Choosing a Search Professional can be a challenging experience. The fact of the matter is that not all professional searchers are in this business for the right reasons. It is true - there are big search firms and some individuals in this business who are unethical.
Here are some comments I have heard from potential clients and my responses:
I must ask for a retainer (a deposit up front) because of a few bad apples—clients who hired me to do their search for an agreed upon fee, but when the search was successfully concluded, failed to pay me. If yours is No Find - No Fee search, your retainer will be credited back on your final bill or refunded in full if I cannot find who you seek.
I do not offer No Find-No Fee for every search, and this is why that is a good thing. A search professional who only operates on a No Find – No Fee basis will only take the easiest cases. There would be no reason to give a difficult search a try. Why risk the time and expense out of my own pocket?
But some people want the search made, regardless of difficulty. I will take searches others won’t. That’s why I offer both options; a No find – No fee guarantee for many searches, and an hourly or flat rate for the more challenging cases. This doesn’t mean I am willing to take any case. If I feel the odds of success are small, I will tell you so and not take your case unless you clearly want me to give it a try anyway. If I feel I am not the best person to complete your search, I will do my best to refer you to a colleague with the skills and resources you need.
I offer certain types of searches on a No Find - No Fee basis. I will never increase the fee above what we agreed upon up front. If, however, the search parameters change and you would like me to find additional people, then we might need to re-negotiate the fee.
Sometimes, but often it will take much longer than if I do your search. Many searches require top research skills and the best resources. These cases are not always easy, and having experience and knowing the tricks for your situation and your state are key.
I have resources at my finger tips that are not available anywhere else. I have every online genealogical subscription and I know how to use them. I have access to the best people-search databases used by private investigators, and other unique resources—records that are simply no longer available. Many times search angels come to me for help.
My experience can help with making first contact. I have experience and training a volunteer may not have. Sometimes well-meaning volunteers initiate first contact in a manner that is unwise and this ruins the possible reunion. I know what usually works and what to avoid.