Each month, thousands of people come to this website wanting to know how to become a process server, and the second most popular question is, “How much money can you make as a process server?”

But the answer’s not so simple.

It’s a diverse field, and some process servers earn as little as minimum wage while others make a six-figure living.

Instead of asking how much money can you make as a process server, you should be asking which type of process server to become.

Let’s break it down:

In the first category, you have process servers who work as independent contractors for existing agencies.

The gigs are easy to get, the turnover is high, and the pay is low.

In the second category, you have those process servers who work for sheriff’s departments or other government agencies.

The pay is better, and full-time positions often come with a steady paycheck and government benefits.

In the third category are the process servers who work for themselves, running one-person operations or small businesses with their families.

While there’s no guarantee any business will be successful, and it can take time to build a client list, self-employed process servers are not limited to a salary or meager pay.

So How Much Money Can You Make as a Process Server?

Process server jobs outside of the government sector typically pay as low as $12-$15 per serve, and that’s not including your gas and transportation.

There’s a reason they’re always advertising on places like Craigslist.

The turnover is high.

People get frustrated when they’re not making any money and move on.

In the government sector, I’ve seen full-time, 40 hours a week positions ranging from about $16-$24 per hour.

But if you want to make real money as a process server, you’re going to have to go into business for yourself.

Here’s why:

Assume you’re paid $15 per serve working for an agency who keeps the lion’s share of the profits.

To make $200 per day you’d have to serve at least 14 papers a day.

Now imagine working for yourself and billing the client $50 per serve.

You’d only need to serve 4 papers a day to make the same amount of money.

And your expenses will be lower since you’re not driving so much.

Invest the time and effort to build a big client list, and you could even end up hiring people to work for you.

And if you’re in a big market, there’s really no upper limit.

In fact, I know one process server in New York who charges $150 per serve, and regularly clears $1,000 a day.

Now before you dream of riches, remember that starting a business takes dedication and effort.

Some people just aren’t cut out for it.

But if you’re ready to take the next step, grab a copy of my book Process Server 101: How to Become a Process Server from Amazon, and you’ll learn how to start a process server business you can be proud to call your own.

If you’re wondering how to start a process server business, the requirements are much simpler than you might think.

Let’s take a closer look:

Legal Requirements for a Process Server Business

First, you need to check the legal requirements in your area to see if you require a process server certification or license (for example, California requires registration but Colorado does not).

It’s also worth taking a look at the local business licensing requirements in your state or town.

In most cases, you won’t need a local business license if you’re conducting business from your home, though some municipalities do require even home-based businesses to register.

Your city or county website should have updated requirements.

You will also need to decide how to structure your process server business.

Most independent process servers operate as a sole proprietorship or limited liability company.

Here’s the difference:

  • A sole proprietorship means that you will conduct business under a separate trade name (such as Your Process Server Business) but ultimately you as the owner are responsible for all financial obligations including whatever debts your business might take on. That means if you default on the debt later, your creditors can come after not only the business but also your personal accounts. However, the low overhead and startup expenses mean most process servers don’t accrue debt to start their businesses, and the low cost and simple requirements for a sole proprietorship make it an attractive option (last I checked a sole proprietorship in my home state could be filed with a simple online form for $20 plus $5/year thereafter for renewal).
  • Limited liability companies are the next step above a sole proprietorship, and can help to limit your personal liability in the event the business takes on debt. Like a sole proprietorship, LLC’s can often be filed online, though they may have additional annual reporting and filing requirements. You may also choose to be taxed as an individual, reporting your profits and expenses on your tax return, or the LLC may elect to be taxed as a corporation.

To find more specific information, I recommend visiting your state’s website and reading more about the registration and filing requirements for small businesses in your area.

Another great source of information is the Small Business Administration.

Okay, with the boring legalese out of the way (I hope you’re not falling asleep already), let’s get back to the fun stuff about how to start a process server business.

A Business on Your Phone

One of the things I love most about the process server business is that the overhead is so minimal.

You don’t need a fancy office, receptionist, retail space, or the expensive equipment that can bury most small businesses before they even get started.

In fact, you can pretty much run this business from your smartphone.

Add a good process server app and a portable scanner and you’re ready to hit the road.

You will, however, need coffee.

Lots of coffee.

But seriously, I actually caution new process servers about getting too wrapped up in equipment, office supplies, etc. You’re better off spending the money to market your business and grow your client list.

Only then, when you’re making a profit, should you consider investing in the goodies and extras to help you run your business.

How Do Process Servers Get Clients?

The single biggest challenge when learning how to start a process server business is finding good clients.

Anyone can register a business, but it’s the ability to grind out the work everyday, finding new clients and working with the ones you have, that takes a process server business from just an idea to reality.

The are basically two ways to find clients for your process server business:

  1. Proactively seek new clients by visiting or calling law firms, self-help legal centers, mortgage lenders, rental agencies, and any other place that might require the services of a good process server. I recommend making your visits in person, with a good process server marketing letter in hand. In fact, if I had to start over in a new town and build a business from scratch, the first thing I would do is print up some business cards and start pounding the pavement.
  2. But if you hate selling, and the thought of visiting law offices in person makes your palms sweat, you can take a more passive approach to finding clients by building a website. It’s easy. I promise. And you can use tools like Google Maps, AdWords, and local business listings to get found by people looking for a process server in your area.

