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Your First Steps Toward Starting Your Own PI Firm

The life of a private investigator might not be for everyone, but those who are natural born problem solvers and have a keen eye for the facts might just find themselves attracted to this fascinating line of work. Starting your own private investigator business requires commitment and skill, but if your heart is in the right place, you will find that it is definitely an achievable goal.

Each state will have different requirements for up and coming private investigators, which may include written examinations of varying lengths and difficulties. Be prepared to answer questions about interrogation procedures, trial protocol, and be sure to have extensive knowledge about the terms of the trade. If you are not familiar with criminalistics, or if you are not prepared to know exactly the right move to make in any number of different real world PI scenarios, it is probably best to hit the books. If you pass the test, you will go through a background check and pay a licensing fee.

If you feel you need to brush-up on your knowledge of the field, or even if you are new to private investigations, there are many resources that can get you on the right track toward your ultimate career goal. Local community colleges or other private organizations offer classes in conducting private investigations. These training programs cover a wide variety of useful skills, including background investigation, legal investigation, locating missing persons, general research, surveillance, and even self-defense. How long you want to spend within one of these programs is up to you, but it is good to remember that there is no such thing as knowing too much.

If self-study is more your game, it would be a good idea to begin by doing some research on the specific skill sets required to be a private investigator. Talking to professionals who are working in the field would be a good place to start. Once you feel like you have an idea of your curriculum, it is just a matter of studying — going to the library or scouring the internet to find out what you need to know. Consider it your first research assignment as a private eye.

If you passed your test and got your license, congratulations! Now it is time to get your business up and running. When starting out, try your best to play to your strengths. Identify the particular areas you have the most skill with and advertise those as your specialty. Don’t run into the problem of biting off more than you can chew by branching out into too many areas at once. It is better to start small and stay focused on what you are good at.

You also need to know your customer. The old suspicious husband scenario is more common than you might think, and you will also find yourself securing lost or stolen property, or investigating on behalf of insurance companies. Ask around and let your clients tell you what’s in demand.

The last thing you will need is the right gear. A private investigator can accomplish a lot through just his wits and persistence, but having the right tools is an absolute must. The basics are a camera and audio recorder. If you run into the problem of not being able to afford the best equipment, just buy what you can afford. Later on, when your business really takes off, you will be able to upgrade.

As with any business, a successful private investigation firm relies on an air of professionalism, experience, and training. Be sure to be well-versed in your trade, and conduct yourself in a respectable manner. Your clients will be trusting you with their most sensitive information, and the most basic thing is to gain their unwavering trust.

About the Author

North American Investigations (NAI) Chief Investigator, Darrin Giglio, is the leading expert in the private investigation industry. Giglio’s caseload includes everything from surveillance, infidelity/matrimonial, locate/missing person investigations, child custody, criminal cases, to an array of additional investigations. With over 25 years of experience in the field, Giglio and his team have uncovered evidence for thousands of cases, leading clients to the truth they have been searching for. For additional information, please visit

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