can be open 24/7. You determine their availability.

Equipment, supplies and services

  • Reliable transportation
  • High quality digital camera
  • Special telephoto lenses
  • GPS
  • Infrared equipment
  • Smartphone
  • Digital tape recorder
  • Essential office equipment

Licenses and permits

It is almost always best to start small. Most IP services start out as a sole proprietorship or limited partnership.

Licensing requirements vary from state to state. If you want to start a career in IP, then you should check with your state agency in charge of registering private investigators and detectives. Once you have met the requirements, you need to move on to the next step.

Approximate minimum start-up cost

Essential: Average start-up cost ranges from $ 1,000 to $ 10,000.

Suggestions and considerations:

  • Obviously, it makes sense to start small and make the most of your advertising dollars. You should certainly give your card to everyone you meet. Don’t be shy about introducing yourself and introducing the specific investigative services you offer. You never know who will need help with a problem.
  • Joining an association or chamber of commerce can help. You could expose your agency to advertising and / or advertising sponsored by that group, such as trade magazines.
  • You will have to decide what type of jobs you are going to focus on. They can be big or small jobs, but you should have a good idea of ​​what kind of surveillance you will be able to provide given your workforce. If it’s just you, for example, you’ll have a hard time getting 24-hour coverage.
  • Tailor your services to your most likely customers. Choose rates that are competitive and reflect your actual expenses.
  • A private investigation service can be profitable if you really keep up with the constant marketing. Having a consistent number of clients targeting a niche is the most important part of standing out in a crowd.
  • Realize that many people in this field have military or law enforcement backgrounds. Others have college degrees in business, criminal justice, or political science. They are your competition for jobs.
  • Enroll in detective school if you are inexperienced. You will be taught the skills a private investigator or detective needs to have, including how to take fingerprints, take evidence samples, write reports, and use firearms.
  • Being in good standing with the local police is not only friendly, it is also essential for good working relationships. Such relationships can also avoid misunderstandings.
  • Settle down in the field. If you are an absolute beginner, it may make sense to partner with someone with more experience or work as an apprentice for another firm before opening your own. This will give you a better perspective on the opportunities available and teach you insider secrets about searches, research, and increasing your profits.

Advantages and disadvantages

The advantages

  • The work is challenging and exciting
  • A specialized private investigator or detective can earn a lot of money
  • You can hire investigators or detectives to do the actual work for you
  • There are many areas of research you can specialize in
  • You can be your own boss

The disadvantages

  • You will need to write reports frequently and they should be of professional quality
  • You may have to work long, irregular and lonely hours while performing surveillance duties
  • Some areas of private investigation can be potentially dangerous
  • Strong competition is expected for most jobs
  • It can be hard to get taken seriously when you’re just starting out

Customer type

Your clients will depend on the area of ​​private investigation in which you choose to specialize. Generally speaking, however, your customers will be people or organizations who want information about specific people or things, or who want information collected for a specific purpose.


The job prospects for private investigators or detectives are expected to grow by 15% between 2016-2019.


The median annual salary for salaried private detectives and investigators was $ 41,760 in May 2015. The median 50 percent earned between $ 30,870 and $ 59,060. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $ 23,500, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $ 76,640. Salaries for private detectives and investigators vary widely by employer, specialty, and geographic area.