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October 27, 2014

The Joy of Saying NO

A call comes in from SSS (Sleazy Signing Service) asking if I was available to do a notary job. “Yes” I reply; please tell me more. The job is “precisely” 1.3 miles from your location. It has a single “tiny” PDF. There are “about” 12 pages, and we will provide a return account number for making a UPS label, at no cost to you. I am starting to get the feeling that this is a bottom fisher, but am curious as to the location. Where is the signing to be done? They give a location in the middle of Manhattan, the absolutely worst place for traffic. Mass transit also goes there but the service is quite slow and the waits for bus or train are lengthy. The subway train is faster, but the platforms are not air conditioned and it’s like standing next to a pizza oven.

“Shall I send you a confirmation and the docs?” You can, but first you need to understand how I run my business. I am the seller of the service and set both the price and the payment terms. My fee is $150 (much more than I usually charge, but I had a bad feeling and wanted to get rid of this particular SSS); and that is payable within the next 10 minutes on my site, via PayPal, prior to my printing of the documents.

We don’t work that way, we are willing to pay $40, and you will have to include an invoice when you return the completed documents and we will send a check during our next disbursement cycle; are you interested? No. I didn’t hear you, please repeat what you said. No. Dial tone.

Of course this is an extreme example. Their offer of $40 would entail at least 2 hours of effort, and the expenditure of over a gallon of near 5$ fuel. You know the components of doing any notary work. Calls, printing, travel, record keeping, trip to UPS, dunning for peanuts (in this case), etc. What I can’t understand is the (feigned?) surprise at SSS when I declined their offer. Are there notaries out there who will jump for any lowballer offer? I sure hope not.

However, NO is not always the best answer and you can’t say that “perhaps” or “maybe” you will take the assignment. But you CAN tell them you will be accepting the assignment – AND – will be checking their reputation. If you find they have a negative or no reputation, you will be requiring that they pay “up front”. Some might never mention that process, and will choose to do their “credit checking” as soon as they can get to a computer. If they have a good history, just do the job. But, if they have a bunch of negatives – call and “require” payment in advance.

Back to the fee amount. You know what you must charge to earn a living. Isn’t it about time that you put your foot down and declined lowball offers. Some notaries are out there taking the low fees; and the SSSs in this world have endless phone time to find them. Are you fed up with finding on the HUD that the SSS received $250 and your share is $75? I work with several very honorable Signing Services that take 25$ to 50$ “off the top”. But I always receive the majority of the fee. The reason you don’t is that you have trouble saying NO. Practice, look in the mirror and repeat NO NO NO – I refuse to allow anyone to take advantage of me.

I’m sitting at my PC typing this for you. I am exceedingly happy that I do NOT have a toxic receivable of $40 to chase after putting in 2+ hours in midtown traffic. I prefer to try to influence my fellow notaries to just say NO to the lowballers. You can do it, think: NO NO NO. After you decline the first lowballer you will feel great, and will be ready to “dump” the ones that follow.

.

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The art of the decline — to new Notary jobs
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September 22, 2014

Cattle call Notary offers

Cattle Call Notary Offers
Do you Moo? Actually it’s more of a sheep call than a cattle call. Cattle are rather large and both genders can be a handful when riled, ask any cowhand. I would have preferred to title this blog “Sheep Call Notary Offers”, but the commonly used term will suffice, and it worked to get your attention; as you can’t deny that you are indeed reading this. Sheep are wonderful animals, so gentle and trusting. They baaahh a bit when you shear their wool, but that’s the extent of their complaining. Unlike cattle that like to roam individually, the sheep tend to herd together; they are so easy to manage! I’m sure some are aware of “leg of lamb” and “mutton chops”, but they choose to ignore their ultimate fate.

I just received still another of the Sheep Call notary offers. It has the usual “we pay xx$”; really? I love our free market democratic form of government. There is nothing wrong with some firm sending me a solicitation to buy their product for xx$. But the reverse offends me. By reverse I am referring to solicitation for my services that try to price set for me. They got it back asswards. It is the seller who sets the price and the payment terms. With my notary services I, not they, am the seller. I set the price and payment terms. To put it bluntly, it’s my way or the highway.

