Jon Snedeker didn’t become a notary public because it was his lifelong dream. He did it because it was a requirement for the loan officer job he landed fresh out of college.
It wasn’t until years later that he realized how valuable his Notary Commission was. After the economy crashed, he became a mobile notary, meaning he drives directly to his clients who need notarization services, and he started his own business teaching others to do the same.
“Forms created every day, and every single hour of every day, need to be notarized — wills, trusts, power of attorney forms, forms for school, forms even for your kid to play soccer sometimes,” he said. “There are a lot of different opportunities.”
The most common job opportunities include working as administrative support in an office setting or freelancing as an independent notary.
If you’re looking for a way to make a little extra money on the side — or maybe even land a full-time gig with decent pay — you might want to consider becoming a notary public, too. The startup costs are relatively low, the work is flexible and the credential will give your resume an extra boost. Plus, becoming a notary public offers some pretty good earning potential.
Notary Public FAQ
Here’s everything you need to know about how to become a notary before making the plunge.
What Is a Notary Public, Exactly?
A notary public impartially witnesses the signing of legal documents and deters fraud by ensuring the people signing the documents are who they say they are and that they are willingly and knowingly entering into a legal agreement.
A notary does this by verifying the signer’s identity and making sure they’re fully informed and aware of what the documents they are signing entail.
Who Can Become a Notary Public?
The requirements to become a notary public are pretty lax. There are no specific experience or education requirements (other than notary training, where applicable). In most states, you can become a notary public if you’re 18 years or older and not a convicted felon.
You must be a legal resident of the state you are applying in, and most states require that you be able to read and write in English.
How Much Does It Cost?
Initial startup estimates range from anywhere between $100 to $500, although other expenses may pop up along the way. These could include a website or advertisements to let people know about your services.
How to Become a Notary Public in 6(ish) Steps
The process, qualifications, compensation and duties for notaries public vary from state to state. This is meant to be a general overview to help you on your way to becoming one.
If you decide to pursue a certification, be sure to check your specific state requirements. You may find that you have to fulfill all of the following requirements — or only a few.
1. Take a Notary Class
According to the National Notary Association, only 11states require you to take a training course, although most states will encourage you to.
California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania all require notary training, which includes three to six hours of instruction. Classes typically cost between $100 and $200.
2. Take a Notary Exam
Currently, 12 states require potential notaries to take an exam: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Utah.
If you live in one of the 12 states that require notary exams, visit the “Training & Education” section on the National Notary Association website to find a location nearest you.
Some states may require you to submit your fingerprints and pass a background check. This is sometimes included in the examination process.
3. Obtain a Surety Bond
Most notaries are required to purchase a surety bond in case they make a mistake that hurts someone. If that were to happen, the bond could compensate the injured person up to the limits of the bond amount. Bonds range from as little as $500 to as much as $25,000.
You’ll pay only a fraction of the value of the bond up front. For example, in Florida, a $7,500 notary bond plus filing fees would only cost you about $74 — and you’d be protected for up to four years from claims resulting from mistakes you might make.
If the bond were needed to pay for damages in case of a mistake or negligence on your part, you would then be required to pay back the bond amount in full.
For states that require bonds, you’ll typically have to purchase them before moving forward in the application process. Bonds sometimes come in “packages” that include the materials to become a notary.
4. Purchase Errors and Omissions Insurance (Optional)
While no state requires notaries to purchase an errors and omissions insurance policy, some notaries invest in one. The bond is the first line of defense for a notary in the case of a mistake, and this insurance policy could help cover the costs of legal fees if someone decides to take you to court.
A four-year, $25,000 insurance policy costs anywhere from $60 to $300. If someone takes legal action against you, the policy will usually cover court costs and legal fees up to the policy amount. Unlike a bond, you would not have to repay this amount, and there is no deductible.
5. Submit Your Paperwork to the State
Once you’ve completed your required training, passed the exam and purchased your surety bond, sit back and wait for your official Notary Commission — dubbing you an official Notary Public with a Commision (read: term) of usually four years. Ta da!
The Commission approval will arrive by mail, and you’ll need to fill out a final application with your Commision and surety bond information with your state’s notary regulating office, along with any application fees.
If you use the services provided on the NNA’s website, you may have the option to have your paperwork filed for you by the NNA, although not all states allow this.
6. Purchase a Notary Seal and Kit
Each state has different requirements for what tools and supplies you’ll need to purchase to begin practicing as a notary public. The primary tools are your official notary seal (or stamp), acknowledgement certificates and a notary journal to help you keep a clean record of all notarial acts.
If you haven’t already received the required seals this late in the process, check your state’s website for information about your notary kit.
Making Money as a Notary Public
Once all is said and done and your official notary seal comes in the mail, you can use your commission as much or as little as you want during your term.
Having a Notary Commission can earn you a nice boost in salary for that cushy bank job you’ve always wanted. Or you can use it independently for a side gig or business, similar to what Snedeker does.
If you plan on freelancing, there are a few things to keep in mind to make your notary endeavor lucrative. Namely, competition.
Many businesses do General Notary Work (GNW) for the community. UPS has notaries on staff. Banks usually offer notary services for free for their members, and there are likely to be other independent notaries in your area.
What’s more, many states regulate how much notaries can charge for GNW services.
Snedeker found this out early. So he became what’s called a Notary Signing Agent, someone who specializes in notary services for the real estate industry.
“As a signing agent,” he said, “you’re not competing with banks because you’re doing real estate work.”
And an added bonus: signing agent services aren’t subject to the same price regulations as GNW. Depending on the documents involved, Snedeker is able to charge between $75 and $200 per signing.
Whether it’s Hancocking health forms at hospitals or closing real estate loans on-the-go, “it’s tremendously huge to pick your niche,” he said.
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at Codetic, and Grace Schweizer is an email content writer at Codetic.