Training For Notary Signing Agents – Part 1

Training for Notary Signing Agents – Part 1

There is a saying in the writing world: “If you can’t find the book you want to read, you must write it yourself.”

So, whenever I see people complain about the available training for notaries who want to move into the notary signing agent (NSA) business, my first thought is “Why aren’t they creating the training they want instead of complaining about what someone else has created?”

After all, if you can’t or won’t learn from the training that’s available, going on social media to complain about it is a very poor way to introduce yourself to potential clients and customers, especially if your biggest complaint was that you found it boring or that it put you to sleep.

Just consider that the signing assignments that this training is meant to prepare you for aren’t exciting like sky-diving or bungee-jumping. Being a notary signing agent is all about doing paperwork. If training to do the paperwork puts you to sleep, maybe doing the paperwork for a living is not right for you.

On the other hand, there appear to be NO outside reviews available of the training that is mentioned most often, so it is easy to see that people may be disappointed because they did not have a realistic set of expectations as to what they were buying.

So, please join me as I begin a series that takes a look at Training for Notary Signing Agents. This article is intended to be an overview. If things work out as I hope, you can expect to see more in-depth pieces in the days and weeks to come. Today, we will look at the NNA, N2P, and the LSS.

National Notary Association logoThe National Notary Association  (NNA)  certification and background check is accepted by many lenders & title companies, including most of the largest firms, and many signing services require it from their NSAs.

This is because the NNA has been in existence for several decades; they partnered with the American Bar Association to write the first model notary law and several revisions to it; that model notary law has been accepted in whole or in part by the majority of the states; and the NNA has used their longevity & perceived expertise to develop relationships with major players in industry and government. So, the NNA brand carries value to many of those firms that we NSAs want to work with.

Getting training, certification, and a background check (your credentials) from the NNA is a marketing decision, as it makes your efforts to market to those firms far more effective.

The NNA used to provide a list of signing services & title companies, but stopped doing that a few years ago. Even so, you will find NNA certification and background checks listed as a requirement on the sign-up pages of many firms that show up as you do research for potential clients on 123notary, NotaryRotary, NotaryCafe, and other sites.

In addition to credentials, the NNA sells supplies, memberships, books, and their annual convention.

(Disclosure: I have been a member of the NNA off-and-on since 2001 or 2002.)


While Notary2Pro (N2P) has only been in existence since 2009, it has one focus: training notaries to be as successful as they can be. The certification and background check offered by N2P are accepted by a sizable list of the firms, and the list is in the graduates area on their site. (N2P does not sell a background check directly, but they do offer a link to a discounted one in their graduate’s area on their website. They do not sell supplies or the other stuff that the NNA sells.)

Currently, it seems thast more firms accept credentials from the NNA than from N2P. Of course,  that could change — and the list in the N2P graduates area is screened by them to weed out those with known issues (such as whether they pay on a fair & prompt basis).

While getting credentials from the NNA appears to be mostly about marketing, N2P is reported by many notaries to be a far better educational experience — one that also offers a marketing advantage with that list of vetted firms.

(Disclosure: I took the TRID class and exam from N2P and am currently enrolled as a student with them.)


Recently, some notaries on Facebook have been bad-mouthing both the NNA and N2P and their classes.  Some of these notaries are touting the Loan Signing System (LSS) by Mark Willis, who runs a signing service.

The LSS website mentions both six figure and seven figure incomes, which makes me wonder if he’s conflating / confusing what a signing service might make if they have a large enough pool of NSAs taking lowball fees with what an NSA can make if they follow his training. I don’t know any NSAs who make 100K per year gross (the minimum six figure income), let alone a million dollars per year (the lowest seven figure income). So, those income numbers are a huge red flag to me, warning that he may be selling false hopes.

You can look at the LSS website yourself and see how it compares to the offerings from the NNA and N2P.

My first question is:  Who accepts the Loan Signing System course certificate?

The LSS are big self-promoters, with their ads popping up often online, but I have never heard anyone explain why they would spend money for certification if it’s not going to be accepted by firms you want to work with.