My name is http://kenneth-a-edelstein.com not “Undisclosed Recipients”. My self image, regular readers already know this; is more like a Lion than a Lamb. Many prefer to deal with docile manipulateable sheep. I know, when the rent is due you are against the wall and tend to shed your Lion’s attire for a cloak of wool. The callers are very astute at voice reading and want to be able to control their notary. Sometimes to a level of detail that goes beyond the offensive. If you absolutely must “play lamb” for a while, so be it. But work quickly at formulating a plan that allows you to shed the wool and return to Lion attire.

Back to the offensive solicitations. My general response is to state my fee and that I am available for the assignment. I add that PayPal payment is required prior to printing the edoc. That is a real “turn off” to the bottom fisher. Actually I find my response much more efficient than asking for an “unsubscribe”. I don’t want to be bothered, or offended by receiving such tripe. Truth to tell, sometimes I step a bit “over the line” in my response. I have a cute cartoon graphic called KMA.JPG. Sometimes I send it as a response to cattle calls. The acronym’s first letter stands for the word “kiss”. If you want a copy just send me an email. It would be great if all notaries sent the soon to be infamous kma.jpg in response to these lowballers.

Sure we are all notaries. But, poise, character, image, and deportment differentiate us. Your feeling of self worth, backed by your training and skills are what sets you apart. The fact that you are a member of 123notary.com is a strong indication that you, unlike most notaries; really know what you are doing. There is a good chance that your 123notary.com listing is the reason that you were included in the email directed to the flock of sheep. But, show them wrong!

Frankie Valie and the Four Seasons recorded “Walk Like A Man” (or Woman) and that is what you should be doing. Cattle / Sheep call emails are mass attempts to demean notaries. They are an offer for bottom dollar, collection grief, late docs and an extended lesson in being micro managed. The only thing these people deserve is what the herd leaves behind when it passes.

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September 15, 2014

How much is a notary?

How much is a Notary?
If I had a buck for every time asked that question; I wouldn’t be writing this. Rather, I would be on the beach in Acapulco admiring the views. Unfortunately, silly questions are not combined with revenue. I often give the “plumber” example. If you called a plumber and said that you had a water leak, with water on the floor; and asked how much to fix the leak – he, as I, would require more information to give you a reasonable answer. There are many notary services that are available. Some are relatively simple and quick to perform. Others involve complex and time consuming procedures with lengthy travel.

The question seems to come from two distinct groups. The major group is the unknowing, who for the first time require notary services. They are often unaware that a mobile notary fee will be greater than when they go to the bank. Perhaps they are not unaware, choosing to ignore that you will be expending time and resources to go to them. They have a mental image of the notary processing whatever they have, for a very modest fee. After all, they are getting “just a notary”.

The other group is magicians, expert at sleight of hand. They have used mobile notaries often; and are well aware of the components that add to a notary fee. They define one document as all the pages of the same loan. When needing 3 notarizations, they fail to mention that the signers are in separate and often distant locations. Despite my best efforts at not being conned, yours truly is often sucker punched. I give my lowest base rate for a single notarization at a not too far address. They gave me the street address. Unspoken was that the address turned out to be the UN building with a very extensive security procedure, much more so for my large bag of notary supplies – almost an hour to get past the long line and inspection. Ouch. You get the picture.

The absolute best defense is to get the specifications via email, along with the location. On the phone they had “a document” but the email says “documents”; get clarification. I make it very clear when I confirm receipt of the PayPal payment that it is for the work previously agreed. Any additions, extra “copies” or extensive (over 15min) wait time will be billed separately in cash. A small increase is to be “absorbed”, being petty sours the client. What often works is a base fee for travel plus a per notarization fee. This works best when told there will be “many” documents to notarize. Fine, my fee for going to you is, and my per signature notarized fee is. Please PayPal me a retainer based on a dozen notarizations; that can be augmented with cash later.

