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.