How To Become a Notary Public: What To Know If You’re Looking For a Side Gig

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A notary public’s job is to witness and authenticate the signing of various documents and help state governments prevent fraud and theft. As a notary public, you can work for banks, businesses, schools or for the state government. You can also obtain your notary commission and run your own business. Here are the steps you need to take, whether you’re looking to become a notary public as a side hustle or seeking a springboard to replace the income from your full-time job.

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Becoming a Notary Public

Although becoming a notary public can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time, there are several steps you’ll need to complete. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Review Your State’s Notary Requirements

Launch an online search for your state’s notary requirements to make sure you can meet them. Some states require formal notary training and/or a passing score on a notary exam.

Type “[your state’s name] notary public requirements” into your search engine to get started. For example, in California, you must be at least 18 years old and a legal California resident to become a notary public. You must also complete a course of study approved by the secretary of state, pass a written exam and clear a background check.

2. Submit Your Notary Application

Every U.S. state, excluding those that allow attorney notaries, require notaries public to submit a notary application and an accompanying fee, which can range from $20-$120, depending on the state you’re in. You may also be able to fill out the application and submit it and the fee online. You can expect to wait anywhere from a few business days to a few weeks or more to receive your notary commission once you apply. According to the National Notary Association, it can take two weeks to six months to get your notary commission approved in California, depending on the current volume of applications.

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3. Enroll in Notary Training

According to the National Notary Association, 11 states currently require formal education or training for notaries public. Those states are:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Delaware (requires training and continuing education for electronic notaries)

Make sure that any required notary training and education you take is approved by the state where you are applying for a notary commission.

4. Secure a Notary Bond and Errors and Omissions Insurance

As a notary public, you may be required by your state to have a notary bond. Notary bonds are currently required in 31 U.S. states, according to the NNA. A notary bond is a financial guarantee that you purchase from a surety company to protect the public from any errors or omissions you make while performing notarial acts or duties that could end up causing them financial harm. If you make a mistake, the surety company will pay the wronged individual for damages up to the face value of the bond. You can expect to pay between $30-$70 for a notary bond valued between $500-$25,000.

Errors and omissions insurance — aka E&O insurance — is also recommended for notaries. E&O insurance will pay in addition to your bond if your bond does not cover the full amount of damages. However, E&O insurance only pays in the event of an honest mistake — not if you intentionally commit fraud. The amount of E&O coverage you should get depends on what type of documents you will be notarizing and the value of your assets.

5. File Your Commission Paperwork and Bond With the Regulating Official in Your State

Depending on your state, you may also have to file your commission paperwork and bond in your county once you are approved. Check with your secretary of state’s office to see if you are required to file at the local level and make sure to adhere to all filing deadlines.

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6. Order a Notary Stamp and Notary Journal

To carry out your duties as a notary public, you will need a stamp or embossing seal. Which one you should order depends on your state; some states do not allow embossing seals. Furthermore, some states restrict where you can purchase a notary stamp or seal. If you order a notary stamp as part of a package when you initially apply for your notary commission, you’ll need to wait until your commission is approved and then submit proof of your commission to the stamp manufacturer before the stamp order can be processed.

In addition, you may need a notary journal, depending on the state you’re commissioned in.

What Types of Notaries Make the Most Money?

If you’re wondering, “How much do notaries make?” or what types of notaries make the most money, being a notary signing agent is probably the most lucrative because you can make $75-$200 per appointment. As a notary signing agent, you assist borrowers in the closing of their mortgage loan by making sure all of the required loan papers are signed and notarized. Becoming a notary signing agent is often considered a notary side gig, but it can also serve as a main source of income if you have enough signing appointments. 

Takeaways on Becoming a Notary Public

Now that you know the basic steps for becoming a notary public, keep in mind that variations in requirements may exist, depending on the state where you apply to be commissioned. Also, be prepared for a delay: It could take months to have your commission approved if there is a sizable backlog of applications. And even if your state doesn’t require any formal education or training for notaries public, it’s a good idea to become very familiar with your state’s laws and government practices, which can help you avoid any errors or omissions that could cause financial harm to the public.

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Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about becoming a notary public.
  • What skills and abilities are needed to become a notary public?
    • Among the most important things a notary public needs to know are the current laws and government practices related to their duties and the documents they notarize.
  • What are the benefits of becoming a notary public?
    • Not only can you help people in your community get important documents notarized, but you can also make additional income as a notary public, such as by becoming a notary signing agent.
  • Who regulates notaries?
    • Notaries are regulated at the state level, usually through the secretary of state's office. Notaries can either be commissioned by their state or a local governing body, such as a country clerk.
  • What is the most a notary can charge?
    • Notary fees are set by each state; you can view them here. Notaries may also charge a travel fee of their own choosing; however, the signer must agree to the fee in advance.
  • What are the cons of being a notary?
    • Although being a notary allows for flexible hours and the opportunity to make up to $200 per hour as a notary signing agent, it does have its cons. Startup costs can be hundreds of dollars, including registration, supplies, training, certification and marketing. Work might also be sporadic, making it difficult to make this your main source of income. Additionally, this work requires careful attention to detail, and a mistake could result in a lawsuit, which is why notaries should purchase errors and omissions insurance.
  • How much do traveling notaries make in Los Angeles?
    • According to ZipRecruiter, mobile notaries in Los Angeles make an average of $66 per hour.

Information is accurate as of July 26, 2023.

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