When Geneva Pugh was looking for a part-time job, she heard that becoming a notary public could be a lucrative source of income. She signed up for a notary class and, one month later, passed her certification test to become a notary in Philadelphia. Now, her part-time gig is earning her serious cash.
“I am a notary signing agent, which means I am also certified to notarize loan documents,” said Pugh. “Notary document prices usually range from $5 [for a] simple one-page acknowledgment to $125 for a loan document.”
If you’re looking to find additional sources of income, becoming a notary public can be a great way to earn extra cash. Read on to find out how to become a notary on the side, and what you’ll need to succeed.
What is a notary?
If you’ve ever had to have a document notarized, you know it’s a pain. You can’t just email a document and get an electronic signature. Instead, you have to drive to the notary public’s office, bring documentation with you, and wait for the notary to verify your information and stamp the forms. But that’s because becoming a notary public is a serious task.
A notary is an individual certified by the state to perform notarial functions, such as witnessing and verifying a signature on a loan application or contract. Going through all that trouble just to get a stamp might seem silly, but people use notarization to protect themselves against fraud.
Many notaries work in an office setting. Some notarize documents on top of their other responsibilities at their full-time jobs, but notaries public can also be self-employed. A notary can work with businesses or individuals, or a combination of the two.
How to become a notary
Each state has its own requirements for becoming a notary. The National Notary Association has a searchable database of each state’s guidelines and rules, so it’s a good idea to review the requirements in your location.
In general, you’ll need to complete the following steps to become a notary public:
- Meet basic eligibility guidelines: In most cases, you must be at least 18, a legal resident of the state, and have a clean criminal record to be eligible.
- Complete training: Nine states require you to take a training course: California, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Training courses usually only take a few hours and cost $100 to $200.
- Submit an application: Each state has its own application form. You will need to complete the form and mail it to your state’s office.
- Pass the test: Most states don’t ask you to take an exam, but a dozen states do require candidates to pass a test: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and Utah.
- Complete a background check: Some areas require notaries to pass a background check, and will also take your fingerprints.
- Get bonded and insured: Depending on your state, you might need to purchase a surety bond. If you make a notary error that hurts someone, the bond will be used to compensate them. A surety bond typically costs between $50 and $100.
While often not required, it’s also a good idea to consider getting a notary errors and omissions insurance policy to protect yourself. If you make an unintentional error in the course of your notary work, this type of insurance could protect you from financial or legal consequences.
The entire certification process can take just a few days or up to six months, depending on your state.
How much does a notary make?
According to PayScale, a notary public earns an average of nearly $13 per hour. However, your income can vary, depending on your location and the type of documents you most often notarize. You might be able to command as much as $22 per hour.
On top of the solid earning potential, becoming a notary public isn’t very expensive. Compared to the startup costs of other small businesses, starting your own notary side gig doesn’t need a big investment; usually, the total cost is just a few hundred dollars. However, there are some supplies you should have on hand.
“[When setting their rates] notaries should consider their time, ability to reach potential clients, and additional equipment needed,” said Pugh.
Beyond classes and certification testing, some other expenses to consider include:
- Specialized printer: You’ll need a printer capable of printing legal-sized, double-sided documents.
- Notary seal and kit: You will need your own notary seal, stamp, and kit. You can buy these items as a package for as little as $25, while more deluxe versions can cost as much as $200.
- Notarization log: Although most states do not require it, it’s a good idea to keep a log or journal that lists the client’s name, date, time, and type of document to notarize to protect yourself.
Launch a new side hustle
Once you complete the process to become a notary, you can work for several years before you’ll need to renew your certification in most states. To get started, the National Notary Association has state-specific resources and comprehensive guides to help you navigate through the process.
For more side gig ideas, check out 10 side hustles you can start this week.
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