Business student

How I Became a Notary Signing Agent Earning $200 an Hour as a Student

  • Andrea Morgan is a 22-year-old notary agent who earns up to $200 for a single signature.
  • Morgan decided to try out notary work during the pandemic as a scramble to help pay for her education.
  • She explains how to get certified, the difference between notaries and ANS, and how to find clients.

This say-to-say essay is based on a conversation with Andrea Morgan, a 22-year-old student and notary signing agent who works in California. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I originally got into the notary profession during the pandemic, after coming across a TikTok video of someone saying they were making $150 an hour as a signing notary agent. I had never heard of anything like this before and had no experience before deciding to look into it.

I am a full time student so this has been a relatively low side hustle helping me pay tuition. I work about 16 hours a week, and all I have to do is watch someone sign documents and verify their identity.

I usually earn around $150 on average per signature, but the most I’ve ever earned from a single signature is $200, which only took me about half an hour.

Here are my top tips for becoming a signing notary agent

After doing some research, I discovered that I had to become a notary public first.

A signing notary agent is quite different from a notary public. We specialize in real estate documents or loan documents, and because of this, we charge a lot more than ordinary notaries. Most notaries public can only charge what their state only allows; we, on the other hand, may reasonably charge what we see fit.

To get started, check your Secretary of State’s website or visit the National Notary Association’s website. Select your state and read all the requirements and qualifications needed to become a notary public first and then signing notary agent.

In some states, called “agent states” or “non-receiver states”, in-house notaries handle document signings, as opposed to signing notaries like me. New York, for example, is a mandatory state, while California is a trust state.

Becoming a notary public in California is a bit more difficult than in other states. In most states, you can just walk into your county clerk’s office and say, “I want the application notarized” – it’s about as simple as that. In California, you must take a course, pass an exam, and pass a background check to become a notary public.

It only took me $1,600 to start my business as a Certified Notary Signing Agent

After becoming a notary public, I had to become a certified signing notary agent.

In California, professional training is not required to become a signing notary agent, but I highly recommend it. Next, you must complete a background check through the National Association of Notaries.

I took a $497 course called Loan Signing System from Mark Wills, who ended up being my mentor. It took about two weeks and was incredibly helpful for a beginner, especially when it came to finding clients.

After taking this course, I was finishing my first signature. You don’t need a college degree – there are 18 year olds fresh out of high school who become signing notary agents.

My start-up costs to become a signing notary agent, including the supplies and equipment I needed to run my business, were about $1,600 in total, and it was 100% worth every penny. I got my start-up costs back within two weeks of signing up.

How long a signature takes depends on the documents we are working with – if someone is buying a house, selling a house, doing a reverse mortgage refinance, etc. Most signatures take around 30 minutes to an hour. But I made $150 for a signature that took me five minutes. 90% of the time they take place at the signatories’ homes, otherwise they will take place in a public place like a Starbucks or a local park.

Signing notaries generally obtain contracts in two ways

We find work through signature service businesses and direct client businesses.

On average, I get more business through signing services – which are middlemen between signing notary agents and escrow or title agents – than through direct client business recently.

You can literally Google “notary signing services near me” to find them, but there are also popular platforms that notary signing agents use, such as SigningOrder, Snapdocs, and Notary Rotary.

When I receive a booking through a signing service, it usually goes like this: they contact me and ask if I’m available for a signing. If I am, they either ask me for my rate or give me a number and ask if I’m okay. This number is usually between $75 and $200.

My next step is to print the necessary documents after they are sent. Depending on the signature, these documents range from 100 to 200 pages. They also provide me with instructions that specify the type of pen to use, the color of ink to use, the identification documents that I will need to bring, etc.

Then I will go through every page they send me and make sure everything is correct. Refinancing or reverse mortgages typically take 45 minutes to an hour, paperwork involving buying or selling a home typically takes 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.

After that, I will confirm the time and place of the meeting, and I will meet the signatory. For each document, I have to indicate the title of the document, give a brief description and indicate where to sign and date – and that’s it.

I recommend going further and booking customers directly

Getting started with signature services is great for the start-up phase, but I recommend trying to book direct clients once you feel comfortable marketing yourself – people like escrow agents, title agents and real estate agents. Not only do you get paid more, but you build relationships with customers, so they’re more likely to book you again in the future.

There are several ways to find clients. Whenever you land a reservation through a signature service, each loan package includes the contact details of the escrow agent or loan officer. I usually contact them myself and tell them something like:

“Hey, I’m Andrea, the notary signing agent who will be working with your client. I just wanted to introduce myself. If you or the signer have any questions or need additional services, please let me know.”

Another way is to walk straight into an escrow office or loan office and introduce yourself. Surprisingly, many notaries don’t realize they can do this. When I meet people face to face, they’re almost always pleasantly surprised, and I think that helps establish a connection.

Now people contact me directly quite regularly because I have built relationships with clients and agents in previous signings. I actually got my first signing with a direct client; they found me on signingagent.com, which is a National Association of Notaries platform that automatically lists all certified notary signing agents in a given area.

The customer can verify my credentials, read my bio and see that I have a professional photo. I asked her why she chose me, and she replied, “Well, it was because of your biography, which contained everything I wanted to hear – you noted that you are a problem solver and listed the documents you are familiar with. You have also explained common errors made by signing notaries and guaranteed that these errors will not occur.”

There are other ways for notaries to stand out. Showing gratitude is important – indicate that you appreciate the business the escrow agent or signature service owner is providing you. Showing a little appreciation, even bringing lunch or a cup of coffee to an escrow agent, can go a long way. They are very busy people and they hardly have time to get up from their chairs throughout the day.

In the beginning, don’t focus too much on the money

My goal in the beginning was to network to build authentic relationships and gain as much knowledge about the job as possible. I recommend getting as many signatures as you can in the beginning before you dramatically increase your rate.

My fees started around $45 an hour, and about 3 months later I felt confident enough to start raising my fees. Signature service owners and escrow agents noticed this and had no problems with it.

If you’re just getting started, I recommend checking out notary-specific resources and platforms. To manage my finances, I use a platform called Notary Gadget which makes accounting and sending invoices a lot easier. To keep track of marketing, I use a spreadsheet to organize myself and I also use Google Calendar to schedule all my signings.

I was shocked at how much money I get paid to do, in my opinion, an extremely easy task

Throughout this journey, I have had to constantly remind myself to get out of the mindset of employees. When it comes to running a business, you all wear hats, and businesses have their ups and downs – I don’t blame myself for not hitting my financial goal every month.

As long as you meet your state’s requirements, anyone can do it. I see people transitioning from a side hustle to a full-fledged career all the time, and that’s what I 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, email Dorothy Cucci at [email protected].