There is no easy or definite answer but based on my experience over many years, I have the following suggestions.
First and foremost, don’t immediately say YES when you are asked if you are available to do a notary signing.
The first question should never be, “how much are you paying”? Instead ask informative questions.
When (day and time) do they need it, what type of signing is it (Loan, refinance, POA etc), where is it and how many signatures are being notarized?
If you are comfortable with the answers you get on the above questions even if you don’t get all of the answers, then proceed with getting further details.
Who has the documents? If they are going to email them to you, when is the latest you can get it? Do you need to print one or 2 sets? Do they want you to fax or scan & email them back or drop it at a FeDex or UPS office? I always tell them to email the borrower a copy of the loan documents so they can review them ahead of time and not waste your time reading all of it and ask you questions when you get there for the signing.
After going through your questions, now is a good time to ask them how much they pay for the notary signing and for you to negotiate. You know the distance, date, time and hopefully number of signatures to be notarized. You need to know how much your time is worth and is it worth driving 1 hour for $75 or $150. Be prepared to let them know your reasons for your fee. In Los Angeles, the traffic can set you back 2 to 3 hours depending on where and what time you are traveling. What revenue are you giving up during the travel time otherwise known as Opportunity Cost?
I was recently blindsided when I accepted a notary signing for $250/-. On the surface it seems like more money than the average signing. The two critical mistakes that I made are not finding out definitively if the loan signing is for California or out of state and total number of signatures to be notarized. Out of state loan documents especially New York require more notarizations which require that you prepare California Acknowledgments or Jurats. Never assume that the number of signatures notarized are generally the same at around 4 or 5 for loan signings. The number of signatures I notarized was 30, not including numerous signatures and initials. Without the traveling fee alone, I could have charged up to $450/-. The signers wanted me at their house on the west side of Los Angeles at exactly 6 p.m. because it was convenient for them. That is rush hour and I spent an hour and one half on the freeway and only got there at 6:30 p.m. and offered my apologies to the signers.
As I drove back at 8:30 p.m., I reflected on how I can avoid repeating my mistakes. Although I asked for the number of signatures to be notarized, they told me that they did not know. Going forward, if I was told that they did not know the number of notarizations, then I would confirm via email that the mobile fee is good for up to 6 signatures and anything more they will be charged an additional $15/signature notarized. Next, I will not accept any assignment that will force me to drive during rush hour. If they insist, I will charge an additional fee depending on how long I expect to be stuck in traffic. If they don’t want to pay, that is fine. They can find another notary but at least I am valuing my time and they will know it.