This article is part of a larger series on How to Become a Real Estate Agent.
Notary publics protect against fraud by authenticating signatures on documents for important transactions like mortgages, contracts, and powers of attorney. Although requirements vary by state, notaries are generally required to complete training, get a surety bond, submit an application, and purchase the proper tools to start their notary business. Whether you are looking to be a part-time or full-time notary, it is a great opportunity for supplemental income while working on your own schedule.
Here are the seven steps on how to become a notary and start your own notary business. And continue reading to learn how much you can potentially earn as a notary.
1. Confirm Your State’s Requirements
State-by-State Map – How to Become a Notary
Each state sets its own notary requirements, so the process of obtaining your notary license varies by state. To qualify to become a notary, you must be at least 18 years of age, be a legal resident in the state you are applying to, and have no fraudulent or felony charges on your record. Some states require the notary applicant to be able to read and write in English, while other states, like D.C. and Maryland, will allow notarizing in neighboring states.
For example, Louisiana and Georgia have a few of the same qualifications, like being at least 18 years of age, having the ability to read, write, and speak English, and being a legal resident of the state. However, their education, background, and other requirements differ.
On the map above, click on your state to review the specific requirements to qualify.
2. Complete Your Education & Training
The process of obtaining your notary public license is similar to becoming a real estate agent, which requires candidates to complete differing amounts of education per state. Although the training is not as lengthy as it is for real estate agents, educational hour requirements vary between two to six hours, depending on your state. Some states do not have any education requirements.
For instance, California requires a six-hour training course, and Florida requires applicants to complete a three-hour training course. Ohio notaries must check with their specific county for education requirements because each county gets to set its own notary process. On the other hand, many states like New York and Utah don’t require formal education but will require knowledge of license law to pass the notary exam.
If your state requirement does not include any coursework, then you can typically obtain your notary in as little as four weeks, contingent on your state’s processing time. However, if your state requires education hours, it may take a bit longer to fit the training into your schedule.
The cost of completing the education and training to become a notary also varies by state. Colorado offers free education training through the Secretary of State, but you can choose to use an approved third-party vendor as well, with training costs starting at $40. California has one of the longer training requirements courses, starting as little as $30 for the six-hour course from California Notary Prep.
3. Pass the Notary Exam
Not all states require a notary applicant to pass an exam. However, for those states that do, tests can be offered online or proctored in person. Make sure you look into when your state administers the notary exam so you understand the timeline you’re working with. For example, Louisiana only administers the state notary exam twice a year, with a 30-day deadline in advance of the test date. So, any applicants registering within 30 days of the upcoming test will need to wait for the next test date.
Most notary tests consist of multiple choice and true/false questions, with states implementing a minimum passing score requirement. Wisconsin has one of the higher percentage scores, requiring applicants to pass the state exam with a 90% or higher.
A few states have time limitations on the exam or the number of times you can take the exam to pass, like New York applicants who have one hour to complete the exam. Notary renewals are also affected by state exams. California requires notaries looking to renew their commission to pass the exam again.
4. Get a Surety Bond (if Required)
A surety bond is required by many states to help guarantee the notary will perform their duties in accordance with the law. The bond protects the public from any wrongdoing from the notary that might cause any damages or financial harm. The cost of a surety bond varies from state to state, but they are one the fastest bonds to obtain because there is no need for any underwriting, and are approved instantly. Most surety bonds typically only need the notary’s name, address, and phone number for the application.
Some states require a bond amount of as little as $500, like Wisconsin and Wyoming, or it can be as high as $25,000 in Alabama, Indiana, and Montana. The cost of the bond does not correlate with the bond amounts. For example, Surety Bonds Direct offers Alabama Surety bonds for only $25 for a $25,000 bond amount, yet Louisiana has a $10,000 bond requirement, and the cost is $110.
Unlike an insurance policy, any claim made against a surety bond for any wrongdoing will be paid by the notary. Some states don’t require a surety bond at all. However, it’s best practice for a notary public to carry Errors and Omissions insurance, which will cover payments due on your bond for any mistakes, except for fraudulent activities committed. The graphic above shows the states that require and do not require surety bonds.
