I get requests from time to time from various folks to tell them how to get started doing what I do. This is my response.
Right now, I am NOT recommending that anyone get into the Notary Signing Agent business who is not already involved with real estate and mortgage lending.
This is because a large portion of the NSA business was sub-prime lending and that is still no where near as strong as it once was, with lenders, title companies and signing agencies closing their doors or pulling back to re-examine how they do business. Even though the largest banks have gotten their bailouts and bounced back, the market continues to be in major flux, with some months good and some very bad.
Here in Tennessee, we have the additional burden of a law regulating so-called “high cost” loans, which made it harder for Tennessee borrowers to qualify for loans, even if they are not sub-prime, and which required all “high cost” loans to be closed in offices of lenders, settlement agents or attorneys — that basically ended the in-house or at-office convenience of having an NSA meet the borrowers where they preferred to meet for those types of loans.
So, now is not a great time to be entering into this business and competing with those who are already established in it. Many NSAs are now diversifying, adding loan orginations, field inspections, title abstracting or other services to their business just to stay in business.
If you are determined to get into this business despite this, please read the following.
Before you can be a Notary Signing Agent, you must first be a Notary Public.
In Tennessee, that involves filling out an application, signing it before a Notary Public, and turning it in along with the fee to the County Clerk in your county of residence or business. Then you will need a Notary Bond from an insurance company and a Stamp from a stamp or office supply company. The application and a bunch of information about what it means to be a Tennessee Notary Public is in the Tennessee Notary Public Handbook, which you can reach from the Secretary of State’s Notary Commission page here: http://www.tennessee.gov/sos/bus_svc/notary.htm. You need a copy of the latest handbook, anyway, because one of the things you agree to do is abide by the handbook.
Next, once you have your Notary Public commission, there are all sorts of places online you can go to get information about getting started. One good source is Brenda Stone, who does the marvelous Texas Notary website and who now has an online “book” called the How to Start Notary Signing Agent book that is recommended. Here is the link to that: http://www.texas-signing-agent.com/free-notary-book/book.htm
Another good source is the National Notary Association. While I have some real issues with some of the actions taken and advice given by the NNA, they are the only company in the business of selling educational materials to Notary Signing Agents whose materials have been accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training, which is the body that generally accredits institutions of higher education. ACCET accreditation is recognized by the US Dept of Education.
The NNA also has the largest list of signing services (and a good list of title companies) of any site on the web. So, for those starting out, I would say joining the NNA and its NSA Section and taking their courses to get their Certification is a minimum requirement to being seriously involved as an NSA.
Once you have that certification, market to the list of companies available on their website (don’t just wait for them to find you on the list of NSAs there and don’t just use the site to sign up with the companies listed — do real marketing to these potential clients) and you will be on your way in the business.
I also suggest visiting all the sites listed on the pages of my website at http://notarymemphis.com and reading everything on those sites to get much more information and training in this business.
Some of these sites will require that you pay a membership fee to gain full access to them; usually that gets you a listing in their database, which can be a good way to get your name out there and make yourself more visible for potential clients. Most offer discounts on any products that they sell once you become a “member” of that site.
You WILL need a website of your own if you are serious about doing this business and these other sites can contain links back to your website — the more links you have going to your website, the easier it will be for potential clients to find you using google and other search engines.
You can also get information in the forums on 123Notary, NotaryRotary, and many other sites where Notaries are listed and where they congregate to compare notes and chat. Also, there are email lists and groups on yahoogroups and google groups (search under the term Notary or Notary Signing Agent) which can be good, free resources (but sometimes very chatty).
Just be sure that you don’t believe everything you read on any of these forums or websites. As always with anything on the internet, check the info you gather and compare it with other sources before relying upon it. Some folks know what they are talking about, some just think they do, and some have less-than-charitable motives for saying what they say.
Not everyone who markets well has valid information to sell. Not every book or blog or website is trustworthy — some are a mixture of obsolete info, laws that apply in a different state but not yours or mine, and rumors. Take your time & get to know the truth — test it against what makes sense and against reliable sources.
I suggest that you consider starting with reliable sources, such as the National Notary Association, the American Society of Notaries, or the American Notary Network. I certainly don’t agree with everything they do or say, but they usually at least have valid reasons for doing or saying it, unlike some folks whom I don’t recommend here.
Also, many Notaries speak very highly of 123Notary and Notary Rotary and Notary Cafe. (I really like the Modern Journal of Notarial Events that Notary Rotary sells — it makes being an NSA much easier than any other Journal I have seen and it costs less than the NNA Journal.)
Most of those sites have message boards and/or email lists you can join to network with other members.
There are also groups on Facebook and other social media sites for Notaries and Notary Signing Agents — check there if you are a member of those sites.
As with EVERYTHING you may see on the Internet, just because it appears online that does not make it true. Caveat Emptor ! (That is ancient Latin for “let the buyer beware!” ) Study before you do, study again before you buy, study some more before you use what you buy in ways that will affect other people.
Finally, if you have done all these things and still feel that you need more training, I may be available for one-on-one mentoring in the Memphis area for a fee. (You don’t expect me to actually train my competition for free, do you?)
This blog post was updated on April 23, 2014.