Oh, and add to my order a henway. The usual response is: What’s a henway? About 2 pounds. I know it’s an old joke. But has an analogy to “How much is a Notary?”. There is a delicate balance between protecting yourself and “turning off” the prospective client. It’s a difficult, almost impossible situation when the admin assistant calls for their boss. My boss needs some documents notarized are you available? A question or two yields nothing, they were just asked to have a notary “show up”. There is danger here. Unless you have fee agreement prior to travel; you risk a wasted trip and a very angry client. Better to not book at the moment and ask for a follow up call with the necessary details.
Turn “How much is a Notary” into your image of being a competent professional, well equipped to meet their needs for a fair fee. When “pay up” time comes, neither side should be surprised.

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September 1, 2014

$30 loan signings. Is it worth it even in the best of circumstances?

Believe it or not, there are companies out there offering signings for $30 and $35. Can you believe this? The nerve of some people to offer a notary such a small amount of money for such a huge headache. Even if you are signing only one document, the headache of trying to send documents back, invoice, get paid, and schedule is simply not worth it.

I remember that when I was a notary I did an assignment for $30. It was a single document. I actually got a few assignments like this. When I did regular mobile notary work for offices, I would charge about $35, but they would pay me cash on the spot. There was no waiting for payment or wondering if I would get paid. It was immediate gratification.

Back when I was first starting out in 1999, Nation’s Direct gave me signings for $30. But, I was not expected to walk the borrowers through the loan. One of their staff members did it over the phone. All I had to do was notarize a few signatures and wait for their phone call to end. It was not the best pay, but this is how I got started in the business, so I don’t regret it. But, if I was offered this type of pay now, I would have a fit!

Even if a $30 signing is within a mile and is only a single document, is it worth it? Maybe if you are really hungry. Maybe it is better than not getting any offers at all, but most notaries would rather that the phone just doesn’t ring.

Tweets:
(1) Believe it or not, there are companies out there offering signings for $30!
(2) The nerve of people to offer a notary $30 for a signing!
(3) Most notaries would rather that the phone just didn’t ring

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Signing services take a proportion of the notary fee
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August 2, 2014

Signing Services take a portion of the notary fee

It is a well known fact that signing services take a portion of the notary fee. Some take most of it, while others only take a fraction. It is very bizarre how so many companies work on such different margins. I remember when I was in the game back in 2004. One company charged $250 and paid $75. Another company did business based on volume and charged $90, but paid only $50. This was in the days before e-documents were popular. Once in a while you can read the HUD and find that a company is charging a whopping $400 for signing fees. They might claim that part of that is for Attorney or processing fees, but I don’t buy that.

One borrower saw some outrageous notary fee on the HUD, and asked the notary how much he got from it. The notary replied that he got enough to get something on the value menu at McDonalds. The borrower didn’t like that crack much.

Notaries feel that it is not fair that they get such a small percentage of the fee. In business, there is no “fair.” You take it or leave it. If you are taking it, then that is your non-verbal way of saying that is the best you can do, and it is therefor fair. Take it or leave it. To be able to leave it, you need to have a steady stream of better offers.

Notaries always complain about bad offers. But, it is like a girl at a dancehall. If she gets 19 bad offers, but 1 good one, the good one is all she needs. On the other hand, if another girl got three bad offers and complains about them, the problem is not the bad offers, but the lack of good offers.

If you are not an experienced notary with excellent skills, you don’t merit high pay! Become an expert, pay your dues, master the art of communication, and then you might get better offers. Only 2% of the notaries on 123notary are top notch, and they are getting most of the good offers!

Tweets:
(1) It is bizarre to see how signing companies work on such varied margins ranging from modest to highway robbery!
(2) Notaries feel that it is not fair that they get such a small percentage of the notary fee on the HUD

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October 24, 2013

He made $35,000 a month his first year in business?

He what? He made how much? Am I dreaming? Who is this guy?

