How to Become a Process Server

Three Parts:Acquainting Yourself with Being a Process ServerEstablishing Yourself as Process ServerBuilding Your Business

If you’re looking to make some extra money or perhaps change careers, you might consider becoming a process server. This job, which is also called service of process, requires delivering legal and court documents including summons and subpoenas. A process server either hands the documents directly to the defendant or gives them to another individual in the defendant’s residence or place of business. The requirements for becoming a legal process server vary by state, but by taking the time to determine your ability to successfully serve legal documents and recruit clients, you can start drawing profits as a process server.

Part 1
Acquainting Yourself with Being a Process Server

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    Learn about being a process server. Before you begin seriously considering if you want to be a process server, acquaint yourself with what the job entails. This can help you make an informed decision about whether or not this is the right kind of work for you.
    • The market for process servers is potentially very large because service of process is required by law. The success rate of an individual process server depends on having both education and professional experience in the law.[1]
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    Figure out your abilities to serve process and run a business. Before you begin pursue becoming a process server, you first need to honestly assess your abilities. Taking honest stock of your skills can help you decide if process serving is the right option for you.[2]
    • Having practical experience with the law or criminal justice can help you be a successful process server.[3]
    • You may need to get further education in the law and criminal justice as well as some practical experience before you can start. This can help your business be more successful.[4]
  3. Image titled Live a Stress Free Lifestyle Step 4
    Think about how being a process server will fit into your lifestyle. Knowing whether or not the time, emotional, and physical demands of being a business owner and service of process professional fit in with your lifestyle is important if you want to run a successful business. [5] Consider the following questions to see if being a process server is the right choice for you.
    • Are you able to handle the physical demands? Having a business might require you to sit, walk, or stand on your feet for long periods of time.[6]
    • Are you able to handle the emotional demands? Having to serve legal documents to another person can be draining. You may have to interact with people who are belligerent or aggressive, or who may have an emotional breakdown when you serve the papers.[7]
    • Think about if being a process server fits your personality. Client management is a significant part of the job and if you don’t like working with people, especially in difficult circumstances, this may not be the right choice for you.
    • Are you able to meet state requirements to be a process server? Most states have specific laws on background checks, bonding, licensing and registration that you must meet in order to work as a process server.[8]
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    Examine if process serving meets your financial needs. Process servers can earn on $70,000 per year or more, depending on experience and the number of jobs they get.[9] This amount can change depending on your clients and if you work for a firm or independently.[10] Only proceed with your plans if the average pay or below meets your financial needs.[11]
    • Most individual process serving jobs pay between $20 and $80.[12]
    • Remember that you will have to pay taxes and other fees for your business. These expenses should include annual overhead such as bonding and insurance, payroll, and office supplies.[13]

