Flexibility, ownership over your schedule, and interactions with interesting people: These things all describe a 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 today’s fast-paced world, where legal documents and transactions are everywhere, the need for notary services remains as important as ever. From authenticating signatures on contracts to serving as an impartial witness, notaries play an indispensable role in maintaining trust and authenticity in our legal system.
If you’re considering entering this time-honored profession and embarking on a rewarding journey of starting your own notary business, this guide is your roadmap.
A notary public plays a crucial role in the legal system by witnessing and authenticating the signing of important documents, like mortgage documents, contracts, and 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.
Notaries can be found everywhere – from small towns to bustling cities. Some work as part of larger institutions like banks or law firms, while others choose to run independent businesses, offering mobile notary services and traveling to clients’ locations.
The notary industry is huge, driven by many transactions requiring notarization – real estate sales, power of attorney setups, will creations, and more. While the basic role of a notary hasn’t changed significantly over the years, the methods through which these services are provided have seen innovation.
In the United States, there are approximately 4.4 million notaries. The demand for notary services remains relatively stable because of the many types of transactions requiring a notary’s seal; however, the notary business can be 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, there are fewer mortgage loan transactions.
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.
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In recent years, the notary industry has seen significant changes. One of the most notable trends is the rise of remote online notarization (RON), which allows notary signing agents to conduct their duties over the internet using digital tools. This development has expanded the market for notary services and made it easier for notaries to serve clients from different locations.
Another trend is the growing demand for mobile notaries who travel to clients’ locations to provide services. This offers convenience for clients and can create a competitive advantage for notaries willing to offer this service.
The target market for a notary business can be quite diverse, as many individuals and organizations require notary services. Here are the main categories:
- General public: This includes individuals needing notarization for personal documents such as wills, power of attorney forms, deeds, affidavits, and vehicle titles.
- Businesses: Many businesses require notary services for legal documents, contracts, and other official paperwork. This includes small businesses, corporations, real estate, insurance companies, and more.
- Legal professionals: Lawyers and law firms often need notary services for various legal documents like affidavits, deposition transcripts, and court filings.
- Financial institutions: Banks, credit unions, mortgage companies, and other financial institutions require notarization for loan documents, mortgages, and other financial agreements.
- Government agencies: Local, state, and federal agencies may also require notary services for official documents.
- Healthcare facilities: Hospitals and healthcare facilities often require notary services for documents related to medical decisions, such as living wills and medical power of attorney forms.
- Educational institutions: Schools and universities may require notary services for documents, including transcripts, diplomas, and enrollment verification forms.
It’s important for a notary business to identify its specific target market within these categories based on factors like location, demand, competition, and the specific services it offers.
Checklist To Start A Notary Business
If you’re getting revved up about starting your own 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: Research State Notary Requirements
Every state has specific requirements for becoming a notary public. These typically include:
- Age: You must be at least 18 years old.
- Residency: Some states require you to be a resident, while others allow non-residents to become notaries if they work in the state.
- Background check: Many states prohibit people with criminal histories from becoming notaries.
You can find detailed information about your state’s requirements on the National Notary Association’s website or your state’s Secretary of State website
Step 2: Complete the Required Class and Pass the Exam
In many states, prospective notaries must complete a state-approved education course before taking the notary public examination. This is a critical step in becoming a notary, as it provides you with the necessary knowledge and skills to perform your duties correctly and legally.
First, find a notary education provider approved by your state. These courses can often be completed online and at your own pace, although some states may offer in-person classes. The course curriculum typically covers topics such as the role and responsibilities of a notary, notarial laws and procedures, ethics, and best practices.
Pay attention during the course and take notes as needed. The information you learn will be essential for passing the notary exam and your daily work as a notary.
After completing the course, start preparing for the notary exam. Your course provider may offer study materials and practice exams. Make use of these resources to familiarize yourself with the exam format and types of questions asked.
Review the course material thoroughly, focusing on key points and details. Understanding the principles of notarization and the specific laws in your state is crucial for passing the exam.
Once you feel prepared, schedule your exam. The exam is usually a multiple-choice test administered by your state’s Secretary of State office or another designated agency. Be sure to arrive early on the day of the test, bringing any required identification and materials.
The exam will likely cover a range of topics related to notary practices, including notarial acts, record-keeping, ethics, and state-specific laws and regulations. Answer each question carefully, and remember to review your answers before submitting your test.
Upon passing the exam, you’ll be one step closer to becoming a notary. Remember, this is a general overview, and each state is different.
Step 3: Register the Business
After passing the exam and receiving your certification, the next step in starting your notary business is to make sure it’s properly registered and legal to operate. The following is a general guide to the key registrations; however, it’s important to note that the exact process can vary from state to state, so you’ll need to check the specific requirements for your location.
Business formation: The first thing you’ll need to decide is what business structure is best for your business. This could be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC), or a corporation.
