Expert Tips for Becoming a Successful Notary Signing Agent
Eight Lessons for Success
In response to our most often received question, “How can I become a signing agent?” the American Association of Notaries (“ AAN ”) has accumulated and consolidated advice from notary signing agents who have established their businesses. We have created eight lessons to provide readers with timely advice.
Once you become a notary and have studied the rules of your notary commission you have completed the first two critical steps of becoming a notary signing agent. What comes next is the process of collecting the knowledge required and focusing resources toward finding business. The lessons which follow will address several of those processes.
Starting a signing agent business is a task requiring a tremendous amount of self-education and high dedication of time and money to marketing one’s business. The success of the business will rest solely on the shoulders of the new signing agent and will depend on the amount of time they are willing to commit to learning their new duties and marketing their new business. The good news is that there are many sites on the internet which will move this process along if the new signing agent will commit their time into planning, searching, reading, and organizing their materials for ready reference. Many of those links appear below. In fact, there are so many links and resources mentioned that you should probably take a moment and bookmark the location of this article on your internet browser now so that you can refer back to it.
Lesson 1 – Get Organized: The Notary Signing Agent Resource Notebook
Undoubtedly, as you start the process of becoming a signing agent you will begin to research topics relating to the signing agent business. Therefore, it is very likely that you will begin to amass many pages of reference materials. Staying organized is the key to making reference material work well. To that end, consider developing a notebook system of organization.
Purchase a three-ring binder, three-ring hole punch and dividers for organizing the material you will place in the notebook. In the beginning phase of your business this will be an invaluable resource. Collect, print and organize resources for ready reference when marketing, researching and studying subjects related to the signing agent business. Have it available any time a call for work comes in so that you can refer to it. Keeping your reference materials available and organized will save you time.
Divide the notebook into sections. Put them in the order you believe will work best for you. Consider the following sections for your notebook:
Marketing Ideas – keep tips and items of interest in this section regarding how to market effectively.
Marketing and Business Plan In this section you would place your goals for marketing your business. You may want to include daily goals such as (1) Read one article per day on marketing a small business; (2) Contact fifteen signing services per day; or (3) Build a list of possible sites to advertise on and research them for effectiveness. An excellent resource for business and marketing planning is the Small Business Administration’s (“ SBA ”) website. Any type of new business owner will benefit from learning from the website of the SBA.
II. Notary Reference
Statutory Notary Materials Keep your state’s official notary rules, your state handbook and/or educational materials issued by your commissioning office in this section. Most of them can be printed from each state’s commissioning office. If the material is online, “bookmark” it on your internet browser, as well. Even the most seasoned notary signing agents keep their state mandated notary rules easily accessible at all times as reference.
Continuing Notary Education Keep information in this section which you find to be particularly informative about your notary duties. The information stored in this section would be articles and reference materials which do not come from your state’s commissioning office website. For instance, you might want to add articles from the AAN ’s monthly emailed newsletter to this section of your notebook for future reference.
Loose Notary Certificates Purchase or create the types of notary certificates your state allows you to use. If you are requested to notarize a document which has no certificate attached you can open your notebook to this section and show your potential client the types of certificates you have, telling them that while you cannot choose a notary certificate for them they can choose one to attach to their document. Do not punch holes in these. It would be better to keep them in a top-loading vinyl sheet protector. These can be purchased from office supply stores such as Office Depot.
II. Signing Agent Reference
Good/Bad Companies List - This is a must-do for new notary signing agents. Create a list of companies you will and will not work for. To start building this list consider visiting a site called NotaryBeware.com. This site can currently be joined for $20.00 per year (or $35.00 for a premium membership). Create an alphabetical list of the companies you will and will not work for. Update this list daily as you learn about hiring companies. Refer to it when soliciting signing companies and when calls come in so that you can determine whether or not you will work for that company. Creating and referring to this list will save you both time and money.
Fee List - Every signing agent needs a fee list in their reference notebook. You will be better prepared if you create your own fee list for reference when accepting and quoting fees. Make a list of all cities (or zip codes) you will travel to. Set a price for each. (For more information on setting fees please refer to one of our previously published articles located here.)
Signing Agent Articles Keep monthly emailed articles which are of interest to you from the AAN as well as from the AAN ‘s quarterly printed publication, The Notary Digest. The Notary Digest is mailed to all members. (In addition, members of the AAN have access to all back issues of The Notary Digest as well as to all previously published e-newsletter articles.) Add other articles to this section from resources you find to be credible and educational.