Part 2
Establishing Yourself as Process Server

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    Learn laws relevant to service of process. Before you can start your business or work for a law firm or court, it’s important to learn federal and state laws on service of process. These regulate aspects such as how you can serve legal papers and the form in which they come.[14]
    • You may want to consult an attorney on what laws and regulations you need to know become a process server.[15]
    • Consider attending classes on process serving from professional associations or at a local university to help you understand regulations as well as running a business.[16]
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    Consider your short- and long-term plans. Write detailed short- and long- term plans to guide yourself in the process of being a process server. This is important to help develop your business and accommodate for any contingency such as an illness or a lawsuit. It may also be important to show to any local authorities or financers.[17]
    • Be as detailed in your plan as possible, considering every aspect of being a process server. Create a working list of services and fees that you can tailor to demand. Finally, make sure to calculate any costs you may have to take on for supplies and payroll.[18]
    • Create specific plans for serving legal papers. Creating a specific plan for how you will provide service of process is an integral part of your general business plan. These plans can help you think about every aspect of your day-to-day business, but also may help attract clients and legitimize you to law firms and courts.
    • For example, you’ll need to include information on how you monitor activity on papers served, such as with a computer system that displays information when you write or deliver a defendant.[19]
    • You should have a system that can give you information on jobs referred to you by each firm or court. This can help you see what clients are actually generating profit for your agency.[20]
    • You will also need information on how you’re going to store sensitive data or papers.[21]
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    Start your business. You need to found a legal entity before you can begin working as a process server. Start your business as a legal entity with the appropriate local and state authorities. Having the proper licenses, registrations, and billing and fee structure, can help show potential clients that you are a serious businessperson.[22]
    • If you have any questions, consult the Small Business Administration, which was set up to help smaller companies.[23] You can also consult the National Process Servers Association at
    • Make sure to register your business with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or other tax authorities.[24]
    • You may want to hire a local accountant to help you navigate the financial side of your business, from registering with the IRS to budgeting.
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    Obtain correct licenses, bonding surety, and insurance. State laws govern process serving and you will require specific licenses and insurance to start your business. Check with local authorities before you start your business and then obtain any licenses, certificates, and insurance required by law.[25]
    • You will likely have to get fingerprinted at a local police station to ensure that you don’t have a criminal record or outstanding legal warrants or summons.[26]
    • There are specific laws in each state under which you will be subject. Regulations vary from state to state.[27]
    • Most states have laws that require process servers to have specific licensing and bonding before they can begin working.[28]
    • Not having the proper licenses, bonding, or trust accountability can open you and your business up to considerable liability, or disqualify you from work.[29]
    • The Small Business Administration can help if you have any questions.[30] You can also consult the National Association of Professional Process Servers.[31]
    • Purchase insurance that will cover your assets and general liability.[32]
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    Consult a mentor. Seek an experienced mentor who understands the law or being a process server. She will help grow your business and guide you through difficult times or situations. [33]
    • A mentor can offer invaluable advice on everything from fee structuring to dealing with difficult clients or continuing your education.[34]
  6. Image titled Manage a Business Step 8
    Set up or rent a space for your business. You will need a designated space from which to run your business. Either setting up a home space or renting a retail space will allow you to buy supplies and make profits.[35]
    • If you want a space outside of your home but don’t want an entire office, consider renting a cubicle in a larger retail space.
    • Make sure the space is quiet so that you can conduct business in a professional manner and hear clients when you speak to them.
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    Acquire equipment, services, and supplies. You should have listed the various equipment, services, and supplies you may need in your business plan. Once you’ve established your company, purchase these items to start serving legal paperwork as quickly as possible.[36]

Part 3
Building Your Business

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    Devise a fee structure. Decide on fee structure for your services. Knowing how much you want to charge in advance can make you appear more professional when you meet with potential clients. [37]
    • You may want to set base rates and tailor them according to each client.[38] Be aware that other individuals, law firms or courts may offer the same services for a lower fee, so consider if and how you want to compete with them.[39]
    • Make sure your fees are commensurate with your experience. [40]
    • Check what local process servers charge. You can either call and inquire or ask law firms or courts what they typically pay their process servers based on experience.
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    Develop an invoicing and payment system. Once you know your fee structure, install an invoicing and payment system. Consider the types of payment you will accept and how you will write receipts, which will help legitimize your business and make it easier to report income. [41]
    • Make sure to have a separate bank account for your business than you do for personal finances.[42]
    • Likewise, have separate credit lines for your business than you do for yourself.[43]
    • Make sure every aspect of your fees is transparent to clients. Maintaining fair business practices is vital to your success.[44]
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    Market yourself and your business. You may need to avoid traditional marketing strategies such as media advertising for your business because of local laws. Nevertheless, hooking potential customers and keeping your message simple and concise can help attract clients. [45]
    • You’ll need business cards, letterhead, and may want to consider flyers or brochures.
    • Research other process servers to see how they attract customers. You want your brand to be simple, distinctive, and attractive to potential customers.[46]
    • Consider law firms or courts with which you would like to work.
    • Businesses often rely on word-of-mouth advertising. Build clientele through referrals and maintaining strong business relationships with your clients.[47]
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    Recruit a stable client base. Recruit potential clients to start working as a process server. It’s advisable to have enough business to cover you for six months to ensure that you have capital as you grow your business.[48]
    • You’ll need to present potential clients with your business plan, your resume, and any other information they may need or want to know.[49]
    • Consider writing professional letters to local businesses to help attract clients.
    • Set up meeting with local businesses to discuss the possibility of working together.
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    Inform yourself continuously about service of process laws and regulations. Process serving can be a lucrative business. In order to be successful, you’ll need to continue your education in the field, including staying on top of changing laws and regulations. This can help you maintain a successful and healthy business and minimize your risk for liability.[50]
    • Read trade publications, attend continuing education, and network with other process servers and legal professionals to help you stay current in your skills, services, and trends.[51]


  • Individuals must be a certified process server in the United States before becoming a foreign or international server. Many foreign countries employ their own process servers who are familiar with that country’s legal system.

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Categories: Legal Careers