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This in-demand side hustle pays up to $200 an hour and doesn't require a college degree

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One of the most lucrative side hustles is also one of the longest-standing.

The earliest evidence of notaries dates back to 2750 BC in ancient Egypt, where these chroniclers verified official communications including proclamations and tax documents. 

Notaries, or notary publics, witness and authorize the signing of important documents, like passport applications and real estate contracts. 

While the essence of their job remains the same, the profession has since evolved to include notary signing agents, or notaries who specialize in property records and loan documents — an in-demand service that people are willing to pay a lot of money for. 

Most notary publics can only charge what their state dictates; notary signing agents, on the other hand, can charge more for handling sensitive mortgage or loan packages, often on tight deadlines.

The gig is often flexible, and you can earn as much as $20,000 a month as a part-time agent, according to the National Notary Association

Here's how to start a side hustle as a notary signing agent. 

Becoming a notary signing agent can take less than a month — and doesn't require a degree

The requirements for becoming a notary vary from state to state, but generally, the process includes the following steps:

  • Send an application and fee to your state's regulating office
  • Receive your verified commission documents in the mail
  • Take your oath of office

To become a notary, you must be at least 18 years old. There are no educational requirements, but some states, including California and New York, require notaries to take a training course and pass an hour-long exam. Other states might also require you to pass a background check and file a surety bond as part of the process (you can check your state's rules here). 

To become a signing agent, Kat Garcia, the senior manager of content strategy at the National Notary Association, recommends taking a loan signing training course and passing a second exam that is compliant with the Signing Professionals Workgroup, the industry workgroup that dictates professional standards for signing agents. 

Although no exam or training is required for signing agents beyond the general notary process, a training course and a passing score on an exam are "smart ways to prove you've been formally educated in the complex process of mortgage closings," according to the National Notary Association. 

The process to become a signing agent can take anywhere from 4-9 weeks, Garcia adds, depending on how quickly the state can process your application. 

The startup cost is under $1,000

Generally, notary signing agents need three supplies: a notary stamp, a journal for keeping a record of your notarizations and your notary commission, which is an official license to notarize from the state. 

The startup costs to become a signing agent can range anywhere from $250 to $500 or higher, depending on your state's requirements to become a notary, says Mark Wills, the owner of Loan Signing System and a signing agent of 21 years. This includes the cost of any notary/notary signing agent courses, exams, background screenings, supplies and application fees. 

Signing agents can make up to $200 per hour

Since many states cap the maximum amount a notary can charge per signature, signing agents make the bulk of their profit from loan signing fees for additional services or expertise, Wills explains.

For example, you can hire a signing agent who will meet you at your home or office for the appointment, in which case, the agent can charge a per-mile travel fee. In addition, signing agents may add clerical or administrative fees to their final bill. 

Loan signing agents are typically paid anywhere between $75 and $200 per hour-long appointment, says Wills, and will most often work with real estate agents, loan officers and escrow and title companies. 

To find clients, Garcia recommends the following: 

  • Network with real estate agents and mortgage brokers. These professionals often need notary services for their clients.
  • Advertise your services online. You can also create a Google Business profile or website to promote your services.
  • Become a member of a notary signing agent association. This can help you connect with other notaries and learn about industry trends.

Angelina Nguyen, a signing agent in San Jose, aims to do at least two signings per day, charging anywhere between $75-$200, and sometimes an even higher rate, depending on the type of document that needs to be notarized and how far the appointment is from her home office.

Some signings take a few minutes, while others can take an hour. On average, Nguyen says she works "less than six hours a day." 

Wills' favorite part of being a signing agent, he adds, is the flexible hours. "People's work schedules are all over the place, so a lot of people will need a signing agent at 8 a.m., 12 p.m., after 5 p.m. or on weekends," he explains. "I would say at least 70% of signing appointments are in the evening or on weekends, so this is the perfect, flexible side hustle for someone with a day job."

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