My second question is: Where’s the Return on Investment (ROI) for that expense (of taking the LSS training)?

One notary stated that they didn’t take the LSS class to help with marketing and their ROI was the education they received. This attitude struck me as evidence of a lack of knowledge of business basics. So, please bear with me as I address that.


I agree that education is a value, but that does not make it part of the Return on Investment of your business. Education is a form of personal skills enhancement, which is only a ROI if it makes money for your business.

Skills can lead to ROI if they help you improve your income or profit as a result of those skills, but they are not part of the value of the business. (They may be part of your personal value. Whether and how that translates into more income or profit for your business is not always clear or certain).

Many skills are not helpful in terms of ROI because the person holding them does not know how to (or fails to) market them as a benefit to customers or clients.

If the customer or client does not see the skill as a benefit to them, they are very unlikely to pay for it, because people only rarely pay for features — they pay for benefits.

If your enhanced skills don’t lead to more income or profit, the return on investment was nothing — and the investment was wasted.

Some skills are not helpful in terms of ROI  because they simply don’t relate to what the business is about. Taking a class in customer service while you are an attorney or a legal secretary would be an example of this, as it does not relate to the day-to-day work of a law firm. A better option might be a membership in a professional organization that offers multiple ways to get trained in legal work.

So, my take on ROI is that it only counts if whatever you get out of your investment boosts your bottom line. Maybe you can’t offer a dollar-for-dollar, straight line connection between the investment and a better bottom line, but if you can’t draw at least a crooked, dotted line between that education and increased income or profit, the return on the investment you made in acquiring the education is not there.


For more on ROI, please see here: Entrepreneur Encyclopedia on ROI
and here: Investopedia on ROI

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I am a Writer 

I am a Writer. 

This means I get ideas from all over the place and I write down those that interest me, as well as those I find helpful or educational or truthful.

If you ask me a question or challenge my thinking or point me toward a resource, don’t be surprised if I write about it. 

I’m happy to avoid mentioning you or what we discussed in what I write IF you ask and if the discussion was in private. 

I won’t  quote you without asking permission first unless you’re a public figure whose quotes are published already.

I won’t plagiarize anyone’s published works.  

I do and will respect copyright and the fair use doctrine. 

Otherwise, anything that passes in front of me is fair game. 

This is how writers operate and I am a writer. 

#amwriting 

(I will cross-post this to all of my blogs,  just so that everyone who follows me gets the message.)

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Some Perspective on Notary Signing Agent Fees 

When I became a notary in 1997, the National Notary Association  (NNA) was sending out promotional materials to every notary they could find, selling their services. I don’t recall when they started promoting the idea of this notary signing agent (NSA)  business, as I did not respond to their marketing letters.

It was years later when I became an NSA,  after we had one handle our refinance signing. She directed me to signingagent.com for info.

Back then, that domain was owned by the National Association of Signing Agents (NASA), who offered a book (in 3 ringer bind form) on being an NSA. The NNA bought them out less than a year after I joined them.

Both (the NNA and the NASA) were talking about $60 to $80 for refi closings with overnight packages and $90 to $100 if you had to print the docs — and title companies offering (so they said) $150 to $250 per closing IF you could qualify to work directly with them.

That was in 2002. A lot has happened since 2002.

Inflation, though small on an annual basis, has continued to push the cost of living up. Expenses for being in business have gone up. A great many signing services & title companies & lenders went under, both before and after the 2008 mortgage meltdown hit. Fees being offered have gone down, not up.

Bigger banks and lenders have merged, so there are fewer of those now & the ones that remain can be more picky about whose services they use. New local & regional banks that have come into being to fill the niches not taken by the bigs are less likely to need our services or to know we exist.

This makes marketing far more of a challenge and a chore than it was back when fees offered were better.

The loan packages have gotten larger, too. Where it used to be common to see 100-120 pages for a refinance,  now they often run 170 or more pages. Reverse mortgage packages have also gotten bigger. This adds to the expense and time required to do a proper job with the signing work.

