Home Based Office Versus Physical Office Locations For Private Investigators #169




I received an email from a reader regarding having a home-based private investigation and his concerns around having one.  In this article, I will answer his questions and concerns and provide some alternative office locations for private investigators.  I will also get into some of the pros and cons of a virtual home-based office versus a physical office location.

Dear PI Advice

I have a question and can’t seem to find the right answer and was hoping to get your input. What is your opinion regarding home-based office for private investigator?

Should a private investigator be allowed to work from his home? Can this impact once credibility of the private investigator having a home office? Does it impact the professionality of the private investigator in a negative way?.

Meeting clients at the private investigator’s home, meeting clients at a coffee shop or park or at client’s office Is it safe?

Office Locations For Private Investigators
Readers Questions

This is a great question from this reader because many people do feel as though be official or legitimate as a private investigator they would need to have a physical business location. There are many investigation companies that do have business locations and there are many that do not.

So let me start off by answering some of his questions.

What is your opinion regarding home-based office for private investigator? Should a private investigator be allowed to work from his home?

It is very very common for a private investigator to have a home-based business.  The majority of investigators that I personally know are home based with their businesses.  And there are many reasons for having a home based business which I will get into now.

Financially It Makes Sense to Have a Home Based Business When Starting Out

When starting a private investigation business it will cost the investigator a small chunk of change and there is no guarantee you are going to have customers.  There is no reason to pay additional money to have an office when you are not going to have a stable income in the early stages of your business.

Any extra money that you earn should be going into savings, equipment and furthering your education in the investigation industry to grow your business.  

You’re Not Going to Be in The Office Much

If you are working files there is a good chance you won’t even be in the office.  At the end of a surveillance, you are probably going to head straight home.  The reason for this is because you can process video and write reports from anywhere. You don’t need to go to an office outside of your home to do that.  

You are at Work or You are at Home

Over the years I have worked as a private investigator I am either in the field or in my home office making calls, researching or writing reports.  I have never needed a business location for my business and neither have the majority of investigators that I know and work with.

Can this impact once credibility of the private investigator having a home office? Does it impact the professionality of the private investigator in a negative way?.

Having a home-based investigation business does not impact an investigator’s credibility or professionalism in any way.  I don’t believe investigators have the expectation of having a personal office space due to the nature of work we are involved in.  

I feel to some degree that it is actually an unsafe idea to have an office where anyone that feels they have been wronged by you will know where to find you.  I remember a time where this happened to the owner of a company I worked but I will get into later in this article.



Meeting clients at the private investigator’s home, meeting clients at a coffee shop or park or at client’s office Is it safe?

I don’t know what type of investigation work you do but I would never meet a client at my home.  You don’t want any random client to know where you live.  This is for the same reasons I just mentioned about giving someone a location where they will know to find you should they feel wronged or be disgruntled.

Meeting a client in a coffee shop is completely reasonable and it is done by all types of investigators.  I believe this is the choice of many investigators. Because coffee shop or similar location is public there is some security knowing that there are other people around should something negative happen.

Do Not Meet At Your Home

Unless your client is someone you know on a personal level you should never be meeting with clients in your home.  It is unprofessional but more importantly, it is unsafe.  This again goes back to the safety issue should you upset a client or the person you are investigating.  You need to separate your home from your business in that regard.  

Meeting in the Client’s Office

I don’t know what type of client you had in mind with this question but if the client is an attorney or has a business where you feel comfortable meeting at, then, by all means, do so if you feel it is safe.

Pros and Cons of a Physical Business (Real Quick)

Pros of a Physical Business Location for a Private Investigator

Dedicated meeting location

Having an office location eliminates the need (should you choose) to find a meeting location when consulting with clients.

Professional Appearance and Trust Factor

Having a physical business location (office) shows that you are a company that has some legitimacy with some customers (assuming the inside of your office is professional looking)

Cons of a Physical Business Location for a Private Investigator

Unnecessary Cost for Private Investigators

Generally speaking, a one-person investigation agency is likely not in the office when working.  They are on a surveillance or in the field gathering information.  And if you are not in the office then you won’t get any walk-in traffic because you are not there to greet that new customer. If you want an office just for a meeting location, it is a very expensive meeting location.

