Our 2009 NNA Notary of the Year, Elaine Wright, takes pride in educating and mentoring other Notaries. Whether you are looking to take your Notary career to the next level as a Notary Signing Agent, or are considering opening a small business that includes Notary services, she has the following advice to offer. 1. Decide Your Location: Home Office Or Brick-and-Mortar? While it may come with daily distractions, a home office is a low-overhead option for self-motivated entrepreneurs, who want to create their own flexible hours and receive valuable tax write-offs. But you’re also likely to pay out of pocket for marketing, accounting, tech support, and health insurance premiums. With a brick-and-mortar business model, you can benefit from the sense of reliability that comes with having a physical store, as well as increased walk-in business if located in a high-traffic space. Capital and overhead costs can be greater and business hours might be more limited than a home office, but some professionals prefer the storefront structure. 2. Choose The Most Suitable Legal Business Structure The legal structure you choose for your business determines the taxes you will pay, how much paperwork you will be required to complete, and your level of personal liability. Wright recommends this Entrepreneur article, which delves into the differences between the four major business structures: sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLC), and corporations. 3. Create Your Brand And Market To Sell The best branding when selling a service is to offer a viable solution to clients. Instead of simply stating that you perform notarizations, consider what sets your service apart: Do you specialize in providing prompt, convenient services around the clock? Or perhaps you’re particularly discreet and impartial, or you’re highly experienced and deliver efficient and error-free service. Decide which characteristics are most desirable to your target clientele, and be consistent in marketing those selling points in all of your marketing materials, including your business cards, brochures, flyers, website, online business listings, or newspaper advertisements. 4. Maximize Your Tools Of The Trade Nothing slows down a notarization quicker than a jammed printer or otherwise avoidable technical hitches. When considering which products and supplies to purchase, factor not only price, but reliability. Consider having a back-up device for the items you use most, like a printer or copier — or invest in high-quality items built to last. You can get supply recommendations from Notary colleagues via the NNA’s LinkedIn discussion boards. 5. Review Your Business Plan — And Adjust It Accordingly Successful businesses don’t happen accidently — they take planning, reviewing and analyzing, then more planning, reviewing and analyzing! Assess Financial Requirements: Wright recommends planning for and examining the cost of both setting up and maintaining your Notary business before you launch, to make sure it’s a viable idea — and one you can afford. Analyze Business Performance: Keep accurate daily and monthly records, which will help you examine your business activity and prepare your tax records come April. Make Adjustments Where Necessary: Are you spending too much on ads and receiving little to no return on your investment? Do you have enough earnings to invest in better equipment? Determine necessary changes, and be swift, strategic and flexible in your responses. While these steps represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to launching your own Notary business, they offer a good starting point. “Stay abreast of industry changes,” Wright further recommends, which can be done through continuing education courses, attending conferences, joining associations, and networking with colleagues through professional Notary Forums, such as those offered on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.