How Private Investigators Find Clients
- April 21
- by Stephanie Irvine
In order to create a sustainable business, private investigators new and old must work to find new clients. But where to begin? Especially for new PIs or those re-entering the industry after a hiatus, the task of finding new clients can seem daunting. With that said, there are a number of tried and true methods that private investigators can implement to attract new clients. The first step in getting a new client is knowing where to look and getting a list of leads. Keep reading for tips on finding new clients and advice from other PIs.
Who hires private investigators?
While certainly experienced PIs know who hires private investigators, those brand new to the industry or starting their business plan may be interested in knowing what kind of clients typically hire private investigators. The good news is that there are plenty of places to find clients. Private investigators are used by individuals, law firms, and businesses for a plethora of reasons.
Go straight to the source
Private investigators often instinctively know how to hunt for the information or evidence they need so this tip might seem obvious: go straight to the source. Because many private investigators are hired by law firms, they can go to the courthouse to curate a list of prospective clients that they can use to begin establishing a rapport and asking for business.
Ben Cameron of PaperPushers, LLC advised, “To prospective clients at law firms we will go visit, shake hands, and introduce ourselves the old-fashioned way. More often than not, I would encourage boots on the ground. This shows you manage your time well and that time is valuable. Meeting potential clients face-to-face can increase your networking potential, or you might just get assigned a case so they’ll get you to leave!”
This advice was echoed by Brian DeAntonio, a private investigator with 24 years of experience who offered this tip: “[Go] to the courthouse and [find] the names of the criminal defense attorneys who are handling big cases, or many cases at a time. This will narrow down the busy firms in the area and make face-to-face meetings more fruitful.”
Regardless of whether a private investigator is targeting a law firm, business, or insurance agency, making a personal impression in-person can often mean the difference between getting hired or passed over.
Joining business associations, such as the local chamber of commerce or industry-specific organizations, can provide a multitude of opportunities for private investigators new and old. Some PIs may find themselves with too much work and would prefer to offload their overflow to someone they trust in the industry. Some business organizations may offer networking opportunities in which PIs can gain contacts to try and procure work. Visit our list of state private investigator associations and see if it is a good option to join — and that may prove to be beneficial in procuring work.
By attending conferences or trade shows for the private investigations industry (or even related industries in which a PI can network with prospective clients), PIs can set up meetings and attend networking events or dinners. These create the perfect opportunity for a private investigator to get their name out there and to potentially establish a solid lead or a new client. For example, the NALI conference is coming up in June 2021 and is accepting registrations.
Investigator Janni Connolly of Goldrick & Desmond Investigations, Inc. advised the following, “Join local Chamber of Commerce and networking business groups. You must ‘smooze.’ No one likes wearing these name tags and introducing yourself but you as a PI will be the most interesting person in the room. People want to know what it’s like. Companies use PIs for background checks, etc.”
Advertising is another great way that investigators can get their names out there and target potential clients. They can advertise directly to those clients if they have a specific mailing list (by snail mail or email), or they can advertise more indirectly online.
PInow is actually a great way to get your name online. Being listed in a PI directory like PInow will provide very beneficial advertising when potential clients are searching for a private investigator and will also provide the opportunity to collaborate with fellow PIs. As a bonus, most directories require a certain level of experience before investigators are eligible to get listed — so being part of a directory reflects that a PI is a trusted professional.
An investigator from Swiss Security Solutions Ltd. suggested that investigators “invest in GoogleAds, BingAds, a good website, and quality of services provided including reporting.” Whether it’s through a regular newsletter or popup ads, make sure you’re tailoring your advertising to the clients you’re targeting.
Often one of the more neglected ways to get new business, referrals are still a tried-and-true method. Many times, people simply forget to ask for a referral, but doing so can secure new business as it offers investigators not only a hot lead, but it also gives them an “in” with the referral. Make it a regular practice to ask clients for referrals. Some businesses choose to incentivize referrals, but that is up to the investigator.
Gain work and experience as an employee
One option that investigators brand new to the industry may not realize is that there are investigations firms that will hire private investigators. This secures work for an investigator without the hassle of owning a small business. Additionally, it can provide the investigator with valuable experience that will prove to be worthwhile later if they choose to go out on their own.
Investigator Soulat Arshad offered this recommendation: “If someone is a new PI, I always recommend for them to work as an employee for another firm first to gain some experience and knowledge in the field before they start soliciting directly for themselves. Indeed, Workopolis, local classifieds are all a good source for leads. Believe me, there's a lot to learn as an employee while working for someone else before you should go out on your own and start advertising your services directly to the public as an individual or an agency.”
Working for a firm can also build up your network, providing you with reliable, seasoned investigators who can recommend your abilities to others.
If you have more tips that weren’t mentioned, be sure to join the conversation on our social media channels on Facebook and LinkedIn. Best wishes to all investigators new and old on securing new clients!