How My Notary Service Works

So many people call me with questions and many of them boil down to one: How does this notary thing work anyway?

Here is my answer.

How My Notary Service Works

It begins when you decide whether you want to come to me (to a location that I pick) OR you need me to come to you (to a location that you pick).

If you are coming to me, there is no trip fee, just a notary fee. My notary fee is $10 per document during the week (Monday – Friday) and $15 per document on Saturday. I am off on Sunday (except in the event of an emergency).

If you are coming to me, I generally meet signers at either the Taco Bell on Knight Arnold  (5320 Knight Arnold Road — on the corner of Knight Arnold and Mendenhall) or somewhere else nearby.

Sometimes, I am at another location when the call comes in and we will agree on a place that is near where I expect to be at the time you choose.


If you need me to come to you, you tell me an address and a date and time and, so long as I don’t have a conflict, I will be there.

Reasons for conflicts would include:

  • it is too far away (I cover Shelby County, Tipton County, and Fayette County);
  • it is outside my jurisdiction (I am a Tennessee Notary Public, so I can only notarize while I am in Tennessee);
  • I have another appointment that would prevent me from being there when you request;
  • the signer is locked up (I do not offer notary services to jails or prisons); or
  • you refuse to pay my trip fee and notary fee.

My trip fees are : $20 for anywhere in Shelby County*; $45* for anywhere in Tipton or Fayette County. The trip fee is in addition to the notary fee and is only charged if I am coming to you to a location of your choosing.

(* My trip fees are normally $25 for Shelby County and $50 for Tipton or Fayette County — I am running an October  Special on trip fees to celebrate passing the certification classes at Notary2Pro and the NationalNotary Association.)


All fees are due in cash at the time of service. If I am unable to notarize for you after coming to a location that you picked, you will have to pay my trip fee. I only charge a notary fee if I actually notarize your document.

Whether you come to me or I come to you, each person signing the document must have an acceptable form of i.d. unless I know them personally.

Acceptable forms of i.d. in Tennessee include:

  • driver license,
  • non-driver i.d. card,
  • passport, or
  • military i.d. card.

The i.d. has to be current (not expired) or issued within the past 5 years; it has to be valid (no holes punched in it, etc). It must have a photo and signature and the usual dates and serial number on it.

A Tennessee driver license without a photo is acceptable only if the driver is above a certain age, as Tennessee issued over 150,000 senior driver licenses without photos and they are acceptable.

So, if you want an appointment after reading all of this, you just see my Contact page and let me know when and where. When you contact me, verify that you  have a valid, unexpired, acceptable i.d. for each person signing the document and that you have the complete document and my fee. I will reply back and let you know if there are any conflicts. You bring your i.d., document, and the cash for the fee and we get it done.

 

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A Notary Signing Agent Wears Two Hats

Julie in her Notary hat

A notary signing agent (or NSA) wears two hats, which is another way to say you fulfill two roles while on an assignment as an NSA. Sometimes, the client will cause these roles to conflict with each other.

First, you are a Notary Public — This is your primary role. As a notary public, you must follow ALL notary laws, other relevant federal and state laws, regulations, and other standards for proper notary procedures. If you don’t know what is expected of you as a notary, you need to get some good training before you offer to be a notary signing agent or NSA.

(I posted about notary standards in a recent article here on pushback. Also, I am doing a series of articles about training for notary signing agents; you can find them all here: training.)

Second, you are a Signing Agent – This is your secondary role. As a signing agent, you must follow instructions of your client in so far as they don’t conflict with your role as a notary public. This means you can give industry standard descriptions of the purpose and function of the documents, but not explain the contents of a specific document in this specific package or otherwise act as a paralegal or lawyer, unless you are one. You can use some of the expertise you acquired from your training, your research, your experience, and the instructions from your client (or the title company or the lender) to point the consumer toward specific details in documents if they ask about those. You can not answer “what does that mean?” or “which choice should I make here ?” or “why is it this amount?” or “is this a good deal?” questions, as those are beyond the scope of the role of the signing agent.

Julie in her Signing Agent hat

What these two hats mean is that you are a notary public on every notarized document and the standards of being a notary public apply. On any non-notarized documents, you are only a signing agent and the instructions of your client apply. Even on the non-notarized documents, you have to keep in mind that you are not there to advocate for or promote one “side” or another in the transaction, as doing so would violate the impartiality standard required of all notaries public.