The NNA stopped talking about ranges of fees, perhaps due to price fixing concerns, perhaps due to pushback from title companies and others, perhaps due to complaints from NSAs who failed to get that range of fees.

Despite all this, the NNA and others continue to promote the business, so new people are entering the field all the time. Meanwhile, Snapdocs has given a large number of signing services and title companies a platform that does for them what signing services used to do — while charging them a fee for that platform, a fee that gets deducted from what they would have offered us before “Snapduds” came along.

Add to this remote notaries, state-specific laws or rules on fees, legal concerns about price fixing, and reasonable concerns about being undercut by competitors  — add all that to the mix and very few people who know what they’re talking about want to tell you what to charge. Or give you a range of fees.

Any fee offered is not automatically too low. Any fee you suggest is not automatically too high. It depends on what the scope of work is and how much competition you have in your area.

If it’s a smaller package (under 100 pages) and/or there are many established NSAs in your area, you may have to take a lower fee just to get your foot in the door, especially if you’ve not figured out how to find work beyond the lists of signing services that everyone gets access to through 123notary, NotaryRotary, or other sites.

If we’re all competing for work from the same list of companies, sooner or later they will try lower fees.

Also, you need to understand some facts about signing document packages, including the fact that not all packages are the same scope of work. Your fees should be based on your scope of work, your expenses and time in providing that scope, and market conditions in your service area.

If your market is already saturated with NSAs, you may never be able to make a go of this business until some of them leave the business. That’s something almost no one says, but it’s true.

For some NSAs, this can not be more than a part-time side gig because their service area has too many established competitors.

For those in that situation, they may not “see” the true costs for each assignment, as these costs will be spread out over a long time (wear & tear on printers and computers and vehicles don’t show up daily).

The short answer is that the NNA was really the only company that gave a list of fees & they stopped doing so years ago. We are not going to tell our competitors what we charge. You need to figure out the fees that work for you. And we need to adapt to the changing market so it doesn’t matter what you charge.

You can’t make it up with volume if your per unit costs are more than your fees. That’s the bottom line.

None of us can say what your per unit (per signing assignment or per appointment) cost is, though, so we can not tell you what your minimum fee has to be in order for you to make a profit. And only you know how much profit per hour is an acceptable income to you.

I’m working on an article about calculating your expenses, but you don’t have to wait for my article to get started on setting your own fees.

I suggest you go to sba.gov and see what they offer in terms of mentors through SCORE. Also use that site to find free local classes through the Small Business Development Centers. Don’t overlook online learning on that sba.gov site itself.

Use those resources to learn how to calculate your costs of doing business. Estimate your expenses until you have six months or a year in;  track them and see what they are. Then you’ll know what your fees need to be. If you’ve been doing enough work and learning from the work you’ve done, you’ll also have a track record of experience, which will make it possible to begin finding & marketing to better-paying firms.

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Where is the Reliable List of Deadbeat Firms ?

One of the questions that comes up often wherever notaries gather online is, “Where can I find a list of deadbeat (low pay/ slow pay/ no pay) firms to avoid?”

There are lists, but they’re almost always based on reports from one or two people who had an issue. The few I’ve seen not based on this very small sample were unsourced (no one is saying where the list came from or why the firms are on it.) 

Speaking just for me, I don’t consider those reliable lists for the following reasons. 

Maybe, the problem is the notary didn’t follow instructions, including notifying them when the signing closed or sending an invoice by their deadline. 

Sometimes,  the notary didn’t understand that the signing service pays on a 1st and 15th basis, which may mean it’s almost 60 days before they get paid. 

Perhaps, the firm tells people they will be closed for a period to move to a new location & will re-open on x date and the notary gets impatient. 

I have seen people claim that a firm was deadbeat because they did the work “almost a month ago,” which just shows they don’t know that most signing services pay at the 30 day mark and then you have to wait a few more days for the check to arrive in the mail. 

