My friend Scott Olson of the National Institute of Bail Enforcement has always summed it up best: “If you are only advertising to clients in your immediate city, county or region then you are missing a nation full of clients.”
While this would most certainly apply to your typical client in different states don’t forget that other private investigators and agents are a tremendous source for assignments and new ideas. Fully 40% of our total income comes directly from our peers in different states and the financial cost of networking via newsgroups, bulletin boards and private investigator forums is virtually zero.
Here are a couple of ground rules when participating in online discussions:
- It is important to stay on the sidelines for a few days after joining so that you can get an idea of what is going on in the group and to “size up” the players.
- Don’t be a lurker for too long. Introduce yourself in a professional manner and include a little about your background, area of the country in which you work, services you provide and what you hope to gain by being a part of the discussion.
- Always include a signature line! At the very least it should include your name, company name (if applicable) area in which you accept assignments, telephone number and / or email address. Additional information like state license numbers (where required), address, website URL, professional associations and services provided are a bonus. Most professionals will ignore or not reply to posts without a signature line.
- Don’t beg for work! Too many times I will suggest a particular forum or newsgroup to someone needing a “networking kick-start” only to see them post a message like, “Help, I need work. If you have any cases please send them to me.” Nothing screams incompetence like the whaling of desperation.
- USE SPELL-CHECK. If your email client does not have spell check built in then compose your email in word processing software that does. Your ability to communicate using proper grammar and basic English says everything about you when that is the only point of reference everyone else has about you.
- Contribute. Online networking is about putting your name out there without spamming the group. Continually posting “ABC Bail Investigations is ready to accept assignments in Wichita, Kansas. Call us today at 555-1212.” Will do more to drive potential clients off than impress them. Instead, become an information center. Maintain a master file of documents, resources, links, etc. which have been helpful to you in your work and share them when questions come up.
- Unless you are qualified to do so do not offer opinions on facts of law but offer links to published resources instead. The fastest way to sink your credibility is to be wrong on points of established fact and / or law.
The following are my favorite free forums to join. Don’t let the member numbers fool you; biggest is not always best! The following networking opportunities are for the most part unmoderated newsgroups and bulletin boards which require little to no membership vetting and are free to join.
The PI Group
[12/29/09 Editor’s Note: Due to the many complaints we’ve recently received concerning this group moderators’ conduct and our own personal experiences lately, we’ve removed the description and no longer recommend this newsgroup as an unbiased or trustworthy source for some information the moderator is making public, especially as it relates to private investigator database providers.]
This is another no nonsense group that requires license verification prior to being accepted. While it does cater to private investigators across the country I see a lot of investigators based in Louisiana in this group. The active participants are intelligent and experienced. I don’t see a great deal of work being posted here but there is a lot of great discussion going on.
The NAIS Tracing Missing Persons and Skip Tracer’s Forum
This is an active forum with a lot going on but don’t let the membership numbers fool you. Like most of the NAIS forums you can expect a good balance of inexperienced and experienced investigators. There is a decent amount of work posted to this group, mostly locates and place of employment locates for post judgment recovery, but it can be a great resource for anyone who might get stuck on their next skip trace.
The NAIS Surveillance Professional’s Forum
Again, like most of the NAIS forums you can expect a good balance of inexperienced and experienced investigators. There is a decent amount of work posted to this group and is a great resource for anyone who might get stuck on their next skip trace.
The Fugitive Recovery Network Forum
5,564 Registered Users
This is a fantastic collection of bail professionals from all over the country. They are, by and large, a very intelligent and experienced group of bail bondsmen and fugitive recovery agents. Beware though; this is a tight-knit group and appropriate caution must be taken when joining in on the many different moderated discussions going on at any given time. They are usually a welcoming group as long as you take it slow at first and do not come off like you know everything. They have a great track record of quickly exposing the frauds, liars and cons that occasionally come along within the bail enforcement community.
The NAIS Bail Recovery Forum
This group has a mixture of experienced and inexperienced bail agents. Cases are posted frequently by agents needing help in other states and new members are free to ask questions. As in all newsgroups, be careful of the advice you get as many in this particular forum are particularly green. Unfortunately threads in this newsgroup tend to slip into whether or not you have to be licensed in one state or another but there are moments of clarity and intelligence from several seasoned and experienced members.
Introduce yourself, be professional and contribute in an intelligent manner and you will be sure to find additional assignments… maybe even many additional assignments.
Have I missed your favorite newsgroup or forum? Send me the name, link and a brief description of the newsgroup and why it has been good for you and we’ll add them to our online version of this article.