5. Submit a Notary Application
Once you’ve completed all your state’s eligibility requirements for your notary license, it’s finally time to submit the application and paperwork. Make sure to double-check application procedures for your state in our state map above, as some applications are submitted online, and some are mailed to different state entities. Your application usually requires a filing fee, which can range from $25 to $50.
Along with the application itself, some states will also require you to submit documents like proof of education training and state exam scores, proof of bond, fingerprints, and background checks. When your application is approved, you’re officially a notary and should receive your certificate. A few states like Connecticut require you to file your certificate and take the oath of office along with paying a recording fee of $10.
6. Buy Your Notary Supplies
To perform your notary duties, you need to purchase the appropriate supplies so you’re ready to serve the public when requested. The important tools you’ll need as a notary are:
If you have a place of business for your notary services, include a fee chart, displaying your fees for your notary services. Enlist the services of 99designs to help you create and design a poster starting at $199. By submitting a quick brief of your design needs, they will connect you with their community of graphic designers to create professional-looking signage for your business.
7. Advertise Your Services & Start Your Notary Career
The overhead cost of starting a notary business is relatively low compared to launching other businesses, but your success is dependent on the amount of effort you put into it. You can grow your notary business by marketing your service to the right audience using marketing tools:
- Website: Use a customizable website from marketing services like Market Leader to attract the right online audience. It also has an attached customer relationship management (CRM) tool to help you stay top of mind for new and existing clients.
- Email and print marketing campaigns: Flyers, newsletters, and brochures can be handed out to nearby businesses or professionals that often use notary services, and as you grow your list of contacts, you can create automated email newsletters to build your network. Create marketing materials using Canva’s easy drag-and-drop design tool.
- Social media marketing: Leveraging social media marketing can increase your brand awareness, drive clients to your website, and help you connect directly with your target audience. Services like Artur’In can help manage your digital footprint by posting on your behalf on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to expand your social reach.
As you begin to accumulate leads and grow your business through advertising, you should nurture all past and prospective clients. You can do so by developing a referral program to incentivize those in your contact lists to send business your way. Small gestures to your past clients, like thank-you notes and promotional materials from sites like VistaPrint, can keep your service and contact information top of mind.
If you don’t want to perform any designing yourself, consider connecting with a freelance designer through platforms like Fiverr to complete one-off or long-term projects. The freelancers on the site don’t just perform design services—you could even find a freelancer to help you scope for contacts to grow your prospect list. They also have freelancers to provide administrative and assistant services.
How Much Does a Notary Make?
Notaries must live in or own a business in the state in which they practice. The state they are located in greatly determines the amount of money a notary can make, along with whether the notary is performing their role stationary or mobile. Stationary notaries work salaried positions and provide services when needed in their current role. Mobile notaries can travel full time to locations that require a witness and are allowed to charge fees for travel.
According to the National Notary Association, full-time mobile notaries can earn a salary of $2,000 per month or more, whereas part-time mobile notaries can make over $500 per month. Mobile notaries can travel for the following industries that commonly use notaries for witnessing such transactions:
- Real estate: Uses notaries in real estate closings to witness signatures on a promissory note, deed of trust or mortgage, closing disclosure, or closing statement.
- Insurance: Documents like insurance claim forms, beneficiary request forms, and change of ownership documents need notarizing.
- Title companies: Title companies facilitate the signature on a property for sale. Usually, an 80- to 125-page document is generated by a lender in such transactions, requiring a notary to be present.
- Financial services: Banks have a variety of documents that need to be notarized. They may require a notary on claims, new policies, or transfer of assets.
- Attorneys: Certain legal documents like prenuptial agreements, articles of incorporation, or legal affidavits require a notary signature.
A notary public is an individual appointed by the government who’s required to follow rules, identifying parties involved in signing legal documentation. After figuring out how to become a notary in your state, start your own mobile notary business or find career opportunities that include notarizing in its day-to-day responsibilities. Owning a notary business has benefits like a flexible work schedule and multiple income opportunities. Whichever path you choose adds to your overall skill set and helps you unlock future career opportunities.