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How I decided to become a Notary Signing Agent

Signing-resized.jpgI’m not sure how most people come to the realization that becoming a Notary Signing Agent is the next, right career move for them. I came to it honestly, if not exactly directly.

But when I think about it, the old Grateful Dead album, "What a Long Strange Trip It's Been," comes to mind. If you remember the record like I do, it is fair to say you may have had your share of careers. I sure did. I worked almost 20 years in academic publishing in marketing and sales. I’ve also spent more than a decade as a freelance journalist.

When I was laid off last September, I wasn't concerned with securing another job in publishing. I was well connected and had marketable skills and experience. I learned, however, that securing that next job in a shrinking industry would prove difficult.

The job search

I applied for every publishing job for which I was qualified, even over-qualified. I applied for university writer positions, thinking to leverage my journalism and academic publishing experience. I even applied for a job as a conductor on Amtrak, thinking I could turn my love of trains and travel into a full-time gig.

My results? Not a single interview for more than a dozen applications for university writer positions. Two interviews for publishing jobs that went nowhere. A great lead on a job at a major publisher where I had the recommendation of a senior vice president. I was not hired, even after four months and countless interviews (though someone with less experience, i.e., cheaper). Even Amtrak didn’t call me back. It was time to try something else.

My Notary Signing Agent "aha moment"

One evening over a cocktail, a light bulb went off in my head. What did we pay the Notary who came to our house last year and helped us sign and notarize our loan documents? That seemed like it might be a good fit for me. I pulled out our copy of the loan documents and there it was: Notary fee $175.

That seemed generous compensation for about an hour’s worth of work (I‘d learn that there is more to being a Notary Signing Agent than just the signing). I’m entrepreneurial by nature, good with people, detail oriented, know a bit about real estate and have connections in the industry. Plus I would have flexibility to work on a book project that has been stalled for years.

I turned to Google and found on the NNA’s website that there’s a thing called a "Notary Signing Agent." The cost and time commitment seemed reasonable. Obtain a Notary commission (a one-day class for $179), take an online course to be a Notary Signing Agent (an online course, also $179). There are other expenses, as I'd learn. But all-in-all, a low threshold to start my own business.

I was sold. There was an NNA California-Required Notary training class near my home the following week. I signed up for it and was on my way!

Putting my Notary Signing Agent business together

Once I had all my training and certifications in place, it was time to start building my business. This is the order that I did it as one thing leads to the next:

  1. Professional headshot. Everyone says that it improves your chance of getting an assignment. Get this first as you’re going to need it for many of the following steps.
  2. Website and email address. I think of this as my internet business card. It signals my seriousness about my business. I used for It was less than $100 for the first year, including the URL. Designing the website was intuitive. They have templates for Notaries.
  3. Business cards. Again, use that headshot. Keep them on hand; you never know when you’re going to need one.
  4. Laserjet black and white printer. You’re going to be printing up to 200-page documents so you want something that is a lean, mean printing machine. I bought an HP Laser Jet Pro M402dn for under $200. You'll want something that can handle print jobs with both letter and legal-sized paper.
  5. Signing Agent websites. and are the first 2 I signed up for. is a database for customers to search for NSAs and is the official NSA website for the NNA (use your headshot!). is also a database of Signing Agents and has some great tools to help you keep track of your business.
  6. Signing Agent agencies. has a list of top 25 loan signing companies that hire Notaries. I went top to bottom, starting with companies that are closest to me. I even took one application in person to the company’s office about 30 miles away and met the vendor manager. It seemed like that didn’t happen every day so hopefully that’ll give me a leg up!

Now I’m ready for my first signing.

James Gilden

James Gilden became a Notary Signing Agent in July 2018. He is a writer and publishing professional who has written for the New York TimesLos Angeles TimesChicago Tribune and others. He has also worked for SAGE Publishing and The American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is working on a book about World War II centered on the story of his great uncle, a decorated B-17 bomber pilot who was shot down over Nazi occupied France and became a POW.

Related Articles:

22 ways to make money as a Notary

Notary Business: 8 ways to earn extra money

5 tips for new Notaries starting a business

Additional Resources:

Notary Signing Agent Tools

How do I become a Notary Signing Agent?


Add your comment

Rebecca Boyd

27 Jul 2018

no way

Shauna Wickes

03 Aug 2018

I am glad to see that you are on your way to be a mobile notary signing agent. I am currently a mobile notary signing agent and it is the best choice I had ever made in fact I have just recently applied for my LLC and I am messaging and forwarding all of my information to all title companies and mortgage companies Any agent I see that may need a notary. I am sending all my supplies to them I am getting my name out there. Good for you and good luck.

Michelle L Riley

25 Oct 2018

James, I enjoyed reading about your start in this rewarding and sometimes-insane business. Thanks for sharing your story. I wish you success and look forward to reading more from you.

John Leclercq

15 Sep 2019

Hi James, I have been researching becoming a signing agent and came across your article which has been very informative, especially the order of everything you did after you got your certifications. I wanted to see if I could take some of your time and ask you some additional questions. Thank you, John

Myra Whitehead

17 Sep 2020

Hi I’m studying the class now to become an NSA. I will probably take the exam the end of this month or sometime in October! Is it anything I should be aware of about the exam? Also when did you get your first assignment?

Tracy Chandler

18 Feb 2021

Hello James, Thank you for sharing the story about your career journey. It is inspirational and I feel motivated about taking a similar path in joining the Notary Signing Agent career field. 😊

Maria G.

18 Feb 2021

Mr. Gilden Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have purchased my package and hoping to get completed once tax season is over. I work currently as a full time admin asst in a tax firm and I am so wanting to have my NSA certificate to move forward during the months that the business is slow. I found your story informative (with detailing your steps love it), as well as inspirational. I have printed out your article to reference and provide me with a path of guidance. Thank you again!!!


16 Apr 2021

Hello. I just got my notary commission in california and i am wondering if i should work and get some experience as a notary first, and then learn about becoming a notary signing agent. or should i go ahead and get my nsa training and go straight to work as an nsa ?

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