Should you work for free as a private investigator?

As a private investigator, sometimes people or companies will approach you and ask you to work a case for free or giving a deep discount (sometimes with the promise of much more work to come in the future).

I am opposed to working cases for free or even working at first for a discounted rate.

Here’s why and here are the exceptions…

Very Rare Exception…

Helping close family members. If your mom gets ripped-off by a con artist, of course you’re going to run the guy’s name through you databases and other resources to see if you can track him down! Obviously ONLY for legitimate purposes like a to file a law suite.

Rare Exception…

Doing work for a non-profit organization or cause in which you firmly believe. By this I mean an organization you would give money to if that asked. Maybe this is your church, a place helping the homeless, combating a disease or fighting poverty. The key here is that it’s an organization you already give to or would gladly write a check to! Not just any old “non-profit” that approaches you asking for a freebie!

Remember, non-profits pay their CEO’s. They pay their rent and utilities. They pay for a lot! Just because they aren’t in the game to “make money”, plenty of people are are getting paid.

The “Nevers”…

Companies asking for a “free sample” of a background check, skip trace, surveillance, etc.

Also companies asking for a deep discount to “try out” your services with the promise of future business if they like your work.

To me (and this is my personal feeling), any company that ask for a freebie is dead to me. I’ll be polite to them. I’ll try to direct them to an organization that may be able to help them, but I will not take them as a client.

The problem is, when you need the money (been there done that!), you’ll be tempted to try to make this client work out for you. In my experience, it never does.

If you simply can’t resist this potential (cheapskate) client, consider a counter offer. If they want a free background check to “evaluate” you, offer them four background checks for the price of three. This is a deep discount and allows them to sample a wider selection of your work for a more accurate evaluation.

The “I-Call-The-Shots” Exception…

I will (and OFTEN have) sent out a mailing offering some service with a special offer.

For example, to gain a law firm for process serving, I will make this offer… “I serve him or you pay nothing!”

I offer to take their worst person, find them and serve them and if I don’t it’s free! I list the normal cost for serving a refusing person without a good address ($550) and the price for someone refusing with a good address ($300). Both have a “no-hit fee” of $125, but I will waive that fee because they are willing to try my company. They have nothing to lose! This strategy has helped my pick up new law firm clients who regularly use me to serve “normal” packets at $50 each!

Note Well: I only do this when I offer it to them and even then I only offer it to hand picked law firms I want to work for! (Those two things are key!)

The “exception” I actually recommend…

If you’re currently working a day job and get the opportunity to expand your knowledge level or skill set, even if you have to work a shift for free, I say take it.

Just something to think about as you build and grow your detective agency.

If you like that helpful tip, then don’t miss out on my free special report If You Want To be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. You can get it right here…

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Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye, P.I.

P.S. – Also note… I’m talking here to professional (for hire!) investigators and detective agencies. I fully understand if you aren’t yet a working pro and wanting to help out a friend with her cheating boyfriend or something like that. I say, “Be careful!”, but don’t feel bad about those “cases”. However, when you do this for a living, beware of the cheepo “potential clients” who are likely trying to scam you out of free work!

The Private Investigator Personality Pendulum.

Human personalities range from one extreme to the other and private investigators are no exception – especially on the issue of privacy.

So how privacy conscious should you be on a scale from “I-don’t-care-who-knows-stuff-about-me-I’m-not-doing-anything-wrong” to “Tinfoil Hat”?

If you’re in the private investigation industry you understand how everything (EVERYTHING!) about you is being recorded, tracked and archived.

But for people who are outside our world, they are (IMHO) blind to all the tracking that’s going on.

My suggestion to you is find the reasonable balance that protects your family and your life.

Maybe you’re okay with a “free” flashlight app on your phone that tacks you everywhere. Personally, I would rather pay for a flashlight and be left alone.

PRO TIP: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

INSIDER’S TIP: If it’s free, it’s not the product… you are!

The information you casually trade for a free game on your phone is sold to the highest bidder. How much do you get paid for this valuable information? Nothing. You gave it away so you could crush candy while waiting at traffic lights.

SPIRITUAL TIP: Take some quiet time (away from screens!) and see if you hear the voice of God.

Committed to your safety, sanity and privacy,
Larry Kaye, P.I.

P.S. – The magic word this week is “reasonable”. Take reasonable precautions with your privacy based on an accurate assessment of the risk of your lifestyle.

P.P.S. – Also consider “future technology”. What you think is private today, will be harvested, cataloged and sold in the future! (IE. Do you think the anonymous “voice only” video rant you posted online through a proxy is anonymous? Not in a year or two when voice recognition becomes as common as facial recognition has already become online!)

How good do you got to be, to be a good private investigator?

Private Investigators need to find information, follow people, interview witnesses, investigate accidents, sniff out fraud, locate missing persons and much more, but how good do your P.I.’s skills need to be before you can start taking cases for money?

