- Andrea Morgan is a 22-year-old notary signing agent who makes up to $200 for a single signing.
- Morgan decided to try notary work during the pandemic as a side hustle 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 student and notary signing agent who works in California. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I originally got into the notary business during the pandemic, after I came across a TikTok video of someone saying they make $150 an hour as a notary signing agent. I’d never heard of anything like that before and had zero experience before I decided to look into it.
I’m a full-time college student, so this has been a relatively low-lift side hustle that’s helped me pay for tuition. I work about 16 hours a week, and all I have to do is watch a person sign documents and verify their identity.
I usually make about $150 on average per signing, but the most I’ve ever made from a single signing is $200, which only took me about a half 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 public first.
A notary signing agent is quite different from a notary public. We specialize in real property documents or loan documents, and because of that, we get to charge a lot more than regular notaries. Most notary publics can only charge what their state only allows; we, on the other hand, can reasonably charge whatever we see fit.
To get started, look on your Secretary of State’s website or visit the National Notary Association’s website. Select your state and read all of the requirements and qualifications required to become a notary public first, and then a notary signing agent.
In certain states, called “attorney states” or “no-escrow states,” in-house notaries handle the document signings as opposed to notary signing agents like myself. New York, for example, is an attorney state, while California is an escrow state.
Becoming a notary public in California is a bit harder than in other states. In most states, you can just go down to your county clerk’s office and say, “I want the application to be a notary” — it’s pretty much as simple as that. In California, you have to take a course, pass an exam, and clear 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 I became a notary public, I had to become a certified notary signing agent.
In California, it’s not mandatory to have professional training to become a notary signing agent, but I highly recommended it. Then, you have to complete a background check through the National Notary Association.
I took a $497 course called the Loan Signing System from Mark Wills, who ended up being my mentor. It took about two weeks and it was incredibly helpful for a beginner, especially when it came to finding clients.
After I took that course, I was off completing my first signing. You don’t need a college degree — there are 18-year-olds fresh out of high school who become notary signing agents.
My startup costs to become a notary signing agent, including the supplies and materials I needed to run my business, were around $1,600 in total, and it was 100% worth every penny. I made my startup costs back within two weeks of signing.
How much time a signing takes depends on the documents we’re working with — if someone’s buying a home, selling a home, doing a reverse mortgage refinance, etc. Most signings take around 30 minutes to an hour. But I’ve made $150 for a signing that’s taken me five minutes. 90 percent of the time, they take place at the signers home, and otherwise they’ll be in a public place like a local Starbucks or park.
Notary signing agents typically get business in two ways
We find work through signing service business and direct client business.
On average, I get more business through signing services — which are middlemen between notary signing agents and escrow or title officers — 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 get booked through a signing service, it typically goes like this: They contact me and ask if I’m available to conduct a signing. If I am, they either ask for my rate or give me a number and ask if I’m okay with it. That number usually falls anywhere between $75 and $200.
My next step is to print out the necessary documents after they send them over. Depending on the signing, these documents range from 100 to 200 pages. They also provide me with instructions that specify what type of pen to use, what color ink to use, what identification I’ll need to bring, and more.
Next, I’ll go through each page that they send me and make sure everything is correct. Refinancing or reverse mortgages usually take from 45 minutes to an hour, documents that involve 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.
After that, I’ll confirm the appointment time and location, and go meet with the signer. For each and every single document, I have to point to the title of the document, give a brief description, and point where to sign and date — and that’s it.
I recommend taking it a step further and booking clients directly
Starting out with signing services is great for the beginning stage, but I recommend trying to book direct clients once you feel comfortable marketing yourself — people like escrow officers, title officers, and real estate agents. Not only do you get paid more, but you get to build relationships with clients, so they’re more likely to book you again in the future.
There are a few ways to find clients. Whenever you land a booking through a signing service, every loan package includes the contact information of the escrow officer or loan officer. I usually contact them myself and say something like:
“Hey, I’m Andrea, the notary signing agent that will be working with your client. I just wanted to introduce myself. If you or the signer have any questions or need any additional services down the line, please let me know.”
Another way is to walk right into an escrow office or a loan office and introduce yourself. Surprisingly, a lot of notaries don’t realize they can do this. When I meet with people face to face, they’re almost always pleasantly surprised, and I think it helps establish a connection.
Now, people reach out directly to me fairly regularly because I’ve 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, which is a platform through the National Notary Association that automatically lists every certified notary signing agent in a given area.
The client is able to check out my credentials, read my bio, and see that I have a professional headshot. I asked her why she chose me, and she said, “Well, it was because of your bio, which had everything I wanted to hear — you noted that you’re a problem-solver and listed which documents you’re familiar with. You also explained the common mistakes that notary signing agents make and guaranteed that those mistakes won’t happen.”
There are other ways notaries can make themselves stand out. Showing gratitude is a big one — convey that you’re appreciative of the business that the escrow officer or signing service owner is providing you. Showing a little appreciation, even bringing lunch or a cup of coffee to an escrow officer, can go a long way. They’re very busy people and barely have time to get out of their chairs throughout the day.
In the beginning, don’t hyperfocus on the money
My goal at first was to network to build authentic relationships and gain as much knowledge about the job as possible. I recommend taking as many signings as you can in the early stages before raising your rate significantly.
My fee started out around $45 an hour, and about 3 months in, I felt confident enough to start raising my fees. Signing service owners and escrow officers noticed and had no issue with it.
If you’re just getting started, I recommend looking into notary-specific resources and platforms. To manage my finances, I use a platform called Notary Gadget that 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 plan out all of my signings.
I was shocked at how much money I get paid for doing, in my opinion, 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 don’t beat myself up for not meeting my financial goal every single month.
As long as you meet your state’s requirements, anyone can do this. I see people turning it from a side hustle into a full-blown career all the time, and that’s what I definitely plan on doing when I graduate this spring.
If you’ve successfully created a secondary or passive income stream and want to share your story, email Dorothy Cucci at [email protected].