National Association of Professional Process Servers

What to Expect as a Process Server

When someone decides they want to pursue work as a process server, they may not know what to expect. Process servers play an important role in our justice system. The work of a process server is important as their work helps uphold an individual’s due process rights. Essentially, when someone has to appear in court, they must be notified of this in writing, and there must be proof that attempts were made to get that information to the individual. Ideally, a written affidavit will serve as proof that the individual was served at a specific date and time. This ensures that an individual cannot claim that they did not know about a court proceeding in which they were a party, and similarly, it also means that someone cannot take someone to court without notifying them. The work of process servers is important for not just the plaintiffs, but for the defendants, as well. But is the job as simple as handing a person a court notice? Certainly, there is a lot more to it than that. For new process servers, this month’s post is a must-read, revealing what new process servers should expect as they begin their careers.

Non-Traditional Hours

For process servers, their job revolves around making contact with the individual to be served. This means that several attempts may be required to get the job done, and those attempts will likely be out of standard business hours. Server Michael Santos explained, “No one ever got ahead working Monday thru Friday 9 to 5. You get out of it what you put into it so don't be afraid to think outside of the box.” It’s also important to note that a lot of a process server’s work is done behind the scenes, which can lead to extended hours. Michael Kern, owner of Direct Legal and one of NAPPS’ directors chimed in on a post on social media, advising newcomers that “The job is dangerous at times, plus you work more than 60 hours a week and very hard to take vacation as a sole proprietor owner.” These are important realities that a newcomer to the industry must understand in order to be successful.

What is included in the process server fees?

Process servers will make a diligent effort to attempt to serve the individual. Service is not guaranteed as a process server may make multiple attempts but still not be able to contact the individual to be served. However, most process servers will outline just how many attempts they will make before wrapping up the job. Depending on the company, additional services such as printing documents, court filing, and retrieving documents may either be value added services or services that have an extra cost.

Additionally, process servers will provide a service affidavit that can be used in court, and many process servers also ensure that it is notarized, if required by statute or rules of court. The notary signature on the service affidavit may be an additional fee depending on the server. The service affidavit is the document that proves the individual was served.


As we alluded, a lot of a process server’s work is done outside of the actual serve. A process server needs to handle seeking out new business, handling book-keeping, staying on top of legislation changes that could affect them, and processing paperwork (affidavits, etc.). Karen Busta Flores added, “Organizational skills are a must! It just isn’t about serving but getting reports on work done and sign proofs.” Furthermore, getting the job done can take quite a bit of time and energy. Luis Lemus emphasized, “One has to be a hustler and be on top of everything.” Servers need to be stalwart in their efforts.


Process servers run a business, and they are not exempt from needing a basic understanding of accounting. It would also be helpful to have some type of accounting software to keep track of finances, when payments are due, when payments are past due, and to record payments received. There are a number of accounting software systems that are user-friendly, so it is really up to the process server to determine which one he or she likes best. Unfortunately, many process servers report having a hard time collecting payment. While the reason why some servers run into problems is unclear, it is something that has come up repeatedly in posts about new servers, in process server groups on social media, and in conversations. One solution to avoiding payment problems is to ask for payment up front — at least half or all — especially for new customers. Make sure that payment expectations are clear and enforced. It is important to note for the NAPPS members reading that NAPPS has a mechanism for dealing with non-payment between members. However, NAPPS process server members who accept jobs from non-members will have to handle those issues themselves. Make sure that the terms of the service you provide is clear so that there are no questions later.

Additionally, some servers advised not to discount non-serves, which can be a common rookie mistake. In the long run, they end up costing more than completed serves, says process server Shane Caton. This was also echoed by Barbara Poris and Michael Kern. Ensure you’re charging appropriately for service and collecting payment.

Challenging Serves & People

While movies featuring process servers make it look like process servers act as a newspaper delivery person, throwing papers at the address and walking away, the real work is much more difficult. Process Server Brian Howard advised, “The job is sometimes not as easy as it looks in the movies!” There are a number of inherent dangers that must be kept in mind while attempting service. Individuals may not be happy about getting served, and they may take out their aggression on the server, creating a dangerous position. Jill Rich advised, “Stay calm, be polite, and knock longer, talk to neighbors they have good info!”

Community and Tips

The process serving community is fairly tight-knit, with several forums on social media that gives servers the ability to bond, in addition to the ability to join events and process server organizations, like NAPPS. NAPPS is proud to offer members resources to help new process servers, including process server Best Practices.

For those servers who are just cutting their teeth, Babette Flanagan Cochrane advised, “Don't ever sign a blank Affidavit [...] Just remember you are responsible for what is on that Affidavit, so if someone else writes it up, make sure you proofread it.” This advice is also echoed on the NAPPS Best Practices, which echoes that sentiment, “It is not proper for a proof of service to be signed before completion, or signed in blank to be completed later. It is not permissible to sign the process server’s name to a proof of service on his or her behalf.”

More sage advice came from John McDonald, who expressed, “Process Servers need to do their due diligence by leaning the Laws of their State in serving Process. I highly recommend a potential server learning what they can/cannot do, before they go out in the field. You don’t want your first ‘learning experience’ getting you sued (regardless of what instructions an Atty or Self Represented client gives you).”

Kay Way expressed, “You learn as you go. It's okay to make a mistake, but don't ever make the same mistake twice.” Sara Frank also warned, “Document everything. Obviously, big things like cars and lights on or off are always good but don’t forget the little stuff like if the lawn was mowed recently, conditions around the entrances [...].

This post does not encompass everything that a new process server might need to know, but it compiles a lot of great advice from seasoned process servers and parts of the job that may not be apparent to newcomers. Stay up to speed with the NAPPS blog and join the NAPPS Facebook community to interact with other members.

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