#37: Private Investigator Equipment and Resources for Business

I believe there are several intimidating things that come with starting a private investigation business.  One of those things for me was how to acquire all of the same or similar resources as the established big companies.  I didn’t want to appear unprofessional or like a company that was not established.  With that being said I did not have a ton of capital to start with so I needed resources that weren’t going to break me financially.

I knew I would be working out of my home based office which would be a huge money saver (and a tax write off). My business had to be flexible and I needed to be capable of performing almost every business function  no matter where I was.  I could be anywhere (hotel, office, car, etc..) and I needed to operate like a business.  All of these business functions had to be done with little to no cost to me.

I have compiled a list of resources I use and some resources that appear to be comparable to the ones I use.  I can’t vouch for the resources I have not used, however I provide some links to other options that might be worth considering.

BUSINESS PHONE

Having a business phone line is very important for your business.  I personally didn’t want to have a home phone that doubled as a business line, and the options I researched for business lines were too expensive for me to begin my business.  Using my cell phone for my business gave me too many things to be concerned about.  I needed something for my business calls that was separate from my personal cell phone.

GOOGLE VOICE:

For those who are not familiar with Google Voice, it is an awesome system provided free by Google.  Google allows you to pick from several phone numbers in the area code of your choice.  You could live in California and have an area code and phone number from New York.  You then provide a phone number for your calls to be sent to.  I use my cell phone for my business line.  You then set up your business voicemail message and you are ready to receive business calls.

The great feature about Google Voice is that when you answer your phone you immediately know if it is a personal call or business call because Google screens your calls.  Google will ask you if you want to receive a call, send them to voice mail or give you the option to listen to the voicemail as it is taking place.

If you dismiss the call and let it go to voicemail, Google will text you and email you with the message.  It’s pretty cool.

Another great feature that Google Voice provides is a Google Voice application for your smart phone (iPhone/Android phone).  You can check you Google Voice voicemails, and dial out from your Google Voice phone number right from you phone.

Further information on Google Voice can be found HERE.

RING CENTRAL:

Another possible option that I have not yet tested is Ring Central’s cloud phone system for your business.  You get a local and toll free number as well as a free fax line.  Many businesses use this system and it should be something to consider if you are a growing business or would like a professional phone system.

The website indicates there is an automated receptionist and the capabilities of having extensions for different departments.  To learn more about Ring Central and their phone system, Click Here.

GRASSHOPPER: 

I do not currently use grasshopper but I think you should know about this phone system.  This phone system appears to be an in-between version of Google Voice and Ring Central.  You can have a toll free number, unlimited extensions and voicemails by email.  Their are no contracts and the starting plan begins at $12.00 a month.

Looks like a great product that new business owners may want to consider.

 FAX

The fax system I use is through Ring Central.  I pay a flat rate every year of  $95.90 for 12 months of fax service.  The fax system is virtual so all I need is an internet connection and I can retrieve my faxes straight from my computer or any computer.  I don’t receive a large amount of faxes but I believe it is still something that businesses must have (at least for the time being).

To learn more about this fax service go to Ring Central.

Other Options:

There is always the traditional fax through a phone line.  I gave up my traditional phone line many years ago but this may be an option for you.

Other online faxing options that I have not tested are:

1.) EFAX appears to be 14.13 a month.

2.) Aplus.net appears to be 9.95 a month.

3.) MyFax appears to be $10.00 a month

A review of online faxing can be seen HERE.   Ring Central rates the highest among other competitors.  As for price, they appear to be the least expensive as well.

BUSINESS CARDS

Business cards can be made on various websites inexpensively and quickly.  If your looking to design a business card on your own these websites can help you do it at a low cost.

 

BusinessCards24.com 

I created and purchased my business cards through BusinessCards24.com.  It was easy to create a business card with your logo and business info.  I was truly amazed of how quickly I and easy it was to create my card. Check these business out.

Vista Print 

Another online service that has been around for awhile is Vista Print.  I have not used their services yet but I am considering having some products made through their service.

BUSINESS SHIRTS

Queensboro.com

When I started my business I found this company that would sell 1 polo with your logo on it for a few dollars.  I think I just really had to pay for the shipping.  After I purchased the shirt I think I received it like a month or so later.  The turn around time on the polo was not great but I was willing to wait for it because I got such a good deal.  If you want to test out a company’s quality I would give this company a shot.  My polo turned out really good and the quality of the polo was excellent.

SpreadShirt.com – I had some Private Investigator Advice articles made a few weeks ago (a mug and a T-Shirt)  Both items turned out pretty good.  Examples of what I made can be found on the SHOP page.

 

FILE SHARING

YouSendIt
Depending on what you specialize in, you will need to share large files with clients.  I have really only used one source for my file sharing and that is YouSendIt.  I pay about $50.00 a year.  This system allows you to send files up to 2Gigabytes in each file.  You can send multiple files at one time but each file can be no larger then 2Gigs.  You essentially upload files to a secure server and an email is sent to the individual you want to receive the files.  The individual then downloads the files on their end. I have used this service quite a bit and love it.

