The Independent Skip Tracer

Skip tracing is so much more than just finding a person. A skip tracer is a facilitator. A go-to person that finds things out and makes things happen. I can find a skip but I have to take it a step further and find the car as a repo skip tracer.

My repo company clients don’t get paid until there’s collateral on the hook. There’s been a few questions sent to me from independent skip tracers asking what fees to charge for doing the job. I know that doing the work and fees billed should be in line with your licensing and skip trace purpose.

If you’re a private investigator you may have a fee based contract for hourly work and if your a repossession skip tracer, like me, you may work on a flat fee regardless if the debtor mysteriously pops up and pays or that hopefully a repo company can be directed to get their collateral repossessed. I bill this way because I am a skip tracer first and foremost. I’m not a bill collector but when I make contact to convince a debtor to surrender the collateral, a symptom of doing this is the debtor offers to pay and the client takes the money. I’ve still done my job and I still get paid the same.

My first piece of advice from my experience is that you have to be firm on the understanding and conditions of how you bill and what for. I have used a “Service Agreement” that outlines what I charge for and when I expected to get paid and how I want to get paid.

If I do all the research to find someone and don’t find any new information, that’s not my personal fault. Of course, I want to give good information because this is my client’s success. Making your client provide all known addresses for the recent past helps you figure out where they client has already been. I hate finding a new address and my client says, “Nope. That’s vacant.” I got excited for nothing. (Insert sideways smile here.)

Even more recently I’ve experienced a bit of bullying from a man who paid me a flat fee (a very low one at that) to pull all my databases in search of a new address and when that person rejected certified mail from him, he demanded a refund from me saying that my information was no good. Sure, I’ll do favors for other folks in the business here and there.

I’ve made some verbal agreements to use my resources for ridiculously low fees and then totally regretted it. I have no control over the frequency that a skip moves. And…I don’t work for free, I don’t do refunds. If you have the same rule about your work make sure that this is very well understood by your client.

Ball park figure for skip tracing should be at least $250.00 to $550.00 and it’s better that some type of service agreement or payment be made as a retainer. Your expertise, creativity, and ability to unleash a bomb and flush out information is what you’re providing. Even if you’re just simply using a wonderful database that gets you new information with one click, you’re providing something to your client that they simply couldn’t do without you. I wouldn’t necessarily reveal the ease of getting your information. That is a skip trace industry secret and that is what makes you worth your fee!

I do give price breaks for clients that give me high volume. I’ve suffered a small setback with several of those situations and one of them is that a client’s flow of new work dwindled and ultimately my agreed price for them was too low. The result is that I am left with a lot of work that has left me at a loss.

Even if I can find that person and get a car repossessed or get the debtor to pay up, I’m upside down with time and expenses. While “taking the good with the bad” maybe a good way to start up your clientele base it may not be a perfect foundation for long term relationships. Give yourself some wiggle room to reevaluate fees based on the age of the skip account. The older the skip, the more money it should be worth.

Just remember that you’re a skip tracer. All of the accounts you get someone else has already had and aggressively worked and then the trail grew cold.

-Valerie McGilvrey
Author of Skip Trace Secrets: Dirty little tricks skip tracers use…