You sure you want to be a Private Investigator?


You’ve watched TV and seen the shows; Magnum, Simon and Simon, Charlie’s Angels, Spencer for Hire (my favorite – I know I digress here but was Hawk the man or what!) and of course Rockford Files, Jake and the Fatman and Moonlighting. These shows were a lot of fun to watch when I was a kid. The latest gumshoe offerings like Angel, Monk, Nero Wolfe and Psyche are a little better with reality. However, as I became a Police Officer and then a Private Investigator, these shows make me cringe at all the untruths and the laws that were broken. So I will take you through some misconceptions about actually being a private investigator.


DAY-to-DAY Routine……….HA! Hahahaha! Beyond you rolling out of bed, getting dressed and having a habit of buying coffee at Starbucks or a paper from the news stand, you will be sorely disappointed if you are looking for routine in the Private Investigation field. The only thing that is routine is that there is NO routine.

One day you could be watching a construction, the next day an insurance disability case, yet another day acting as a bodyguard and the next day you could be stuck behind a desk all day to catch up on reports and bills. The job is fickle and customers are too. You have to respond to the phone calls, because if you don’t the customer will try someone else. Client’s hire you and cancel you because they change their minds8 times in an hour. One day you may have been looking forward to sitting still, instead you end up walking a wooded area for the perfect picture and get tore up by mosquitos all day. On another day you may want to go go go, only to find yourself not moving for 8 straight hours. Again there simply is NO routine as a P.I.


The CAREFREE life……….HA! Again. I know the TV shows the P.I. driving nice cars, lounging in the sun, and finding information as effortlessly as blinking. This is all far from the truth. The life of a P.I. is very stressful for many reasons. Customers don’t just grow on trees. Advertising and word of mouth don’t always work well. There is the constant need to produce evidence because if you never find anything, then you will definitely not get good reviews and in some case you won’t get paid. On top of this, there is coordinating your jobs, your investigators, your resources, keeping up with bills, insurance, the latest laws and the latest technology. Not exactly relaxing.


The SAFETY……….For the most part this is likely true. However, at any given time you could be hit, stabbed or even shot for simplest of things. As an example; one time I was pulling someone’s trash to try and find information. I got out of my car, grabbed the trash, through it in the trunk and as soon as I got three houses away, two cars came ripping out of the drive way after me. They tried to box me in and one guy was yelling at me shaking something in his hand. All I thought was am I going to get shot or get in a crash to keep from getting shot. I finally out maneuvered them and got away, but barely. That was just for garbage?


The MONEY..………This could not be farther from the truth for the average Private Investigator. Typically first year earnings are low. You have to build a client base, advertise, get your name out there, and even go door to door in some cases. I liken it to a financial crap shoot. A lot of firms have to take on every case they can, even the crazies, in the beginning to get the name out before they get a regular cash flow going. Even then, just like the stock market, there are highs and lows in the Private Investigation business. Sometimes you have so much business you don’t know what to do. Other times you sit there and say, “I don’t know what to do” because there is no business.


The PRO’s…………..If you like occasional adventure and you can handle hours of boredom at a time, this may be a good full-time job. Surveillance is a blast when the person you’re following is moving a lot. Trying to predict which way they are going to turn and avoiding direct line of sight to avoid being burned is like a game in itself. Finding that piece of evidence for a client or an attorney to be the “golden egg” in court is an awesome feeling. It can be addictive. For me, helping the right people in their fight against the wrong people gives me a great feeling. It’s not always as clear cut as good and evil, but most times it is. I love investigating, period, and to be able to do it on my own terms in many cases, and sometimes in flip flops and, makes it even better.


The CON’s………..If your anything like me, where God & Family are first, this is definitely not the job for you. Throw in the constant stress of not knowing if you will have a pay check, not having a pension, not having paid benefits and not having any sick days or holidays, and you will emphatically not want this job. I didn’t become a P.I. until after my kids were grown and thank God because I would have missed so much. Coaching their teams, leading study groups at church, seeing their plays or concerts, taking them to their first dance and more. Having a regular job with consistent hours allowed me to do the family thing well. Private Investigations definitely does not lend itself to that lifestyle.