On Standardized Fees

Why an Industry-Wide List of Standard Fees for NSAs is Not Available

First, that would be price-fixing and probably illegal.

Second, you’d have people who were quite happy to work for 5 or 10 dollars less if it meant they could undercut the rest of us.

Third, everyone has the right to set their own fees — we are independent contractors.

Fourth, trying to educate people on their costs so the fees they set will actually make them money is a worthy goal. It is focused narrowly enough that it does not run against any of the other points I’m making in this piece, so I support anyone who wants to help with that.

I realize many notaries want an industry-wide standard set of fees. You’re not going to get that for a host of reasons.

Please learn your own costs, do market research in your own service area to see what you can charge without losing business or breaking your state’s laws, and set your fees accordingly.

Please stop going on Facebook and other social media to ask your competitors or those in different service areas to tell you what you should charge. It’s not a question that one professional asks another who is in the same line of work.

Posted in Business, For Notaries, Notary fees | 1 Comment

How I Eliminated No-shows on Mobile Notary Work

How I Eliminated No-shows on Mobile Notary Work

1. For Notary Signing Agent work, I don’t print documents or travel to the signers unless I confirm the appointment with them myself.

Two exceptions: If the client refuses to provide a useful phone number or if the signers don’t answer, I will print and go IF the client is willing to guarantee a full fee. Or, if the client is on my A List of exceptionally good clients, I’m willing to go with a print & trip fee of no less than half the full fee.

2. For General Notary Work, the person making the appointment must understand that this is serious business, not play. While my mobile notary services are freelance, that does not mean that the service is free. So, I require that they send me certain details via text or email to confirm the appointment with me.

If it’s not for the same day, I follow up with them before I head their direction to be sure their plans & needs have not changed.

(The details I require are simple:

  • Name of the person requesting my service;
  • Name of the person(s) who will be signing;
  • Exact location where I am expected to meet them, including room number or lobby or other specifics;
  • When they want me to meet them;
  • How many documents they are having notarized; and
  • Their understanding of and agreement with my fees. )

I’ve never had all that many NSA no-shows, but I used to have regular GNW mobile notary ones. Since I added the above requirement, no-shows on mobile notary work has been eliminated.

I am sure that I’ve lost some business as a result of adopting these methods of dealing with people who seem to be unclear about the value of my time. The positive benefits have been much less frustration and wasted time and expense.

Whether these methods would work for you is a question I can not answer.

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Taking a Break from Notary Memphis

This is to announce that I have landed a full-time job.

Starting on Monday, July 9th, I will be working for FedEx Trade Networks as a customs broker.

As this is a big change from what I have been doing for the past 15+ years, I am going to have to focus on learning everything I can in order to be successful at my new job.

So, effective Saturday, July 7, 2018, I will take a break from Notary Memphis. This means no general notary work for the public and no notary signing agent work for my clients.

(I DO intend to keep writing about notary topics and it is my fervent hope that this change will allow me to complete and publish the books which I have mentioned here several times over the past. )

Once I have completed training and settled into my new job, I will decide whether I can come back to providing notary services and what my hours of service for that will be.

It has been my pleasure to serve Shelby County and her citizens and visitors for these past 20 years as a notary public and for over 15 years as a notary signing agent.

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Doing Market Research Before You Launch Your NSA Business

Notaries who are considering becoming notary signing agents (NSAs) need to do research on their legal situation and their market conditions before they launch their business. You won’t know if it makes sense to spend the money for training or certification or background checks until you’ve done this research.

While those firms that sell training and other credentials make it sound like every notary public can make good money as an NSA, the sad fact is that the 80-20 rule applies with the NSA business just as it does with every other business: 80% of all new businesses fail within the first five years and only 20% succeed to that point.

So, you want to do research in order to know if this is a strong prospect for success in your area AND to have the data that will go into your business plan and marketing plan, as planning improves your chance of being in the 20% who succeed.

Before you even start researching whether there is enough work, you need to know the legal situation in your state. This mostly means three things:

1) Know your notary laws. Get the handbook if there is one. Read it at least twice. Then look up the actual laws referred to in the handbook and read them. If there is anything in either one of those that you don’t understand, call the Secretary of State or other notary administrator for your state and ask them questions until you do. Or speak with an attorney in your state to get clear on what it means.

2) Know the limits on what you’re allowed to do in terms of real estate closings. This will not be covered in the Notary Handbook or notary laws. So, it will require more research. The good news is your local library or state government website may be able to help you.

Some states are attorney-only on real estate closings and that term does not always mean the same thing in every state where it applies. Some require a title insurance producer’s license to conduct closings. At least one state does not allow notaries to handle funds without extra licensing. You need to know what the limits are to being an NSA in your state because this is a huge part of any planning you do for your business.

3) Know the rules about privacy and marketing. These apply to all businesses and you can get into serious trouble if you ignore them. If you don’t know what NPPI or the FTC rules about telemarketing and about affiliate marketing are, you need to learn those and other related matters before you launch your NSA business.

Privacy and NPPI get some coverage in training from Notary2Pro and from the NNA. I have not seen any training on the FTC rules from the major training sources, so it’s up to you to learn this stuff on your own. Visit ftc.gov for the basics. Look for classes on these topics from your local library as part of their new business courses. Also, the nearest Small Business Development Centers may have classes on these topics; find the closest one to you on sba.gov.

