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A Navy Vet’s Bumpy Road To Success As A Notary

US-Navy-resized.jpg(Originally published in the March 2018 issue of The National Notary magazine.)

When I tell people I’m a Notary, I usually get the same reaction: “What is that?” Three years ago, I asked the same question while having dinner with a friend. She told me about her job as a mobile Notary and offered to teach me how to do loan closings for her signing service. Here’s the story of how I transitioned from a Navy veteran to a full-time Notary.

A Rocky Start

After getting my commission and Notary Signing Agent certification through the NNA, I started shadowing my friend on loan signings. After a few weeks, I felt ready to take my first loan-signing assignment. 

However, what was supposed to be an easy first signing became anything but. The signing was ordered by the son of an elderly woman who was showing signs of dementia, and the son started a verbal altercation with me over which documents his mother should see. That made me suspicious, so I terminated the signing.

So far, my career as a mobile Notary was off to a rocky start. I figured it couldn’t get any worse, so after regaining my composure, I shook it off and drove to the next assignment. Pretty soon I had completed enough signings to earn enough to recoup the cost of training, supplies and a laser printer. And I gained much-needed confidence at the signing table.

Going Full Time

Like many others, I never intended to do this full time. For me, it was a nice side hustle to replenish my travel fund and provide a skill I could always fall back on if needed. That changed when I was honorably discharged from the Navy in May 2016 and found myself wondering what to do with my life.

After six years of putting on a uniform and following orders, the thought of sitting in a corporate office where someone told me what to do all day just wasn’t an option.

I realized that what I thought was just a side hustle, in fact, had a lot more potential. Being a mobile Notary would offer me the freedom and independence I was looking for. I could work when I want and be my own boss. What more could a newly minted veteran ask for?

But it’s one thing to make a little extra by taking assignments from my friend’s signing service. It’s another to depend on this work for a full-time living. Admittedly, it’s been a humbling and enlightening adventure, and I’ve learned a couple lessons from my first year in business as a mobile Notary.

Perfection Is The Enemy Of Progress

After starting my business in February 2017, I spent six months obsessing on myriad details: building my website, and researching phone plans, online scheduling systems and accounting software. I spent hours angsting over the text spacing on my website, what exact shade of orange to use in my logo and how the online scheduling software would work. I even made detailed flowcharts to illustrate my business processes. I had it all figured out, except one thing — clients. I had no clients, and I spent so much time worrying about text spacing and shades of orange, that I hadn’t even done a signing in almost seven months.

Planning ahead can be extremely useful, but analysis paralysis and putting perfection ahead of progress doesn’t work. Striking a balance between planning and acting is difficult, particularly when you don’t have a mentor. There is someone else out there who has already invented the wheel and can probably save you a lot of time, effort and money with a simple phone call.

Finding A Mentor
 

Eventually, I realized that I needed help. I was going to have to talk to others and share my mistakes, victories, struggles and strengths. I would also have to be willing to share my strategies and ideas without worrying about someone co-opting them.

This change started when I attended the NNA 2017 Conference in Dallas last June. I got to see other Notaries collaborating with each other and asking important questions I’d never thought of. One of the people I met was Laura Biewer from At Your Service Mobile Notary, who presented a workshop on how to expand your business. I was so impressed with her presentation that I decided to try her coaching service.

She helped me prioritize and execute my goals, develop marketing strategies and improve my basic procedures to speed up signings. Those coaching sessions gave me the confidence I needed to take on new types of Notary work, market myself to escrow officers and attorneys, and cut down the time spent at the signing table.

I’ve also started reaching out to other Notaries in the San Diego area via LinkedIn to find a good mentor. The first Notary I contacted ended up being a bad fit for me, but I stuck with the plan and kept looking. I contacted Chelsea Addison from Eleventh Hour Signings, Inc. Our first phone call lasted almost two hours, despite being complete strangers. Chelsea has been a great resource for finding out which escrow offices and signing services are good to work with, how to price my services for our market, and other information unique to San Diego. We talk regularly to discuss how things are going. It can be a little lonely building a sole-operator business, so having others who’ve been there and understand what you’re going through is crucial to our success.

Looking Forward To 2018

Although I made some mistakes, I learned some valuable lessons as well. I’ve implemented a few course corrections, found myself a mentor, won some steady clients, and now I’m looking forward to discovering what lessons and opportunities 2018 has in store for me.

My goal is to start moving away from loan signings while increasing my general Notary work and living trusts. Although loan signings can be a profitable category for Notaries, they can also be unpredictable, tying one’s income to the vagaries of interest rates.

One way I’m working to diversify and promote my business is by leveraging my VA benefits. Completing the Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business certification and applying for Vocational Rehabilitation benefits are two ways veteran entrepreneurs can use the VA to their benefit. These programs will give me access to some government contracts and will provide funding to purchase new equipment and training. With these benefits, I hope to branch out to other services such as Live Scan, Immigration Forms Specialist and potentially becoming a process server.

If you’re new to the industry like me, I highly recommend investing in yourself and your business by attending the 2018 NNA Conference in Las Vegas. This will be my second year attending the Conference and I’m excited to implement all the great ideas I know I’ll have after I get back. Thanks for reading, feel free to connect with me online and I hope to see you this June in Las Vegas.

Luke Eastman can be found at lukeeastmannotary.com.

1 Comment

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jay

21 May 2018

Would love to attend notary event in Houston Tx. if ever it gets to Houston Cant afford Travellibg Expenses

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