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 want to be a part-time or full-time notary, learning how to become a notary is an excellent opportunity for supplemental income while working on your own schedule.
1. Understand What a Notary Is & How Much You Can Earn
A notary public is an individual appointed by the government to verify the identity of parties during the signature of important documents, like legal contracts, wills, car title transfers, or home loans. Notaries are official representatives of the state where they operate.
When considering a notary business, many people ask questions like, “What does it take to be a notary?” and “Why become a notary public?” Becoming a notary is a relatively straightforward and affordable process that allows professionals in various industries to make additional income. In fact, you can become a notary online.
According to the National Notary Association, around 60% of full-time notaries with at least three years of experience earn $4,000 per month or more, while 16% earn over $7,500 monthly. The potential income of being a notary public depends on your state and the type of notary position you choose. Stationary notaries provide services to customers as needed, while mobile notaries travel to locations that require a witness.
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.
2. Confirm Your State’s Requirements
To learn what it takes to be a notary, check your state’s individual requirements. Although each state is different, most states require you to 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 also require you to be able to read and write in English to be a notary.
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.
For more details on how to become a U.S. notary, click on your state on the map below to review the specific requirements to qualify.
State-by-State Map – How to Become a Notary
3. Complete Your Education & Training
The process of obtaining your public notary license is similar to the process of becoming a real estate agent, which requires state-specific prelicensing education. Although the training to be a notary is not as lengthy as it is for real estate agents, educational hour requirements vary between two to six hours. Some states do not even have any education requirements.
If your state doesn’t require a specific number of prelicensing hours, you will still have to develop an understanding of Notary Public License Law. For example, New York and Utah don’t require an education course, but you must pass the state exam on the law.
Since learning how to get certified for a notary business differs in each state, the cost of becoming a notary also varies by state. For example, the Colorado Secretary of State provides a free education course to become a notary online. However, you may choose to pay for an approved notary public course, since the prices start at around $40.
4. Pass the Notary Exam
When learning how to become a notary, make sure you look into your state’s exam procedures and scheduling. Details can be found on your state’s Secretary of State website or the National Notary Association’s state-specific guide. Not all states require you to pass an exam to be a notary public. However, for states that do, tests can be offered online or proctored in person. Most notary tests consist of multiple choice and true/false questions, with states implementing a minimum passing score requirement.
For instance, Wisconsin requires aspiring notary business owners to pass the state exam with a 90% score or higher, which is one of the strictest requirements. On the other hand, Louisiana only administers the state notary exam twice a year, with a 30-day deadline before the test date. So, any applicants registering within 30 days of the upcoming test must wait for the next test date.
5. Get a Surety Bond (if Required)
A surety bond is required by many states to guarantee that the notary will perform their duties in accordance with the law. The bond protects the public from any wrongdoing by the notary that might cause any damages or financial harm. They are one the fastest bonds to obtain because there is no need for any underwriting, so they can be approved instantly. Most surety bonds typically only need the notary’s name, address, and phone number for the application.
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, covering payments due on your bond for any mistakes, except for fraudulent activities committed. The graphic below shows the states that require and do not require surety bonds.
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 $50 for a $25,000 bond amount, yet Louisiana has a $10,000 bond requirement, and the cost is $110.
6. Submit a Notary Application
Once you’ve learned how to get certified as a notary public and completed your requirements, it’s time to submit the application and paperwork. Make sure to double-check the 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 ranging 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 business and should receive your certificate. However, 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.
7. Buy Your Notary Supplies
In order to start learning how to be a notary public, make sure you have the appropriate supplies. The important tools you’ll need as a notary are:
Metal Embosser Seal
Extra Notary Certificates
Inkless Thumb Printer
This self-inking stamp contains your current notary commission information. It will be stamped on every document you notarize.
A raised seal stamp that creates an impression on documents with notary information. This is required on certain documents.
A book for you to keep a record of your notary activities and the fees charged for service.
Keep multiple copies of notary certificates on hand to attach to a document that lacks notary language, or if the document lacks ample room for a notary seal.
Notaries may want to have an inkless thumb printer to obtain the fingerprint of the signer for the record.
In addition, it’s best to create a “fee chart” that clearly displays the fees for your notary services. This can be emailed to your customers and displayed in your office. Use a professional graphic design service like 99designs to help you create and design a flyer, printed document, or poster starting at just $169. Simply submit a quick brief describing your design needs, and the platform will connect you with its community of graphic designers to either hire one or create a contest for the best custom design.
8. Advertise Your Services & Start Your Notary Career
The overhead cost of becoming a notary is relatively low compared to launching other businesses, but your success depends on the amount of effort you put into it. In order to grow your notary business, you need to promote your services and have a system to capture leads and communicate with customers.
Similar to real estate agents, notaries must use lead generation tactics to gain clients for their notary business. There are an endless number of local marketing ideas, which may include:
Consider starting with a comprehensive marketing tool like Market Leader that includes a variety of marketing platforms, like email marketing, print marketing, and a complete branding and design suite. Market Leader makes it easy to create a beautiful and professional website and manage leads with the built-in customer relationship manager (CRM).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
For states that don’t require specific coursework, you can typically obtain your public notary license in as little as four weeks, contingent on your state’s processing time. However, if your state requires education hours, it will take longer to complete those and take the state exam.
To become a notary, you may have to purchase prelicensing education, pay a state exam fee, purchase a surety bond, and/or buy required supplies. However, some states don’t require any of these things, so the cost of becoming a notary can be less than a few hundred dollars.
According to the National Notary Association, Louisiana has unique civil law codes that make the education and exam to become a notary particularly difficult. In addition, New York, California, and North Carolina have test restrictions that make passing the exam challenging.
Figuring out what you have to do to become a notary can be challenging since each state has different requirements. However, starting a notary business is possible for anyone willing to put in the time and effort. To learn how to become a notary, follow the steps above, and enjoy benefits like a flexible work schedule and multiple income opportunities.