Tip: You should always confirm what the firm’s payment schedule is when you take them on as a client. Write it on your printed copy of the work order so you know when to expect payment. 

I have also seen many posts where someone reported payment issues with a firm whose work and payment history with me stretches back several years and there are no blemishes on that history. 

So, their “deadbeat” firm may be my A-List client. Your Mileage May Vary — their experience doesn’t match mine, so is the problem with the firm or the notary? Or has something changed at the firm recently?  It’s difficult to tell. 

For all these reasons, you need to see why the firm is being labelled a deadbeat. Any list not backed up by a forum where notaries report what happened (so you can evaluate their claim that it’s a deadbeat firm) should be taken with a huge grain of salt. 

Brenda Dey recently started a new group on Facebook called Deadbeat Signing Companies. Perhaps, she will be able to do what many others before her were unable to do and produce an updated, fact-based list. (Even if she does, it’s still subject to the limitations mentioned in this article.) Her group has received enthusiastic support in its first few weeks & it is getting a good bit of participation. You can find it here  (Deadbeat Signing Companies) if you’re on Facebook. 

One reason that you don’t see any commercial sites offering a list of deadbeat firms is the very real legal concern about “restraint of commerce” that’s involved when people advise others to not provide services to a company. 

As various people  have pointed out, there’s a line between reporting your experience or adding your ranking to such a report and telling people to refuse to do business with the firm you’re reporting on. Somewhere in there, it becomes restraint of trade or interference with commerce or other things that may be a crime. 

Then there’s the question of libel that may arise if a firm believes you’ve gone too far in your online report. 

You will find lists where notaries can rank firms on NotaryRotary and 123notary, but that’s the notaries doing the ranking and it’s just as unreliable as any other list. 

What all this amounts to is this: 

There is currently no reliable-without-issues list of deadbeat firms

NotaryBeware tried to create one, but they have never been as big as NotaryRotary,  123notary, or NotaryCafe and they don’t seem to care about advertising or SEO,  so most notaries and NSAs have never heard of them.

Bottom line: you need to know how to do your own research on your potential clients.  

If you Google the signing service or title company, forum posts from NotaryRotary, 123notary, notarycafe, and such will often come up, although sometimes they show on the second or third page of the Google results. You can read those forum posts without joining the forums,  generally. 

Posts and groups on Facebook only show up when you search on Facebook (not on Google)  and posts within groups may not show up even in Facebook search if it’s not a public group and you’re not a member of the group. 

Files in groups on Facebook only show up when they’re first uploaded, so it is worth taking the time to look at the files area of every group you’re in at least once a month to see if you missed anything useful or educational. 

As with most things having to do with your small business, you should not expect to have the answers simply handed to you in a free list. You have to do your own research and put any prospective clients through your own qualifying process, just like other businesses do. 

Every time you take on an assignment,  you’re extending credit to your client (unless you get paid in advance, which almost never happens). So, you will want to know how credit-worthy your clients are when you accept assignments from them. And it’s a good idea to limit how much work you accept from a new client who does not yet have a payment history with you. 

Sometimes, you will get burned. There’s no way to extend credit without that happening. But you can minimize how often that happens by doing your own research on your clients. 

Reports from other notaries can & should be part of that research. And, if you find a properly-sourced list that matches up with your experience, there’s value in using that list. Just don’t assume your experience will be the same as other notaries. Your business is your own. 

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What Notary Signing Agents Need to Know About Document Packages 

Recently, another notary asked me to rank the following jobs in order of difficulty: Full purchase, reverse mortgage, cash deal, HELOC, loan closing, Loan application. They said all the client sites asked them for their fees for each type and they needed to know how they rank in order to decide on their fee list. (They did not ask me what to charge, for which I was grateful, just how I would rank them.)

I see this as part of the question of what do notary signing agents need to know about document packages, so please bear with me as I attempt to answer this in two parts.

Part One. The Packages

I’m going to assume “loan closing” in this case refers to a refinance, not a new loan (as purchase closings are already mentioned). In my experience, regular Refis are the standard package. Everything else on this list falls above or below Refi closings in terms of time and expense and effort involved.

