Oftentimes friends from my law enforcement days reach out to me and say, “I want to do what you do.” Usually, I explain to them how they are probably best off sticking with their guaranteed paycheck, medical benefits, and retirement plans.
While there’s no doubt being a police officer is an incredibly challenging job these days, it is generally steady work. It usually pays well and comes with a great benefits package. In EP, however, most of us are independent contractors who jump from one assignment to another. That means being smart with your money and living within your means is a must.
While there are some full-time details that do include medical benefits and a 401K, the vast majority of individuals working in this field are independent contractors or ICs. As an IC, you generally work for multiple companies. Also, you are always looking to network so that you can keep staying busy in EP and earn a living.
Today, we are going to discuss some of the ways you can make yourself more marketable and more desirable to other companies who might be looking for local support in your area of operations.
Step 1 is always going to be licensing (in my opinion). If you aren’t licensed to perform the type of work you seek, in the area you seek it, you aren’t going to get picked up for the detail.
Generally, I recommend you obtain the highest-level licensing available in your area of operations. Having an unarmed guard card is good but having the capability to be armed is even better.
If possible, obtaining a PI license will also open additional doors and avenues of potential income as well. In addition to being licensed in your home state, it’s not a bad idea to look into getting licensed in other states where you might be able to work as well.
Chasing down licensing can be time-consuming and expensive. But if you are strategic with your approach, you are only increasing your earning potential. States like Florida for example, frequently have assignments ranging from EP and surveillance to disaster relief security.
Many of these assignments are travel assignments where the contractor will provide your airfare, room, board, and rental vehicle. If you live in a state that borders another, it makes sense to try to be licensed in both. That just increases your opportunity for work and ensures you’re staying busy in EP.
Now that you are licensed to do the work, the second step to staying busy in EP is getting proper training. That means going to a recognized school such as LaSorsa and Associates, PFC, Select International, and a variety of others.
Training in a recognized school in the industry will help you to learn the specific skills needed for your new career. What’s more, it will help you to network, which is a topic we will discuss on its own.
You may have been a police officer or soldier, and while there are certainly some skills that overlap, your new career is much different than you think. It requires training just like the one you went through for your previous careers.
Training that is specific to the end job and conducted by professionals who are currently still working in the protection industry. Contrary to popular belief, unless you were part of a special unit that specialized in protection work, being a cop does not automatically qualify you for a career in EP. Go out and invest the time and money in your education and it will pay you back 10-fold in the end.
I cannot overstate the value of networking.
One of the major benefits of going to training is you will meet other professionals who are actively working in the field throughout the country and abroad. These relationships that you build may just be the gateway to your next detail and the key to staying busy in EP.
While qualifications, training, and experience matter very much, it’s not always the most qualified guy or girl who is getting the assignment. Oftentimes we tend to contact those we know personally, whom we have trained with, or perhaps spent time with at a conference like IPSB.
Training, conferences, social media, and other avenues of networking are how you will continue to get new opportunities. I tell all of our students at the L&A 9-day EP course, each job is an interview for the next. That is my mindset anytime I accept a new assignment and it has never led me wrong.
People throw around the term EP around a lot in this industry, but a great deal of the assignments that come out are far from true EP. Workplace violence, surveillance, surveillance detection, and other jobs often come out to the same group who gets the call for the traditional EP detail.
This means that to keep staying busy in EP, we need to diversify our capabilities as much as our budget and time allow. Each additional capability that we add to our arsenal only gives us more earning potential. Each capability also means that we need to go out and seek professional quality training so that we can ensure we are up to speed with the latest industry standards.
For many years I have worked on details ranging from EP to surveillance, counter-surveillance, workplace violence, armed and unarmed security, and others. A few years ago, I decided to invest the time and money in training and equipment to get into Technical Surveillance Counter Measures (TSCM) work.
Since this time, when many of the other avenues dried up during COVID, TSCM work kept me afloat. This is a perfect example of how you always want to be learning so when someone calls with a request, you can honestly say yes, I can handle that. The more capability you have as an IC, the more earning potential you have.
Take the Job:
On internet groups and forums, we hear agents talking about knowing their worth and not accepting work that’s “beneath them.” While there’s some merit to this line of thinking, I think it’s also important to address the flip side of this coin.
If you are in a financial position to only accept work that you deem is appropriate (pay-wise), then good for you. For the rest of us, I will tell you that the window of pay can vary greatly from job to job.
Only you can make the decision at the end of the day if the liability and risk are worth the paycheck. If you are not yet established, I would strongly encourage you to take any and all opportunities that are thrown your way. It’s the best way to ensure you’re staying busy in EP.
If I call a guy a handful of times for a $25/hour job and he answers immediately and accepts the position, guess who I’m likely to call for the $50/hour job when it comes up in his area of operations?
I’m not saying you have to accept every single detail that comes your way. But think about what the lowest rate of pay you are willing to accept is when things are slower, and you just need to keep some money coming in.
Remember, as an IC, it’s important to always be looking for work and new opportunities. Not all of those new opportunities are going to pay as well as some of the jobs you may have worked previously.
I have worked many jobs that some would consider beneath me based on my training and experience. But at that time, I made the calculated decision to accept those details, and I worked them just as professionally as any other.
Some of those low-paying details later lead to much more lucrative assignments that I might have never been eligible for had I not accepted the lower-paying assignment first.
Last but not least is professionalism. As I mentioned earlier, each detail is an interview for the next job. Being on time (early), dressed appropriately with the right kit, etc. is imperative.
Showing up late, looking like a slob, or speaking out of turn are surefire ways to ensure that you don’t get called back. This is a small world, and word travels lightning fast. If you are canned from one detail, you can bet it’s going to have a negative impact on other companies who might have hired you in the future as well.
Strive to be the “hire and forget guy”. The guy/girl who receives instructions and follows them to the “T” with minimal need for supervision. Talk less and listen more. Don’t speak out of turn and don’t talk negatively about your peers in an attempt to bolster your position with the company.
Maintain a high degree of physical fitness and operational readiness. As an IC, when you aren’t working, you should be looking for work or training. Keeping yourself fit is part of that training as perception is often reality.
If you look like a slob, it’s unlikely some details will want to hire you. You don’t have to be a professional bodybuilder. But the ability to look good in business attire and maintain a clean and professional image is a must.
Perception on Social Media
This also carries over to your social media presence. You may work for company X twice a year when operations come up in your area. But if you are friends with them on SM, you can bet they’ve seen your posts daily or weekly the rest of the year.
If you are presenting yourself as anything other than professional, you may just be limiting your earning potential without even knowing it.
If you are the type of person who wants to always speak their mind with no filter, consider a second social media profile for professional associates only, and keep your personal profile locked down for close friends and family only. Social media can kill a career before it ever gets off of the ground.
To Sum Up
While the above list is certainly a good start, it is by no means a comprehensive list. Staying busy in EP can be a challenge, but if you utilize some of the strategies outlined in this article, I am confident you can increase your overall earning potential and stay busier.
If I can be of help in any way, please feel free to reach out via LinkedIn. And as time permits, I’ll be happy to assist however possible. Stay safe and stay busy.