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Here’s Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Becoming a Notary Public

If you’re looking for a way to make a little extra money on the side — or maybe even land a full-time gig with decent pay — you might want to consider becoming a notary public.

The startup costs are relatively low, the work is flexible and your new skill will give your resume an extra boost. Plus, becoming a notary public offers some pretty good earning potential.

There are a lot of ways to make money as a notary public, but the most common job opportunities include working as administrative support in an office setting or freelancing as an independent notary.

And, because there will always be legal documents to sign, notaries public (yes, that’s the real pluralization, and yes, it’s awkward) will always be in demand.

According to Payscale, the average hourly pay for a notary public ranges from $9 all the way up to a little over $21. The fees notaries are allowed to charge for particular services vary from state to state; however, in many states, notaries are allowed to charge what they like for travel fees.

What Exactly Is a Notary Public?

A notary public impartially witnesses the signing of legal documents and deters fraud by ensuring the people signing the documents are who they say they are and that they are willingly and knowingly entering into the legal agreement.

A notary does this by verifying the signer’s identity and making sure they’re fully informed and aware of what the documents they are signing entail.

Who Can Become a Notary Public?

In most states, anyone over the age of 18 who does not have a criminal record can become a notary public.

You must be legal resident of the state you are applying in, and most states require that you be able to read and write in English.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Notary Public?

Initial startup estimates range from anywhere between $100 to $500, although other expenses may pop up along the way (these could include a website or advertisements to let people know about your services).

How To Become a Notary Public

The process, qualifications, compensation and duties for notaries public vary from state to state. This is meant to be a general overview to help you on your way to becoming one.

If you decide to pursue a certification, be sure to check your specific state requirements. You may find that you have to fulfill all of the following requirements — or only a few.

Take a Notary Class

Only a handful of states require you to take a training course, although most states will encourage you to do so. You can visit the National Notary Association (NNA) website to find education and training resources by selecting your state at the top of the page and then visiting the “Training & Education” tab.

Take a Notary Exam

Currently, 12 states require potential notaries to take an exam. Exam locations near you can also be found by visiting the “Training & Education” tab on the NNA website.

Submit an Application

Fill out and submit an application. Go here to locate your state-specific application form on the “Become a Notary” tab.

Fingerprinting and Background Check

Not all states will require fingerprints and a background check. Fingerprinting may also be done immediately following the exam if you are required to take one.

Obtain a Surety Bond

Most notaries are required to purchase a surety bond in case they make a mistake that hurts someone. If that were to happen, the bond could compensate the injured person up to the limits of the bond amount. Bonds range in amount from as little as $500 to as much as $25,000 and are used to protect the people who use your services.

You’ll pay only a fraction of the value of the bond up front. For example, in Florida, a $7,500 notary bond plus filing fees would only cost you about $74 — and you’d be protected for up to four years from claims resulting from mistakes you might make.

If the bond were needed to pay for damages in case of a mistake or negligence on your part, you would then be required to pay back the bond amount in full.

You can select the “Insurance & Bonds” tab here to learn more about your specific state requirements.

Purchase Errors and Omissions Insurance

While no state requires notaries to purchase an errors and omissions insurance policy, some notaries invest in one. The bond is the first line of defense for a notary in the case of a mistake, but this insurance policy could  help cover the costs of legal fees if someone decides to take you to court.

A four-year, $25,000 insurance policy costs anywhere from $60 to $300. If someone takes legal action against you, the policy will usually cover court costs and legal fees up to the policy amount. Unlike a bond, you would not have to repay this amount, and there is no deductible.

Submit Commission Paperwork to the State

After you receive your commission certificate in the mail, you’ll need to file it — along with your bond — with your state’s notary regulating office. If you use the services provided on the NNA’s website under the “Become a Notary” tab, you may have the option to have your paperwork filed for you by the NNA, although not all states allow this.

Purchase a Notary Seal and Kit

Each state has different requirements for what tools and supplies you’ll need to purchase to begin practicing as a notary public. The primary tools are your official notary seal (or stamp), acknowledgement certificates and a notary journal to help you keep a clean record of all notarial acts.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Notary Public?

The process to become a notary public can take anywhere from three weeks to six months, depending on which state you live in and how extensive the requirements are.

In most states, once you become a notary, your certification is good for four years. After that, you will have to renew your notary certification by retaking training and exams, purchasing a new four-year notary bond or re-submitting your paperwork (or all of the above).

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder

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