If you enjoy interacting with the public and would like to run a business with minimal start-up costs, becoming a Notary Public could be for you. The process is not complex, and it’s a way of earning extra cash whilst managing your own business.
What is a Notary Public?
A Notary Public is a person authorized to act as a legal witness for signatures where they are needed, for example on contracts, mortgages, and other legal documentation. A notary charges a small fee for verifying the identity of the signatory; they then sign and notarize the document themselves, verifying that the person who signed is who they say they are.
Useful skills, experience, and education for Notaries
There are a number of skills and qualifications required for a successful notary. Firstly, obviously, you will need to be certified as a notary by your state. Secondly, you will need some basic business knowledge, including human resource management, finance and accounting, and marketing. Networking skills are useful for finding clients amongst local business owners and mortgage brokers, and you should be able to offer good customer service experiences so that clients will keep returning to you and referring others.
Starting your Notary Business
Stage 1: Create a business plan
Having decided you want to be a notary, you should design a plan for your business. This will help you to think about some of the central elements of your business, e.g., who your customers will be, how you will get in touch with them, how much you expect to earn and what your expenses will be, what your marketing USP will be, and so on. It’s particularly important to work out what funds you will need to launch your business, and what your running costs will be.
If you want financing from the bank, they will demand to see your business plan; in addition, research has demonstrated that the chance of creating a successful business is greatly increased by having an effective business plan. Creating a plan will assist you in thinking through every aspect of your potential business, and the plan will be there to guide you as you set out to turn your ideas into reality.
Stage 2: Come up with a name
It can be tricky to find an interesting and eye-catching name for a notary business. You should choose a name that is reflective of what you can offer and draw in customers, however it must also be available for your use. Once you have thought of a name, check on your state’s website to find out if it is available and to register it. Your name should catch the attention, project your image, and let potential clients know what you can offer.
Stage 3: Create a business entity
A business entity is the way in which you legally organize your business for operational purposes. There are four main forms of business entity from which you can select, including Ltd Liability Company (LLC), sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation. Every form of entity has its own disadvantages and advantages, including liability exposures, expenses, and administration required.
Stage 4: Choose a location
You can run your notary business from a leased office, or you can have your office at home. If you choose to have physical offices, make sure that they are somewhere your target demographic can reach easily. Obviously, mobile services and working from home are considerably less expensive.
Stage 5: Apply for licenses and permits
There may be a number of permits and business licenses required to start your business. These will differ depending on the regulations pertaining in the town and state where you locate your business.
In all states, notaries must register for their notary commission, generally provided by the Secretary of State. In certain states you simply need to put in an application, while in others you must take part in education and sometimes examinations. All states will run background checks and request fingerprints and other identification.
To run a business as a notary you will also often require a sales tax permit and if you are going to employ others an Employers Identification number – again this will vary between jurisdictions.
Stage 6: Open a business bank account
Don’t try and run your business and personal finances from a single bank account; if you have a separate credit card and bank account for your business, it will be far easier to monitor your outgoings and income and to keep records for tax purposes.
Stage 7: Create a marketing plan
To succeed as a notary, you will require a budget sufficient for your ongoing marketing needs. Naturally businesses often market themselves online and through social media. Creating a website can be costly (although with modern platforms it’s quite easy to do yourself), but it is possibly the best way of achieving visibility for your business. Building and maintaining a network of fellow businesspeople by attending community events, business association meetings, and joining the Chamber of Commerce is also extremely helpful.
Stage 8: Get insured
It is essential for a notary business to make sure that you have sufficient insurance in case anything goes wrong. General liability insurance will give you cover against claims from third parties for physical injuries or damage to property resulting from your business activities. Notary public insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance for notary public, is compulsory in most states to ensure that you can pay for any financial losses caused by negligence or errors on your part.
Notary public insurance bonds are required in many states: this is a type of insurance that offers the state protection from all financial losses caused by notaries conducting themselves improperly. When you take your oath of office with your local county clerk you will have to prove that you hold such a bond.
There are many different forms of insurance policy available. The best way of determining what insurance will cost you is to obtain quotes from a range of providers. Make sure you look beyond the quote price to see any limitations on coverage, exclusions, deductibles, etc., and calculate which is the best value.
Stage 9: Hiring employees
Generally, you might not need any employees in your business unless you want to hire an administrative assistant or someone to do your marketing. Don’t forget that as well as your salary, any employees will require a number of other outlays, including unemployment insurance, liability insurance, and paid vacation time.
Stage 10: Create an accounting system
It is essential if you are going to be successful in your notary business that you set up an effective accounting system. You cannot expect to enjoy success in the long term without one. You need to be able to access figures easily and efficiently to provide accurate tax returns, and you also need to be able to assess cash flow and trends so that you can plan ways to boost your income and minimize outgoings.
What returns can you expect?
Charges permissible for notary services vary from state to state. If you mainly undertake loan signings, you should expect to clear between $75 and $200 per signing. The average annual earnings for notaries working primarily as loan signing agents is approximately $37,000 per year.
Considerations before setting up your business as a notary
There are challenges in setting up any business on your own. You should prepare as well as you can and be aware of all the ins and outs of the business you have chosen.
The primary challenge for notaries is to develop contact with firms that require notary services often. Notaries do not get paid a huge amount for a single document, so you need to work with companies with a substantial throughput of transactions if you are to make reasonable profits. For this reason, it is difficult to become a success as a notary without having good networking skills.
The notary business is a competitive one, so you will have to think of ways to distinguish your business from the others and show your clients that they will be receiving a premium quality service. Finding ways to make yourself unique, for example being on call at unusual times, or even 24/7, could get you noticed. Discuss the pros and cons of setting up your own business with others who have done it, and make sure you are fully aware of the costs and the amount of work needed before you begin. Additionally, you should ask around your local businesses to discover how much potential work is available.
Once you’ve decided to take the plunge into the notary business, make sure that you have notary public insurance (errors and omissions insurance for notary public) so that in the unfortunate event of anything going wrong, you won’t lose everything you’ve worked so hard for in a lawsuit. You can find out more about notary public insurance here.
*As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording. The information contained on this web page is general only and should not be relied upon as advice.