As a notary signing agent, you are there

  • to verify the identity of the signer(s),
  • to be sure they are signing freely and willingly on any notarized documents,
  • to admininster an oath or affirmation when required by the document or the notary certificate, and,
  • if they do choose to sign the documents, to walk them through the package, making sure they follow any instructions you have been given on how to sign, initial, and date the documents.

If your client’s instructions say you can not alter any document without their permission, this does not apply to correcting the venue or the contents of the notary certificate when they are wrong, as you have full authority to make corrections to those elements by virtue of your commission as a notary public. This should be understood by anyone who contracts with a notary public — that the notary is required to follow notary laws, rules, ethics, and other standards first, and that this includes making those corrections.

If your client’s instructions conflict with the standards of being a notary public, their instructions can not be followed and you should inform your client when this is the case. Although you may sometimes be tempted to just go ahead and do what you need to do as a notary public and hope they don’t object, there may be problems with that approach to the conflict.

Correcting the venue or replacing a notary certificate that does not comply with the laws of your state are generally not going to raise an issue, but even those have been the cause of pushback from some clients who are under the mistaken belief that the way their office does things is the only acceptable way they can be done.

So, informing your client when their instructions conflict with the standards of notary practice in your state gives you an opportunity to avoid objections after you have done the work (which may result in you not getting paid or being shorted if they bring in a less-knowledgable notary to “fix” what they believe was your “mistake”). It also gives you a chance to decline the assignment if it becomes clear that they insist their instructions take precedence over the law and other standards of notary practice.

A reasonable and well-informed client will issue instructions that do not conflict with the law and other standards of notary practice. It is always best to seek out and work with such clients — and avoid working for those who are unreasonable or not as well-informed. Client demands can be trying at times, but any demand that you violate the standards of notary practice should be refused.

 This article could be seen as a follow up to one I wrote several years ago on my least favorite comment from clients: No Other Notary Had a Problem with That. 

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No One Has Ever Sent It Back

No One Has Ever Sent It Back — Thoughts on Pushback

One of the more frequently seen comments in online groups where notaries gather goes like this: “I’ve always done it this way and no one has ever objected or sent the document back.”

This means the commenter may believe that lack of pushback is a standard for what is an acceptable practice.

I would humbly suggest that pushback is a worthless standard for proper notary behavior. I say this for five reasons.

1. If you’re right,  people who don’t know that or who were taught differently may or will still object. Notary groups on Facebook have frequent posts about this very situation in which the notary did exactly what they’re required to do by the laws of their state yet the person who received the notarized document insisted that it was wrong.

2. If you’re wrong, they may not know it because they were taught the same as you (or neither of you were taught & you’re just dealing with what’s in front of you in the simplest way that you can see — simple does not mean it’s right).

3. They may think what you did was wrong but lack the knowledge of how to contact you to object, or the desire to confront you about it. Or they fear that they would face an argument from you if they did object. Or they lack the ability to raise an objection because of issues you are not aware of.

4. Making the lack of pushback your standard of what is right ignores the much better standards that already exist, most of which carry serious consequences if they are ignored. These better standards include:

5. Pushback or lack of pushback is no excuse for ignoring the law or regulations or any other actual standards of behavior that exist for being a notary public. Pushback is no defense against the consequences of violating the law or the other standards mentioned above.

If you follow those standards from the top of the list to the bottom, you will be far less likely to run into problems in the future for anything you do today than if you go by “well, no one has ever objected or sent the documents back to me.”

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Some Suggestions on Business Basics 

One of the big issues people face when starting or running a business is lack of knowledge about business basics. Most businesses fail in the first five years and a major reason this is so is the founder’s lack of knowledge. 

You can have all the motivation, passion,  skills, and intelligence you want, yet still flounder and fail if you don’t know how business operates, how to plan and execute your plan, how to adapt to change and track your results, and how to deal with legal responsibilities, among other matters. 

Those who have looked at records on this have generally found that 4 out of every 5 new businesses fail during those first few years. That’s 80% (which makes this one example of the 80-20 rule in business). 

If you want to be part of the surviving 20% and to thrive and prosper and grow, the best place to start is to learn business basics.

You don’t have to go to college and get a business degree to learn business basics. Here are some free-to-use places where you can find education and help.

The Small Business Administration has excellent resources at sba.gov. 

SCORE has good information, including online and in-person mentors, at score.org

Your local public library likely has an entire department dedicated to business, and, if so, there will be books, videos, lists of websites, free access to databases for market research and other purposes.

There are Small Business Development Centers in most parts of the country that offer free classes and many of the other items mentioned above as possibly  available from your local library. Find the Small Business Development Center closest to you on sba.gov.

