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.
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 services, particularly mobile notary services. A mobile notary will go to a person’s home or office to witness the signature for the transaction.
The target market for notaries 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.
Costs to Start a Notary Business
Here are the typical costs you will face when you open a notary business.
- Setting up a business name and entity: $200.
- Business cards, brochures, postcards: $200 – $300
- Website setup $100 –$200 for a basic, do it yourself website, $1,000 – $2,000 for a professional site
- 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
- Reliable vehicle if you plan to be a mobile notary business: $5,000 +
- Initial marketing such as Facebook ads or search engine optimization for your website: $500 -$1,000
Steps to Starting a Notary Business
Step 1: Write your 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.
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 a 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.
Related: Comparison of Business Entities
Step 4: Select your Location
You can choose to have an office for your notary business, whether in your home or a leased 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 business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the income and expenses of the 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. Developing a website can be a significant expense, but it can also give your notary business greater visibility online. Networking at events such as the Chamber of Commerce, business associations, or other community events is also a great marketing tool.
Step 8: Get Insurance
A notary business needs several types of insurance for full coverage:
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.
Insurance policies will vary. 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: Hiring Employees
You will probably not need employees to run your notary business unless you 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.
How Much Can You Potentially Make Owning a Notary Business?
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 earn an average of around $37,000 per year.
Things to Consider Before Starting a Notary Business
Running a notary business or any business will have its challenges. You need to be prepared and make sure that you know what you’re getting into.
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. Networking is a specific skill that you must have in order to be successful.
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.
Talk to other business owners for tips on starting a business and do your homework to determine costs. Talk to local businesses who are potential customers to find out about their notary needs.