How do I start a Private Investigations business in Australia?
After gaining the skills and training required to become a Private Investigator, setting up your business is the next step.
After obtaining the necessary training, life experience and qualifications to be a Private Investigator there are a couple of options available for getting work. Once you have your Private Security Licence you may be able to get employed at a leading Investigations Company or within a Government Department. These are certainly a good option if you are young and lack experience in the field. However, a significant number of Private Investigators work for themselves and enjoy the freedom of being a Freelance Investigator.
Setting up the correct legal entity and ensuring you have all the right things in place to start trading can be complex if you haven’t done it before.
Step 1 - Business structure
Decide on the structure of your entity. Are you going to trade as a Sole Trader/Partnership, a Company or Trust?
Each structure has its pros and cons and it is highly recommended that you seek professional advice on you personal circumstances from a lawyer or accountant, particularly if Trusts are involved. The ATO has useful information on the options.
Key points of difference between a Company and Sole Trader
A company has limited liability, so your personal assets are protected in the event of a claim or bankruptcy and there are tax advantages for small businesses that you may be able to benefit from. However, the accounting costs are generally higher, and the entity needs to be register with ASIC where annual fees apply.
By comparison, setting up as a Sole Trader is easy and cheap. There is no need to register with ASIC, and accounting fees are generally lower. The downsides, however, are that no tax concessions apply, and there is no limit to your liability, which could place any assets at risk.
A word on Workers Compensation
Another important consideration when deciding on whether you want to trade as a Company or a Sole Trader are your obligations for workers compensation. Sole Traders cannot purchase Workers Compensation insurance and will need alternative cover. Working Directors (WD) may be required to obtain cover under different state laws. A Working Director is defined as – “a director who executes work for, or on behalf of, the company, and whose earnings as a company director by whatever means, are in substance for a personal manual labour or services”. It is compulsory for WDs to be covered in VIC, NSW, TAS, SA and ACT, however it is optional in NT and WA, whilst in QLD working directors cannot get cover, but can take out their own injury protection policy with Work Cover QLD.
Regardless of the structure, if you employ staff you must obtain a workers compensation policy to cover employees.
Step 2 - Business address
Decide on your registered and place of business addresses. This is particularly important for an investigation business – you probably do not want your home address on public business records. We once had an unhappy customer turn up with a knife, the poor receptionist didn’t even know what our company did! Some accountants allow you to use their address or you may want to use a virtual address and contact number. Sort this out before finalising business or company registration details as every change you make with ASIC has a fee attached.
Step 3 - Registration
If you are going to use a Company structure you have to register the Company before applying for an ABN (Australian Business Number). If you are going to be a Sole Trader, you need to have started the ABN application process before you can register your Business Name. (See step five).
Step 4 - ABN
Obtaining an ABN – this is a simple online application these days from the ABR websiteand whilst anyone can request an ABN you must be a genuine business to get one. You will need to supply specific information to obtain an ABN, plus a personal TAX FILE No. if a Sole Trader or an A CN if you are a Company.
Step 5 - Register business and domain names
Register a business name and domain name at the same time! – make sure you can get the name you want in both the Australian Business Registry (ABR) and the domain name from a site such as GoDaddy.com. There is nothing more frustrating than paying to register your business name with the ABR to discover you can’t purchase the same domain name and vice versa. You need to have started the ABN application process to register a business name. The Company and business name do not need to be the same so it is OK if you plan to trade as a Company to register the company first then determine the best business name later on.
Step 6 - Licencing
Apply for your Security Licence! You will need to apply for this in the Company name if you decided on that structure. If you are a Sole Trader you can apply way back at step 2 or before.
NB. Not all investigations work requires a licence – every state is different.
Step 7 - Insurance
You are going to need Professional indemnity and Public Liability insurance and if you use your car for work such as surveillance you will need to get a business policy for your car too.
MyKludo has partnered with insurance specialists Brokers Online to provide professional indemnity and public liability policies designed to meet the specific needs of investigators.
NB. I am not a broker and none of this constitutes financial advice!
Step 8 - Promote
Take your domain name and create a website and unique email address for clients to find and contact you on the internet and take advantage of all other promotional opportunities you can find.