Now that I’ve been on the other side for a while (having people call me wanting to become a P.I.) I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t.
Remember what I said before about prospective employers. Their default answer is ‘no’. Do any of the following three things and you make it that much easier for them to say no.
1. Saying you’re enthusiastic, keen and a quick learner, without any evidence.
If you say these things, but have no actions to back them up, they’re not only redundant, they’re a complete lie. Every single person who has contacted me has said these words. I can only think of one person who actually had the evidence. She got a job with us.
How enthusiastic and keen are you? Have you contacted them more than once? Do you contact them weekly to let them know you’re still keen? Have you already got your license by yourself? Have you started working on cases, real or practice?
Have you taken a real interest in their business, have you identified some specific areas where you could help? Can you show how your past experience could increase their business or make things easier for them?
Have you started learning by yourself? How many books have you read? How many courses have you been on? Have you asked them if you could tag along on some cases to get a better idea of them?
By all means, say these things. But you’d better provide plenty of evidence to back them up.
2. Saying you’ll work for free.
Nothing appears more desperate than offering to work for free. And the very last thing you want to appear as is desperate.
A way to not appear desperate is this: Instead of thinking ‘how can they help me, I really need them’, think ‘how can I help them, what value do I have to add, what areas do they need me in’. This is true in every negotiation. The person who has more to offer and isn’t as desperate generally gets what they want. You may not have more to offer them, but at least don’t act like you’ve got nothing to offer.
Saying you’ll work for free also says that you don’t value your work. If you don’t value it, why should they?
If a firm asks you to work for free that’s a slightly different case but would need to be evaluated carefully. In my experience, no reputable firm will ask you this. Anything they do they will be charging a client for. If they’re charging the client, they should be paying you.
Yes, there are genuine (rare) situations where they couldn’t charge a client for your time, but this should be the exception not the rule. They may want an unpaid trial period which could be suitable. Just ensure that each party knows exactly what to expect, when the trial period will end, and what new conditions will take its place.
3. Not being professional.
Private investigation is a client-facing, service-based business. As such, everything you do needs to appear professional. This is important not only because it ensures things are done correctly and in order, but it also helps bring in business. Who would you rather use, someone who appears professional or unprofessional?
The firm that you’re talking to has a brand and reputation to uphold. They’re not going to allow an unprofessional contractor or employee damage that. Therefore, your emails, letters, business cards, phone conversations and appearance need to show them that they could trust you with their work.
Spelling or grammar mistakes, missed appointments and an unprofessional attitude will almost certainly get them to say no.