I can’t put a numeric value on it. I can’t say you need to be an “8” on a scale from 1 to 10. But I can say this…

You need to be better than the bad guys!

In this weeks video I discuss the difference between a burglar who needs to get into a house (illegally) and a Private Detective who needs to get into a house (legally!).

You need to learn the tricks and skills somewhere. I would love it if you got my training on surveillance or process serving, but if nothing else you need to be reading the super-affordable books teaching the skills of your industry!

How about this… let me give you some more free training right here with my special report If You Want To Be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. You can get it right here…

Get Instant Access to Your FREE Private Investigator Report!

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Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye, P.I.

Beware: Things aren’t always as they appear to be!

Usually things are exactly as they appear to be, but in private investigations, that rule-of-thumb that may conceal a devious truth!

In this week’s video I discuss three examples from the real-world.

Case Study 1:

Imagen you’re working as a Loss Prevention Officer (or Asset Protection Agent – same thing) protecting a store form shoplifters, credit card fraud, theft by deception, check fraud and Organized Retail Crime (ORC) of all sorts.

You see a clean-cut man walk in at lunch time. He’s neat in appearance, has on a white button down shirt, a tie, slacks and nice dress shoes. If a sales associate see this guy walk in they may think he’s a business man there on his lunch break to make a purchase. Maybe something for his wife. Maybe not, but either way, he just looks exactly like a good customer. However…

Your well trained eye knows this guy could easily walk into the Men’s Department, put on an expensive sports coat or jacket and walk out the door. No need to conceal merchandise. No worries about walking out with a bag to be checked. No awkward lump of stolen goods under his clothes. Not a bad plan actually!

So how can you tell the difference between the legitimate customer and the clever, well-prepared thief?

You need to look at the big picture. Look at the man “in context”. Does he go to the Men’s Department? Does he walk along the aisles to where he needs to go or does he cut through the racks of clothing to the back wall and work his way (more or less out of sight) to the jackets? Is he looking around nervously? Is he trying to avoid the sales associates?

These other indicators based on his behavior (his actions!) will give you a much more accurate measure of his intentions than a quick look at how he’s dressed.

This is important because things are not always how they appear.

Case Study 2:

You’re on surveillance and you see a guy walking down the street with a limp. Anyone else who sees this simply sees a man with an injury or a handicap. However…

You may see this as a rouse. You know that bad guys have been know to conceal a shotgun down the leg of their pants. (It happens WAY more often than most people might imagine!)

How can you tell the difference between the decent, tax paying citizen and a guy illegally carrying a concealed weapon?

Note to all gun nuts: Go crazy in the comments section telling me how “just because its hidden down his pants” that it’s not necessarily illegal. I know that, but you’ll feel better typing out a rant in all caps and I’ll still love you. 🙂

The important thing is to understand… You need to evaluate if a firearm is in play or not. How do you do this? Look at the person in the larger context.

Is he walking with a determined purpose or just meandering? Is he going toward a particular group of people? Is ha walking toward a store? Is he messing around with his pants (tying to gain access to the weapon)? Is he trying to conceal his face in any way? These are questions you need to ask yourself (almost instinctively – I would suggest) because things are not always as they appear.

Case Study 3:

While on surveillance, you see a street person sit down on a stoop, pull out a little plastic baggie with a dried, leafy substance in it. He pulls out a rolling paper, sprinkles a little of this tobacco-like substance on it, stuffs the baggy back in his jacket pocket and rolls paper it into a cigarette.

Is this guy in possession of a baggie of weed? Is he smoking a joint out on the street? (I know this is hardly a crime anymore – even where it is illegal – but we’re talking here about what the average citizen sees versus what you see as a well trained private investigator!)

To most people, this guy is in possession of marijuana and is openly smoking it on the street. However…

You understand that it’s very common for homeless people to collect cigarette butts off the street, sit down and roll them between their thumb and forefinger to let the unsmoked tobacco near the filter fall into the baggie. They collect this tobacco and save it to roll their own (essentially free!) cigarettes.

How can you tell the difference? Don’t just see the baggie of “dope”. Look at this guy and his actions in context.

Does he hide the baggie down his pants or keep it in his jacket pocket? How does he hold the cigarette? How does he “draw” on or smoke the cigarette. These things look different for a tobacco cigarette and a joint.

Look, you can learn this stuff just through plain ol’ experience, but that’s not always fun. How would you feel if you call the cops on the guy “with a baggie of dope” only to find out it was tobacco?

Yeah, I sell surveillance training, so maybe I’m biased on the need to know what your doing before you go out working a case. But, ask yourself, how would you feel at the end of the day when you lay your head on your pillow if you had missed any of these real case studies in real life rather than spending a few bucks to get trained?

I’m just sayin’.

Still not convinced? Then let me give you some more free training with my special report If You Want To Be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. You can get it right here…

Get Instant Access to Your FREE Private Investigator Report!

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Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye, P.I.