As a new notary you may be wondering what your next steps are.  Maybe you have some sense of what to do but aren’t quite sure how to go about it.  Or maybe you’re totally lost and need some guidance. Well wonder no more because here are 10 things to do if you’re a new notary.

I get it.  There can be some confusion and feelings of overwhelm when it comes to notary information.  One thing is for sure-once you become a notary your journey is just beginning.  Being a notary involves lifelong learning.  There is always something new to learn as laws change and as what you can do as a notary expands.  It’s best to just take it one day at a time.  Do not try to learn everything all at once. 

The steps below will send you off with a good start.  Unfortunately, this list can’t possible include everything.  But these foundational steps will help you go in the right direction.

Get your Certificate Notarized

This step is listed first because it’s a no brainer!  You cannot do anything until you get your certificate notarized.  Do not take on any notary assignments until this first step is done.  You are not an official notary until your certificate is notarized.  The way you take your oath may vary depending on your state.  So be sure to check on how your state’s commissioning requirements.

Get Bonded

Not all states require notaries to obtain a bond before performing notarial acts, but many do.  Even if your state does not require a notary bond it’s a good ideal to consider it anyway.  A notary bond protects the public from any financial harm that results from the mistakes the notary may make.  An example of a mistake might be something like the notary not properly identifying a signer, or incorrect information on the certificate.  If a mistake happens, the notary bond company will pay any damages up to the amount of the bond. How much bond insurance to get depends on your state’s requirements.  To be clear, the notary bond does not protect the notary.  It is there to protect the public only.  Which brings us to the next step for notaries-get error and omission insurance.

Get Errors and Omission Insurance

Unlike a notary bond, Error and Omission (E&O) insurance is there to protect the notary.  If a notary makes an error, the E&O insurance helps with legal expenses in a lawsuit.  As a notary you will be doing yourself a disservice not to get this important insurance. 

The notary bond and E&O insurance are valuable protection mechanisms to have in place as a notary.  Both types of protection are affordable and easy to obtain.  Therefore, it’s best not to skip this step.

Take some Training

Even if one takes training to get their notary certification there’s always reason to take more!  Obtaining your notary is just the beginning.  There is so much to learn and apply.  Take as many trainings as possible.  This is especially true when it comes to becoming well versed in different notary niches

The Notary Net has some great notary training. What I like about their notary training courses is that you can take the notary training specific to your state instead of just one general notary course.  The focus is what is required for your specific state.  They also offer a Notary Signing Agent course if you want to expand your notary options.  Whether you take a course or not the success of your notary business is up to you.  Part of that success involves understanding and knowing the notary laws as well as best practices. 

Get the Right Supplies

Having the right notary supplies are crucial for your business.  The supplies should assist in making notary jobs easier.  As notaries, you cannot do your job without the proper tools.  Keep in mind that although you may save money in the longer run, sometimes purchasing the least expensive items are not the way to go.  Look at the overall pictures and think about your long-term goals and needs when it comes to choosing the right supplies. 

Get the Correct Notary Seals and Embossers

You may be wondering if you should choose a notary stamp or a notary embosser and what’s the difference.  The answer lies in your state’s notary stamp and notary seal law requirements which vary from state to state.  So be sure to check your state’s laws before purchasing these items.  You don’t want to be fined, or worse, have your notary revoked for using the wrong notary stamp, or use one that has missing information. 

The same goes for your journal.  Check your state requirements regarding whether or not you need a journal/to record journal entries.

Start Creating a Good List of Tools and Resources

As you begin your notary journey start keeping a list of contacts, companies, and other helpful information. 

For instance, the National Notary Association (NNA) has a hotline.  The hotline has counselors that can answer any questions you may have. Unless you’re a member of NNA you only get one courtesy call.  Members get unlimited access.  That’s just one of the many perks of joining the NNA.

Facebook is another great resource for notaries.  There are several quality groups on Facebook just for notaries.  Just a few of them.  They have groups for notaries in general but if you’re lucky you can also find a group specific to your state.

Contact list are also a great resource to have.  Keep a list of names and phone numbers of your favorite title companies (if you’re a notary signing agent) and your state’s Notary Regulating Agency.  The regulating agency will have great tools for you to use such as handbooks, FAQs, and other helpful information.  There are many people you will meet along the way in your notary career.  Network with those people and get their contact information.  Then actually keep in touch with them.  You never know when someone can be of help to you and vice versa.

Get a Mentor

You can join professional associations and attend conferences to find mentors.  Having a mentor is a powerful tool to have as a notary.  Make sure you find someone who’s available.  If they are constantly busy, they probably don’t have a lot of time to mentor.  You want someone who you can actually reach when you need to.  Your mentor should also be knowledgeable of the notary laws and have lots of experience under their belt.  The best way to find a mentor is to just get out and connect with others.  Attend networking events and be open to connecting.

Educate Yourself on When to Refuse a Notarization

As important as it is to gain experience as a notary when you are first starting out, it’s equally important to know when to turn down or refuse a notarization.

Do not notarize original birth certificates, photographs, and incomplete documents!

That’s just a short list to give you an ideal of the kind of situations to be mindful of and what to look out for when it comes to documents. 

Other common reasons to refuse a notarization include the signer not being present, the signer not speaking English, the signer not understanding what they’re signing/being mentally capable, and the signer not producing acceptable identification.

Remember to leave your judgement out of it.  If a notary is lawful but you just don’t agree with it, that’s not a reason to refuse a notarization. 

Use your best judgment and intuition when it comes to doing a notarization that you don’t feel comfortable doing or you see a potential red flag.  You always have the option to decline and walk away.  That option is much better than going ahead with a notarization only to find out later it wasn’t legit. 

Being a notary involves a lot more than just showing and notarizing documents.  There are laws, procedures, requirements, and best practices to know.  Subscribing to a notary newsletter if the best way to obtain information on a consistent basis and stay on top of what’s happening in notary land. 

Eventually it will all come together as you learn and gain experience.  You’ll be a pro in no time and before you know it you will be the mentor that a newbie seeks out instead of the other way around.

Happy Notarizing!

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