Virginia “Vikki” Watanabe was a Mobile Notary Signing Agent in Cardena, California, for nine years. She developed a successful notary and fingerprinting business then branched out with virtual assistant services and bankruptcy processing and training. With her love of mentoring and training, she had some great tips to share as a notary.
Virginia “Vikki” Watanabe
Former Signing Agent
Bankruptcy Processing & Training
Q: When did you start your notary business?
A: I first became commissioned in 1998. The second commission began in 2005.
Q: Why did you decide to become a notary?
A: Back in 1997, I needed a notarization and my sister introduced me to her friend. I was impressed that the notary came to my house to do the notarization and that she was available to help me. From then on, I decided, that’s what I want to do. I loved the notary’s confidence and independence.
Q: What was your first signing experience?
A: I did many loan signings for friends and extended family since 1998 during my first commission. Since my second commission, I decided to go mainstream, i.e., signing companies, Title, Mortgage.
Q: Is your business full time or part time?
Q: How many hours a week do you work?
A: That’s kind of hard to say, depending on the time of year. Loan signings, I work anywhere between 30-40 hours a week. Marketing takes up another 10 hours. Regular office tasks like filing, accounting, return phone calls, take up another 10 hours. During the slow season, I market 30-40 hours a week, loan signings 10 hours and the office tasks are always about 10 hours.
Q: Do you work with signing companies?
A: Definitely, I love them. They have always been very good to me.
Q: What percentage of your business is loan signings, legal, medical, other?
A: 80% of my business is loan signing. The other 20% is notarizations for law firms, notarizations of documents, and working on the other two divisions of my business.
Q: If you don’t mind sharing, what do you average for a loan signing?
A: For signing companies, the fees are lower, $125.00. Title and Mortgage companies $165.00.
Q: Do you have a minimum fee?
Q: How have changes in the industry or economy affected you?
A: This is an up and down industry. I’ve learned from other loan signing agents to keep an open mind.
Q: How do you overcome those changes?
A: When it’s busy (April through October), work all you can. When it’s slow (November-February), market your business.
Q: Do you have a business plan?
A: Definitely. From the beginning (1998), I wrote out my business plan. I make changes to it as my goals and ideas expand.
Q: What percentage of your net income do you spend on advertising?
Q: Where do you advertise?
A: Believe it or not, a big part of my business has been word of mouth and referrals. I have a web site and GoGetNotary web page and unique domain names for each. I send letters of introduction to Mortgage and Title companies. Also, I hand out pens, business cards, thank-you cards, holiday cards. I attend business-to-business breakfasts and just talk to anybody and everybody.
Q: How do you network?
A: I keep tabs on what’s going on in the industry though notary websites. Also, I mentor new notaries and I spend a lot of time with them, professionally and personally.
Q: What professional organizations do you belong to?
A:National Notary Association (NNA), United States Notary Association (USNA), American Society of Notaries (ASN), Notary Law Institute, and International Virtual Assistant Association.
Q: What advice would you give a notary starting today?
A: Find a mentor. They will give you the confidence needed to go out and market your business. It takes a lot of work to get started in this business, but if you’re persistent, market your business (all the time!), and really love working with people, you’ll find this business very rewarding.
Q: What advice would you give a notary who wants to take their business to the next level?
A: Continue your education. Keep up on your state laws. I continue to read and attend classes to educate myself. This business is constantly changing and one has to stay informed and educated to be the best. Be creative with your commission! There are so many other ways to use your Notary commission besides loan signings.
Q: What was your most unusual/memorable signing experience?
A: Arrived at signing. Mr. Borrower is late. No problem. I’ll catch up on some paperwork while waiting. Mr. Borrower shows up a few minutes later. Signing goes very smoothly, signing and talking with Mr. and Mrs. During the signing, Mr. and Mrs. conversing in native language. Signing completed. Getting ready to leave and Mr. and Mrs. say, “We ordered dinner. We hope you like Chinese.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay, had another signing to go to. Sweet people!
Q: What books are tops on your recommended reading list?
A: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
Thanks so much Vikki, for taking the time for this article. I know other notaries will find your tips helpful.