I just got off the phone with him. I will not disclose his location or name for his privacy. I just talked with a gentleman who has multiple listings on 123notary.com. He says these listings bring him so much business that the phone is ringing off the hook and he is reeling in the business. But, $35,000 a month? He says this is his first year in business. He hires people on salary to drive around and do signings. He pays for the car and other expenses himself and pays them an hourly salary (not big bucks, so don’t get your hopes up). The sheer volume of business this guy is getting is amazing.

Honestly, from talking to him, he sounds like a very cool guy, and very motivated. He fits the profile of a winner in my book. But, still, this type of success is unprecedented in someone’s first year. I understand that the market is picking up for notaries, but still. We have another gentleman who is running a very similar type of operation and very successfully. He has notaries in four or five states and pays them on salary. He gets business right and left and has a huge staff in the office and in the field.

So, if your business is not all it can be, think about what the personality traits of a success story are. There are many successes on 123notary, and you can be one of them. Be an up beat person who gets the job done and doesn’t create obstacles for others. If others create obstacles for you, then create systematic policies for dealing with these problems instead of complaining. Remember — winners find solutions. My idea is to try to adopt the mind-set of someone whose business is off the hook, and that will help you be one of the notaries who is on your way to a huge success!

Tweets:
(1) He bought 8 listings on 123notary.com, hired people to do signings for him & made $35000/month!
(2) If your business could be better, think about what the personality traits of a success story are.
(3) Be an upbeat person who gets the job done and doesn’t create obstacles for others.
(4) If others create obstacles for you, then create policies for dealing with these problems instead of complaining. Winners find solutions.

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September 21, 2013

$10,000 per month on a bad month

I just got off the phone with a notary who is doing really well who advertises on our site. Business has been better for most notaries recently, but not as good as for this husband and wife team. I will not mention their names or locations to protect their identity.

I talked to them about their renewal. Since our prices can go up or down for a particular position at any point in time, some notaries complain about their new price. If the price goes up, they argue and try to reason with me about how it was less last year. If the price goes down, then they think I was cheating them last year. Either way they get upset and criticize me.

This husband and wife team had a different approach. He said something to the tune of — You doubled my rate, but that is okay! Your site is amazing. We get almost all of our business from your site. I don’t know how you do it. We are making more than $10,000 a month in our notary business.

I was flabbergasted. I had heard the story of the new notary company making $35,000 per month which was an amazing story. But, now another notary making six digits. Unbelievable! So, my faith is renewed in a mobile notary public’s ability to make the type of living that makes other people drool.

Please take this blog entry as an opportunity to take a leap in faith that YOU can make six digits in your notary business. Yes, you have to do everything right, but you can do a bang up job, right?

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February 18, 2013

What does a notary charge in 2013?

What does a notary charge 2012?

Notary fees vary across state lines, and vary depending on what type of notary act you are having done. Acknowledgments and Jurats are by far the most common notary acts. Please see our find a notary page and then look up your state to find out the notary prices / notary charge or charges for common services. Prices published are 2012 notary prices.

Please keep in mind that notaries on www.123notary.com are normally mobile notaries (traveling notaries) and will want to charge a travel fee for coming to your office, home, hospital room, or jail cell. Travel fees vary person to person, but notary prices per signature or per notary act are set by your state in terms of maximum allowed fees. A notary may not charge more than the maximum state notary fee, otherwise they can get in trouble.

If you need a quote for what a notary charges, just ask particular notaries on our database.

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April 12, 2011

Pricing for notary work: different strokes for different folks

Pricing for notary work – different strokes for different folks
 
Notaries argue endlessly about what to charge and what others should charge.
Some notaries wish that there could be a set fee in the industry for certain jobs.  That is not legal or possible.  Other notaries complain when low-ball signing companies offer them work for $40 or $50 which is better than nothing.  Many notaries complain that they did lots of work and didn’t get paid, which is a very serious issue.  So, what should you charge and why?
 
