Don’t buy private investigator case management software when first starting your detective agency because you really need to get clients, work cases and collect your money before getting the P.I. software and equipment you think you’ll need.
Of course case management software does more than just help you find cases you’ve worked on, but initially (just starting out!), you probably don’t need a complex and expensive system.
Many private investigators just starting out setting up their detective agency tend to overbuy stuff (EG. cameras, tracking devices, other “toys”, and the shiny things). We think, “Oh, if I had that – that would make me successful.”
It’s all about you and your skills!
My emphasis is for you is to work on yourself.
Build your skills. Build up yourself and then, when you add the tools, it amplifies your abilities. It amplifies what you can do.
Look, you can go out and buy the most expensive snazzy remote-control surveillance camera, put it on a tripod, get the perfect surveillance vehicle, tint the windows just right so you can set the camera up in the back. You can sit in a comfortable seat and watch what’s going on and control the camera with a remote-control and all that. No. No! The first thing you need to do is get a client.
Private Investigator Gear
It may sound funny to hear me say this, but buying the stuff is easy. You can buy stuff. People will sell you stuff. They’ll fall over themselves to sell you stuff!
You need to work on getting a client and, until you have a few clients, you may not even need a bunch of stuff. You can rent (or borrow!) a lot of equipment. But, specifically, today, I want to talk about case management software.
Private Investigator Case Management Software
Make no mistake about it, you don’t want to get a year, eighteen months, or two years into growing your detective agency and realize you’ve got a stack of file folders with all these cases that you’ve worked and you can’t remember who you’ve worked for, when it was, or what type of case it was.
That’s a problem, for sure, but if you have that problem, that’s a pretty darn good problem to have!
It means you’ve worked enough cases to develop a little bit of history and hopefully you’ve been turning a profit doing it!
The idea of case management software is that it can help you keep track of the cases you’re working on and find past cases quickly when you need to find them. This comes up when you have to testify 18 months after you worked the case or when you hear a name in one case and can’t help but to wonder why it sounds so familiar. Did it come up in another case you worked?
Once you’ve got a bunch of cases under your belt, you can easily go into your case management software and look at cases you’ve worked, who you’ve worked for and when it was.
What’s the best private investigator case management software when starting out?
Let me suggest to you, starting out, you don’t need to buy some fancy case management software.
Probably, to be honest with you, business is going to be kinda’ slow and you’re going to get into it six months, a year (or more!) before you need this software.
Then, when you do decide to get it, you’re going to have a much better idea of what features are important to you. If you’ve started with on software package and decide to switch to another, you’re going to find it’s ridiculously difficult to switch over.
Here’s what to do first.
Look, initially here’s what you need to do. You need to get clients.
Once you start working, how do you keep track of your cases? Use the software that’s already on your computer!
I’m talking about word processing or spreadsheets. You don’t even have to buy those programs!
There are “open source” solutions, good open source solutions. I’m not talking about pirating software, stealing, bootlegging or illegal downloads. I am very opposed that. But, there’s legitimate, open software for word processing, spreadsheets and all sorts of things. That can be your case management software when you’re trying to figure out how to start a private investigator business!
In fact, this open source (and free!) software will probably take you quite a ways before you need to buy a solution.
Here’s exactly how to do it.
Initially, your case management software may look like just a word processing document, whatever your particular program calls that. But a document.
How you title it and how you save it in your computer is the real trick! Get a system and use it consistently. You will find so much value to this.
Let me suggest a file name that looks a little like this…
Maybe you’re going to start with the date.
I like that idea because if you used the format of year, month and day, that format will come up in your computer in chronological order! It’s very easy scroll down by date and find something.
Plus, you can always “keyword search” you files for a specific date of set of dates.
For example, if you want to see all your cases from December 2018, keyword “201812” . Up will pop a list of all the cases you worked in December of 2018.
Next, you might want to use the name of your client.
I like last name, first name format.
Here’s a trickier part. The next thing might be the type of case that you worked. Maybe you use this, maybe not. It depends on how you think you’re going to be searching your cases in the future and how you want look at the types of cases you’re taking.
You might put the letters BG in for background check. SURV for surveillances. PS for process serving. ST for skip trace. Use a code/system that makes sense to you, but always use the system you decided on. Don’t make exceptions because you’ll inevitably forget!
Of course, some of your cases involve multiple types of investigations, but basically, you want to pick your system and stick with it. Maybe it’s simply: “What did the client hire me to do?” Surveillance. Infidelity case. Process serving. Etcetera.
The subject of your investigation.
Don’t miss this… I like to have the name of the subject of the investigation on the file as well.
You might say, “Did I have a subject with that name before? That name really rings a bell.”
Simply do a keyword search for the subject’s name, and boom, up pops the file with that person.
If you only know a first name or last name, your keyword search will quickly give you a list of possible matches! And it’s a lot quicker to go through that list looking of a match than to go through all of your case files!
Pick a system. Use it initially. I think you’re going to find you can go quite a ways into your investigative business before you need to really invest in some true investigative software.
What I’ve covered here today is not by any means exhaustive. It’s just a starting point and an idea. Specifically, I want you to save that little bit of money starting out. Don’t buy something that you don’t need just yet. Buying something you think you might need in the future is a little bit dicey. You can drive yourself crazy trying to do that. Also, you can drive yourself bankrupt buying things that never end up giving you any return on your investment.
With any method you use, think in terms of two particular things.
1. Back-up your files!
We know all hard drives die eventually. That’s just the way it is.
2. Consider encrypting your files.
You never know when you may need to keep them safe and secure from prying eyes.
If you have ideas or experience with case management outside of using a particular kind of software, please drop it in the comments. We can all learn from each other.
The Real Big Picture
Here’s the view from 10,000 feet… all the shiny bells and whistles are not going to make you a better investigator. It’s what you have in your head!
It’s your skills and abilities, and developing you that’s really going to pay off!
Really, concentrate on improving yourself. Work on getting the clients. Grow and build your business from there, buying things as you need them.
Committed to your success,
Private Investigator (Ret.) &
#1 Best Selling Author
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