Each of these structures has different implications for liability, taxes, and administrative complexity. According to the National Notary Association, notary businesses are most commonly set up as sole proprietorships or LLCs.
Related: Comparison of business structures
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Obtain business licenses and permits: Depending on your location, there will likely be a variety of general licenses or permits needed before opening. This could include a business license, seller’s permit, and Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you have employees.
Some states may also have unique requirements for notary businesses, such as specific record-keeping practices, adherence to certain privacy laws, or the use of particular notarial logs.
Step 4: Open a Business Bank Account
The next step should be to open a dedicated business bank account. This makes accounting and taxes easier with business income and expenses not mixed with personal. In addition, customers will pay the business and not you personally, which looks more professional.
Step 5: Purchase Supplies
Starting a notary business requires several essential supplies to ensure you can perform your duties accurately and professionally. The specific supplies can vary based on the state of operation and the type of clients being served, but here’s a list of supplies that a notary typically needs to purchase:
- Notary stamp or seal: This is a requirement in all states. It’s used to authenticate your notarial acts and must comply with your state’s specifications.
- Notary journal or record book: A record book to keep track of all notarizations you perform. Some states require this by law, but it’s a good practice to maintain one regardless.
- Certificate forms: These are used to certify a particular act like acknowledgments, jurats, or copy certifications. Some documents may come with this language attached, but notaries should have certificates on hand in case they’re needed.
- Ink pad: Some states require or recommend that notaries take thumbprints for certain transactions, especially for deeds affecting real property.
- Carrying case or briefcase: If you’re offering mobile notary services, a carrying case would help you organize and transport your supplies.
- Notary guidebook: A reference book that outlines the laws and procedures for notaries in your state.
- Printer and scanner: Especially useful for notaries who deal with electronic documents or need to offer additional services like providing copies of notarized documents.
- Signage: Depending on your location and services, you might need a sign indicating that you’re a notary public.
- Professional attire: As a notary, you may want to invest in branded clothing or name tags. This adds a touch of professionalism and makes you easily identifiable as a notary, especially if you’re visiting clients at their location.
Step 6: Obtain Insurance
A step to not overlook is obtaining insurance. Several types of insurance may be needed, and the right insurance can protect a notary from unforeseen risks and liabilities. Here are some types of insurance that a notary may consider:
- Errors and Omissions insurance (E&O): E&O insurance, also known as professional liability insurance, protects notaries from claims of negligence or mistakes made while performing notarial acts. This type of insurance can cover legal fees and damages if a client sues for a mistake made during the notarization process.
- Surety bond: A surety bond is a form of insurance required by some states. It protects the public from errors made by a notary. However, if a claim is made on the bond, the notary is responsible for repaying the bond company.
- Cyber insurance: As a notary, you might handle sensitive information. Cyber insurance can protect your business against cyber threats, data breaches, and other digital disruptions.
- Umbrella insurance: Umbrella insurance provides additional liability coverage beyond the limits of your other policies. It can protect you from large claims or lawsuits that exceed the coverage of your E&O insurance or surety bond.
- General liability insurance: This type of insurance covers common business risks, such as bodily injury or property damage. While it’s not specific to notaries, it’s recommended for all businesses.
- Commercial auto insurance: For notaries who travel frequently for their work, commercial auto insurance provides coverage for accidents or damages incurred while using a vehicle for business purposes. Personal auto insurance policies typically do not cover vehicles used for business. Commercial auto insurance can cover vehicle repairs, medical payments, and any liability costs if you’re involved in an accident while working.
Step 7: Set Pricing
The next step we will cover is setting the pricing for your notary services. Determining the right pricing for notary services is a delicate balance between understanding the market, evaluating one’s own value proposition, and ensuring profitability.
- Understand state maximums: Most states have a maximum fee that notaries can charge per notarial act. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these limits in your state.
- Consider your costs: Consider all the costs involved in providing your services, including supplies, insurance, and any other overhead costs. These should be factored into your pricing.
- Travel fees: If you offer mobile notary services, consider charging a separate travel fee to cover your time and transportation costs. Be sure to disclose this fee to your clients upfront.
- Value of your time: Consider the value of your time when setting your prices, especially if a single notarization can take up a significant portion of your day due to travel or complexity.
- Market rates: Research what other notaries in your area are charging. This can give you an idea of what customers are willing to pay and help you stay competitive.
- Specialized services: General notary work tends to be the lowest paid, but if you offer specialized notary services, such as loan signings, rush jobs, or after hours services, you may be able to charge higher fees. Be sure to factor in the additional training and expertise required for these services.
- Volume discounts: If you’re working with a client who needs multiple notarizations in one visit, consider offering a volume discount.
Step 8: Create a Marketing Plan
Now that you are very close to starting your business, it’s time to get a plan in place to let people know you are in business.
One highly effective method is leveraging online marketing by establishing a professional website. An optimized website can provide details about services, fees, expertise, and where you serve, making it easier for potential clients to find your business and understand what’s offered.
