How to Start a Process Server Business

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.