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May 12, 2014

Do you have to be a CSS to get work these days?

CSS = Certified Signing Specialist

Notaries are complaining that there isn’t enough work. Early 2014 has been brutal and late 2013 was horrible. Things just died around September 2013. But, the new laws are making it worse. I don’t know if the laws about this topic are being enforced, but I heard that signing companies would be required b law to use a CSS unless they couldn’t find one.

A CSS is someone who passed a yearly background check, and passed a new much harder signing agent exam that is up to government standards. The NNA administers this type of education and 123notary does not. 123notary has its own certification exam for signers which is very basic and proves basic competency to think under time pressure. 123notary’s certification exam gets signers a lot more work on 123notary and is good for the life of your listing, but is not recognized on other sites.

Notaries are asking me if they absolutely have to spend the several hundred dollars each year to get this new designation. My thoughts are that only a few hundred notaries will spend the money and take the time to get this advanced, but necessary designation. The others simply don’t make enough income from notary work, or don’t have the skills or motivation to do it. The result of this across-the-board stubbornness is that non-CSS Notaries will still be necessary simply because there will be so few CSS Notaries around. Signing companies will not have a choice when things get busy and will have to hire those who didn’t go through the CSS program.


Those who do go through the program and spend the $300+ will get a larger market share. Whenever you have a designation that others don’t have — whether necessary or not, you get more work. 123notary’s certification has never been officially recognized by anyone, yet those who have it get more than double the work than those who don’t on our site in comparable positions on the search results. Those who have the CSS which in contrast to our informal certifcation IS necessary will get a much bigger market share. In a dead market, a bigger market share might not look that great. But, things change. Notaries tend to base their decisions on today and tomorrow. If you get an important designation and renew it regularly, you will have it three years later when the market picks up and you will be the one raking in the bucks while others are trying out new recipes for Ramen noodles (the one with the slow-cooked pork belly is actually not that bad.)

Are you in good hands?

(1) Notaries are complaining that there isn’t enough work. But, w/o your CSS you might not get any!
(2) I heard that signing co’s would be required to use a CSS unless they couldn’t find one!
(3) So many OTHER notaries are too stubborn to get the CSS designation, so you might survive w/o it.
(4) Do you really need that annual background check? You might get a better market share if you do.
(5) For those who don’t think they need the new CSS designation, we have some good Ramen recipes for you.



  1. I am one of those notaries that was contacted by the new Service Link/ Black Knight company regarding a yearly background check. Luck would have it that I paid the NNA for a background check that was supposed to last for two years. When I contacted them they gave me this year for free. And, yes I had to take the test again. To date, I have not received any work from SL/NL or any other signing company. It’s a good thing that I do not count on this job to pay the mortgage! Hang in there guys, times are about to change!

    Comment by jarvis Williams — May 17, 2014 @ 4:49 am

  2. This is a soft look at the commercialized NNA’s monopolization and control of loan signing work. It’s a squeeze play on the notary workforce and they are winning.

    Comment by alan — May 17, 2014 @ 7:36 pm

  3. What irritates me is that a number of my clients have asked for a background check….not certification, just a background check. I spoke with NNA and told them I didn’t want to pay for needless training, I just wanted their background check. I paid $99 and got the report. Now, however, those clients wanting a background check will not accept what I have…they want the actual NNA certificate. This sounds to me like perhaps the clients are receiving some sort of kickback from NNA to force us to pay for the training? I’m lucky that I do not count on my notary business to put food on the table, so I’ve decided for now anyway not to give in to this monopolistic practice. I can understand the need for a background check, but even the free Lexis/Nexis gives information on criminal activities, etc….so there is no reason to require one specific product, other than some under the table payments(in my opinion). This is something that needs to be taken to the legal system. If enough of us refuse to do this, perhaps they will have to reconsider!

    Comment by Steven Merrick — May 18, 2014 @ 6:01 pm

  4. My only quibble with what has been said so far is this: where are you getting the figure of $300 for a background check and certification from the NNA? I checked with them about a month ago and they quoted me a price for NNA membership, NSA Section membership, BGC and Certification as $128.00. While that is still more than I want to spend, it is less than half of the $300 you mentioned in the blog post — and close enough to the $99 that Steven Merrick mentioned that I have to wonder why he did not get the entire package for just $39 more. Unless the NNA is giving different quotes to different people, which is possible but not something I have heard of them doing (yet).

    The feds have passed some new laws and the CFPB and the OCC have issued regs — the background checks are not just the NNA now. The industry is changing — again. You had best adapt and keep up or you will find yourself not making any money in this field.

    Comment by Tim Gatewood — June 4, 2014 @ 5:19 pm

  5. I originally had a 2 yr. background check with the NNA then subsequently was told by several signing companies that I needed a newer one (1 yr.) so I contacted the NNA and recertified by taking the exam and obtained a new background check. I guess these companies are trying to comply with the changing federal reg’s …………..only time will tell how it all shakes out ??

    Comment by Jim Brown — July 8, 2014 @ 1:03 pm

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