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How is a Private Investigator Paid?

Private investigators offer a wide range of services. It can be surprisingly difficult to quantify how much work will go into a particular case. Therefore, private investigators price their services differently. Some services are priced hourly and others have fixed fee. This results in a private investigator's salary to vary.

Offering both fixed fee and hourly fee services means that there can be a variation in the earnings of a private investigator from one month to the next. Additionally, the range of services that the investigator offers will also play a role in this case. Some investigators only offer one type of services while others offer many different services.

Differences Between Hourly And Fixed Fee Services

For some cases, it's easy to quantify the amount of time and resources that will be required to solve the issue. This usually means that the investigators know which records to go through, how much time it'll take, which equipment will be used etc. Such cases are usually assigned a fixed fee, and this means that it won't matter how long it takes to solve the case, and the investigator will be able to predict their salary.

However, there are other cases where there is no way of knowing when the investigator will get the evidence that's needed. This is usually the case with investigations that require surveillance. These are the types of cases that are assigned hourly rates.

There is no guarantee that assigning an hourly rate will mean getting higher earnings compared to cases with a fixed rate. The hourly rate simply serves to ensure that the investigator is paid for all the time and resources that go into the investigation. This is another reason that a private investigator's average salary can differ.

How Private Investigators Make Money

Private investigators earn their salary by offering investigative services to the general public. These are usually cases that are not of public interest, and therefore are unlikely to be handled by the police. Investigators are able to make use of techniques and tools similar to what the police would use to solve the case.

An investigator can make money in a number of ways, e.g.:

  • Some investigators start their own detective agencies and market themselves to potential clients
  • Investigators can look for employment in an existing detective agency
  • Investigators can be hired as in-house detectives e.g. by insurance agencies
  • Some investigators take on cases on a part-time basis while also doing other jobs

What Kind Of Services Do Private Investigators Provide?

Investigators offer a wide range of services. Some of these services are directly related to private investigation while others are related to the security industry but don't have anything to do with private investigations.

Under private investigation, detectives offer services such as:

  • Surveillance
  • Tracing of missing persons
  • Vehicle tracking
  • Lie detection
  • Insurance fraud investigation
  • Background checks
  • Crime scene investigation etc.

Additional services that a private detective agency may offer that aren't related to investigations include:

  • Vehicle immobilisation
  • Close protection
  • Security guarding
  • Key holding etc.

Offering these additional services makes a detective agency more versatile and this can increase the salaries of private investigators.