Notary Signing Agents find themselves in a unique position when seeking and accepting work offers. Being too picky or limited in your availability can reduce your income opportunities, while accepting any job that comes your way can result in your working for a company that fails to properly treat or compensate you. The Notary Bulletin asked a number of seasoned Notary Signing Agents (NSAs) to weigh in on how they vet signing companies. 1. Get Listed: Many Notary Signing Agents — including Patricia Berger, a California NSA with over a decade of experience — receive new business opportunities primarily by creating profiles with reputable agencies, such as the NNA’s www.signingagent.com and online listing services. This is where the vetting process often begins. 2. Run a Background Check: It may sound obvious, but experienced NSAs emphasize the need to first verify the actual existence of the company. “You would be surprised by how many so-called ‘signing companies’ try to hide information from Notary Signing Agents,” says Daniel Lewis, owner of Lewis Notary Services, Inc., and the NNA’s 2010 Notary of the Year. He suggests checking if the signing company is registered as a business with the Secretary of State’s Office in the state the business is located. “By making sure the signing company is registered with the Secretary of State's Office, you ensure that the signing company has a business culture,” says Lewis. “Also, if there is an issue that occurs later in the business relationship, you will have a starting point for resolution.” 3. Do Your Homework: Begin by exploring the company’s website. “Legitimate companies that have a business website must contain certain standard information,” says Lewis. “This information should include what the company does, it’s physical address, contact phone numbers and email addresses.” From there, extend your research to external sites such as the Better Business Bureau or Yelp, which offer third-party company information and reviews. 4. Seek Advice from Colleagues: Online forums such as the NNA’s LinkedIn discussion pages for NSAs are buzzing with shared information from seasoned and new Notaries nationwide seeking professional advice from their peers with regards to a company’s reputation, payment schedule, and overall treatment of signing agents. “Check if they have any bad comments about their pay history,” advises Gino Carrozza, a Michigan Signing Agent who has performed hundreds of loan closings. “I also check for length of time for payment. If it's too far out, or if it’s a hassle to get paid, I avoid them.” 5. Go in with the Right Questions: Go into new job offers with a list of your high-priority concerns, and make sure you get answers to all of your questions before you accept a job. Priorities will differ between agents, but here’s a good start: Is there travel involved, and how much? Will I be required to work non-traditional hours, such as evenings, weekends or holidays? What is the exact pay, and what does it cover? What is the method of payment, and when can I expect to receive it? What exactly will be expected of me? The hiring process is likely to vary between companies, and your vetting process will evolve over time and with gathered experience. Lewis recommends creating your own standards for vetting companies and stresses the importance of constantly “fine-tuning” your particular system. “Write it down and use it as a checklist when they call,” he says. “You will be glad you did.” David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.