YouTube has many videos on business basics topics and Google and other search engines can lead you to many pages full of information on these subjects such as:

  • starting and running a business,
  • freelance business, 
  • small business, 
  • marketing,
  • collections,
  • contracts,
  • bookkeeping, 
  • prospecting for and qualifying leads,
  • Customer Relationship Management or CRM, 
  • ethics,
  • state and federal laws and rules,
  • best practices for your chosen type of business, and
  • how to do research to find answers to any question you may have about your market area or competitors or anything else. 

There’s always Amazon if you want to pump up your personal library of books or ebooks, as well as abebooks.com for printed books and many other sites for ebooks.

I will have a bibliography of useful books in my own books when they are published, if such a list interests you — and your local librarian can help you compile your own list in the meantime.

As far as doing your bookkeeping,  I currently recommend either Quicken For Home and Business (which works like a check register on the home side and like a business register on the business side) OR QuickBooks. Both of those let you set up invoices, then you can track so much of what your business is doing with all the reports you can generate. There are YouTube videos on how to use QuickBooks.

Others have recommended similar programs or the apps Notary Assist or Notary Gadget, but I haven’t used either of them, so I don’t have any personal experience to offer on those. If that changes, I will report on it here. 

When it comes to online resources, not everything is free AND ready to use. Most things take work to make them useful for a specific person or business or situation.

If it’s ready to use as is, you should expect to pay for it, either directly or as part of a membership or other package. 

If it’s free, you should expect to spend time adapting it to your use. 

This applies to lists  (you have to vet each firm yourself), forms, samples, documents, suggestions, tips, etc.  

Everything you do in your business is a matter of taking what’s freely or cheaply available and adapting, processing, and applying it to your specific business — at least until you get successful enough to buy something customized already or big enough that off-the-shelf makes sense for your company.

I hope this will help you get a start on learning the basics of business.

Whatever you do, get some training or educate yourself on business basics before you quit your job and dive into being a freelance notary public. Even if you simply offer some general notary services on the side of whatever else you’re doing, knowing business basics will give you a huge advantage in your career.

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Training for Notary Signing Agents – Part 3 

Why I Recommend the Classes at Notary2Pro

When you compare the classes and certification offered by the National Notary Association (NNA) with that offered by Notary2Pro (N2P), there are distinct advantages and disadvantages for each. My current recommendation is that you take both, as each is worth more than the cost. And each has their own approach to the facts, techniques, and tips that you need to be the best NSA that you can be.

If you can not afford that, take the NNA classes first because you need their background check for many of the firms that are hiring notary signing agents.

So, that leads to the question  — why would you want to take the N2P classes after taking the NNA classes? Here is why I recommend that you do that.

The NNA does not offer a list of hiring companies (signing services or title or escrow companies) that you can register with. Being signed up directly with any hiring firm gives you a leg up on those who are just listed on an outside database such as signingagent.com or any of the other directories. When a hiring firm needs an NSA, they start with who is on their internal list. If they fill the order that way, they don’t bother with outside directories. So, signing up directly with a firm is a very good idea.

Also, the N2P list is vetted, so you don’t have to spend time checking each entry out with your own research to see how their reputation is with other notaries before you sign up with them. (You can still do that research and it’s a good idea to at least search them on Facebook for recent negative posts — but a vetted list is rare in this industry in any case. )

The firms that do find you on the NNA directory at signingagent.com are NOT vetted by the NNA or anyone else. So, every call you get from there *could* be a deadbeat firm. 

That means you need to quickly do research on every new client you get from the NNA’s site to be sure they have a good reputation — or take a gamble on them being slow pay, major hassle, no pay, fee-cutting for little or no reasons, or otherwise not worth your time.

Having your own list also moves you from passive marketing (where you’re waiting for them to find you) to active marketing (where you have found them, qualified or vetted them, and are working on building a relationship of trust with them). The difference between passive and active marketing is huge in terms of results.

Finally, there are downloads on the N2P site that are not on the NNA site; the basic package on N2P includes their training for Verify I-9 (a firm that does not do their own training, so N2P graduates who take this training get called first for assignments from them); and there are discounts and access to experts on the graduates site, etc.

For all of these reasons, I recommend that you take the Notary2Pro classes. See my earlier articles about Notary Signing Agent Training (especially part 1 and part 2 of this series) for further details on these firms and what they offer — and please subscribe or follow this blog so that you don’t miss upcoming articles where I go deeper into comparisions between them, as well as how they compare with the newest educational system making a splash in the NSA business, the Loan Signing System.

