What is a Private Investigation Business?

When taking that leap of faith and deciding to start your own business, it’s essential to venture into an industry you somewhat enjoy at the very least. A private investigation business is an underground industry that few people consider going into. Still, it’s worth some reflection to see if this could be a pivotal move for you!

Do you have a knack for problem-solving and possess solid observational skills? Then starting a private investigation agency may be the right move for you! Enjoy mysteries and feel accomplished after solving them?

Private detectives help their clients with a plethora of issues, including but not limited to persona, financial, and legal. To become a successful private detective, working knowledge of these different fields or the willingness to learn is required to avoid breaking laws.

If you think starting a private investigation agency may be the right choice for you, read on!

How to Start a Private Investigation Business

Starting a private investigation business is an incredible choice for those with a low startup budget but willing to put in the work. You can start as a home-based private detective and branch out to hiring employees as your company grows. Running a successful investigation company requires education, paperwork, marketing, and a solid plan. The below steps will provide you with the key actionable steps to start an investigation company.


Taking courses in the private investigation field will equip you with the correct information to get your skin in the game and land your first clients. Although as a starting point, private investigation courses will provide you with an excellent baseline of the technical and legal aspects involved in the profession. As you start to gain experience, you may choose to specialize in a particular area of private investigation and dive deeper into education.


First and foremost, to start a private investigation company, you need to determine your business structure. You may choose to register as a sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), or a corporation. Consulting with a lawyer and tax professional early on can help you set yourself up in the best way in terms of company structure and tax registration.

Next, you will need to check for the licenses required to perform private investigation duties, depending on your state legally. It’s common that you may need to pass a written exam, undergo a background check, and pay a licensing fee. The basic requirements in the USA include obtaining a private investigation (PI) license for yourself and a separate one for your operating company.

Finally, business insurance is needed to operate per the law. There are several types of business insurance, but regardless of which option you choose, you will be variably covered if your company experiences a loss. Consult with an insurance specialist to determine the most suitable and affordable option for your company!

Choosing Your Services

After you’ve undertaken a course or two and completed the necessary paperwork, it’s time to choose your services!

In the beginning, it’s recommended to specialize in a small number of services rather than becoming a jack of all trades. As you become known for your specialty, you can branch out and hire employees that specialize in other areas and gain an advantage over other firms by having experts in each area as opposed to generalists.

Some of the most popular services in demand: 

Developing a Business Plan

After gaining the necessary education, completing the required paperwork, and choosing your services, it’s time to develop the rest of your business plan! The following are common steps to keep in mind if you want to build a reputable private investigation agency:

How Much Does it Cost to Start an Investigation Company?

One of the main benefits of starting a private investigation business is that it can be started from the comfort of your own home, saving you thousands in rental office fees. Many successful agencies once started from their own homes and expanded into corporate offices.

The main costs associated with setting up your agency are paperwork fees, cost of building a website, cost of a computer, costs of video equipment, and cost of tinting your vehicle windows. Depending on which services you choose to offer, evidence gathering being the most expensive to start, you can get started for $2000 to $3000 as a conservative estimate!  

What Should You Charge?

Conduct a quick Google search and survey what agencies in your area are charging. Use this as a guideline and consider charging slightly less to build up your clientele and slowly increase your rates to match the market rate. Generally speaking, private investigators charge a significant hourly rate, so it can be a lucrative business in the long term. Consider charging for any additional expenditures such as travel and hotels (if necessary) and a flat fee for any evidence-based pictures of videos.

How to Market Your Private Investigation Business

The first step to marketing your private investigation business would be to determine your target market. Based on the services you choose to offer, this can quickly be narrowed down. As a general knowledge, the best clients suspect their partners of cheating. Although you should be warned that these cases can involve many emotions, but irredeemably are the bread-and-butter for many PI agencies.

After determining your ideal target market, you can hire a website designer to build a presentable and professional site that provides customers with a breakdown of your services, pricing, and the best ways to contact you. If you have time, leveraging social media is one of the most lucrative ROI moves you can make as it’s free, excluding the value of your time! As a long-term strategy, you can invest in an advertising agency to launch paid search campaigns and drive more traffic to your offerings.

Concluding Words

Now that you know how to start a private investigation business and the skills required to be successful, if you feel that your interest has been piqued, go ahead and enroll yourself in a course and find out if this is the right move for you!

Starting a private investigation business can be a gratifying career given the potential to create an impact, so best of luck on your journey, and be sure to persevere when faced with challenges!