How To Start a Mobile Notary Business
Flexibility, ownership over your schedule, and interactions with interesting people: These things all describe a mobile notary business. Notarizing documents is a practice that began in ancient civilizations when record-keeping grew in importance. The word notary comes from the Latin word “notarius,” meaning shorthand writer or clerk, who were used during the Roman Empire to draw up wills and contracts for a fee.
In modern times, notaries witness signatures and oaths on important legal and financial documents, typically for a fee. Mobile notary businesses have the flexibility to provide this service for customers in homes, coffee shops, or other convenient locations.
A mobile notary business witnesses signatures and oaths and can certify true copies at a customer’s location, allowing the business to cater to many customers. Notary services are typically needed for signing documents such as wills, leases, contracts, medical documents, and mortgage documents. Notaries can also be signing agents, providing guidance and assistance with loan documents.
A notary is responsible for verifying the signer’s identity and ensuring the signee understands and willfully signs the document. Notaries reduce fraudulent signatures or misunderstandings of signing a legal document. Although the notary is not required to be an attorney or legal advisor (although they certainly can be both), they help ensure that clients understand the document before signing.
As of 2022, the U.S. had 4.44 million commissioned notaries. Roughly 70% of mobile notaries earn between $1,000 – $7,500+ per month. Additionally, mobile notary businesses saw a significant increase in business during the beginning of the global pandemic in 2020.
Because many individuals stayed home and stopped going to banks and offices to sign documents, the demand for mobile notaries and signing agents increased. Online searches for mobile notaries increased by 1,750% in 2020. The heightened demand for notaries is also attributed to increased refinancing in 2020.
Over the last few years, the U.S. has gone through many changes. For example, between the global pandemic and the ebbs and flows of housing markets and interest rates, mobile notary businesses have been busy.
Looking ahead, mobile notary businesses expect to see continual growth. For instance, many mobile notary businesses have evolved business practices to meet their customer’s needs in areas such as:
- Appointment times and locations
- Payment options
- Remote or online notary services
However, even with the recently heightened demand, new mobile notary businesses may face some roadblocks:
- A slowdown in the housing market: Signing home mortgage documents is a significant source of work for mobile notaries. However, the housing market has recently slowed and interest rates have increased, dropping the number of home sales. As a result, notary work in this area has slowed.
- Networking challenges: Finding new clients is a common complaint for notaries. New mobile notary businesses may find it challenging to build an initial customer base due to competition and covid restrictions, such as visitor limitations in medical offices.
While mobile notary businesses have a great opportunity to make money in various ways, it’s important to know where to find clients. Some of the common markets for mobile notary businesses include industries that use legal documents or where the authenticity of a signature may come into question:
- Banks and mortgage companies
- Medical offices
- Jails and rehabilitation facilities
- Legal offices
Checklist for Starting a Mobile Notary Business
If you’re getting revved up about starting your own mobile notary business, there are a few things to consider before hitting the open road. This checklist covers many of the essentials to get started.
Step 1: Write a Business Plan
A business plan is an essential road map for starting and growing a business. It is a living document that should be revisited and revised as your business evolves. A business plan will lay out your company’s purpose, structure, and operations. It should also include financial projections and marketing strategies.
To create a business plan for a mobile notary company, you will need to research the industry, understand your target market, and develop realistic financial projections. You should also create a detailed marketing plan that outlines how you will attract customers and grow your business. By taking the time to write a comprehensive business plan, you can increase your chances of success as a mobile notary.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 2: Name the Business
Finding the perfect notary business name can be challenging. Not only does the name have to reflect what you do and be appealing to customers, but it also has to be available to use. You can check your state’s website to see if the name is available and register your name. Your name should make you stand out, reflect your brand, and tell potential customers exactly what you do.
Step 3: Form a Business Entity
A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
When deciding on which business entity is best for a notary business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.
A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay. The corporation can be a good choice because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.
That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.
The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.
Related: Guide to forming your LLC
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!
ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
Step 4: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
You may need to obtain certain business licenses and permits. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located.
Each state requires a notary to register for a notary commission, which is usually through the Secretary of State. In some states, only an application is needed, while classroom training and an exam are required in other states. There will also be a background check, fingerprinting, and more.
Some other common local, state, and federal registrations a notary business may need include a sales tax permit and an Employer Identification Number if you plan to have employees.
Step 5: Open a Business Bank Account
Keeping your small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.
Step 6: Get your Marketing Plan in Place
A notary business will need to set aside a budget to cover marketing costs on a continuous basis. Common marketing techniques for a notary business include social media marketing and online advertising.