So, here’s my thoughts on how they rank.

Reverse mortgage closings take the most time.

Reverse mortgage applications take more time than other applications.

Refi applications can take less time than anything else on the list or they can take more than a HELOC, depending on circumstances that vary from lender to lender and signer to signer. That said, I would probably rank the loan applications  as least difficult.

Cash purchases (“cash deals” on their list) where you’re doing only the seller side take less time & are smaller packages than purchases where it’s a buyer who’s borrowing the money to buy.

A “full purchase” may refer to doing both sides (seller and buyer), which could make it more time consuming than a reverse mortgage closing or about the same as that. If they mean just the borrower side when they say “full purchase,” then it’s about the same as a Refi, maybe a bit smaller as you don’t get a right to cancel on a purchase and any non-borrowing spouse may not be signing as much (if anything).

Regular refinances fall between reverse mortgages and purchases, both on page count and time at the table.

When I see “edocs” as a separate item on  these website lists, I leave it blank. That refers to documents emailed to you for you to print in duplicate, as opposed to them sending the documents overnight to you or the signers. It’s rare now for title companies to overnight documents, so you should assume you’re going to print 2 sets of anything they send you and that means edocs are already included in your fees, right?

There are other packages not on their list.

For example, there’s REO — that’s rental or investment property or property owned by a lender. Those closings can be small or large,  depending on the lender and title companies. I treat them as a Refi in terms of fee, unless my client tells me the page count is really low (under 60 pages).

There are also some other types of mobile notary work not seen as often, including debt consolidation, loan modifications, deeds in lieu of foreclosure, home repair loans, and others. These are generally small packages and the documents included in the packages are often not seen in the other types of packages, so you will need to research them to know how to present the documents to the signers.

Finally, there’s commercial property loans, which will need their own article.

Those are in general. Different lenders and different title companies will have their own preferred documents to include, so a Refi package can run from 60 pages to over 200. I quote a fee based on 100-150 pages. If it’s significantly more or less than that (and I decide when it is, based partly on how good a client they have been to me), then I contact them about adjusting my fee. They usually know when they assign it if it’s a small package, but may not know if it’s extra-large.

Part Two. The Fees

After over 15 years in the notary signing agent business, I offer the following  suggestions when it comes to negotiating your fees for these various types of work.

You should have a standard print fee that applies up to x number of pages, but that only comes into play if the signers don’t complete the signing and your client wants to pay only a print & trip fee, not your full agreed amount. Otherwise, printing the edocs is included in your quoted fee for the assignment.

You should have a standard trip fee for this, too.

You should be sure you know which type of work it is before you agree to do it.

You should know if it includes faxbacks, as that is extra work and may mean you can’t ship it the same day it’s done.

You should always ask them “what can you tell me about the package?” And then listen to their answer.

If they don’t know a page count or a range, quote them a fee and tell them “that’s up to x number of pages  (whatever you’re willing to do for that client for a standard fee). If it’s more pages, I’ll be back in touch for a fee bump for the extra work.” Then listen to what they say.

If they won’t agree to a fee based on the scope of work, then you have to decide if they’re a good enough client to take the assignment anyway — or if you’re willing to roll the dice and hope it’s not huge. If not,  just tell them you can’t do it without more info. Only you know when to take a chance on being stuck with a huge package for not enough pay.

Other than that, business basics apply. Know your expenses. Keep records of your interactions with each client or potential client so you know whom you need to follow up with and whom you need to avoid. Post your income and expenses into whatever system you have for accounting or bookkeeping and run regular reports from that to see how your business is doing in terms of achieving your goals. Do regular research to find new clients and to see whether their reputation is good enough for you to want to work with them, as well as names & contact information on specific people to develop relationships of trust with at your targeted firms. Develop your skills and  credentials with ongoing training and certifications and reading.

And so forth. Get help with the business basics from your local library, the Small Business Administration, Small Business Development Center, or SCORE.  You can find those last three at sba.gov.

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