If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to work as a private investigator, the truth is you’re far from alone. Everyone’s seen those snooping PIs going about their business on TV and in the movies, painting a picture of a dark and mysterious underworld where people move in shadows and live their lives off the radar. Of course, common sense should tell you that things are never quite as they’re portrayed in popular culture and this is indeed the case here. Sure, it can be rewarding and even enjoyable to be a PI, but it’s certainly not all ‘James Bond’ style spy-work and a rip-roaring thrill ride from start to finish.
Of course, what’s involved will vary dramatically in accordance with the type of PI a person becomes and what they choose to specialise in. Nevertheless, there are certain things the movies will never tell you about the life of the PI, which usually have to be learned along the way.
Here’s a quick overview of a few examples to help prevent unpleasant surprises for newcomers to the industry:
1 – No Schedule Or Routine
First of all, if you’re the type that likes to work standard office hours on weekdays only, you can forget about becoming a PI. You might open your office during these hours, but when it comes to carrying out your actual investigative work, chances are most of it will take place outside office hours and on weekends. There’s almost no routine or consistency whatsoever when it comes to working hours and you have to be prepared to be anywhere at any time at a moment’s notice. If you cannot, this isn’t the job for you.
2 – It Can Get Dangerous
The mark of a great PI is one that can get the job done without getting into any kind of danger at all. This of course takes extreme skill and plenty of experience, which is why for those who are just learning the ropes or getting used to things, danger represents a quite common part of the job. The extent of the danger will vary in accordance with what you do and the kinds of jobs you take on of course, but it’s important to acknowledge the fact that safety isn’t something that can be taken for granted.
3 – Awkward Situations
Even in instances where there’s no specific danger, chances are you’ll often find yourself facing a rather awkward situation. For example, the suspected cheating spouse has not only been caught red-handed, but has also noticed you and realised what you’re doing. She approaches you, begs you not to say anything and offers to pay you triple…what do you do? If you tell the truth you’ll bring an end to the marriage, but at the same time this is your job and what you agreed to do – slightly awkward to say the least!
4 – No Constant Income
When you are working off your own bat as a private investigator, you take control of your own workload and find your own cases. As such, it’s not a case of being able to depend on a certain amount of money coming in at any time of the month, or even any money at all for that matter. You don’t get vacation pay, you lose money if you’re off sick and if business is slow, you might not earn anything. That being said, if you’re good at what you do and end up becoming a respected and in-demand professional, you can pretty much write your own ticket.
5 – Your Car May Take a Beating
Not literally of course…although sometimes…but it’s important to remember that much of the work you do will involve travelling. It’s not uncommon for the average PI to clock up around 35,000 miles or even 50,000 miles per year, depending on what they do and where they do it. Needless to say, this puts a strain on your vehicle and means more repairs, more petrol and more chance of breaking down – all of which must be factored in before getting up and running.
6 – Getting Started is Pricey
Last but not least, never overlook the fact that when you are first getting up and running, you’ll need to spend quite a lot of money on the gear you need. Along with establishing your business in the typical sense – website, office etc – you’ll also need things like a cutting-edge camera with an outstanding lens and various other surveillance equipment. Suffice to say, all of these essentials combined can set you back thousands and will inevitably need replacing sooner or later.