III. Ready Reference
In this section you may desire to keep phone lists, supply and equipment shopping lists, email lists, addresses, account numbers and other bits of information that you refer to frequently as a business owner.
Client contact list - This will save you time when faxing back documents, emailing clients or contacting them with questions when you are away from your computer.
Acronyms and Lingo List - In Lesson 8 (below) appears a list of Acronyms and Lingo for Signing Agents which you may want to print and put in this section.
Leave a section for miscellaneous information you would like to keep. Add sections as you recognize matters that you feel will assist you. Every minute and every cent applied to creating a Notary Signing Agent Resource Notebook will be an investment yielding high dividends while starting your business.
Lesson 2 – Google is your friend!
A great deal of information must be accumulated when starting a new signing agent business. While seeking that information remember: “Google is your friend!” The more you pursue learning about a signing agent business the more you will realize this to be true.
With the arrival of comprehensive and user-friendly search engines such as Google.com and its newest worthy competitor, Bing.com , plus other established sites such as Ask.com , Yahoo.com , and AltaVista.com almost anything a would-be notary signing agent wants to know about almost any subject is available online. Take advantage of the infinite amount of informative reading on notary sites, mortgage sites, real estate and law-related internet sites. Use such a search engine to find companies which will hire your services, as well as finding notary discussions, notary advice, notary law, educational materials and more. While all search engines listed above, are stable search engines to use, Google.com is still considered the favored search engine for locating information on the web. For more information on how to use Google.com to find whatever is available about the business of being a notary signing agent review and apply the tips in the article entitled, Google search basics: Basic search help . Learning the techniques discussed there will assist you while you search for information that will enhance your business.
Lesson 3 –Notary Discussion Venues Are Invaluable
Within the last five or six years notary discussion lists and online notary forums have become quite an important part of the notary signing agent’s toolkit. Seek to learn more about being a signing agent through reading such notary discussions. For instance, consider visiting the following sites:
123Notary.com Forum (“123”) – 123 has been around for years as a top notch notary database, and now, the 123 forum has been added. The positives of the 123 forum are that posters are generally courteous and patient, plus there is one section of the 123 forum entitled, “ Ask Carmen ” where questions are never ignored and many posters will share their knowledge with “newbie” posters.
Signing Agent Yahoo Group (“ SAYG ”) – SAYG is a very active email list of signing agents discussing signing agent issues by email. It can be accessed either through email, or by visiting the discussion at its home on the web. The group is owned and monitored by a long-time signing agent residing in Florida, Paul Williamson . Paul is one of the major contributors of the group in addition to Sylvia Mease. Sylvia is a retired signing agent who also runs a small Florida signing service. Sylvia is an icon in the notary community. Of English birth, Sylvia is fondly known in online notary venues as the “Queen Mother of Notary Signing Agents” because of her advice, kindness and helpfulness to others. Both Paul and Sylvia are powerhouses of insight and advice to other signing agents as they seem to have unending patience in sharing their notary knowledge on SAYG .
Field Inspection Talk (“ FIT ”) – Eventually, a new notary signing agent may decide to seek supplementary avenues of income while building a business. One stream of income which fits nicely with the full-time signing agent’s schedule is doing what is known as “field inspections”. FIT is a Google group email list. In the FIT group notaries who are also field inspectors collaborate and exchange discussions on issues relating to field inspection work. If this type of work interests you, you may want to consider jumpstarting your field inspection business by purchasing an inexpensive list ($9.95) of field inspection companies produced by Rebecca Fair , a notary signing agent in Florida.
Lesson 4 – Advance Your Notary Knowledge
An important step in educating oneself to be a signing agent is knowing notary duties well, if not committing rules to memory. Additionally, a notary signing agent should be very familiar with handling notarizations typically seen on common loan documents. Many notaries working toward notary signing agent status have never notarized signatures on typical loan documents before they begin their work as a notary signing agent. When this is the case, one may choose to improvise in order to become familiar with a loan packet. One way to have the opportunity to study typical loan documents is to review your own home loan documentation. If you have a set of loan documents which were created for your own home loan pull them out of the file drawer and begin to study the notarizations on them. Another way to find many typical loan documents to see their notary certificates is to read a previous article of this newsletter entitled Obtaining the Necessary Notary and Document Experience . You will not only learn about being familiar with notarizing signatures on loan documents, you will also gain several additional tips including how to improve notary skills. Readers may also want to review an article the AAN recently published entitled Handling Business and Corporate Notarization . Another educational article previously published is entitled, Handling Two Types of Notary Certificates on One Document . If these articles are helpful to you, bookmark them on your internet browser and print them out; put them in your resource notebook for future reference when refreshing your notary skills.