 

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Training for Notary Signing Agents – Part 2

As notaries continue to grapple with the best way to spend their limited funds on education, we are asking questions to get an idea of what would work best for each of us.

One question that came up recently was do the classes from Notary2Pro provide the information to pass the notary signing agent exam from the National Notary Association?

While these are competing educational systems from different companies, it is not an unreasonable question, as both cover the same overall topic.

As I am still working my way through all of the offerings at N2P and the NNA, I am not ready to post my detailed reviews of each. In the meanwhile, here is my response to that question.

Reading the Signing Professionals Workgroup ebook and the freebies on the National Notary Association (NNA) site will provide the info to pass the NNA NSA exam  — but you will have a hard time applying the info without either the NNA or the N2P class or both. Simply taking the N2P NSA class and passing their exam will get you graduate status with them, which gets you the N2P Certification and access to their list of vetted firms and discounts on stuff from various places. The NNA has no list of firms.

Carol Ray (of Notary2Pro) has stated that the NNA will let her (N2P) graduates skip the NNA NSA exam and just pay $65 for the background check. Even so, I recommend spending the  $99 with the NNA and take the Notary Essentials class and NSA Continuing Education class and their exam, as that gets you priority listing on signingagent.com.

If you can’t afford both, start with the NNA and come back to get the N2P classes as soon as you can, if for no other reason so you can access that list of vetted firms.

I spent the $99 with the NNA and got their Notary Essentials class (which I found to be an excellent refresher course on notary basics — I wish it had been available when I became a notary 20 years ago); the NSA Continuing Education class (which covers a good deal more than I expected — be sure to get all the downloads available under the Resources tab that shows up while you are taking the class); the NSA Exam (30 questions based mostly on the NSA class and the SPW ebook which you will download from that Resources tab); and the background check that so many of the signing services and title companies require.

I took both NNA classes and the exam over the course of one day and passed it. Then it was a matter of waiting for the NNA to send me the link to their background check provider, ordering the background check and waiting for that to come back, then for the NNA to update their system to show that I was certified. To give you and idea of the timeline for that, I paid the $99 last Thursday and my updated profile on signingagent.com went live this morning (8 days from start to finish).

The NNA does not offer a list of potential clients (N2P does for its graduates) and your profile on the NNA signingagent.com site will be seen by firms that have not been vetted, so you will need to do your own research on anyone who calls you from your NNA listing.

The other option that I can speak of from personal experience is Notary2Pro. They have a $135 package that includes an NSA class, exam, and Basic, Advanced, and Reverse Mortgage classes. Once you pass their NSA exam, you are a graduate, which gets you access to their graduates website. That site contains a list of vetted firms (some signing services, some title companies) that they say will accept the N2P certification and don’t require the NNA certification. You will still need to pay for an acceptable-to-each-client background check, which the NNA one generally is.

N2P offers discounts on various helpful stuff, also.

Be sure to download everything in the N2P Library and in the download area on the graduates website.

For the one time price, you are certified for life by Notary2Pro and you get lifetime access to the graduates area — but only 3 full months and one partial month access to their main site (with the classes and exam).

The videos for Notary2Pro are on YouTube, so you can get a taste of Carol’s teaching style by looking for them there. Here is a link to an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vb4CNCMvimI

Both the NNA and N2P have additional services available for extra cost.

The third firm that I have seen many notaries speak highly of is The Loan Signing System by Mark Wills. I hope to take their class next month and will have more to say about it after that.

Meanwhile, I am working on a series of articles about notary training. You can see those and other pieces of interest to notaries on my website here (at notarymemphis.wordpress.com)

I passed the Notary2Pro certification 2 weeks ago, which gives me the professional title of Professional Loan Signing Agent (PLSA). Then I passed the National Notary Association classes and exam 1 week ago. Now, I have cleared the NNA background check and they have updated their system, so my profile on signingagent.com is live, which renews my title of Certified Notary Signing Agent (CNSA). That makes two certifications as a notary signing agent completed this month. YAY!

Next up is to take the remaining classes on N2P and download everything there and register with all the firms on the N2P graduates site list of potential clients. If I am not swamped with business in October, I plan to take the Loan Signing System classes then. Once I have finished up with LSS, I will write and post my articles about all three of these educational systems.

Here is a link to my profile on the NNA site

Tim Gatewood – Trained, Background Screened, and Certified Notary Signing Agent by NNA

Here is a link where you can confirm my PLSA standing with Notary2Pro: Tim Gatewood – Professional Loan Signing Agent by Notary2Pro

2017 National Notary Association badge - Trained, Background Screened, Certifed Notary Signing Agent

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