Our Featured Notary for October is Melissa Haley, a notary public and loan signing agent in Bristol, Connecticut, who believes strongly in continuing education and certification.She earned the Certified Signing Agent designation through the National Notary Association. However, she says she is “most proud of earning the Master Closer designation from Just Point and Sign, Registered Signing Agent through The Signing Registry and 123Notary.com Certification.” Melissa has been a frequent contributor to GoGetNotary.com.
A Connecticut Mobile Notary Public
Q: Thanks for sharing your comments with us, Melissa. Let’s start at the beginning.
A: I received my notary commission for Connecticut in 2003.
Q: Why did you decide to become a notary?
A: As part of my full-time job, I was traveling to a local bank several times a week. I looked into becoming a notary and discovered the Signing Agent business.
Q: What was your first signing experience?
A: Pretty nondescript. Nothing really sticks out, except how nervous I was doing something new.
Q: How many hours a week do you work?
A: I probably average 30-40 hours/week.
Q: Do you work with signing companies?
A: Yes. I’m beginning to do more title and direct work, but signing services make up about half of my business.
Q: What percentage of your business is loan signings, legal, medical, other?
A: I’d say 97% of my business is loan signings currently.
Q: If you don’t mind sharing, what do you average for a loan signing?
A: Enough to cover business expenses and include a profit margin.
Q: Do you have a minimum fee?
A: Yes, and I stick to it. There are no “favors” in this business – at least none that are returned to my business. I don’t fall for the “just this once” or promises of volume in exchange for a lower base fee.
Q: What changes have you seen in the industry or economy?
A: There are more signing agents in this field today than when I started. The cost of supplies has increased quite a bit as well. I find more companies utilizing electronic document delivery options also. Other than those changes, there will always be a market for refinance loans. As interest rates for mortgages rise, so do rates on credit cards and other consumer debt.
Q: How do you overcome those changes?
A: I provided consistent results, professional service and go the extra mile. The companies I work with know that I will provide quality work at a fair price. I don’t overbook my schedule, so last minute delays aren’t an issue for me. Customer service and flexibility is key.
Q: Do you have a business plan?
A: I have started to formulate one, but I don’t have a formal plan written. I do know my bottom line and my business goals, though.
Q: What percentage of your net income do you spend on advertising?
A: I spend 25-30% on advertising annually.
Q: Where do you advertise?
A: Everywhere I can. I’m on most, if not all, of the popular directories. All are more “needles in the haystack” as you say to help my business grow. I created my website earlier this year, concentrating on professional image and search engine optimization and will be listed in the local yellow pages starting this spring. I include my business cards clipped with the borrower’s copies of all loans I sign. I hand out my card to individuals for whom I notarize single documents. I increase my advertising every year and track marketing success efforts.
Q: How do you network?
A: I have a core group of peers with whom I am comfortable networking. We actively refer business among each other. There is mutual respect regarding business contacts and fees. No one actively pursues another SA’s clients or deliberately undercuts fees. It’s informal, but it works.
Q: What advice would you give a notary starting today?
A: Know your state’s notary laws backward, forward and upside down. Invariably, there will be individuals requesting questionable or illegal acts. It is your duty to know what you are and are not allowed to do in this position. Being confident in your notary duties will allow you to decline such requests and stay out of trouble. Additionally, Signing Agents need to have a firm background in how to perform their duties as a notary before taking on the additional role of Notary Signing Agent. Notaries interested in becoming a Signing Agent should really take the time to read the message boards dedicated to this line of work for a look into the realities of this industry. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work involved, not just the time spent in front of the borrower.
Q: What advice would you give a notary who wants to take their business to the next level?
A: Don’t be afraid to say “no” to fees that don’t support your business. Don’t be afraid to network with others who are experienced and hold to the same standards of quality and integrity as you do. Take a business approach to this job and really treat it as a business, not just a hobby. If you don’t already have one, meet with an accountant who specializes in small business. Perspective is important. Having your priorities in order is critical. Know where you want to go and how you’re going to get there.
Q: What was your most memorable signing experience?
A: There are a few. The 3-hour signing because the borrower wanted to read everything before they signed (which they have every right to do), the 1a.m. signing in an inner city (I got home at 3 a.m. and went to my then full-time job later that morning at 8 a.m.) , the one where a flea jumped out of the documents while I was conducting my final QC (quality control) check before getting the documents into the overnight envelope. My favorite was at a pizza restaurant for the owners. They insisted I have a slice…it was delicious. A week later I went back to have a quit claim deed notarized and it was one of the owners birthday. They insisted I stay for cake – they wouldn’t sign until I had some. They really treat people like family!!
Q: What books are tops on your recommended reading list?
A: “Click, Clack, Moo!” is a silly story to read with my son, though he reads to me now. We love the ending. Seriously though, I just picked up “Big Business Marketing For Small Business Budgets” by Jeanette Maw McMurtry.
Thanks, Melissa, for your time and thoughts.
For more about Melissa Haley, please visit her GGN website.