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A notary public acts as a certified and legal witness, providing their signature in exchange for proof of identification. Standard notarized legal documents include contracts, mortgages, and property deeds. Notary public businesses serve customers either from a home office, brick-and-mortar establishment, mobile, or online.
Who is this business right for?
The individual who has the drive and ambition to work hard at building a reputable and profitable career as their own boss.
What happens during a typical day at a notary business?
When not notarizing documents for clients, business owners spend their time networking and implementing ideas defined in their marketing strategy. Mobile business owners spend a portion of each day traveling to meet their customer’s needs.
What is the target market?
Notary businesses are cautioned against pigeonholing themselves into serving just one type of client. There are a number of different types of documents that require a notary; it is recommended that you target as many as possible when marketing to the public.
How does a notary business make money?
A notary business charges a fee for each document they notarize. Building a relationship with organizations that require a notary regularly is a great way to ensure a steady flow of income.
What is the growth potential for a notary business?
Before opening your business, research other notary services in the area. Is there a demand for it? What other services do they offer? What hours are they available? Is your area in need of a mobile service? How many online notaries are available in your state? Tailor your services and hours around what your community is lacking to ensure your company grows to meet your business goals.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful notary business?
Notary publics must complete a state training course and pass the state exam (specific rules vary from state to state). Once you have done so, you will need to mail your application in, along with a fee, to the state notary commission. Upon acceptance, you will swear the oath and purchase any required bonds. Some states also require a notary seal. The National notary Association (NNA) provides details regarding each state’s notary requirements, as well as real-life examples of situations you could be faced with in your public servant position.
What are the costs involved in opening a notary business?
Training and licensure fees range from $90 to $225, depending upon the state in which you reside and its specific requirements. Bonds average $125 and last the life of your certification, which is typically four years.
In some cases, a notary mentor is required and may charge a fee for advising you. If this is the case, the NNA's LinkedIn discussion group is a great resource for finding a qualified mentor.
If your vision includes a brick-and-mortar establishment, you will incur the standard expenses that come with leasing a building. If yours is a mobile business, be sure you have reliable transportation and the insurance required to do so.
Regardless of which path you choose, a website should be included in your initial budget. A simple site should be sufficient, unless you wish to host an online notary business. Simple sites can be built for less than $1,000, while more complicated and secure websites can run $3,500 or above.
What are the steps to start a notary business?
Once you're ready to start your notary business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your notary business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your notary business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a notary business?
Notary public business owners offer the following professional advice:
- Join a local or national notary association. Attend workshops. This membership will help you stay current on new laws, network within the community, and tweak your marketing strategy.
- Make yourself available when other notaries are not. After five, on weekends, and during holidays are the perfect times to land business your competition is missing out on.
- If you choose to have a physical location, make your business more profitable by offering additional services.
- Diversify - Look into the various notary specialties and expand your services to include as many as possible.
How to promote & market a notary business
Regardless of how you structure your business there are a number of affordable options for marketing your business. Social media is a great way to educate the public on the services you offer.
Online directories such as Yelp are another option for ensuring consumers in your community are aware of your presence, location, fees, and hours. Additionally, associations such as The American Society of Notaries offer members free professional profiles.
Once your marketing materials are printed, get out and network within the community. Visit local banks, mortgage companies, title companies, real estate offices, government offices, charitable organizations, and professional organizations, and notify them of your services. Attend small business events through your local Chamber of Commerce and community service enterprises. Building a referral base takes time, but is typically the foundation of every successful small business.
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How to keep customers coming back
Your focus should be on delivering quality and timely service to each and every customer you serve. Keep in mind that your job is to notarize private and sensitive documents. If word travels that you were anything but professional, your business could take a permanent hit.
How and when to build a team
If you plan on having a physical location, there are a few questions you will need to consider: Do you want to be a notary or would you rather hire someone to take on that responsibility? What hours do you want the notary available? What other services do you plan to offer? Do you want to be in charge of the additional services or would you rather oversee the enterprise? In many cases, notary public business owners choose to start small, hiring more employees as the business grows. If this is the case, however, prepare yourself for long hours.
Mobile and online notaries have a little more flexibility, as they do not have the added pressure of higher overhead costs. In this case, you could hire additional employees as the need arises. Before hiring anyone, check with your state to ensure they meet the notary guidelines.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a notary public business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
Certificate of Occupancy
A notary public business is generally run out of an office. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a notary public business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your notary public business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
This depends upon what type of document you are signing and who your client is. Banks and credit unions often make their notary services available to customers free of charge, while you might charge $5-$10 for the same service. Loan signing agents earn $75 to $200 per appointment.
What are the ongoing expenses for a notary business?
If you decide to open a brick-and-mortar business, budget for the standard overhead expenses that come with leasing an office.
The following are expenses you should budget for on a monthly basis:
- Fuel costs - mobile notaries spend much of their time traveling from customer to customer
- Website maintenance
- Marketing materials
- Fees for local and national associations
- Payroll and taxes
- Continuing education requirements vary from state to state - the standard is every four years
How much profit can a notary business make?
Once you have built a referral base and are getting regular signings each week, the business can be very profitable. Full-time notary signing agents work an average of forty to forty-five hours a week, including driving to appointments. This works out to fifteen signings per month. If your fee is $100 per signing, you will bring in an average of $6,000 per month or $78,000 annually. Since your overhead is low, much of those earnings turn into profit. To maximize profits, carefully consider your fee structure and payroll costs before bringing on another team member.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Implement the following strategies to maximize your profits:
- Offer bilingual notary public services
- Make your services available 24/7
- Offer additional services such as photocopying and printing
- Diversify to include as many specialties as possible. A few options are:
- Unclaimed assets
- Foreign documents
- Working with attorneys
- Working with structured settlement firms