Can a Process Server Wear a Badge?

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.

It’s Easy to Feel a Little Desperate

I get it.

When you’re a new business just starting out, even a one-man 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.

Process Servers Are Really the Good Guys

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.

Process Serving Is a Micro Business

There’s been a lot of talk in the last few years about minimalism and micro-business.

It makes sense.

In turbulent economic times, minimalism is a tool that can be used to reduce expenses and keep your head above water.

And starting a micro-business—one that requires very little up-front expense or overhead—is an attractive alternative to sinking $100,000 into opening yet another coffee shop.

Back when I was a broke college student, it was the low cost of getting into the process server business that drew me to the industry in the first place.

I spent less than $100 to get my first client, and things grew from there.

This is how I recommend you grow:

Start small, spend your resources on the absolute essentials, and protect your profit.

Here’s why this works:

  1. You won’t need an office, receptionist, toll-free number, or expensive equipment. Instead, get a free Google Voice number and forward it to your cell phone or wherever your “office” may be.
  2. A cheap laptop and portable scanner make it easy to do business from the road. You can even e-file your proof of service from the field and minimize your time spent on paperwork.
  3. Unlike a retail or restaurant business, there are no supplies or expensive inventory to maintain. Get a call, serve the papers, and get paid.

Let’s go back to that $100 I spent to get my business started:

I used the cell phone that I already had, so the bulk of the money went to printing up business cards, a promotional letter I distributed (by hand) to law firms in the area, and the fee to register my business with the state (very affordable in Colorado).

My first client came from a ten cent business card and led to a regular contract with a large municipal government. I did not spend money on process server association fees, membership in online directories, or fancy marketing gimmicks.

I did register a domain name for ten bucks and setup a simple website. Having a professional online presence reinforces your credibility with potential clients, though it’s not necessary if you’re on a super tight budget. I always recommend marketing directly to law firms as the most effective way to secure new business.

What does this mean to you?

If you’re considering starting a new process server business, rest assured that it can be done without much start-up capital. Few businesses offer the flexibility and low barrier of entry that process serving does.

But remember, you’re only as good as your reputation. And if you want to grow and hire employees, it’s important to satisfy each and every client to secure valuable referrals.

What Mad Men Can Teach You About Becoming a Process Server

Have you seen the show Mad Men?

I love it.

The deeply insightful and well-paced writing, accurate portrayal of 1960’s culture, and razor-sharp character development all led to one of the best television shows to grace the screen.

And if you watch closely, you can even learn a few things about becoming a process server.

Take Don Draper, the ultra-masculine ad man, for example.

He’s always cool, always poised, and never lets them see him sweat.

Even after a night of heavy drinking or a few days of missed work, he’ll walk right into a meeting with an important client and nail the presentation. In fact, some of his best ideas were born under last-minute pressure.

A good process server should be like Don. Both when meeting with potential clients and when you’re out making serves.

Even if you’re sweating bullets, you never let the client catch on. Never.

And at the end of the series, when everything has fallen into disarray, we see Don in California, meditating by the ocean, with a smile spreading across his face.

Don’s picked up the pieces and started over before. He’s resourceful. He knows he’ll always find a way, even when the odds are stacked against him.

If you haven’t seen the show yet, check it out.

It’s well-worth watching, and you may even learn a few things.