"Control Freak" Chooses Specialty Notary Work...and Loves It

Jul 11, 2022

Nicola Jackson manages the Training and Education Department at the National Notary Association, providing support for Notaries all over the country. Have you used the NNA Hotline yet? That's her team! She's also a passionate Notary Public that found the bureaucracy of loan signing work frustrating. So, she decided to get really great at Specialty Notary Work and loves both her job, in service of Notaries through the NNA, and her Notary business, in service to the public at large.

Guest Information:

Nicola Jackson manages the Training and Education Department at the National Notary Association. Her group of 14 instructors conduct the California required Notary training statewide approximately 800 times a year. She also manages the NNA hotline that answers over 12,000 questions monthly from Notaries across the country. Nicola spent most of her career with the NNA as a seminar instructor where she taught Notary law seminars in 17 states and is highly regarded as a subject matter expert in Notary laws and practices. Nicola also helped develop the NNA’s award winning Notary Signing Agent Certification course.

Follow her @notarynicola on instagram

Episode Highlights:

4:55 If you want staying power in this business, you have to be a great Notary, diversify your income streams, and button up your Search Engine Optimization.

5:26 Tell everyone you're a Notary Public! And then tell them again! When they, or their friends, need one, they'll remember you.

8:24 Get really great at being a Notary Public. Go to training and events. Connect with your peers. Have a support system in place.

--- Full Raw Transcription Below ---

Bill Soroka (01:01):
Hey hey guys, welcome to the Sign And Thrive podcast. I am excited to introduce my guest today. Nicola Jackson, senior manager of training and education at the National Notary Association. As it turns out we had some technical difficulties in our recording with our interview with Nichola. So we're just going to jump right into the conversation and pick up exactly in the middle of where we were going with Building Our Dream Business As A Notary, as Nicola calls herself, enjoy the conversation.

Bill Soroka (01:41):
I think that's really important to talk about, and I love that you even brought this up, cause I think sometimes in our industry it gets glanced over cause everybody wants to sell a course or a book. Of course we want to be optimistic. We want it to keep going. And it will, it will keep going, but it is going to look different. I think we have to pull our head out of the sand and look around like things are shifting and changing and there are ways to create a sustainable business that's going to last beyond the little ebbs and flows as you described it and last, no matter what the economy is doing. I mean, people need documents notarized, good times, bad times, everything in between, right?

Nicola Jackson (02:21):
As the young people say, that is facts and it's so true. And that's what I've witnessed over my time is even in the slowdowns, people are working and it's the people who really have built that foundation of not just relying on one industry and, you know, go back to their you know, routine customers that do the basic, you know notarizations for them that kept them going. Yeah. And yeah, you know, you'll may have to pick up some stuff that you haven't been doing in a while that isn't your favorite thing to do? I know that for me when I was really heavy in, you know, going out and notarizing as much as I possibly could. My big thing was I got a break at the dentist's office one day of when they want to do like out-of-state procedures where they've created some kind of procedure that they do and they want to patent it in multiple states. They need a ton of documents notarized. And I think I've told this story before, but you know, I'm sitting in the chair and you know, like, oh, what do you do? And that awkward, like dentist is talking to you while your mouth is open thing. And I'm like notary. And you know, he, he sat me down in the chair and like within, you know, a day he asked me to notarize 500 documents. So….

Bill Soroka (03:43):
Holy cow,

Nicola Jackson (03:44):
It was insane and he'd just been like procrastinating. And as soon as he saw the word notary, I saw his eyes change, but I had no idea it was also going to change for me too. And so that became my new kind of thing that nobody knew about. And I kept it quiet for a while, but I, you know, I can't help myself suddenly. I started telling everybody like, go ask a dentist. So that there's all these little things where like, you don't even realize how much has to be notarized and you maybe have to work a little harder for the work to come to you, but it's there, it's there.

Bill Soroka (04:17):
Yeah. I love this cause Laura Biewer talks about this and has called it specialty notary work. You know, there's nothing general about it. I mean, this is highly specific what you just described with mm-hmm offices and thank you for sharing that you got my wheels turning, which is the last thing I need, Nicola, is another idea, but thank you anyway. Our listeners take that, run with it. But then also you, I mean, I love your perspective because you've been here for that number of years. Well, you already said it since 2000 is when you first started with the NNA. So you've got 22 years of perspective on this and thank you for sharing the specialty part. What other, in your interactions with people, what are some of the other things that those notaries that just have the staying power have implemented in their business, do you think?

Nicola Jackson (05:08):
Well I have to say you brought up Laura and I've known her for a, also a very long time and she's taught me so much too about just kind of keeping your eyes open for anything and everything that can come your way and even, you know, one, how one notarization with somebody can be a lifetime client. And so that's the first thing I would say is just always telling everybody that will listen, that you're a notary to the point. It's, it's interesting because it's happened so sporadically. But then all of a sudden, like you'll notice that everybody who you've told at one point will call you and go, are you still a notary or I'll get a message on Facebook, like, hey, do you still work at the notary place? And the answer's usually yes, of course I do.

Nicola Jackson (05:52):
So, you know, it's people remembering that about you and it becoming, you know, a little bit of your identity, but just kind of putting it out there as much as possible because once somebody knows that you are, and then they go, Hey, you don't know a notary, do you? And they go, actually I do. And that's really the staying power. And then the other thing too is you know, where's the first place that everybody goes when they want or need something and the answer's Google. And so just kind of trying to figure out, and I still haven't mastered like the search engine optimization and all of that good stuff, but definitely trying to at least have a website where you're Google La ball. Bill, if you don't know, I make words up on the regular, so….