What fancy signers do
I know of many signers who will not leave the house for less than a particular set fee.  One notary public I know will not leave the house for less than $150, while others will not leave for less than $125.  They figure that they have to put up with getting dressed nicely, traffic, borrowers who want to take forever reading, lenders, and then trying to get paid.  It’s just not worth it for less.  But, these notaries have something that some of the rest of us don’t always have:  something to keep them busy during the rest of their time when they are not doing notaries.  If you rely exclusively on mobile notary and signing agent work to keep you busy, you have to take almost every job that comes your way. If you sell insurance, real estate, or have some other type of job, then you can pick and choose what type of notary work you do.  If the company has a bad reputation, or doesn’t pay enough, or if the job is even one mile outside of your coverage area, you have the luxury of saying no.
 
Additionally, many high-priced signers will not leave the house to notarize single documents for less than $50 travel fee no matter how close the job is.  Finding notaries who are available, close, and answer their phone is hard, so you can often get high travel fees if people can find you.
 
FYI: Notaries who are in the high price range generally have experience and finesse to back up their high prices. They are normally very reliable, well trained, well dressed, and have good business skills.  Those of us who don’t have all of our skill sets polished will have trouble commanding such high prices for signings.
 
What desperate signers do
Anyone who is not a convicted felon can be a mobile notary .  This profession is open  and easy to get into which means that there will be a lot of competition and a lot of newbies who will do anything to get work.  Some people become mobile notaries who are successful in what they do, but prefer the free lifestyle. Others get into this because they have mouths to feed, and this is the only way they can think of to sustain themselves.  Desperate signers are often new in the business, lacking experience, and are poorly trained.  They will often not be certified by 123notary, or NNA.  They will not know what they can get away with charging, and the quality of their work?  Who knows?  Desperate signers will work for $40 per signing, do fax backs, drive long distances paying a lot for gas, and then often not even get paid.  We wish these desperate types would consult us.  We would tell them to research all companies before working for them.  No matter how hungry you are, working for somoene who won’t pay you doesn’t make sense. You would be better off at home twiddling your thumbs.
 
What makes sense
We have another notary blog entry that goes over the components in price computations.  Its very complicated and goes over many factors. The biggest factor is how desperate you are.  If you don’t have enough work, then you need to become a regular for more companies.  It makes sense to accept lower paying work until your schedule is filled slightly more than you can comfortably handle.  Once you reach that threshold, then raise your minimum a notch or tighten your radius a notch.  Supply and demand is the ultimate deciding factor in what you charge.  No set fee schedule or recommendation from a friend can help you here.
 
Should I mention what I charge in my profile?
As a general rule, we say no.  Notaries change their pricing all the time, and with all the variables, you would have to write a novel to document exactly what you charge. Its easier if someone just calls and asks.  The low-ball companies call (bother) everyone, so you won’t be left out by them. The high-payers start with the top of the list and gravitate towards elite certified folks.  Changing your notes section to include fees doesn’t get you at the top of the list or elite certified, and won’t increase your business by much if at all.  Companies who know what you charge will still bother you to offer you jobs at half of what you charge. 
 
Marketing Marketing Marketing
The main thing to remember is to market yourself well. If you have a bigger net, you catch more fish, and then you keep the ones you like.  Even if you are busy, having more offers doesn’t hurt.  If you can take more jobs from companies you like, and decline jobs from companies who are less than your favorites, that is a beneficial way to go.

Tweets:
(1) Notaries argue endlessly about what to charge & what others should charge. Here’s what the pros do!
(2) How much is it worth to get dressed nicely, deal w/traffic, wait for borrowers who want to take forever, lenders & then try to get paid?
(3) The notary profession is easy to get into which means there’ll be lots of low priced competition!
 
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Pricing formulas for mobile notary work. 
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March 9, 2011

Pricing Formulas & Time Spent

Pricing formulas – time spent?
 
At 123notary, we help notaries try to understand the components of pricing.  How hungry you are for work is the most important factor, but time spent is another.  It is not always straight forward to understand how much time a job is going to entail.
 