How to Start a Process Server Business in Ten Steps:

  1. Research how to become a process server in your state and complete the requirements (if any).
  2. Register your business and setup a local business bank account to accept payments.
  3. Forward a free Google Voice office number to your smartphone.
  4. Order a stack of shiny business cards from Moo or VistaPrint (be sure to include your new office number).
  5. Customize a marketing letter to distribute to attorneys and other potential clients.
  6. Build a simple website to highlight your services and persuade clients that you are the right process server to handle their cases.
  7. Visit law firms in your area, introduce yourself, and ask for work.
  8. Repeat step #7 until you get your first gig.
  9. Over-deliver on your first serve so they’ll give you more business going forward.
  10. Ask for referrals to continue growing your business!

And if you’re ready to take the next step, grab a copy of my new book, Process Server 101: How to Become a Process Server.

It covers everything you need to know about becoming a self-employed process server, finding clients, skip tracing, court filing, and more.

About half the messages I get are from people asking, “Can a process server wear a badge?”

And the answer is simple. In most cases, yes, a process server can wear a badge.

As long as you’re not impersonating a law enforcement officer, and there’s no local law restricting the use of badges, process servers can and often do wear badges.

In fact, I have a personalized badge that I’ve worn while making serves.

But it’s important to consider the context.

Think about it like this:

Imagine you’re a defendant trying to avoid service. If you see someone wearing a badge walking up to the front door, would you answer it?

Of course not.

And sometimes process servers who insist on wearing a badge make things a lot harder for themselves.

It’s much easier to approach the defendant without a badge, authority demeanor, or any of the usual telltale signs of law enforcement.

That’s why I’m most successful making serves in jeans and a t-shirt. Sometimes I even wear shorts. But I always avoid setting off those red flags.

In the wrong neighborhood a process server wearing a badge can bring a lot of unwanted and negative attention, or the neighbors could even alert the defendant of your approach.

When should a process server wear a badge?

That said, there are certainly times when wearing a badge can make things easier, like when serving process in a corporate or government office building. And in the event that a situation escalates and law enforcement respond to the scene, a badge can help identify your position.

I wear mine under my shirt on a chain with a leather badge holder. It’s ready when I need it, hidden when I don’t.

If you’re looking to get a custom process server badge, I recommend ordering from these folks. I’m not a paid endorser, just a satisfied customer.

Besides, I always go with small businesses, and in this case, they happen to be owned by firefighters.

I get it.

When you’re a new business just starting out, even a one-person process server business, it’s easy to feel a little desperate.

Who wouldn’t?

You’ve spent money and valuable time to create something that you own and want to share with the world.

Maybe you’re out of work and the bills are piling up.

I’ve been there.

It’s hard not to get a little desperate, and search for “easy” money in all the wrong places.

I see new process servers do this all the time.

They decide they’ll give away their services to prospective clients or work with the one guy in town nobody wants to work with.

But in the end it costs them.

Because nobody respects the free offer, especially not lawyers.

I’m reminded of the last time I was in Las Vegas, walking down the sidewalk with a good friend.

If you’ve ever been to Vegas than you know how crowded the sidewalks are with all manner of hustlers, club promoters, and street marketers.

So one of them asks me if I want a free cruise, and of course I say no and keep walking.

Think about it… a free cruise.

And I didn’t even blink when I said no.

If the cruise is so great, why are they giving it away?

Meanwhile, the luxury hotel and casino across the street, who you can bet isn’t giving anything away, is charging $300 a night at full capacity.

Lawyers and clients think the same way.

If you lose respect for yourself and your time, they’ll do the same.

Let’s take it one step further and imagine you’re a new process server walking into a law office to offer your services.

You’re desperate and it shows. When they seem uninterested you throw out an offer to work for free, and a moment later they kindly shuffle you out the door.

And why wouldn’t they?

Legal work is important. A lawyer isn’t about to trust something like service of process to a desperate person. There’s simply too much at stake to take risks.

Now let’s reverse the scenario.

You’re confident. You introduce your services, give a few distinct reasons why you’re the best for the job, and offer strong but fair-market rates.

Who would you hire?

Okay, I’ve rambled long enough, but it’s important not to devalue yourself in business by taking bad gambles and cheap shortcuts.

That’s exactly why I recommend new process servers start part-time whenever possible, just like I did.

Work the business around your schedule, keep your primary source of income until you’re ready, and avoid the desperation trap.

Because nothing will kill your business faster.

There’s a nasty stereotype that persists about people hiding from process servers. Imagine some poor soul huddled in their bedroom closet while the process server pounds on their front door—or the process server showing up in disguise at the most inopportune moment, delivering the bad news with gusto and flair upon our unsuspecting victim.

This is bogus.

Process servers are the good guys, and here’s why:

We live in a great country where every individual has rights, including the right to be informed of someone pursuing legal action against them.

And it’s the process server who guarantees our right to due process under the law—our right to show up and defend our interests in court.

Without process servers, the whole system falls apart.

That, my friends, is why process servers are the good guys.

So don’t shoot the messenger.

Thank them.