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Private Investigator Price

“Choosing a private investigator based on price — smart business or potentially costly decision?”

I posted that question on social media last week after capenews.net (Cape Cod, Massachusetts) reported that a school board had hired a private investigator to look into some accusations about its local superintendent because the firm “offered the best price.” (In fairness, the article also reported that the firm was chosen because of “its larger scope” — whatever that means — and its experience.)

Meanwhile, just a few days later, I met a potential new client who told me that my proposal was nearly double what another firm was charging and that I would have to reduce my fees in order to get the case.

I didn’t reduce my fees, and I didn’t get the case.

Another business owner might consider me an idiot; personally, I think I made a smart business decision.

Indeed, many products and services we purchase are discounted these days … but have you ever stopped to think about why? And should private investigation services fall into that realm?

That said, if you plan to forge ahead and make a decision to hire a private investigator based on price, here are a few tips.

Price Counts, but It Should Never Be the Most Important Thing

In my experience, choosing the cheap option usually means that you don’t get what you really need, which doesn’t help anyone.

Cheap usually involves taking shortcuts, using unqualified people, cutting corners or doing shoddy work. None of which we do, which is why we are not going to be the cheapest solution most of the time.

In my opinion, the three most important qualities in a good private investigator are his or her resourcefulness, creativity and transparency. Look for them.

Making Choices Based Simply on Price Is Stupid

That might be a complete oversimplification, but generally speaking, making choices based simply on price is pretty stupid, especially when you are talking about professional services.

Two investigative firms tasked with doing the same thing may provide you with two completely different results — one achieved by doing things the right way, and the other via the not-so-right way. That is how the latter firm keeps its costs down and can charge you less money.

Don’t Concentrate on the Hourly Fees; Concentrate on the Value

Let’s say that Firm A charges $100 per hour while Firm B charges $200 per hour. For some people, it might be a simple choice to choose the less expensive firm.

But what if Firm B can do the same thing in half the time?

Or what if Firm B has the specific talent, experience and subject matter expertise that will be particularly relevant for your case?

Firm A doesn’t look like such a good deal when it doesn’t provide you what you need, does it?

Determine the Value the Service Actually Provides

Just this week, a Chinese collector bought a 100-year-old painting by the artist Amedeo Modigliani for $170.4 million. If I had $170 million lying around, I can assure you that I would not have spent it on a painting. The value for me is only a very small fraction of that amount. But obviously, in the high-priced art world, the value to others is much greater.

The same goes for services provided by professional firms, including private investigators. What is finding your biological father — who you haven’t spoken to in 30 years — worth to you? What is the value in our finding clues that the person you are about to invest with is really a fraud? Or evidence that your former spouse has transferred a bunch of assets into the name of his business?

In Summary …

As an investigator, my singular focus is on getting my clients their desired result, giving them peace of mind or helping them make a more informed decision. If that means my price is going to be twice as much as the client would prefer to pay, so be it.

We attract and get hired by clients who value our quality of service, professionalism, creativity, expertise and honest answers to their particular issues.

If those things are important to you, then you just might be in the right place.

Guide to Hiring a Private Investigator

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10 replies
  1. Ruben Roel
    Ruben Roel says:

    “Let’s say that Firm A charges $100 per hour while Firm B charges $200 per hour. For some people, it might be a simple choice to choose the less expensive firm. But what if Firm B can do the same thing in half the time?”
    This is exactly what we run into with our clients. I’m not doing investigations anymore, mainly focus on web development. But we run into the same issues in the daily basis.

    Our clients are looking for the most affordable option expecting to receive the same type of value they would get from our company. They end up paying $20/hr to a competitor that gets the job done in 5 hours. Meanwhile, our developers do the same work in less than 30 minutes. They end up paying the same money, but one of them looks less “scary” than the other.

    We’ve learned a lot about sales, quotes, and value propositions. When we’re giving out quotes, we frame them in the terms of our client’s needs, not our features and bullet points. If I was still running a PI Agency, I would change my tone to something less “sketchy”…

    Don’t say “We do surveillance at $100 per hour. I estimate that you will need 8 Hours. 50% must be paid up front. What’s your credit card number?”

    (This gets them thinking: I have to work a full day just to hire him for one hour? That’s a lot of money… I can’t afford it. I have to work 2 weeks just to pay for one day of surveillance… it’s not worth it.)

    Instead, say: “We can definitely help you find the peace of mind you’re looking for. We can get it done for about $800, but rather than paying everything up front, let’s do it in parts. Let’s use $400 to gather all the Intel we need. We’ll run basic surveillance on the subject, if they’re active, we’ll keep on rolling the tape. If they’re not active, we’ll suspend the investigation and work out a favorable schedule to increase the chances we’ll find the solutions you need.”

    One of them is begging for money. The other is offering a service.

  2. Bobby G
    Bobby G says:

    great article and we agree. Warren Buffet stated “Price is what you pay, Quality is what you get.” I so enjoy reading your articles.

    Thank You

    Bobby G

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