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The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Notary

Businesses across multiple industries in the United States require documents to be signed and notarized, so notary services are in high demand. There are more than 4.4 million commissioned notaries in the United States, and as more people look for part-time gigs to supplement their incomes, the numbers continue to grow. Before you take steps to become a commissioned notary, there are some important pros and cons to understand about the job. 

 

The Cons of Being a Notary

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. 

  1. Steady income can be difficult
  2. You could be sued for a lot of money
  3. Upstart and upkeep costs can add up

 

Steady income can be difficult

How much money a notary makes is dependent on several factors. Most states have set maximum fees that a notary may charge for their services. Some states set that fee as low as $2.50. In some cases, you can add additional charges for accompanying services like driving out to meet a client, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to make tons of money doing simple notarizations. 

Specializing in additional services is one of the best ways to make more money as a notary. Some of the additional services will require you to be a notary first while others may not require it. Opportunities may be limited based on what’s allowed in your state.

For instance, I-9 Forms don’t require notarization, but some notaries act as the authorized representatives for businesses. Some states, like California, place restrictions and additional requirements on who can perform this role.

Becoming a notary signing agent is one of the most common ways notaries increase their marketability and income. To become a notary signing or loan signing agent, the following is recommended: 

  1. Take a specialized training course
  2. Take and pass an exam 
  3. Pass a background check
  4. Buy additional supplies 
  5. Purchase a higher minimum E&O policy 

 

As long as the housing market is booming, notary signing agents will be in high demand. Notary signing agents can make anywhere from $75-200 per signing, and each signing event can take anywhere from thirty minutes to a few hours depending on the complexity of the loan documents. Notaries who work directly with escrow officers, title agents, lenders, and real estate agents will make more than those who work for loan signing service providers. 

Before expanding your services, research what is required by your state, get the right training, and approach new services with caution. With more complex signings and services comes greater responsibilities and risks. 

 

You could be sued for a lot of money

One of the most important tasks a notary has is to establish the identity of the signer to protect the public against fraud and identity theft. Notaries deal with lots of different paperwork and people, so it’s important to always follow the steps of notarization and record important details of each in a journal. 

Mistakes could result in a lawsuit, and the more intensive a signing is, the greater the chances of making a mistake. 

For instance, a loan signing package may contain hundreds of pages of financial documents totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. Any misstep could mean the notary is to blame for the financial loss. 

Even when no mistake has been made by the notary, they may still be sued by a disgruntled client. 

Before applying your first stamp to any document, be sure to brush up on the procedures of each type of notarial certificate and buy an E&O insurance policy to protect you against civil and criminal claims. 

 

Upstart and upkeep costs can add up

Becoming a notary and sustaining a notary business comes with costs. The obvious initial costs will include: 

  • Application fee 
  • Surety bond 
  • Notary courses 
  • Supplies like your stamp and notary journal 

 

It’s relatively inexpensive to jump over the first hurdle and obtain your notary commission. In most states, these can total less than a hundred dollars, but it’s just the start. There are additional business costs that might not be so obvious at first glance. If you hope to establish a successful long term notary business, you’ll also want to think about: 

  • Cost to register an LLC 
  • Cost to market your business 
  • Website hosting and maintenance costs
  • E&O Insurance 
  • Additional office supplies like paper and printer (this is especially important for loan signing agents) 
  • Additional training courses to expand services
  • Other business software 

 

If you want to become certified to do remote online notarization, that’s also going to entail additional courses, a higher surety bond, and software. Be sure to research the costs of becoming a commissioned notary in your state, what services you’re allowed to provide, and how you can provide them (remote or in-person) before making the initial investment. 

Training to become a better notary should also be a part of your ongoing budget. Many notaries often feel underprepared by the basic required courses, so consider enhancing your knowledge by joining online communities for notaries, joining the National Notary Association, going to conferences for notaries, and attending advanced courses and seminars. 

While the cons may seem intimidating at first, they are fairly easy to navigate. 

