How to Start a Notary Business
If you want to start a business with low startup costs and you like dealing with people, a notary business may be something to consider. It’s not complicated, and it’s a way to make money and be your own boss.
A notary public is certified to be a legal witness to a signature when required for things like mortgage documents, contracts, or other legal documents. The notary verifies the identity of the person signing and then signs and notarizes the document to verify that the correct person signed the document. Customers pay a small fee for the service.
The main challenge in running a notary business is developing relationships with companies that need a high volume of notary services. Because notary fees for single documents are small, working with companies that have larger transactions is essential to increasing your profit potential. Being comfortable networking will help in growing these relationships.
You will face competition, so you will have to make your business stand out and provide a high-quality experience. You may want to offer on-call services or 24/7 services to be unique in the market.
According to the National Notary Association, there are over 77,000 notaries in the United States, and the number is steadily growing. There is always a demand for notary services because there is a constant flow of documents that need to be witnessed; however, the notary business is affected by changes in the economy. When the economy takes a downturn, there are fewer transactions occurring. For example, when there are fewer people buying homes, therefore there are fewer mortgage loan transactions.
In an increasingly remote world, transactions are being performed remotely, requiring signatures to be witnessed for verification. This increases the demand for notary work, particularly for a mobile notary service. A mobile notary will go to a person’s home or office to witness the signature for the transaction.
The target market for a notary service includes individuals, mortgage brokerage, title companies, real estate agents, and legal firms. If you are a loan signing agent and work with mortgage brokers and title companies, you can get more steady business and make more per transaction.
Skills, Experience, and Education Useful in Running a Notary Business
There are several specific skills and education that you will need to open a notary business.
- Become a Notary. You need to follow the process in your state to become a notary.
- Business knowledge and experience. You will need to have some basic knowledge of marketing, finance/accounting, and human resources.
- Networking. You will need to network with mortgage brokers and business owners to acquire clients and referrals.
- Customer service. You’ll need to be able to build rapport with your customers so that you retain them as customers and gain repeat business and referrals.
Checklist for Starting a Notary Business
If you’re thinking about starting your own notary business, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here is a checklist of the essentials to get started.
Step 1: Write a Business Plan
After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your notary business should be to write a business plan. The business plan will make you focus on some important aspects of the business, such as who your customers are, how you plan to reach them, projecting sales and expenses, your value proposition to use for marketing, and more. You’ll also need to do some research to calculate exactly what your startup expenses will be and what your ongoing expenses will be.
Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan if you need financing, but multiple studies have shown that having a good business plan increases the odds of starting a successful business. Writing the plan helps you think through all the aspects of the business and then serves as a guide as you begin.
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: Select your Location
You can choose to have an office for your notary business, whether in your home or a commercial space. If you choose a brick-and-mortar space, it should be a convenient location close to your target audience. A mobile service, however, is the least expensive option.
Related: Choosing a business location
Step 5: 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 6: 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 7: 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.
One important marketing task is developing an online presence. A website developer may be out of the budget, but Wix makes it easy for non-technical people to get a website running quickly and affordably.
Step 8: 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 9: Hire Employees
Many notary businesses are owner-operated and won’t need employees unless they plan to hire an assistant or a marketing representative.
In addition to salary costs, your budget will also need to include other employee-related expenses. Workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off are common expenses that a business will need to cover when hiring staff.
Related: Hiring your first employee
Step 10: 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 notary business?
Here are some of the typical costs you will face when you open a notary business.
– Notary commission state application fee: $50-$300 depending on your state
– Notary supplies to purchase include: notary stamp, notary journal, notary certificates, and embossers: $100
– Insurance: $100-$200
– Equipment such as computer, laser printer, fax, copier, scanner – $1,000-$2,000
– Office supplies including paper, ink – $100
– Reliable vehicle if you plan to be a mobile notary business: $5,000 +
How much does a notary business owner make?
The amount that you can charge for notary services varies by state. If you do primarily loan signings, you can make $75-$200 per transaction. Notaries who work as loan signing agents or law notaries will earn more than when doing general notary work.
Are there grants to start a notary business?
It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a 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 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.