Subcontracting is a potential solution for busy PIs that need help juggling cases. A PI can either hire a subcontractor independently by personally interviewing clients or use a vendor that offers specific PI services from a larger pool of candidates. Either way, this option has its own risks as well as advantages: Here’s what PIs should know when they consider hiring a subcontractor or a vendor to help.
Following the Law
Check your state laws first! Some states may have laws about hiring private investigator subcontractors that help avoid problems and conflicts of interest. At a minimum, your state may require a subcontractor to have their own PI license from that state’s oversight agency. Any subcontractor should be able to prove their eligibility according to what the state mandates, and vendors should offer contractual guarantees that their workers are also licensed or prepared according to the law.
Their Credentials are Your Credentials
A PI license is a good start, but it’s important to consider their other credentials as well. Remember, if they are taking case work for you, your business is still taking on the case and anything that happens during it. That means taking a look at all their licensing, accreditation, training, and testimonials from previous clients.
Their History Must Be Spotless
Don’t make assumptions when hiring a subcontractor. Don’t use a resume or job history as a substitute for your own background checks and research – as well as asking them questions about their own work. Just because a subcontractor has experience in a particular industry or field does not mean they can properly carry out an investigation or that their career has been trouble-free. Watch for warning signs before you hire.
Do They Fill a Skill Gap?
The goal of subcontracting is to fill a key skill gap in a particular investigation, without the need to hire a permanent new employee. A subcontractor with a skillset that entirely overlaps the current PI’s isn’t nearly as useful: Look for investigators that bring something new to the table that a case needs, like expert internet research, out-of-state surveillance, or similar advantages that are necessary for the task at hand.
If your case load is so heavy that you want a subcontractor with the same skills you have, that’s a sign you should probably hire a new employee instead.
Are They Professional Witnesses or Interviewers?
Serving as an expert witness or conducting interviews are two important roles that you don’t want to hand off to anyone without plentiful experience. Mistakes in these areas could cost you clients or even up with legal consequences. Some jobs may be too high-risk to use a subcontractor, especially if they need to be handled in person.
On the other hand, if your firm is lacking in experience when it comes to serving as a witness or conducting interviews, your best course may be to find a PI that does have significant skills in these areas and see if they would be willing to work for you on a case.
Can the subcontractor deliver exactly what they need to for this particular job? Do they understand what details are important when collecting evidence? This may be of particular concern when working with a vendor that outsources things like surveillance to others. You need to trust them to deliver in a timely manner. If key details like timestamps or geotagging are required, they also need to provide that data. It may help to create a checklist that subcontractors can follow to make sure you get everything that you need.
Will the subcontractor be using their own equipment (cameras, lenses, recording devices, various surveillance necessities)? Is their equipment sufficient for the tasks you have in mind? Do they have a vehicle that’s fit for surveillance work? Not all licensed PIs have the proper equipment, so it’s important to check. You also don’t want to be in a position where a subcontractor is using your own surveillance equipment for the job, which could lead to it being damaged or other complications.
Remember, Clients Didn’t Hire the Subcontractor
Another important thing to consider is that when you take a case, it’s generally with the understanding that your firm will be the one working on that case. Hiring a subcontractor can be seen as a disappointment or neglecting your responsibilities as a PI. Clients that are wary of subcontractors may ask you directly and admitting the use of subcontractors could put you in a position to lose potential jobs.
We advise being forthright about the use of subcontractors, and if the subject comes up, explain why you do it. Clients tend to be more understanding if they know that subcontractors help with out-of-state work that you can’t personally do or have expertise that could be useful for a case.
Conclusion: Subcontracting Has Perks, But Takes Work
Subcontracting can help you expand your reach or take on an important task that your firm cannot handle on its own. However, it’s important to properly vet subcontractors, make sure they are capable of handling the job, and providing them with the necessary guidelines. Fortunately, once you find subcontractors that deliver good results with contracts that your firm is pleased with, you can continue to use them in the long-term!