STEP 1: Get Fingerprinted
First, download and print three copies of the Live Scan form from the Orange County Clerk Recorder's Office. The office is in the first floor of the building located at the corner of Civic Center and Broadway in Santa Ana. The closest parking is the parking structure at the corner of 5th Street and Broadway.
Next, make an appointment with a Live Scan finger printing service. Bring the completed live scan forms with you along with the required identification. The varies. Most locations accept cash or credit / debit cards. See a list of LiveScan facilities here:
STEP 2: Get a Bond
Go to http://www.bondsexpress.com/california-bonds/california-process-server/ and buy the process server bond. ($49.00 + tax = $50.96)
STEP 3: Register with the Orange County Clerk Recorder
Go to the Orange County Clerk recorder's office and fill out the application on their computer. You will need to have the signed live scan forms with you as well as the original bond. You will enter the bond number into the computer. Once your name is called, the clerk will look over your documents and then process your registration. The process takes about 15 minutes. They will take a photo of you and print a temporary process server card. The cost to register is $107.
STEP 4: Get Started or Wait - Your Choice!
You can start serving people as an independent server once you get the temporary registration card, but no company will hire you without the permanent card. The clerk recorder will tell you that it could take up to 90 days to receive the permanent card. While you are waiting for that permanent card, it would be a good idea to reach out to process serving companies to announce your pending availability. The clerk recorder's office will call you when your permanent card is ready for pick up.
Total startup cost is about: $200
Are you qualified?
Before you go through all the hassle of registering to become a process server, you'll want to be sure that you have no disqualifying events in your history. For most people that basically means you have never been convicted of a felony and that there are no pending felony charges against you.
Is it worth it?
If you work for a process serving company who runs you all around Southern California and doesn't pay per attempt, you're probably going to find that your average wage per hour is about the same as working at McDonald's. Working for those companies also means you'll put a lot of wear and tear on your car and you'll be exposed to the worst kinds of defendants out there. On the other hand, if you work solely as an independent server, you name your price and pick the types of defendants you want to serve. You won't get as many jobs on your own, but you'll get more per job and can take high risk defendant serves at your own discretion.
A big part of being a process server is knowing how to get around to your defendants' locations efficiently. A keen sense of direction is required. Many times the addresses aren't perfect. This is especially true in large apartment complexes and gated communities.
You'll need a good smart phone and a reliable data connection. Some companies require you to install an app to record your diligence and serves with photographs. It will be up to you to plan out your routes so that you can make as many stops as possible within your territory. If you're doing one-off serves on your own this won't matter as much as if you work for a process serving company.
You'll also need a relatively new computer at home, a broadband connection, a scanner and a printer. You will be printing hundreds of copies of legal documents, so a laser printer will work best. You'll be scanning dozens of pages at a time, so a multi-feed scanner is best. You'll also need to have a good understanding of working with websites and emailing attachments. You could do all of these things at places like Staples, Office Depot, UPS Stores, Fed X Office, etc. but your costs for using those places will add up quickly.