5 Tips for the Self-Employed Notary

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5 Tips for the Self-Employed Notary

Feb 27, 2019

Notaries have been widely used since the Roman Empire. They were well respected and often advised emperors and other rulers. That respect continues today in many European and Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy. Notaries are also important in the United States, although perhaps somewhat less because of our common law legal system. Notary services are vital to almost every business, individual, and government agency, especially those in banking, finance, law, healthcare, and real estate. John Coolidge, the father of former President Calvin Coolidge, was a notary. As a notary, he was able to administer the oath of office to his son. Notaries have an interesting history, including how important they are to so many facets of society. Become a notary and join this ancient and noble profession because almost everyone will eventually need a notary!

Get your notary commission – this is the most important step! The process of becoming commissioned as a notary public varies from state to state. Why you might wonder, individual states authorize different duties of a notary public. A notary in Louisiana, for instance, has a lifelong commission. In Florida, commissioned notaries can officiate civil marriage ceremonies. These duties are specific to these jurisdictions only. If you would like to know how to become a notary in your state as well as what your commission allows you to do, the best place to start is a notary search on the Secretary of State website. Some general requirements for a notary applicant are:

 - Be over the age of 18
 - Be free of any felony or other criminal charges
 - It is recommended to take an educational course (mandatory in some states)
 - Pass an exam (mandatory in some states)

Establish yourself as a business – you can get an employer tax ID number (EIN) as a self-employed individual from the IRS.  According to the National Notary Association, 4.4 million notaries were reported in the United States in 2017. With such an abundance of notaries, it is important to have a distinctive quality or feature that makes you stand out from the competition. When you are self-employed, you are responsible for all aspects of running a business. This includes:

 - marketing and advertising – people need to know you exist
 - research and outreach – learn about your competition and customers
 - tax and accounting – managing your money
 - customer service – you are your brand
 - scheduling and invoicing – how do you get paid
 - paying the bills – what are your overhead costs

It is important to have a business plan or strategy with goals to keep you organized and focused. Furthermore, it helps when you have a good mentor.  A mentor will support you, celebrate you, stretch you past your limits and hold you accountable – but you must be willing to put in the work! A mentor will keep you motivated as you start your business.

Identify your niche – documents requiring notarization include investment forms, adoption agreements, school forms, burial preparations, the list can go on! Think about if you want to charge more for the convenience of traveling to a customer or if you want to have fixed rates and make customers come to you. Consumers like to be informed of costs up front. If you specialize in something, you can become an expert. For example, if you work in healthcare, your niche can be medical forms.  You can become an expert on medical and healthcare related forms such as power of attorney and healthcare directives. Experience gained can allow you to work with estate planning attorneys and then you’ll have the knowledge to conduct advanced notarial acts such as wills and trusts. This is the key to receiving more income and making the most valuable use of your time. Niche marketing differs based on your area, so it’s good to be familiar with your demographics.

Learn to network – the purpose of networking is to develop professional relationships. This is important because professional associations can help your business grow. When you attend a networking event, have a plan to network with a purpose as a lot of them are social events in an informal setting. Networking should lead to a mutually beneficial professional connection.

Educate yourself – notaries do more than verify signatures! The best advantage you can have as a business owner is an investment in your education. As a self-employed person, it is important to be current on trends and issues related to your industry. Through my research, I’ve found limited resources to educate notaries on fraud prevention, although this is a responsibility they have. Another fact is several states do not require notaries to keep a register of acts to document what they have notarized. According to the National Notary Association, only about 18 states have some type of notary education or exam mandated. Consequently, due to the lack of education in notaries, many are unprepared and misinformed on how to conduct proper notarial acts. Notarial acts and notary duties can range from simple one-page acknowledgment notarizations to more complex assignments such as witnessing mortgage loan closings, giving oaths at depositions, and helping to process apostilles in addition to other immigration-related forms. A notary role is an important one to have. It’s an honor to be referred to as the “preferred notary” from someone. A strong foundation (proper training) is essential to your growth in any profession.

Meet The Author:


Michol Bobb

She organizes notary training workshops for Maryland notaries.

The opinions expressed in our published works are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the National Association for the Self-Employed or its members.

Courtesy of NASE.org