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Private Investigators and the Retainer Fee

When I first meet with a potential client the first question they ask is, "How much do you charge?" That initial meeting determines a lot of things. First there is the initial impression. I never discuss fees until I have gotten to know my client. Secondly I explain every detail of what I am going to do for them. Thirdly I demand the truth. And lastly I thoroughly go through my fee schedule so they understand what they are paying for. Money is important but not everything.A well-written contract for services or retainer agreement spells out terms of work and billing rate, and it specifies how payment will be made.If a client balks at your invoice, then you have evidence of the agreement that hopefully will stand up in court should in case of non-payment and breach of contract.

A retainer is a contractual agreement to specifically commence an investigation; a guarantee. In most cases the retainer depends on the scope of the investigation. Many private investigators require a retainer or deposit to be applied against fees for services rendered and expenses. Some private investigators may set retainer fees depending on specific services. For instance the retainer fee for a criminal investigation will depend on the scope of the charges and can range $1,000.00 to $5,000.00. The more serious charges require more work and the higher retainer fee. A divorce or infidelity case will require surveillance, additional mileage, and numerous other headaches that necessitate more resources to complete the investigation and can require up to $5,000.00. Data research may require a deposit of $500. The following factors help to determine the deposit amount:

  • travel involved
  • airline/hotel costs
  • estimated number of surveillance hours
  • location
  • urgency

If you are using a private investigator's services through an attorney, the private investigator will usually not ask for a retainer as long as the attorney acknowledges responsibility for ensuring payment of the private investigator's invoices.
I have learned not to expect the expected. In other words unless you close the deal in the initial interview, and that retainer fee is given to you, it will be harder for you to accomplish the overall goal….. Landing the client!

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