Lesson 5 – Learn the Lingo
Studying the following notary signing agent’s “Acronym and Lingo List” may prove helpful before taking instructions from hiring entities. Become familiar with acronyms and jargon used in the signing agent world. Keep the following list handy in your resource notebook under “Ready Reference”. If you do indeed pursue a career as a signing agent you will eventually encounter one or more of these in discussions with hiring entities or in written instructions.
AKA – also known as
APR – annual percentage rate
DOT – deed of trust
EO – errors and omissions
EOM – end of month
FKA – formerly known as
HUD – Settlement Statement
HUD1 – Settlement Statement
Junk docs – title documents
NBS – non-borrowing spouse
NKA – now known as
NOTR – notice of right to rescind
POA – power of attorney
POC – paid outside of closing
RTR – notice of right to rescind
Security Instrument – deed of trust or mortgage
Smalls – title documents
SS – Settlement Statement
TIL – Truth in Lending Statement
Title docs (Title documents) – documents which the title company provides separately from the lender.
WTTA – who took title as
(Hint: If any or all of the above acronyms and phrases are unfamiliar, research them to learn all you can about their meaning while you have free time to do so.)
This list is not all inclusive. As you learn more about the signing agent business you will find additional lingo and acronyms to add to the list. For more information about terms which apply to the signing agent business use a search engine and seek phrases such as “notary glossary”, “mortgage glossary” and “signing agent glossary”.
Consider joining the AAN in order to have a library of notary and notary signing agent knowledge at your fingertips. Naturally, we believe we have tremendous benefits to offer you and your signing agent business. For only $19.00 per year the AAN offers the most value packed membership offered by an organization for notaries in the U.S.
Our monthly emailed newsletter such as this one is only one of the many benefits of being a member of the AAN . If you find this edition of our emailed newsletter helpful, you will surely find the annual membership fee of $19.00 per year appealing because you will have access to a year’s worth of upcoming issues (and all of the back issues) of our printed publication, The Notary Digest, as well as access to all back issues of this emailed newsletter.
- Targeting the Medical Records Business Medical records notarization and collection is a lively source of notary business you will not want to overlook. This article will tell you savvy ways to market for this type of business.
- The Courtesy of Embossing a Seal An informative article about the times when a notary should consider having a seal embosser, even if one is not required by their state.
- Property Venue vs. Notary Venue Do you know the difference? You can learn important clues to guide you so that you will not make this common error which inexperienced notaries may make.
- FedEx and UPS Pointers for Notary Signing Agents Overnight courier usage is frequent and highly important in the signing agent business. Learn all you can and become an expert at utilizing couriers. There may be more to it than you think.
- Is Being a Notary Signing Agent for You? This article will give you an overview and insight from a veteran signing agent’s perspective.
- Local Publications Yield Opportunity Do not miss this article which will give you hints on finding new business in unexpected places.
- Business Card Design and Marketing for the Notary Professional Learn how to create a notary business card which will work and then using it to its full potential.
- Marketing in Traffic Do not miss out on this inexpensive way to promote your business while running errands and when finding yourself sitting in traffic.
In addition to the above-noted articles which members have access to, do not forget you will also receive a place to advertise your business in the AAN’s Notary Locator . The price of $19.00 a year to become a member is the best value of the industry. Once you join the AAN you will have access to the above-referenced articles as well as countless others written by experienced notaries. These articles have been released quarterly in the print edition of our Notary Digest publication for several years. If you are not sold on the idea yet, plug the phrase “ notary locator” into Google.com and see for yourself that the AAN ’s link to the Notary Locator tool comes up on the first page of search engine hits.
Lesson 7 – Plan to Succeed
It has been said that “failing to plan is planning to fail”. Design a marketing plan and begin working through it so that your marketing will be focused on steps for success. Your initial marketing plan does not need to be perfect or complicated but you should begin to write one, then refer to it daily and improve on it as time goes by. Marketing is a critical part of being a successful notary signing agent.
Begin your marketing plan by making a list of every type of marketing tool you can think of. Research how effective each will be, make notations of how much each will cost and determine how to budget your funds toward marketing efforts.
