One of the things I always recommend is to join a Private Investigator Association when starting your P.I. business. Though I think my position is starting to change a little on this, let me first explain why I am addressing this topic.
I received this message from an investigator on Facebook that has recently started his own company.
Hey Andrew I wanted to get your thoughts on the usefulness of joining PI associations. i.e. USAPI or a state association. A majority of the ones I find don’t seem to update information on their sites. I just started my company recently and was wondering if it benefits me to join these. Either for more networking options, or for the client wow factor of being a member of these associations.
First I want to say congrats on starting your own company. This is a big step into something bigger than just being an employee (and there is nothing wrong with being an employee). It could be life changing financially for you. It takes courage to make that leap and you should be proud of that.
In regards to joining a Private Investigator Association, I will say there are a few benefits to joining and I will provide examples from the association I have been involved in over the past 3 or 4 years.
Why I Joined A Private Investigator Association
I joined WALI, the Washington Association of Legal Investigators with the hopes of being able to ask questions of seasoned business owners in my state and to add some credibility to my company. WALI at the time had a large number of members and had an investigator named Linda Montgomery who I respected a great deal as an officer in the association. I paid my $100 and was added to the members book which listed all the investigators in the association, their contact numbers and what they specialized in. They also linked to my website on the WALI website.
At that time members were active on the email list providing tips and asking questions frequently. If an investigator didn’t want to work a potential case they would pass it on to an investigator that was interested in taking the file. On the few occasions that I reached out with questions to the WALI list I received very educated answers.
WALI had conferences two times a year. I went to a conference that first year and spent something like $145 to attend. I made sure I spoke with other investigators as I wanted to get my monies worth. I got to see the speakers that were most interesting to me and got a chance to learn about something I didn’t know a great deal about.
As time went on the email list became less helpful. Investigators that would typically provide friendly advice to other investigator stopped providing that advice because investigators started complaining they were getting too many emails (which was crap). The conference speakers also didn’t seem to be teaching anything that I was interested nor teaching anything that I didn’t already know.
Each year the email list became a little less useful and the conferences didn’t seem to be worth paying $150 for.
Over the past year the only value I have felt from my association is the back link that I received from their website to my website. This year I have not spent the $100 to renew my membership because I haven’t felt any value from the association. I wasn’t quite sure where my $100 going to other than a book with other investigator’s names in my state and a discount for the yearly conferences. No one ever asked about my association with WALI nor were they ever impressed by it.
Let me say that this is my personal experience with a private investigator association. I did meet a couple of members that I feel as though I could email and ask questions to at any time and I probably could have networked with many more but it is just something I didn’t have the time for and never got around to doing.
What Are the Potential Benefits of Joining a Private Investigation Association?
1.) A listing to your company on their website
This will likely not provide you any additional work as your name is one of many on a website.
2.) A potential back link to your website from an authoritative website
This may actually provide some value and help your website move up the rankings.
3.) Networking possibilities
If you participate in the email list or private forums you may find other investigators you will begin to know and trust. This is something you will have to be actively pursuing. I found people I trusted in my area to give cases to when I couldn’t work the case or didn’t want to work them. By giving cases away I built a connection with those investigators that I would call and ask questions about things I didn’t know specifically for my state. And that has been very helpful.
I personally believe there is a better chance networking in a state association with people in your state. You will see these people during conferences and it will be easier to building relationships.
If you’re worried about making connections across the country or finding vendor work you will find that type of work in Yahoo Groups for private investigators.
4.) Having the association push/lobby for local and nationwide laws that benefit you
Not all associations participate in this. Some will be more active than others.
5.) Having investigators share local tips and tricks for your state
Hopefully there are individuals in the association you join that will pass along this information as it is always helpful to know about changes where or how information is located or when laws change in your state.
6.) Being able to say you are associated with a P.I. Association
This really doesn’t mean anything in my opinion. No one has ever hired me because I had a WALI logo on my website.
7.) Possible discounts to other programs (associations will vary with this)
My association didn’t have it but maybe yours will. I noticed some associations have partnered with car rental companies.
8.) The occasional case referral possibility
Many times investigators don’t like or don’t feel comfortable with certain types of cases and they will refer the case to other investigators with more experience in a specific field. This provides investigators in the association to pick up some extra work.
My final thoughts
Not all associations are created equal. Some provide more value than others. I could have been more active in my association and got more out of it but over the past year it has provided less and less value and I didn’t know what the heck my $100 dollars was actually funding.
If you’re interested in a state association I would recommend visiting one of their meetings to see if it is something you would be interested in. I went to a new member meeting when I first joined WALI and the veterans sat around and answered questions for new business owners which I thought was very valuable. There were even people that came to the meeting to see if WALI was worth joining. I would sit in on a meeting to see if you get any value from it.
You can also just join for one year and see if you get any value from it during that year. If you don’t get any value than don’t renew your membership.
A private investigation association can be valuable if the right people are running it and if they have the members best interests at heart. If they don’t have your best interest in mind you don’t need to be apart of it.
I hope this helps you have a better understanding of what to expect if you join a Private Investigator Association. If readers recommend or don’t recommend joining associations be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section.
Thanks for the question,