- Andrea Morgan is a 22-year-old signing agent who earns up to $200 for a single signing.
- Morgan decided to try notary work as a side job during the pandemic to help pay for college.
- She explains how to get certified, the difference between notaries and NSAs, and how to get clients.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Andrea Morgan, a 22-year-old college student and notary signer working in California. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I originally got into the notary business during the pandemic, after coming across a TikTok video of someone saying he was making $150 an hour as a notary signer. I had never heard of such a thing and had zero experience before deciding to investigate.
I’m a full-time student so this was a relatively low-key crowd that helped me pay for my tuition. I work about 16 hours a week and all I have to do is watch someone sign documents and verify their identity.
I average about $150 per signing, but the most I’ve ever made from a single signing is $200, which only took me about half an hour.
Here’s my best advice for becoming a notary signing agent
After doing some research I found out that I had to become a notary first.
A notary signer is very different from a notary. We specialize in real estate documents or loan documents, which is why we are allowed to charge much more than regular notaries. Most notaries can only charge what their state only allows; we, on the other hand, may reasonably charge what we deem necessary.
To get started, check your secretary of state’s website or visit the website of the National Notary Association. Select your state and read all the requirements and qualifications needed to become a notary first and then a notary signer.
In certain states, called “attorney states” or “no-escrow states,” in-house notaries handle document signing, unlike notary signers like me. For example, New York is a law state while California is an escrow state.
Becoming a notary public in California is a bit more difficult than in other states. In most states you can just go to your county clerk’s office and say, “I want the application to be a notary public” – it’s that simple. In California, you must take a course, pass an exam, and pass a background check to become a notary public.
It only cost me $1,600 to start my business as a certified notary signing agent
After becoming a notary, I had to become a sworn notary signer.
In California, it is not required to have a professional degree to become a notary signer, but I highly recommend it. Next, you’ll need to do a background check through the National Notary Association.
I took a $497 course called the Loan Signing System by Mark Wills, who eventually became my mentor. It took about two weeks and was incredibly helpful for a beginner, especially when it came to finding clients.
After taking that course, I was done completing my first signing. You don’t need a college degree – there are 18-year-olds fresh out of high school who become notary signers.
My startup costs to become a notary signer, including the supplies and materials I needed to run my business, totaled about $1,600, and it was 100% worth every penny. I recouped my start-up costs within two weeks of signing.
How much time a signature takes depends on the documents we’re working with – whether someone is buying a home, selling a home, refinancing a reverse mortgage, etc. Most signings take around 30 minutes to an hour. But I made $150 for a signing that took me five minutes. 90 percent of the time they take place at the signer’s home, otherwise they are in a public place such as a local Starbucks or a park.
Notary signers typically get business in one of two ways
We find work through signing services and direct client cases.
On average, I get more business through signing services – which are intermediaries between notary signers and escrow or title officers – than recently through direct client cases.
You can literally google “notary signing services near me” to find them, but there are also popular platforms that use notary signers such as SigningOrder, Snapdocs, and Notary Rotary.
When I get booked through a signing service, it usually goes like this: They contact me and ask if I’m available to do a signing. If so, they ask for my rate or give me a number and ask if I’m okay with it. That number usually falls somewhere between $75 and $200.
My next step is to print the necessary documents after they send them. Depending on the signature, these documents range from 100 to 200 pages. They also give me instructions specifying what type of pen to use, what color of ink to use, what identification to bring, and more.
Then I will go through every page they send me and make sure everything is correct. Refinancing or reverse mortgages usually take 45 minutes to an hour, documents related to buying or selling a home usually take 30-40 minutes, and deed signings can take less than 15 minutes. After a while you become very familiar with the documents and it becomes second nature.
Then I confirm the time and location of the appointment and go to the signer. For each individual document, I have to point out the title of the document, provide a short description, and indicate where to sign and date – and that’s it.
I recommend going one step further and booking customers directly
Getting started with signing services is great for the early stages, but I recommend trying to book direct clients as soon as you feel comfortable marketing yourself – people like escrow officers, title agents, and real estate agents. Not only will you get paid more, but you’ll build relationships with customers so they’re more likely to book you again in the future.
There are a few ways to find customers. When you get a booking through a signing service, each loan package contains the contact details of the escrow officer or loan officer. I usually contact them myself and say something like:
“Hello, I’m Andrea, the notary signatory who will be working with your client. I just wanted to introduce myself. If you or the signatory have any questions or require additional services, please let me know.”
Another way is to walk straight into an escrow or loan office and introduce yourself. Surprisingly, many notaries don’t realize they can do this. When I meet people in person they are almost always pleasantly surprised, and I think it helps to bond.
Now people contact me directly on a fairly regular basis as I have built relationships with clients and officers from previous signings. I actually got my first signing with a direct client; they found me on signingagent.com, a platform through the National Notary Association that automatically lists all certified notary signers in a specific area.
The client can view my credentials, read my biography and see that I have a professional portrait photo. I asked her why she chose me, and she said, “Well, it was because of your biography, which contained everything I wanted to hear – you commented that you are a problem solver and listed what documents you are familiar with. You also explained the common mistakes that notary signers make and guaranteed that those mistakes will not happen.”
There are other ways in which notaries can distinguish themselves. Showing gratitude is a big one: Show that you appreciate the things that the escrow officer or owner of the signing service offers you. Showing a little appreciation, even bringing lunch or a cup of coffee to an escrow officer, can go a long way. They are very busy people and they barely have time to get out of their seats all day.
Don’t focus too much on the money at first
My goal was initially to network to build authentic relationships and gain as much knowledge about the job as possible. I recommend getting as many signatures as possible in the early stages before significantly increasing your rate.
My fee started at around $45 an hour, and after about 3 months I felt confident enough to increase my fees. Signing service owners and escrow officers took notice and had no problem with it.
If you’re just starting out, I recommend looking at notary-specific resources and platforms. To manage my finances I use a platform called Notary Gadget which makes accounting and sending invoices much easier. To keep track of marketing, I use a spreadsheet to keep myself organized, and I also use Google Calendar to schedule all my signatures.
I was shocked at how much money I get for doing what I believe is an extremely easy task
Throughout this journey, I had to constantly remind myself to get out of the employee mindset. When it comes to running a business, you wear every hat, and businesses have their ups and downs – I’m not beating myself up for not meeting my financial goal every month.
Anyone can do this as long as you meet your state’s requirements. I see people turning a side job into a full-fledged career all the time, and that’s what I definitely plan to do when I graduate this spring.
If you have successfully created a secondary or passive income stream and would like to share your story, please email Dorothy Cucci at firstname.lastname@example.org.