Print advertising will probably not do as well for a notary signing agent business as internet advertising opportunities will. While some may feel that print advertising in phone books is advantageous it is important to remember that hiring companies will usually be consulting the internet to locate both distant and local notaries. Therefore, internet-based advertising is the most important for notary signing agents. Advertise your new signing agent business in as many online notary databases as you can find and afford. Set aside a budget for marketing. Determine which sources of advertising yield the best value for the dollar.
To develop clients you must begin to market your business as soon as you are ready to undertake the duties of doing loan signing work. Constant marketing and well-placed advertising is absolutely necessary to build a notary signing agent business.
It is critical to set a marketing goal for each day as part of your marketing plan. Apply yourself daily to getting your information into the hands of those who will hire you. You can find signing services by searching the internet. Plan to sign up with a certain amount of signing services each day. The more companies you contact the higher your chance to be called for an assignment. One article from a previous edition of this newsletter which you may want to read is Marketing to Title Companies . This article will give you guidance when you are ready to attempt direct marketing to title companies.
As part of your marketing plan your first stop should be the website of the AAN . Do not overlook the low cost, high value notary database provided for members of the American Association of Notaries . Undoubtedly, the Notary Locator of the AAN is one of the best values around for notaries to use in their business marketing. At $19.00 per year there is no better value for the tools and resources provided.
Another place to consider marketing your business is through The Notary Café . The home page of this website states, “There are many signing services across the nation that utilize this software and this provides you exposure to thousands of signings that occur each month with your single profile entry.” For the price of the annual fee and the time involved in setting up a profile you can reach many hiring entities with your business information. Overall, this site currently seems to have favorable results among signing agents from coast to coast.
Consider marketing your business by establishing a website. Having a website is a plus, if not a must, for any current business model. Below is a list of examples of professional notary websites which are easily located by search engines. Alex Yvonnou of Detroit, Michigan has a website which some might view as the best possible site a notary could have. Others which are well-written and nicely presented are:
Rebecca Fair of Vero Beach, Florida
Michelle Riley of Huntsville, Alabama
Dorothy Roberts Serving East Texas
Lisa Wood, Arlington, Texas
Once you have established a website, study the skill of “search engine optimization” to learn how to make the website move up in the ranks of search engine hits. (Caution: Do not ever copy the content verbatim of any website without permission from its owner. Not only is this practice unethical, it can also cause search engines to discount the value of the content of your website if information is copied verbatim from another website.)
If your budget is tight, there are free websites now offered my Microsoft Office Live and by Google.com. Google’s version of the free website is located here . If you have money in your budget available and can afford to have a website built for you, consider seeking bids from webmasters in your local area. Alternatively, national website creators such as the following offer powerful website skills, hosting and creation. Texas Internet Solutions, Notary Websites and Site Growers. (Hint: Once you have a website remember to add the link to your business card.)
Lesson 8 – Promote with a Professional Image
Many notary signing agents decide to use an image of themselves in their marketing materials and in online notary venues where pictures can be uploaded. This is one way to present a professional image to potential clients -- that is, if the right picture is chosen. If you decide to use a picture of yourself online or on your printed marketing materials to promote your business do not use an image which is (1) More than seven years old; (2) Shows you depicted in a casual setting; (3) Shows you with your spouse or other person, unless that person is your business partner; (4) In general does not give a professional image of you as a signing agent. Do use an image which (1) is current, and (2) depicts you in professional attire such as you would wear if you were entering a title company or bank to work as an employee.
Hiring entities seek a professional notary signing agent to carry out their loan signing assignments. Therefore, provide a picture which creates confidence in the hiring company when they hire you. If you do not have a business picture of yourself have someone assist you with one. Dress in a business outfit such as you will wear to signing agent appointments. Place yourself in front of a solid background. Have a head and shoulders picture taken with a good digital camera. Full torso portraits are better left to professional photographers. If you can work a professional portrait into your marketing budget such an image of yourself can only be a plus to your business. Examples of professional signing agent pictures utilized by experienced signing agents are shown below with their permission:
Alex Yvonnou, Michigan
Lisa Wood, Texas
We hope that you bookmarked this page as previously suggested so that you can have the eight lessons in this article and all of its links available to you for reference. The American Association of Notaries appreciates its readership and strives to provide valuable, informative articles for notary signing agents to assist them in increasing the potential for their business.
If you have comments on this article, or have a topic for an article you would like to suggest, we welcome your input! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .