More than a tan trench coat and spicy tag lines is needed to be an effective private investigator. In most jurisdictions, PIs must be licensed and bound by the state and operate under increasingly regulated working conditions.
However, PIs remain an effective source of information for civilian litigants, criminal accused persons and betrayed spouses. Hanging up your private detective shingle takes work and a substantial capital investment, but the profession remains both interesting and lucrative – a good combination for the naturally curious entrepreneur.
Determine whether you can get a license. Most states have strict laws about who can get a license to manage a private security agency. Licensees must generally have a clean criminal record, have at least three years of experience as an employed researcher and a diploma related to criminal law. Without a license, a person cannot legally open a private research agency.
Get a private detective license. Each state has different forms and procedures to obtain one. Most charge costs. For example, Michigan charges $ 750 for an application and $ 39 for fingerprints.
Establish a business entity. Contact the business services office of your state government for specific forms, procedures, and costs. In general, to start a limited liability company, you organize articles from the organization to the state. To start a business, archive the articles.
Request an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS provides an EIN free of charge upon receipt of form SS-4. Complete the SS-4 application online at IRS.gov.
Obtaining permits that local authorities and authorities need. For example, some communities require small businesses to apply for a municipal business license, and other communities require a zoning variant to run a business in a residential neighborhood (for example, a home office). Contact city, district, and municipality officials for more information.
Develop a business plan and a marketing plan. Both documents offer a strategic direction for the company. The business plan estimates the expected financial performance and the marketing plan identifies your target market and strategies for increasing the visibility of your company within that market. The Small Business Administration offers free templates for developing both documents.
Connect with customers. Network with local lawyers, newspaper reporters and the Chamber of Commerce to increase your exposure to other business professionals.
Because of the inherent risks associated with private investigation, you must strongly consider a company or a limited liability company instead of a company. A company or LLC offers a certain amount of financial protection for your personal assets.
If you have been convicted of a firearm violation, you will lose your PI license. Despite the drama of television programs, PIs do not have a license to be worn as a researcher.
If you have to carry a gun, ensure the correct permissions and permits. Familiarize yourself with eavesdropping and privacy laws – illegally obtained evidence can spoil a case and discredit your professional investigator skills.