In addition to the website, you can also claim your business for free on relevant online business directories. This includes Google My Business, Yelp, and industry-specific directories such as Thumbtack, NotaryRotary, and Notarize. These platforms can significantly increase your online visibility, making it easier for potential clients to find you.
Another low-cost and effective way to market notary services, is through creating a robust social media presence. You can leverage platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram to engage with potential clients, share your services, and establish your brand.
A lot of notary work comes via referrals, so in addition to online methods, traditional marketing tactics such as attending conferences, cold calling, direct mail, and distributing business cards and flyers to place at local businesses like real estate offices, banks, legal firms, etc. allows you to reach a broad audience and can be particularly effective in local markets. Also, as your business grows, consider providing referral incentives to existing clients to spread the word about your business.
Advertising in local papers and newsletters is another way to market your notary business. These mediums are often distributed to the people most likely to need your services, such as real estate agents, lawyers, and other professionals who regularly deal with documents that require notarization.
Last, consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce. This can provide networking opportunities and allow you to connect with other local businesses that may need your services. It also adds credibility to your business and shows your commitment to your local community.
The key to successful marketing is consistency and patience. It may take some time to see results, but with diligent effort, you can build a strong client base for your notary business.
This material is property of StartingYourBusiness.com
Common Questions When Starting A Notary Business
How much does it cost to start a notary business?
Starting a notary business can be relatively affordable compared to many other businesses. While costs can vary, the initial cost to start a notary business typically ranges from $500 to $1,500.
Here is a breakdown of potential expenses:
Notary commission fees: This is typically a state-mandated fee to become a commissioned notary public. This fee can range from $30 to $90, depending on the state.
Training and education: Some states require notaries to complete a training course before becoming commissioned. Training courses can range from $50 to $200, depending on the depth of the course and location.
Examination fee: If your state requires an exam, expect to pay a fee, typically between $40 and $100.
Background check: Many states require a background check. Costs can vary, but typically range from $40 to $80.
Notary supplies: This includes the notary seal/stamp, a journal to record notarial acts, and any other required supplies. Combined, these can cost between $50 to $150.
Bonding: Many states require notaries to purchase a surety bond to protect clients from errors. These bonds can range from $50 to $100 for a four-year term, though amounts and terms vary by state.
Insurance: While not always required, errors and omissions (E&O) insurance is a smart choice for notaries. Initial insurance premiums can range from $50 to $300, depending on the coverage amount.
Business licensing: Depending on local regulations, you may need to obtain a business license. Costs can vary greatly, ranging from $50 to $400.
Marketing: Initial marketing expenses can include setting up a professional-looking website, business cards, brochures, and perhaps some online or local advertisements. This can range from $100 to $500 for the initial setup and campaigns.
How much does a notary business owner make?
Profitability in the notary business can vary widely based on location, specialization, and the volume of clientele.
As a notary, your primary revenue comes from the fees you charge for notarial acts. The exact fee varies by state, but it’s generally around $10-$15 per signature. If you’re also acting as a signing agent for real estate transactions, you can earn between $75 and $200 per signing appointment.
Assuming you perform an average of 10 notarial acts per day at a fee of $10 each, your daily revenue would be $100. Over a month, this amounts to $2,000 in revenue. If you also work as a signing agent and manage to secure four signings per week at $150 each, this adds another $2,400 to your monthly revenue, bringing the total to $4,400.
On the expense side, apart from the initial setup costs, ongoing costs include supplies (e.g., ink for your notary stamp), transportation if you’re a mobile notary, and marketing expenses. Let’s assume these costs amount to around $400 per month.
Subtracting your expenses from your revenue, your monthly profit would be $4,000 ($4,400 – $400). This translates to an annual profit of $48,000.
It’s important to note that these are rough estimates, and actual earnings will vary.
What skills are needed to run a notary business?
Running a successful notary business requires a variety of skills, some of which are specific to the notary profession and others that are common to most types of businesses.
Knowledge of notary laws and procedures: This is the foundation of any notary business. Notaries must understand the laws and regulations governing their work in their state, and they must keep up with any changes to these laws.
Attention to detail: Notaries are responsible for verifying identities, witnessing signatures, and ensuring that documents are filled out correctly. A mistake can have serious legal consequences, so it’s crucial to be meticulous.
Integrity: Notaries are entrusted with sensitive information and are expected to act with honesty and integrity.
Customer service skills: Notaries deal with clients on a regular basis, so good customer service skills are essential. This includes being professional, friendly, and responsive.
Business and financial management skills: As with any business, running a notary business requires skills in areas like accounting, marketing, and business planning.
Ability to stay organized: Notaries often handle multiple appointments and documents at once, so good organizational skills are key.
Communication skills: Effective communication is important in explaining complex notary procedures and legal terms to clients.
Networking skills: Building relationships with other professionals, such as real estate agents, lawyers, and bank officers, can lead to more business opportunities.
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.