Makes it Easier For The Bad People to Find You

I get into this with a story below but having a physical business location can just make it easier for disgruntled individuals to find you.  

Pros for Home Based Investigation Business

  • No unnecessary travel to an office
  • No extra office expense (your home is your office expense)
  • More flexibility as you don’t have to be in an office to write reports and process video

If you really need an office location for your private investigation business then here is an alternative to that.

Private investigator Office

Alternative Office Locations for Private Investigators

Something I have been considering lately is coworking and rented office spaces. A location or space where I don’t have to commit to some long-term contract and I can have some of the benefits of a dedicated office.  These types of locations have dedicated desks, personal offices, personal mailbox locations, 24-hour access, conference rooms, printers and scanners, coffee stations, internet and even offer basic office supplies for your use.  It really comes down to your personal business needs as to how much you spend.  But having somewhere that is cost efficient might be the way to go for a new business should you feel the need to have a personal workspace.  

Here are some examples of shared workspaces in my local area.

Surge Tacoma

A company in Tacoma called Surge Tacoma offers workspaces and even private offices to rent without a long term commitment.  For this specifical local company prices range from $50 a month for use to having a private office area and 24 hour access at around $250 a month.  Of course this is my local example but these types of offices spaces are becoming more and more popular these days.   

Union Club Tacoma

Another local example in my city is the Union Club Tacoma.  This is a shared workspace in Tacoma located in a 15,000 square foot historic building.  This is a place where you can do many things that I mentioned with Surge Tacoma and they offer dedicated desk areas as well.  I believe they

WEWORK

Another example of shared working spaces is a nationwide company called WEWORK.  I stumbled upon this company when i was looking for a witness to an accident during an investigation assignment.  I was very impressed with the professional environment.

WEWORK offers private offices, dedicated desks and spaces called hot seats/desks. A Hot Desk for Seattle, Washington runs $220 a month and is best for remote or part-time workers, client meetings and an area to work more than one week a month.  If you have a WEWORK near you it might be worth checking out.

Coworking Spaces in South Africa

And because I know you are from South Africa I quickly looked for coworking spaces in that area and found one that you might find suitable for your needs.

The Work Space

The Work Space has many of the features that I mentioned in my area and appears to have offices in South Africa.  They have meeting rooms, shared workspaces and many more things you might be interested in.

 

Quick Concerning Story About Having an Office Location

I worked for a local investigation company many years ago that use to have a dedicated office space in the area.  The owner of the investigation business didn’t like the fact that claimant’s had access to his business location and apparently there were several incidents where disgruntled claimants came to his business to confront him.

This owner did very well for himself and grossed anywhere between 1 million to 2 million a year.  He had 5 internal staff employees (mostly family).  And because he still needed a business location for his internal staff to work he decided to invest in a home that he would make a dedicated business location.

He purchased a home and the bedrooms were offices.  The family room and dining room area were for the report editor, the video editor, and the background investigator.  Personally, I believed it was a great idea.  No one would know it was the headquarters of an investigation business.  

One day while I was working for the company I was told not to come to the office because it wasn’t safe.  Apparently, the husband of a claimant decided to intimidate the owner and staff by coming to the residence/office and parking in the driveway.  The husband (off memory) had some connection with law enforcement and was able to find out where the company vehicle surveillance vehicle was registered to (or something like that) and decided he wanted to confront someone at the company.  The business was on lockdown until the police arrived.  And it is my understanding that the police eventually arrived and the man left without an incident.

Final Thoughts on Business Locations for Private Investigators

I thought this question was great for anyone considering whether they need an office space or not.  Most of the people I know that have dedicated offices (with a lease) have a few people working for them and they need a larger space to work in like the story I just mentioned.

When it is all said and done each investigator has to do what they think is right for them and their business.  

I hope this provides some food for thought when considering whether you need a business location for your investigation company.