Becoming a Notary Public
February 9, 2005 11:48 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever become a notary? I'm interested in making some extra money and am wondering which notary schools you recommend, what tips there are to drumming up business, etc. (This is in California).

If it matters, I'm an engineer so my work has virtually zip to do with notarizing documents. I would be working this as a part time job, no more than 15 or 20 hours a week, and not expect to be paid like I'm doing a full time job. Some notary schools have been advertising lately on the radio claiming of a huge shortage so I'm wondering how true that really is.
posted by calwatch to Work & Money (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm in Oregon so I'm not sure if it's the same BUT here don't need the schooling just pass the test and give them the fees. That being said, it's not a fun job. I've been in positions where family members were having power of attorney documents notarized and the person obviously wasn't of sound mind but I was being heavily pressured to do the notarization anyway. There have also been issues with employers expecting me to notarize documents that I didn't witness..I don't know, it was awful and I'm sorry I ever did it but like I said this is Oregon and I was working for a senior living community so....still I'd make sure that the whole school thing wasn't a scam. And forgive my grammar, I'm very sleepy.
posted by yodelingisfun at 12:34 AM on February 10, 2005

I'm pretty skeptical of any shortage of notaries and how much income a notary can bring, i consider it akin to any of the ITT tech advertisements. However, In California, there might be a rise in demand with the passage of AB 2062 which requires notaries to attend a class to renew their notary status. Presumably this would lower the amount of notaries and raise demand, but what do i know. I personally know of one company that offers notary classes and i know it's an upstanding company. (somewhat self link, my company has done tech work for goldenstatenotary)
posted by escher at 1:56 AM on February 10, 2005

I'm not sure how lucrative this might be. I would guess almost everyone on MeFi could get whatever they needed notarized for free through their bank, credit union, AAA or some other affinity group.
posted by fixedgear at 2:53 AM on February 10, 2005

the other thing to consider is that in some states (or maybe a lot of them?) the notary is required to provide services to anyone that asks it, within certain hours of the day (e.g. business hours) -- so it's also a potential annoyance.

you can also pretty easily become a justice of the peace...
posted by dorian at 5:09 AM on February 10, 2005

Something to keep in mind is that a lot of places (UPS Stores, for instance) have an onsite notary, as do banks.
Most people can get stuff notarized for free by their bank, or pay about $2 to UPS for it, even in evenings

Unless you plan on offering some advantage to the free or insanely cheap (like, going to homes, late hours) I don't know how you would make enough money on this to break even.
posted by Kellydamnit at 6:08 AM on February 10, 2005

I've known someone who was a notary, and they said they spent more on their exam and supplies than they ever made from it.
posted by jheiz at 6:30 AM on February 10, 2005

I'm a notary in WI, where the rate per document is fixed by statute at 50 cents. I've never heard of anyone charging for it.
posted by greasy_skillet at 7:13 AM on February 10, 2005

I've had things notarized a dozen times -- it never occurred to me to pay anybody. The library, the bank, my best friend and my mother -- all notaries, all free.
posted by waldo at 8:00 AM on February 10, 2005

I had a signature notarized at Wal-Mart's "Notary Shoppe", and it was like 10 bucks! (That's in Louisiana dollars.)

None of the UPS Stores or Kinkos around here had notaries, and I didn't think to ask my bank.
posted by hartsell at 9:12 AM on February 10, 2005

Think about what yodelingisfun says.

Are you good at being a stickler for details and refusing to help people when they ask?

Years ago I was required to become a notary as part of my job. It was mostly a pain in the ass. Once people know you are a notary, sooner or later someone will approach you to notarize something signed by their mother-in-law or their soon-to-be-ex-spouse, and you must refuse in those situations, or you are facing a heap of trouble. I know someone who was asked by his boss to notarize something he hadn't witnessed the signature of- and his boss pressured him a bit, this guy didn't feel comfortable saying "no" to his boss, turns out the alleged signatory was already dead, and bingo- a world of hurt came tumbling down on this guy's shoulders.

When I left that job, I let my notary public registration lapse, and haven't missed it. It's not a good way to make money, and it's mostly a pain in the butt.
posted by ambrosia at 10:32 AM on February 10, 2005

I'm a notary in Massachusetts. It did not require a test, only an application with four signatures of people who testified to knowing me, one of whom had to be a lawyer (my father-in-law signed that one). I've never charged anyone to notarize anything. My work paid the fee and bought me my seal.
posted by acridrabbit at 11:23 AM on February 10, 2005

Best answer: I just became a notary in California. I have to have documents notarized on a regular basis in my office and I was fed up with having to pay $10 a signature. The CA testing system changed just after my exam and it's slightly more complicated now, but I passed pretty easily. Due to my workload at the time, I didn't have time to focus on the manual, so I took an online study course where they guarantee you'll pass, but if you just study the book thoroughly, you should be fine. There are significant penalties for notarizing docs that you know or suspect are false, I would never take that risk and a lot of the test questions were focused on those penalties, it's taken very seriously. Other benefits to consider, it's added value for me as an employee and it looks good on a resume. You can make money at it if you want to. Traveling notaries can make a very tidy income from what I've heard. Here's a link to the gov site.

posted by Woolcott'sKindredGal at 12:06 PM on February 10, 2005

Phooey, my links never work!
posted by Woolcott'sKindredGal at 12:07 PM on February 10, 2005

I stopped considering getting a Notary commission in Ca. when I got to the bit about submitting fingerprints.
posted by obloquy at 3:16 PM on February 10, 2005

I didn't think that was a big deal personally. You're dealing with legal documents, they have to run a background check, seems fair.
posted by Woolcott'sKindredGal at 4:35 PM on February 10, 2005

Weird. Just today I discovered while at work.
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:48 PM on February 10, 2005

Best answer: I've been a notary in three different states, including California. As most everyone has mentioned, it's not really going to be lucrative for you. The costs involved to become one aren't that much, although in California, you do have to take a test and be bonded. I can't imagine it would be worth taking a class over as the materials would be available from the state.

Once you become a notary, it is for the state, and therefore, you must follow their rules and guidelines. This means the requirement to notarize any item requested, as long as it is in order and there are no conflicts of interest.

If you are looking for a "niche" you may want to look at becoming a mobile notary for loan customers. Frequently, customers must go to the escrow/title company to sign their documents and have their signatures notarized. However, there is a growing trend (at least in the state I am in now) to have a mobile notary go to the customers. They assist in completing the documents, notarize the signatures, and then return the documents to the escrow/title company. Not sure how much this might pay.
posted by cyniczny at 5:03 PM on February 10, 2005

Wow, I had no idea people actualy paid for that.
posted by delmoi at 12:03 AM on February 11, 2005

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