How to work for fellow investigators, be a consummate professional, and get referrals for years to come
by Andrea Orozco
Many of us get our feet wet in this profession by working for other investigators. Some PIs make a good living doing mostly subcontract cases. Although my company’s work is usually for either corporate or private clients, we also like to help a colleague from time to time. We also try to share work with other investigators when we’re spread too thin and could use the help.
When I receive a call for assistance from another investigator, my mind immediately switches gears from “That’s a fellow investigator” to “This is now my client.” It sounds like a subtle shift, but that small change in mindset means a big change in how you treat that colleague who’s just hired you.
Unfortunately, we’ve all had bad experiences with subcontractor investigators who did not manage to make that shift in thinking, and who did not behave as professionally as we may have hoped.
Sometimes, a small attitude adjustment is all it takes to gain the respect of your industry colleagues (and keep them coming back as clients, whenever they need a reliable subcontractor). For new PIs, or anyone looking to get started as a subcontractor, these 15 simple guidelines should help ensure your success.
How to Get (and Keep) Steady Subcontracting Work:
1. Apply the same rules and mindset you would use in dealing with a new attorney, or a private or corporate client.
2. Return phone calls or emails promptly.
3. Be professional in your communications, even with a colleague you know very well. Be clear on what the assignment is and what is expected of you.
4. Be professional in your dress and demeanor—not only to that client, but also when you’re serving as your client’s representative. (i.e. Don’t show up to a client/attorney meeting in shorts and flip flops. Yes, we’ve had that happen!)
5. Be clear about your rates and make sure you and the client agree on the payment schedule up front. It’s OK to send a rate sheet and/or a contract so everyone understands the expectations.
6. Have expenses approved before incurring them so there’s no misunderstanding about the final bill.
7. Don’t assume the other investigator will conduct the preliminary investigation. Everyone’s skills or research abilities are different, so always conduct your own research.
8. Don’t ask to borrow equipment. Being prepared to take on the assignment means owning the necessary gear. If the job is outside of your area of expertise, recommend someone else. Getting good, fast results is what matters most to the originating client; do whatever it takes (within ethical limits) to make that happen.
9. Remember that you are an extension of the hiring investigator. Do your best on each case and represent them well.
10. Do not submit half-completed reports. Their office help is not yours. You wouldn’t expect an attorney or corporate client to finish your product for you.
11. Turn your product over in a timely fashion. Adhere to deadlines. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
12. Make sure the case you are taking on is ethical and doesn’t skirt boundaries.
13. Understand and honor confidentiality and non-solicitation agreements.
14. Don’t expect the hiring investigator to “bear with” delays or understand that you got busy with other cases. Our clients’ cases are the most important. It’s our job to make sure they’re taken care of promptly and properly. If you have too many cases to handle, pass one on to a fellow investigator.
15. Turn over your report and invoice at the same time. Most often that investigator (your client) is waiting for the bill so they know how much to bill their own client.
This is a close-knit community. If you take part in your state or national PI associations, you are certain to receive referrals or calls from fellow investigators. The camaraderie in our profession is a plus. But remember: when you receive that call from a fellow investigator for assistance on a case, that person is now your client.
Following these simple guidelines will show that you are the consummate professional and will not only yield repeat work, but also referrals—for years to come.
About the author:
Andrea has been a professional investigator for 17 years and has spent the majority of her career working in Colorado. As former VP of Training for the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado, she was responsible for the training and education of investigators throughout the state. Andrea is currently the 3rd VP of the National Council of Investigation and Security Services, and also serves on the PPIAC Board as VP of Legislation. Andrea is committed to raising the standard of professionalism as well as protecting the legislative interests of investigators in Colorado and across the country.