Six Tips to Help Process Servers Get Paid on Time
- February 23, 2011
- by ServeNow.com Staff
- Business Tips
As a process server, you likely pride yourself on quick and timely deliverance of your client’s papers. Sometimes you don’t receive the same courtesy when it comes to clients quickly delivering your payment. It is never enjoyable when process servers, or investigators for that matter, have to take on the money-chasing duties of the collection agencies they sometimes have as clients.
The reasons why a new client suddenly drops off the map once payment is due, or why a once-reliable client is withholding money, can vary greatly. It could be that the client is experiencing financial difficulties, or that they have a history of withholding payment until the last possible minute, but this article is not about figuring out why you aren’t getting paid after you have completed a job. This article is mainly geared toward giving you iron-clad advice to ensure that your hard work is rewarded as promised.
Read on to discover six important steps you should take with your business to make sure you are paid on time.
1) Think twice before withholding affidavits
If you end up dealing with late or absent payments from a few clients, you might find yourself tempted to withhold an affidavit of service until you are paid. Not only is this considered unprofessional within the industry, but the judge may take legal action against you.
In ServeNow.com’s process server group on LinkedIn, Thomas Smith, from 1 Source Private Investigations in Indiana, explained that a judge can potentially hold the process server in contempt of court and even ban the person from serving papers for that court if he or she withholds affidavits of service. Another implication of withholding affidavits is that clients could drop you as a service provider and voice their dissatisfaction to other potential clients.
There are more effective ways to handle clients and ensure payment, such as …
2) Collect payment up front
This is a business practice that many process servers swear by, while others elect not to do it. The obvious upside is that you have the money in your hand before you even attempt to serve papers. Prepayment is a good idea when working with smaller clients who may only give you a few serves per month, or for out-of-state clients or out-of-state referrals.
On the other hand, some firms or agencies would prefer to see results before paying, so they are unlikely to prepay for services. If you are attempting to gain the business of a larger client who might provide you with lucrative ongoing work, it might be wise to consider accepting payment after service.
Requiring prepayment is a helpful tool to use at your discretion, but it doesn’t need to be a set-in-stone policy if it means the difference between landing a big client or leading them to look towards other process servers.
3) Update your invoice
The wording you use on the invoice you send to clients is your chance to give them a strong reminder that you expect prompt payment. In bold and/or red letters, you can include something along the lines of, “Payment due upon receipt.” You have the choice of how long clients have to pay, but a widely used time limit is 30 days after receipt of the invoice.
Another item you can add to your invoice is a fee for non-receipt of payment. The fee does not have to be steep – maybe just 1.5 percent or 3 percent – but it usually gives clients further motivation to pay on time. Just make sure that you clearly explain this policy to clients before you complete the job, whether it’s in print, verbally or both. Before imposing a fee policy, you may want to find out if your state has legal limits regarding what you can charge.
Your invoice should also clearly reflect that you expect lawyers to pay you regardless of whether their client pays them. Some lawyers use this as an excuse not to pay process servers, so you need to remind them that remind them that you were hired by the attorney, not by their client. Explain this before serving papers and on your invoice, and chances of this becoming an issue will be greatly reduced.
4) Find out if the local court can lend a hand
In Texas, according to Wes Conroy, vice president of the Texas Process Servers Association, process servers can notify courts that payment has not been received for services rendered, and the court will delay any default judgments until payment has been made. It’s worth checking to see whether your state has similar avenues available to process servers that can help ensure payment for your services.
5) Appeal to the client’s reason
Before things become contentious between your business and your clients, it sometimes helps to reason with the client. Instead of threatening to report clients to a collection agency, try telling them plainly that you need the money to pay your process servers.
Establishing relationships with your clients based on mutual respect and fulfillment of promises from the outset gives you a platform for better dialogue when it comes to touchy issues such as payment.
As Conroy said, “My philosophy is people respond more to niceties than threats.”
6) Treat other process servers as you’d like to be treated
The same standard holds true if you are the one serving papers or hiring process servers to serve papers for you. Paying your servers on time – whether they are employees or independent contractors – helps them stay in business, as well as keeps you in high regard with state and national process server associations.
If you work for a process server agency and the company isn’t paying you for completed jobs, you can try to work with the company’s owners to sort out the problem. If that proves unsuccessful, and if the company is a National Association of Professional Process Servers (NAPPS) member (or even if not), you can report the company to NAPPS. The same goes if you have been assigned work from another process service company that is a NAPPS member. Associations are keenly interested in protecting your interests as a process server and making sure that you are treated fairly by your peers.
Collecting payment is almost never an exact science. It’s a combination of several factors including your client types and your comfort level with trusting clients. A roster of clients who all prepay for services is obviously the most airtight way to ensure payment, but it also helps to be flexible for certain clients. Once you find a payment formula that works for your business, though, it’s one less thing for you to have on your mind while you focus on growing your business and providing excellent customer service.
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