Networking at events such as the Chamber of Commerce, business associations, or other community events is also a great marketing tool.
Step 7: Get Business Insurance
There are several types of insurance to consider when starting a notary business. A few of these include:
– General liability insurance can help protect you from third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage.
– Errors and omissions insurance is required for notaries in most states and protects you from claims of professional errors or negligence that result in a financial loss.
– Surety bonding, which is insurance that protects the state against any financial loss due to improper conduct by the notary. Proof of the bond will be filed with your local county clerk along with the oath of office.
The cost to insure a notary business will vary depending on a number of factors. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, consider the premiums and how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.
Step 8: Set up an Accounting System
Setting up an accounting system for your notary public business is critical to the long-term success of your business.
Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.
The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:
- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.
Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.
How much does it cost to start a mobile notary business?
Starting your business right helps ensure success and avoid miscommunications. As such, you will need to invest some money to get the tools you need to succeed. So, what are some of the costs?
Business Formation Costs
Opening a new business means acquiring licenses, permits, and insurance—which comes with a price. The costs vary depending on the state but can go from under $100 to several hundred dollars. Insurance is also variable, so contacting multiple insurance companies for a quote is helpful.
In addition to insurance, some states require that a notary purchase a surety bond to protect clients from financial harm should the notary make a mistake. A notary bond is usually $50 or less.
Since your notary business is a mobile operation, you will need transportation. Arguably, one of the easier ways to do this is with a vehicle, although many areas offer public transport, which is a great money-saving alternative. The average cost of a used car fluctuates, but used cars currently average around $30,000.
Another method of reaching your clients without leaving the comfort of your home (or office) is to offer virtual or online notary services. Many states allow virtual signing and notarization, which means you may invest less money into a vehicle and more into a reliable computer system.
Notary Supplies and Commissioning
Each state has its set costs for filing your notary application, ranging from less than $100 to a few hundred dollars. In addition, training and testing are required in some states, but these expenses usually remain less than $200.
Additionally, you will need to purchase supplies, such as certificates, stamps, and a log book. Generally, the costs for these items are low, so budgeting between $100 – $300 for supplies should be sufficient.
An investment in marketing can help boost your business’s growth, attracting new customers to your business. Face-to-face networking is an excellent marketing method and only costs your time and effort.
However, purchasing online or print advertising is another effective marketing method. Whether you choose magazine, newspaper, or Google ads, you could spend as little as $50 per month on advertising to several thousand dollars.
If purchasing marketing elements is out of your budget, then spending time building up a social media profile can be another great marketing option that costs very little money.
How much money can you make with a mobile notary business?
Aside from the ability to set and make your schedule and work hours, mobile notary businesses make a profitable monthly income. As many states set the rate for what a notary can charge per signature or travel fees, there is some limitation on payment. However, you can still grow the business by offering additional services, such as becoming a notary signing agent.
According to the National Notary Association, the majority of full-time notaries make $2,000 or more each month. Additionally, the association reports that many notaries who have been in the business for at least three years make between $4,000 – $7,500 per month. Therefore, with an income of $7,500 per month, the business earns $90,000 per year.
Are there grants to start a mobile notary business?
It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a mobile notary business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.
Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov, and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.
What Skills Are Needed to Run a Mobile Notary Business?
If you like the flexibility of picking your schedule and appointment locations, you may enjoy owning a mobile notary business. The work can be as busy or laid back as the number of clients you book. However, having some basic business skills can help you succeed in growing into a financially strong business.
Marketing and Networking
Finding clients is one of the first considerations. How will you fill your calendar with appointments? Marketing and networking are essential skills to help find and gain trust with clients. Maintaining connections through networking can also help bring in consistent work and referrals.
Organization and Planning
A flexible calendar allows you to schedule appointments in various locations during weekends, holidays, and non-business hours. This flexibility will make you available to a broader range of clients. However, with an ever-changing schedule, careful planning and organizing are essential to ensure you make appointments on time, don’t miss appointments, and efficiently plan your day to reduce wasted time and resources.
An Understanding of Legal and Financial Terms
Part of a mobile notary’s job is to ensure the signee understands what they are signing before the signature takes place. So, a well-rounded understanding of the documents you commonly work with helps build your client’s trust.
What is the NAICS code for a notary business?
The NAICS code for a notary business is 541120.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.
A mobile notary business is a great business option for individuals who desire a flexible schedule and the ability to work when and where they choose. Further, mobile notary businesses can earn income above the national average income of approximately $58,000. Therefore, owning a mobile notary business is an excellent opportunity if you are looking for an on-the-go business that is well-paying and offers a flexible schedule.