Traffic
If someone asks you to do a job late at night, you might not like it if you are not a night owl.  However, there is usually no traffic at night after 9pm.  If you live in Los Angeles or NYC, you will be very happy to avoid traffic for once.  If it were me, I would want more to go out during rush hour, especially if the job is far away.
 
Miles?
Not all miles are created equal.  A job 100 miles away on a highway in Montana might be only slightly more than an hour and twenty minutes away. You can go 75 over there.  But, what about a job that is five miles away on congested roads. Some roads seem to always be congested.  Don’t bill based on mileage unless you are forced to by law ( and some states have fixed mileage rates for notaries travel fees ).  Charge the mileage based on how long it will take you.
 
More signers or more notarized signatures?
I used to be the fastest notary this side of the Pecos.  I could do ten signatures for four signers in less than thirty minutes.  Thats a total of 40 signatures and five pages of journal.  I was fast and furious.  But, long sets of documents, or extra notarizations take time.
 
Is the lender missing a few marbles?
Some lenders do not adequately inform their borrowers about the documents or the numbers in the loan.  These days, the laws are more stringent for lenders to keep their borrowers informed about the specifics of their loans.  If a particular lender always has loans that go smoothly, while another lender always gives you nightmares, that costs you extra time which needs to be incorporated into the formula.
 
Unknown company?
Always background check all companies who want you to work for them.  Look them up on our list of signing companies or use your i-phone / android to visit www.123notary.com/S.  Visit our forum or the notary rotary forum.  If you don’t know a company, you can read what others have experienced with them.  You might charge more if working for an unknown company simply because you don’t know what to expect.  Unless they have a well documented track record with others, you don’t know if you will get paid either.
 
Jails
Jails are tricky.  I would not go to a jail until you have read our blog about jails.  You need to make sure the inmate is where they are supposed to be and that you have ID, and that your contact person shows up on time. There is a lot of coordination and waiting that goes on with jail jobs.  Charge accordingly!  10-20% of the time with jail jobs you will not get paid due to lock-downs, no-shows, and ID problems, so incorporate that into your fee too.
 
Hospitals
Hospital notarizations are almost as tricky as jails, and sometimes more tricky.  Travel time to the hospital is the same as to any notary job.  But, waiting time is a constant.  People in hospital beds rarely jump up to see you, produce their ID, and are ready to go!  They are generally sleeping or drugged when you arrive and don’t know who you are.  They have forgotten that their niece is having them sign a document.  Getting them to sit up could take 20 minutes, and bring the book, “Zen and the art of holding a pen” with you — you’ll need it.  Some of the signers can not move their own arm without shaking the pen up and down the page.   If you want to do hospital notariations, please read our blog first so you will know the ins and outs (particularly the outs).  Charge a lot extra for this type of job, because they will have no qualms about keeping you there for hours without compensating you. 
 
People in hospitals, regardless of whether they are nurses, patients, or family members of patients have a very different time consciousness.  They are there for hours and nothing happens.  They are conditioned to the idea that things happen slowly.  If it takes thirty minutes to find a pen, and forty-five minutes to find an ID which isn’t even current, thats fast for them.  A New York minute might take three hours in a hospital.  Try to make sure the hospital folks have their document ready, and current identification in their hand before you get in your car.  I would charge 50-100% extra travel fee for hospitals to incorporate waiting time.  You might tell them that if you are kept waiting, there is a fee for each 20 minutes you are kept waiting.  The first 20 minutes is free, but after that waiting fees must be paid at the beginning of each 20 minute period and that the travel fee must be paid at the door before you even go up the stairs. 
 
On a brighter note, after being in business for a few years (or decades), you will eventually meet a few people at hospitals and jails who actually respect you and your time (no guarantees).  You might eventually meet people who show up prepared without you babysitting them.  Its possible!  So, think positively!
 
Remember — charge for your time, hassle and risk.  Don’t let people take liberties with you, and be prepared and educated about all normal notary situations.
 
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Jail notarizations from A to Z
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Components of pricing formulas
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