This is a very common question and the short answer is…it is nothing like what you see on TV. On the downside, you can spend countless hours trying to stay awake in vehicles just waiting for someone or something to happen. You can spend hours hiding in the woods with all the wonderful creatures that live there (especially in Florida…you can have plenty of company). You can hang out in some of the worst neighborhoods at some of the worst hours to be there. You are a snoop, a nosey person, big brother, a narc or even worse in some people’s eyes. The pay isn’t typically the greatest and the hours are certainly not the best. Why do we do it? The thrill of the hunt. You get to catch a cheating spouse, get the evidence to prove a criminal case, save children from a destructive parent and much more. There are rewards or “little victories” to coin a phrase. Some cases can take you to beach resorts, some can take you to the swamp.
To be a PI, you have to decide what you want to do. Maybe you don’t want outdoor surveillance, maybe you would rather not be in the bad neighborhoods, but if you are like the typical investigator, you can’t afford to pick and choose. Not many investigators are pulling down triple digits. Most are getting by and hoping for more overtime this month than they had last month. It isn’t as glamorous as Hollywood would make it seem and that is why there is a steady stream of folks willing to pay for an investigation. They pay someone to do things that they wouldn’t want or are unable to do.
You also have to realize that you are not going to succeed every time and if you have a conscience, it is tough to deal with. We have a lot of clients that can’t afford much as far as an investigation goes. They may need help but only have a few hundred dollars. The chance of success is greatly dimished in these types of investigations due to the odds. What are the odds that on a particular night at a particular time, hubby is going to meet his lover? Sometimes, you have a pretty good idea, but most of the time it is a shot in the dark. We spend more time on most investigations that we ever bill for. We certainly are not getting rich, but we can sleep at night (or in the day depending on the case).
If you do decide that you want to be a private investigator, please do it for the right reasons. Do it because you care and want to make a difference. Make sure that the “gotcha” moment is worth the hours or even days of waiting. We, as investigators, would all be better off. Doing it for the money only may motivate some, but there really aren’t that many PI’s with the red Ferrari and the big boat at the dock that come home and have the maid cook supper and turn down the bed.
Til next time