Ever wanted to make a career move that would get you one step closer to helping solve cold cases—that doesn’t mean becoming a detective?
How about becoming a Notary Public?
This job gets you front and center with legal documents that often are crucial in public records or cold case research. Bonus: it’s a great side gig to pick up. In fact, according to a 2021 survey, one of every three Americans had a side gig in addition to their full-time job. And, as that same study pointed out, another 24 percent were planning to start one by the end of the year.
Working a side job can be appealing. Multiple streams of income can help you hit your financial goals much quicker — whether it’s buying a home, taking a vacation or hitting retirement. It also can provide a cushion in the event you need to leave a job. Or, if you’re like a significant number of people, a side hustle is critical to making ends meet. But in this case, you can also put your true crime interest to good use.
While there are dozens of ways to make extra money on the side, working as a Notary Public is a credible choice for moonlighting. It allows you to start your own independent business and maintain flexible hours without a huge investment in hours or upfront costs. In most cases, Notaries don’t go into this profession expecting it to be a full-time job. However, with mobile notary services becoming more in demand, Notaries are finding a more convenient way to make extra income.
Take a look at the responsibilities of a Notary Public, what it takes to become one, and how the role has evolved in recent years.
What is a Notary Public?
A Notary Public, a public official appointed by a state government, is tasked with verifying the authenticity of paperwork, contracts and other legal documents, including:
- Loan documents
- Powers of attorney
In this role, as it has been for hundreds of years, a notary public is considered instrumental in helping to deter fraud.
If you take on this job, you would make yourself available to witness the signing of documents as an impartial party for various transactions from the purchases of a house to the opening retirement accounts. As part of the transactions, the notary public also will verify that the persons signing the documents are who they say they are (by checking official forms of identification), that these persons are willingly signing the documents, and that they are aware of what is contained in the documents or transactions.
With so much on the line, a Notary Public should be a person that possesses high ethics and reliability.
In the past, Notaries would need to conduct their responsibilities in person. However, 29 states have adopted Remote Online Notarization (RON), which recognizes documents that are executed and notarized remotely and electronically as legally binding.
How much do Notaries make?
As with any other career—especially as an entrepreneur, the harder you work at becoming experienced and promoting your services, the more you can make. According to a 2020 National Notary Association survey, income was as follows:
- 69 percent of full-time mobile Notaries said they earn $1,000 or more a month
- 30.4 percent of full-time mobile Notaries made less than $1,000 a month
- 27 percent of part-time mobile Notaries made $1,000 or more a month
- 72.5 percent of part-time mobile Notaries made less than $1,000 a month
Also, it’s important to note that your income as a Notary is taxable. Make sure you keep accurate and comprehensive records of your income and expenses, and file your tax return.
Becoming a Notary
The process of becoming a notary will vary from state to state. While it’s essential to check the procedures specific to the state you will be working in, the following is a general overview of what qualifications may entail, according to the National Notary Association:
- You must be at least 18 years of age, a legal resident of the state you’re expecting to work in, and have no criminal record to qualify.
- Complete and submit your state’s application for a Notary, which varies in cost from state to state.
- Pay the state’s filing fee.
- If required, undergo training from an approved education vendor for notaries.
- Pass a state-administered exam, if applicable.
- Undergo a fingerprinting and background check, if required by your state.
- Receive your commission certificate from the state.
- If necessary, secure a surety bond.
- File commission paperwork and bond with the state’s Notary-regulating agency.
- Buy notary supplies, including stamp, error and omission insurance, remote technology vendor fees (if you choose remote as a feature) and electronic seals
The costs of becoming a notary can vary significantly from state to state. Filing or application fees can be as low as $10, as is the case for Alabama, $30 for Idaho, and $40 for California, or as high as $75 as it is for Indiana and New Hampshire.
You also will need to factor in other costs, including Notary training, exams (if required), background screenings, Notary supplies and bond expenses, if necessary.
Here is a scenario of the requirements you would need to become a Notary, using New Hampshire as an example. In New Hampshire, the process can take from 8 to 10 weeks. For other states, check here to get more information about what it takes to become a Notary Public.
