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!

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