Once you know the legal situation, then you can move on to market condition research.

To start your market condition research, I would suggest you check with the county recorder or register’s office and see how many loans were closed there in the past year. You may have to spend a day or more there doing research to find out, but that’s cheaper than paying for classes and then being one of the 80% of businesses that fail.

If it turns out that there’s a lot of loan closing work, then you need to figure out how much of it’s being done in-house by lenders or title companies versus how much is being done by NSAs.

If it’s not many loans or almost all of them are done in-house, you have your answer. Not every market can support more NSAs.

The lender should be mentioned in the mortgage or deed of trust, which will be recorded at the county recorder or register’s office. If the lender is local, that was probably closed in-house. If the lender is not local, they may have used a local attorney or a local title company office or an NSA to close the loan. So, you need to get familiar with the notaries involved to figure out how much loan work there may be in your area.

As you do research, make note of which notary notarized the deed. Then look them up online. You can look the notary up in the big four notary directories: 123notary, notaryrotary, notarycafe, and signingagent. If they are on any of those directories, they are probably a freelance NSA as opposed to an in-house notary employee.

Not every NSA will be listed on one of those big 4 directories, so this is not an exact count — but it should give you some idea.

Once you have enough information about the loans and the notaries involved, you can estimate the two most important parts of your market: is there enough potential work to make it worth getting the credentials? And how much competition will you be facing if you enter this market as a new NSA?

My belief is that you need a relevant background in real estate or mortgage lending or law in order to hit the ground running by working your pre-existing network for referrals. You need people who know, like, and trust you enough to refer business to you. That’s basic marketing.

If you’re having to build that network from scratch, it’s going to take a great deal of time. That means you may not be able to make more than a part-time income at first, even if your market conditions are excellent. By the time you’ve built your NSA business up to a full-time income, the disruptive effects of remote notary laws may hit.

For a five to ten year plan, consider that remote notarization means your local market will, one day soon, be competing with others all over the country.

There may be a bunch of work right now, but anyone who looks at the technology trends should realize that all these local markets with local market conditions are going to become one big market in which the only thing that most hiring firms will look at is who has the lowest fee.

Add in some title companies or platforms setting up call centers to do remote notarizations using minimum wage employees and that’s it, game over.

If you have excellent marketing skills and/or a relevant background, you may be able to make some serious money before remote notarization fully rolls out. Without those, it’s far more likely that this NSA business will be your side gig at best.

Updated October 20, 2018

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How to Land Title Company Work

How to Land Title Company Work When You Are a Notary Signing Agent
by Tim Gatewood, CNSA, PLSA

One of the most frequently asked questions seen in the notary groups on Facebook is :

How do I get work directly from title companies without going through signing services?

This may be asked by someone who was enticed into the business by marketing from a training firm that claims they will teach you the secret, or by a new notary who has read the horror stories of lowball or no pay signing services, or by an NSA who experienced those horrors themselves.

For whatever reason, they think there has to be a way to bypass all that signing agent mess and leap straight ahead to the “Promised Land of Going Direct.”

Unfortunately for the ones asking, there is no secret and there is no shortcut. The path consists of three steps.

The first step is to do research. You need to do research to learn the facts about the business you are engaged in. What facts?

  • which title companies are active in your area;
  • who the decision makers are at each title company;
  • what credentials and demonstrated skills (experience) those title companies require before they will consider you;
  • how many loans were closed in your area within the past year;
  • how much competition do you face in your area;
  • what your competitors charge when working for title companies and signing services;
  • what your price point is where you can make a profit; and
  • what your unique selling point is that separates your brand of service from your competitors.

Do NOT expect your competitors to help you. You may find some who are helpful, but most of those with the experience and training to have found useful answers are not giving that away for free.

Unless you can afford to pay for training and have the skills to do due diligence on the trainers, you may want to use the resources that are freely available in your community.

Look for help from the business section of the nearest big public library, from SCORE , from the Small Business Administration (sba.gov), and from the nearest Small Business Development Center (which you can find on the sba site). I call these the free business basics places, and the value they offer for a small business is hard to overstate.

These places all have resources to help you develop a business plan and a marketing plan, as well as to do the research that goes into the plan.

They will not teach you everything you need to know in detail, as they are not notary signing agents. They will help you as much as they are able.

Subscribe to this blog so that you don’t miss upcoming articles here about research for NSAs. Also, I will cover some of those details in my books for notaries.

The second step is to develop a marketing plan. Use the facts you found from your research and the business basics help from the free places mentioned above to create your plan.

The third step is to execute your plan and adjust your strategy and tactics as you see what works and what does not.

It is your business. You have to work it with knowledge and planning and consistent action if you want to succeed.

Also: see these articles on the American Association of Notaries site on Marketing to Title Companies — Expert Tips by Brenda Stone and Marketing to Title Companies by Phyllis Traylor; as well as my own article on this site on How to Find a List of Lenders for Possible NSA Work as many/most of the methods laid out in that article will also work for finding title or escrow companies which are active in your market.

Updated November 30, 2019.

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