EXAMPLE: New Hampshire
- Meet all of your state’s qualifications:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be a resident of New Hampshire or of an adjoining state who is a Notary in that state and carries on a trade, business or practice in New Hampshire
- Be endorsed by two New Hampshire Notaries in good standing and a person registered to vote in the state
- Complete the official New Hampshire application and sign it in the presence of a Notary Public or a justice of the peace.
- Complete the Criminal Record Release Authorization Form and get it notarized, and then submit it to the Secretary of the State along with a $75 fee.
- After your application has been processed, your commission, oath, index card and other information will be mailed to you.
- Sign and take your oath of office in the presence of two Notaries Public, two justices of the peace, or one Notary Public and one justice of the peace. Those who sign your oath must also sign your commission.
- Return the oath to the Secretary’s office as soon as possible.
- Keep the commission for your records. Sign the index card as required and mail it to your county’s Superior Court.
- Buy your Notary seal and a Notary journal (optional, but strongly recommended).
- Secure Errors & Omission insurance (optional, but strongly recommended).
- Take continuing education or consult Notary experts for guidance (optional, but strongly recommended). — National Notary Association
Tools, training and requirements of the trade
In most states, you will need to purchase a notary stamp or seal. Make sure you determine what is currently required for your state.
For example, in New Hampshire, Notaries will need to use an embossed official seal or an electronic or a rubber official stamp for all notarial acts, effective Feb. 6, 2022.
Alabama has more specific requirements for Notary seals or embossments used in that state. According to the National Notary Association, they must use a rubber stamp ink seal or an embosser that may be a square design measuring 2” x 2” or a circular design no smaller than 1” in diameter. They also must include the following information:
- Your name as it appears on your commission
- The words “Notary Public”
- The word “Alabama”
- The words “State at Large”
Alabama also notes that Notaries should look for quality stamps that do not bleed during or after use, because county officials may decide to disqualify documents as valid due to smudging. They also recommend purchasing a second seal as a backup, and to ask the embosser to add an extra layer of fraud prevention security.
The prices for Notary stamps and seals are relatively inexpensive for a business expense. Stamps range from $15 to $40, based on a review of stamps on Notary Public Stamps. Notary Seal Embossers are slightly more expensive, ranging from about $25 to $50.
Notary journals, which are suggested by many states, are specifically designed for notaries — featuring numbered pages and a permanently-bound construction that ensures that you can identify missing pages if you are ever confronted with a lawsuit.
To ensure that you are protected against lawsuits, it’s important to be bonded and insured — even if the state you work in does not require it. Seek out a reputable insurance company that will insure you and the public from mistakes that you may make while carrying out your duties as a Notary.
Surety bonds, which are required by 30 states and Washington, D.C., ensure that your customers are protected against a mistake that you make. Bonds are designed to protect them up to the amount of the bond, which can range from an average of $5,000 to $10,000.
For an extra level of protection, invest in a Notary Errors and Omissions (EO) policy, which protects you against lawsuits based on any errors made as part of your Notary responsibilities. EO insurance policies can cost an average of $60 per month, according to Bravo Policy.
Another expectation for most notaries is to undergo training for the role. Most states don’t require training for Notaries. Currently, they include California, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania. If you reside in Delaware, expect to face requirements for training if you want to perform remote/digital notarizations.
When enrolling in training, make sure it is approved by your government if you live in a state that requires it.
Whether you’re signing up for introductory training or ongoing education, the lessons should require less than 10 hours of your time. Some organizations offering training and ongoing education include the National Notary Association, Notary Inc., and the American Society of Notaries.
Most online training courses cost under $100, with some as low as $25. If you are interested in becoming a Notary that conducts online notaries, it is recommended that you ensure your state requirements for this specific service. Some states do not require training for general notarization processes that are conducted in person, but others require training for online practices.
Keep in mind that you may need to renew your certification as a Notary after four to eight years. Again, the time your Notary largely depends on which state you reside in.
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