In today’s world, covert surveillance is increasing in demand for a few reasons. Whether it’s keeping an eye on someone or something, clients wonder about the costs involved and is it worth it. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect when hiring a Private Investigator for Surveillance services:


Starting the process of hiring a Private Investigator for covert surveillance begins by understanding what the client wants to accomplish. The investigation company then carries out a Data Privacy Impact Assessment. This assessment helps determine a legitimate interest and lawful bases to conduct the covert surveillance within legal boundaries. Knowing that this process has been completed should assure clients that the company they are dealing with is professional.

It’s crucial for clients to conduct their own due diligence before hiring a Private Investigator or Private Investigation Company. In the UK, there is no legal requirement for a license to operate or be called a Private Investigator / Private Detective. Why?

Quality assurance: Clients must ensure they are entrusting their sensitive matters to an investigator with a solid reputation and proven ability to deliver precise and dependable results.

Skills & Experties: Investigators may possess different specialties and levels of expertise. Clients should verify that the investigator they select has relevant experience and if they have operated in the field.

Confidentiality & Trust: Clients must have confidence that their information will be treated with the highest level of confidentiality and discretion.

Location & Number of Operatives:

Covert surveillance is typically carried out by field operatives who either work independently or are employed by a small number of companies on a full-time basis. Depending on the location and the client’s budget, there will be a discussion regarding the number of operatives needed for the operation.

Clients may be informed of a minimum requirement of two operatives to maximize effectiveness from the outset. However, one operative may be agreed upon at the client’s discretion, with limitations clearly explained. Surveillance in large, bustling cities like London and Birmingham may necessitate a greater number of operatives to ensure effective monitoring. Therefore, clients should be prepared to discuss the balance between the number of operatives and budget constraints. It is always advisable to verify the number of operatives involved.

Payment types & Terms:

Day Rate Per Operative: Under a day rate payment structure, clients pay a fixed amount for each day of surveillance conducted by the team. This payment model is common for assignments that are expected to span multiple hours or days, such as extended or long-term surveillance operations. The advantage of a day rate is its simplicity and predictability, as clients know the total cost upfront regardless of the number of hours worked by the investigators each day. However, it’s important to clarify what constitutes a “day” in the context of billing to avoid any misunderstandings.

Day Rate Per Operative: With an hourly rate payment structure, clients are charged based on the number of hours worked by the Surveillance team. This model offers flexibility, as clients only pay for the actual time spent on surveillance activities. Hourly rates are commonly used for shorter or more sporadic assignments where the duration of surveillance may vary. Clients have the option to pay for specific hours per day or buy a predetermined set of hours and allocate them as needed for the operation. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to ensure clear communication and alignment on billing increments to avoid any unexpected charges.

Extra Services:

Taxi / Bike: Taxis and bikes serve as valuable resources, particularly in bustling cities like London, enhancing operational capabilities. Taxi drivers and bikers are considered additional resources, commanding slightly higher charges due to their specialised skill sets and the significant boost they provide to capabilities. Rest assured; they are still trained operators.

Technology: Certain operations may necessitate additional technology to either bolster the investigation or initiate it swiftly, aiding in enhancing capability or accommodating the client’s budget such as GPS Tracking Devices, Covert Cameras, Bug Sweeping, Drones and more. The services will incur a separate charge.


Expenses in surveillance operations can be charged separately or included in the overall pricing structure. Let’s explore the pros and cons of each approach:

Charged Separately:


  • Transparency: Clients have a clear understanding of what expenses they are being charged for, promoting transparency in billing.
  • Control: Clients can exercise control over expenses by approving or denying specific costs incurred during the operation.


  • Complexity: Managing multiple expense items separately may add complexity to the billing process for both the client and the investigative firm.
  • Uncertainty: Clients may face uncertainty regarding the total cost of the operation until all expenses are accounted for, potentially leading to budgetary concerns.

Included in Overall Pricing:


  • Simplicity: Including expenses in the overall pricing provides simplicity, as clients receive a single, comprehensive invoice without the need to track individual costs.
  • Predictability: Clients know the total cost upfront, facilitating budget planning and eliminating surprises related to additional expenses.


  • Lack of Transparency: Clients may have limited visibility into the breakdown of expenses included in the overall pricing, potentially leading to questions about the justification of costs.
  • Risk of Overpayment: Clients may inadvertently overpay if the included expenses exceed what would have been incurred separately.

What we class as Expenses:

  • Mileage
  • Parking Tickets
  • Congestion Charge & ULEZ
  • Parking Fines (If agreed and the operation can’t be done without standard parking)
  • Flights, Taxis, Buses, Trains, Lime Bikes etc.
  • Food & Drink for operational purposes (What we call on trigger or to blend in)
  • Postage & Printing
  • Accommodation (Hotels / Air B&B)

Ultimately, the choice between charging expenses separately or including them in the overall pricing depends on factors such as the preference of the company / client, the complexity of the operation, and the level of transparency desired. Regardless of the approach, clear communication and agreement on expense management are essential to ensure a mutually beneficial and transparent billing process. The operatives on the ground will not and should not be expected to front any operational costs. This is either covered by the Client or the Company the operators are working for.

In summary, while the costs of covert surveillance services may vary based on several factors, clients can anticipate making a significant investment in exchange for professional expertise, advanced technology, legal compliance, and reliable results. Clear communication of requirements, understanding the scope of services, and working closely with reputable surveillance firms are crucial to ensuring transparency and accountability in pricing. Ultimately, the insights gained from a well-executed surveillance operation can prove invaluable, outweighing the financial investment involved.