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How to Get Government Contracts as a Private Investigator

Does your experienced private investigator firm have what it takes for government work? This part of the industry is sometimes ignored by PIs who are otherwise qualified for important contracts that can open up a number of new business opportunities. Interested in learning more? Here’s a quick guide on what you should and how to begin looking for this kind of public work.

Yes, Government Contracts Exist for Investigative Services

Governments both state and federal to contract out work to independent private investigators for a number of different tasks. Traditionally, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was the primary federal agency interested in hiring private investigators for specific jobs and searches. However, over time a lot of OPM’s work started to be done internally, and now a newer agency called the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) tends to be more focused on offering PI contracts. Similar branches in state governments can also offer contracts for private investigators and related security/technology services.

So yes, there are options out there! However, your PI business will have to prepare to effectively win business in this sector.

Bidding Works the Same Way as For Other Contracts, So Create a Plan

As with other government contracts, private investigation companies will have to join others in bidding for a specific project. The agency in question will then review bids and choose the proposal that they like the most. Many different factors can guide agency decisions during the bidding process, but one of the most important the limited budget of the agency, so bids that pitch lower costs are often treated favorably. Others may be more interested in getting the project done within a certain period of time.

If your firm doesn’t have much experience in submitting bids, particularly bids for government work, it’s vital to research this process and what a good bid entails. Look for good examples and practice putting together bids that accurately represent your business. It may require learning a slightly different business “language” than you are used to, but it’s necessary to win agency attention. This is also the time to carefully analyze your own schedules and fees to see what the most favorable bids you can create may be.

Licensing and Permits Are Particularly Important

When applying to government work, the details are key. The contract will be very specific about how PI firms must be licensed, what permits they must have, and often some other requirements. When making your proposal, be sure to provide thorough evidence of your licensing and all other information required.

Interestingly, there is some leeway here based on the exact wording of the government’s solicitation. As this letter indicates, if something like state licenses is not specifically mentioned, then they aren’t specifically required. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include all your certification, but it’s important to understand what is a factor and what isn’t.

Search Government Listings and Learn What Kind of Jobs Are Contracted

Where do you find government contracts, and how do you know when bidding opens? Well, it’s always a good idea to get in contact with your government agencies and ask them what the best way to find out about potential jobs and how to apply – they’ll be able you great advice (some patience may be required). There are also websites like that are specifically designed to keep people updated on the independent services the government is looking for and how to apply.

As we briefly mentioned, most contracts with independent investigators are for personnel and hiring purposes, so it’s generally focused on providing background checks for government employees and similar services. If your firm is particularly experienced with background checks especially for larger companies, this could be an advantage for you! Other services may involve fraud and financial investigations.

Understand Your Competitors

Who are you bidding against for government work? Well, that depends on what level you are operating at. At the federal level, contracts tend to go to the particularly large investigative firms like USIS, Keypoint, Dyncorp and so on. It can be very difficult for a smaller company to break in at this level, so it’s a good idea to look at local and state government opportunities first. Research your competitors and see if they’ve claimed any government work recently to get a better idea of what you are up against.

Be Ready for Extra Requirements

Government work in this sector tends to include additional requirements as well. That might mean a certain amount of law enforcement experience, the ability to obtain the right security clearance, and the ability to travel a certain amount (for example, at least 100 miles from the location of your business) when completing government work. Tracking devices to measure mileage may also be useful or required, and certain digital skills may be mentioned as well. Oh, and passing a drug test is usually mandatory for all PIs involved.

Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of the experience! One of the great things about these government contracts is that it’s easier to get another after completing your first contract. It’s also a great thing to mention on your website or as part of your credentials. With a little work, government contracts and their benefits could easily be within your reach.

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