This is great for private investigators working as vendors, or for sending video or large files to clients without having to send it through the mail.  This service has a ton of features that you really must check out.

PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR BUSINESS WEBSITE

My website is very basic but very professional.  I built it myself and I am not a website designer by any means.

Your really only need one service to get your website up and running however I prefer to use two. To purchase your domain name I recommend:

GoDaddy.com
Go Daddy Deal of the Week: Get a .COM for $4.95! Offer expires 9/25/12.

I used Godaddy.com to purchase nearly all of my domains (www.fortifiedis.com,  this site and many others).  I have many domain names so I like to keep them all in one central location.  This is not something you have to do but it is something I prefer to do.  GoDaddy has excellent customer service in my experience.

BlueHost.com

BlueHost is a really neat company.  BlueHost allows you to purchase a website through their service, host the website through their service for as low as $6.95 a month and you can begin a website immediately.  I have watched people purchase a domain, sign up for the service and write the first bit of content on their website in about 5 minutes.  It will take more time to build a nice looking site but BlueHost makes it very easy to do.

I purchase my websites through GoDaddy and host my websites on BlueHost, but you can do both on BlueHost without a problem.

VIDEO EDITING EQUIPMENT


Pinnacle Dazzle Video Creator

I currently use Pinnacle Dazzle Video Creator to remove video from the video camera with the time and date stamp on the video.  This is very important whenever you are obtaining video for an investigation.  For more information on this product go to Dazzle Video Creator Platinum v.1 .  Please note that the Pinnacle website sells it for much more than you will find it on Amazon.com or similar websites.  Prices on this will vary from around $50 to $70 Dollars.

If needed I use Windows Live Movie Maker to clean up and make a client copy of the video.  This can also be done on the Pinnacle software but I believe that the Windows Live Movie Maker system is user friendly.

 FLYERS/BROCHURES

MyBrochureMaker.com  

I made my private investigation business brochures through MyBrochureMaker.com.  This site allows you to enter you own pictures in specific areas of the layouts.  I personally designed it myself, placed it on a memory card, then had them printed out on some decent paper from Kinko’s.  You could print them out from home and save yourself some money.

Vista Print

Vista Print is another option to use.  I have not used them but it is a company that has been around for awhile.  Check it out and see if it is the right place for you to make your brochures.

 

INVOICING

Intuit Quicken Home and Business 2012 Software

One of the most important things you need for your business is a way to invoice your clients.  I purchased Intuit Quicken Home and Business 2012 Software as soon as I began my business.  I really only use the software for the invoicing function.  There are however much more features to this software than I have ever used.  Worth the investment.  The software is available everywhere.  You might be able to get it cheaper through Amazon.

FRESHBOOKS

Freshbooks is actually something I just signed up for to test how well it would work for my business.  Freshbooks turns out to be a great way to invoice, track expenses, track time on assignments and does even more than I can write about.  Everything is backed up on secure servers which provides peace of mind. They even have an iPhone app that helps with keeping track of reciepts and time you spend on things while away from the desk.

If you are at the courthouse or are away from your desk for any billable reason, the iPhone app help you keep track of your time.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I hope the aforementioned equipment and sites help you with your new or existing business needs.  Don’t buy anything unless you think it will help you with your business.

As always you can come say hi on the P.I. Advice Facebook site.

or…Check out a ton of videos to help you become a better investigator HERE.

or…. Listen to all of the Podcasts on iTunes 

Thanks for reading, listening and watching.  Be safe out there!

I am an affiliate for some of these products and I will receive a commission if you purchase any of the items or services through my links.  Don’t purchase any of these items if you don’t believe they can help  you in your business.


You may be interested in this article regarding what private investigator’s typically make as a salary.

6 comments

  1. Interesting article. As an agent practising in the uk, I will be looking through more of your article to see any tricks of the trade i can apply over here!

  2. The problem with Google Voice though is that it appears to transcribe voice messages people leave into actual text that is then saved. While it’s free and a great resource, I would suggest not using it or any calls where confidentiality is a concern.

    P.S. I like what you’re doing with this site. I stumbled on your page on Facebook.

    Cheers

    • Hi Top Echelon,

      Good point about the text. What I would say that nearly everyone that has left a message on my Google Voice never gives much information. Usually it’s their name, number and how they want to inquire about my services. But I can see why you would be concerned.

  3. Google voice is amazing and if your not using it you should be.
    Great article keep up the good work.

  4. private detective bolton

    The availability of information is so much better in the US. when I started in the Uk it took so long to find people wiling to assist and advise with equipment and software choices. Good stuff!

  5. Hi,

    I saw this article and thought some new case/intelligence management software I am developing might interest your readers. The software, called ‘IntGraph’, basically allows you to make sense of, and keep track of complex intelligence and links gained during investigations. I have created the software for my own needs, but quite a few people said they would like to also use it. If you’d like to check it out, you can at intgraph.com

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