Any Private Investigators on here?

I am 44 years old and so ready for a career change. There’s several reasons why I think I might enjoy being a PI but I have absolutely no idea of how and where to begin. Or even if I would like the job actually. I mean, I love law enforcement and investigation but I’ve never seen the actual day to day job.

Is anyone on here a PI that would like to help point me in the right direction to finding out more? Google only does so much. I’m in Texas, by the way.

ETA: IANAPI, but I’ve heard it’s just like you read in novels and see in the movies. Good luck!

Moderator Action

I think this thread will do better in IMHO where people can give you advice as well as factual information about how to embark on this career path. IMHO is also the proper forum when asking for personal experiences.

Moving thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.

I haven’t been in the PI business in nearly 15 years, and I mainly fell into the job by accident, so I wouldn’t consider myself a tremendous resource for getting started. At the time I worked as a PI, there was a pretty substantial difference between PIs who followed suspected cheating spouses, and PIs who largely had corporate clients. I worked for the latter, and our clients were almost always law firms who used us for gathering evidence, finding witnesses and conducting interviews to help the firms get ready for trial in white collar criminal matters. We were basically the defense’s equivalent to the FBI or local law enforcement’s investigators (and often interacted directly with those agencies).

By the time I got involved (around 1998), a lot of investigative work was already being done through online databases, though there was (and still is) a lot of value in knocking on people’s doors and talking to them face-to-face. I found it thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable, and if I hadn’t would up working for a law firm, I would likely have continued along that path, or tried to become an investigator with the District Attorney’s office.

If you think it’s the kind of work you’d enjoy, I would highly encourage you to pursue it. I’m sorry I don’t have much in the way of suggestions on how to go about that, though. As I said, I fell into the work, myself.

Thanks Omar, engineer_comp_geek, Asimovian.

I’ve searched for info on the internet but I guess I want real life experiences. Like…
[li]How much money does the average PI make working for someone? How about in a private practice?[/li][li]Do you feel, at the end of the day that you’ve done a service to humanity? Or is it mostly helping one person get the upper hand in bitter divorce cases? Not that I’m opposed to doing some of that, but not for the majority of my work.[/li][li]My passion is missing people. How does that come into play? Can you specialize in something like that? My guess is that a lot of that is pro bono work.[/li][/ul]

I’ve done it on and off again over the last 35 years. Mostly to supplement my income as a LEO.

For years one of the main ways I made a lot of money was providing executive protection services to visiting celebrities and corporate big wigs. My state was one of the last to get concealed carry (2011), even PI’s could not carry concealed. So one had to be a peace officer to work armed plain clothes, which I am. I was pulling $125/hr on some gigs doing that. But the jobs weren’t always steady.

The rest of the cases were all corporate stuff. Product counterfeiting, transshipment enforcement, product tracking. I also had gigs where I would insert winning game pieces into products that had contests. You wouldn’t believe how strict the integrity of those contests is.

The written test to get a Private Detective license in my state was insanely easy for me. I had been a Deputy Sheriff for a couple of years before taking it and knew all the answers without studying.

Was there ever an issue with conflict of interest? Or a conflict with authority/jurisdiction?

For the most part not at all. Almost everything I did involved civil litigation on my end, not criminal. When issues with counterfeiting came up our reports, photos and such would usually get bumped up to the feds. But surprisingly companies try to stop it civilly first.

I was a PI for about ten years (1993-2003) and worked with a firm that handled primarily business and corporate clients. We only did “domestic” work under certain narrow circumstances. To address a couple issues:

  1. Most of the PIs were part-time because it can be “feast or famine” with clients. We might get an anti-counterfeiting (products, not money) case and need three investigators for 40 hours/week. Then…nothing. Same with workmen’s comp and other investigations. Most of the investigators were ex-LEOs and had retirement income to supplement their pay from our firm.

  2. In my state, the requirements to become a PI are pretty strict. It’s easy if you’re ex-LEO, but you have to serve several years as an “associate” under a licensed PI if you’re not. Associates don’t make much.

  3. It CAN be interesting, but most of the time the work is pretty mundane. I’ve sat in a van or been lying in a field watching a house for 8+ hours at a time just to see if I can get video of a disability claimant engaged in some physical activity he should not have been able to do. Going undercover as an employee to find out who is stealing from the company is not as exciting as it sounds. I liken it to gambling…you spend a lot of time losing, but you get a huge rush when you finally get what you’re after.

  4. Much of our income was from background checks, which are often conducted on-line and/or in person.

Again, we avoided domestic cases like the plague. One reason is that we often got stiffed by the clients, even if they had put up a retainer. ALWAYS get paid fully in advance.

Excellent post! My experiences exactly. Especially the feast or famine thing.