 

The Pros of Being a Notary

The pros of being a notary greatly outweigh the cons. Here are a few: 

  1. Getting started as a notary is pretty easy
  2. Flexible hours and be your own boss
  3. A notary commission enhances your resume 
  4. Opportunity to make extra money 
  5. You get to help people 

 

Getting started as a notary is pretty easy

To qualify as a commissioned notary, most states simply require that you are: 

  • At least 18 years old
  • A resident of the state you are seeking a notary commission 
  • A United States citizen 
  • Have no felony convictions

 

As we mentioned previously, the initial costs are pretty low. Once you’ve determined if you qualify for a notary commission, the process to officially become a notary will look something like this: 

  1. Find and complete a state-approved training program. 
  2. Take your state’s exam. 
  3. Complete a fingerprinting and background check.
  4. Purchase a surety bond. 
  5. Complete and submit your state’s application along with the fee. 
  6. Receive your commission certificate signed by your state’s governor.
  7. File your commission paperwork and bond with your secretary of state or other regulating agency. 
  8. Purchase your notary supplies. 

 

Depending on your state, one or more of these steps might not be required, and once you’ve completed the process, you’re ready to start notarizing! 

 

Flexible hours and be your own boss

As a notary, you have the option to create and run your own business. Notaries can set their own hours and work within an area of their liking. You can work as much or as little as you like, and the opportunity to make extra cash could pop up at any moment. Advertising your mobile notary services on your car means you might even get a call from a potential client while sitting in a traffic jam. 

With the adoption of remote online notarization, notaries can offer their services anytime and anywhere without leaving their office or home. 

 

A notary commission enhances your resume 

Lots of businesses benefit from having a commissioned notary on their payroll. Law firms, public and private schools, car dealerships, insurance companies, healthcare facilities, and real estate companies utilize notary services on a regular basis. Featuring your status as a notary on your resume will push you ahead of other candidates. 

Oftentimes, if your workplace could benefit from a notary on staff, there’s the potential to negotiate that they pay for your costs to receive your commission. It never hurts to ask. Before you approach your supervisor, be sure to do your research on the costs and benefits of sponsoring you. 

 

Opportunity to make extra money

Even though there are millions of notaries in the United States, the need for the various services provided by these professionals keeps them in high demand. 

While it’s difficult to build a six-figure income by doing simple notarizations like jurats and acknowledgments, some states have higher maximum rates than others. In California, notaries can charge $15 per notarial act. In Florida, Arizona, Michigan, and others, notaries can charge $10. In some states, there are no maximum notary fees set by law, so local competition sets the typical price. 

These types of notarizations can be quick and simple. Additionally, most mobile notaries have the option to add on travel fees, and the best part is that notaries are paid on the spot. 

Of course, to make the most money as a notary, you’ll want to add other services like: 

  • Immigration Forms Specialist 
  • Healthcare Facilities Specialist 
  • Apostilles Specialist
  • Loan Signing Agent 
  • Wedding Officiant 
  • Form I-9 Services 

 

The general skill set of a good notary, like attention to detail and following procedures, makes adopting many of these services effortless. 

 

You get to help people 

One of the most important parts of being a notary is the value you bring to your community. The procedures notaries follow help to avert fraud and protect the public. From field trip slips to home loans, the documents you notarize have a direct impact on the lives of others. As you grow your business and explore ways to diversify your service offerings, the impact of your work expands as well.

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This content is provided for informational purposes only. PropLogix, LLC (PLX) is not a law firm; this content is not intended as legal advice and may not be relied upon as such. PLX makes no representations as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of this content. PLX may reference or incorporate information from third-party sources, upon which a citation or a website URL shall be provided for such source. PLX does not endorse any third party or its products or services. Any comments referencing or responding to this content may be removed in the sole discretion of PLX.

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Amanda Farrell

Amanda Farrell is a digital media strategist at PropLogix. She enjoys being a part of a team that gives peace of mind to consumers while making one of the biggest purchases of their lives. She lives in Sarasota with her bunny, Buster, and enjoys painting, playing guitar and mandolin, and yoga.