Bill Soroka (06:38):
I love it. Google La Balll, can't say, but I love it.

Nicola Jackson (06:41):
But that would probably be a really important thing. And I think being on Yelp really helps with that too. And that was a tip Laura gave me years ago was get on Yelp. Yeah. So

Bill Soroka (06:56):
Yeah, those are that's great advice. And yes, people go to Google and they search Notary Near Me. I mean, we know that that's where our customers are going, 70% of people who do that, even do it on their mobile device. So it's really important that when you do set up your digital presence, that you have it mobile friendly in these website builders, like GoDaddy and Wix and of course professional sites make it really easy to make it mobile friendly. I think those are really good tips. Now, what else do you see as far as diversifying income streams?

Nicola Jackson (07:39):
You know, I am the biggest fan of, I'll call it specialty notary work. That's my gem. I found the signing agent world very frustrating because I am too big of a control freak to deal with it. So my brother was in the military and when he got out, the biggest thing he talked about was the concept of hurry up and wait. And that was like the military mentality. And so I kind of found that to be true with the signing agent world, especially with the documents and is everything's rush, rush, rush, rush until it's time for the documents to get to you. And that part just caused so much anxiety for me. I couldn't deal with it. So that's the day I decided, you know, signing agent world is not for me. I really truly believe in being a really great notary and making sure that you have those skills because of all of the people that I come in contact with from, you know, the, the receiving agencies you know, the people that are calling the hotline telling us like, hey, I did this thing wrong.

Nicola Jackson (08:43):
And hearing what those errors are to people that own signing services to title companies, the complaints are very similar. And by complaints are the feedback, I should say feedback is very similar is the most basic mistakes are getting made. Like not putting notary public after your name when you need it, or not forgetting to stamp something. Yeah. I mean, your, your essence of the notary is to stamp. I mean, every comedian that will ever talk about a joke, talks about stamping. That's what people equate. I don't know if you've seen the Jerry Seinfeld skit about the notary. No. and, and, oh my gosh, I will send you the YouTube video and he jokes about, can you imagine if there was a notary school and of course that resonated with me because, you know, in essence I am in charge of the notary school and he talked about joking about how do you train somebody to just, you put the stamp right here.

Nicola Jackson (09:37):
And so it was so insulting and true all at the same time. Yeah. But if, you know, those basic things are just so important. So as far as diversifying just making sure that you kind of have your hand in a lot of cookie jars and find out all the things that a, a notary can do. And no matter whether your state allows remote electronic remote, online notarization cause there's still a few hanger ons that are kind of waiting, California being the biggest one, being able to do the impersonal electronic notarizations I, I think that's the next step where you're going to sign, what you can sign on a you know, tablet or a laptop and then, you know, notarize what you have to notarize. So the more familiar you can get with that, the better. And also if you're a technology resistant person, it, you know, embrace that, you know, hug that fear and just, you know, jump in because I, I don't while I don't think a remote online notarization is going to be blasting off. I do think elec, the more stuff we can do electronically, I think that's going to happen.

Bill Soroka (10:46):
You know, that's really refreshing to hear cause I feel exactly the same way. In fact, even from your childhood story of using your mom's stamp, I can totally relate to that. I think you and I are cut from the same cloth, but it's refreshing to hear about IPEN in person electronically notarization, to me fills the, the fear gap or the insecurity gap with remote online notarization. And there's so much cool technology that's coming out to make that so much easier and more secure than RON feels for me anyway. So that is refreshing and what's cool about IPEN is it's legal in all 50 states and has been for, I think since 2000,

Nicola Jackson (11:28):
It literally the United Electronic Transactions Act. And that's kind of the message too, that I want to tell people is that act got signed the year that I got to the NNA. And when it happened every four years, when I would be teaching at, you know, class in California we would say, okay, in four years, when you come back, we may be teaching you how to do this electronically. Well, let's see it's 2022 and I'm still not teaching a class how to do it electronically. But you know, it's, it's taken this long to get this far where we can do the documents electronically. We're still not at the point, you know, with the hovering stamp that stamps for you. Like, but I'm sure that'll, we'll get there eventually. And hopefully I don't work here when that happens, but you never know.

Bill Soroka (12:13):
You never know.

Nicola Jackson (12:14):
But I definitely think that it is in all 50 states and I think that's where people should put their focus is learning how to do that kind of cool stuff. I mean, at one point in my career here, we actually had electronic notary journal. It was called, Enjella I still have the signature pad that works on the basis, basic premises that we do with electronic notarization now, but technology moves so fast that we couldn't keep up with the updates. Oh. And it kind of faded into the distance and we went back to the good old paper. So I'll be in, that's the thing I'm excited about next is can somebody make an electronic journal to make a notary's life easier?

Bill Soroka (12:56):
Yeah, exactly. And there, I think there's some….

Nicola Jackson (12:58):
And I know people are on the way people are on the way. Yeah. We're, we're getting there. We're inching there.

Bill Soroka (13:02):
It's really close with the notary E Journal, notary act is was kind of blazing a trail there for as well. I think we're going to see really cool things. Yeah. And with IPEN in particular, and I'm sure you've seen some of this happening too, but Escrow Tab is just changing the way this industry is going to do business. The, finally I think the technology has caught up. I love saying this and I'll, I'll probably have Colin on the show as well, but he has a forensically verifiable signature be with this pen that they invented for this work. And I'm just like, I'm just blown away by this technology.

New Speaker (13:43):
Is that what it is? The pen? So I know I know a couple people doing their pilot program and I, and so is that, that the that's how out of it I am, if the pen is also part of the process.

Bill Soroka (13:55):
Oh yeah. The pen and the device and they used Microsoft's surface surface hardware to pull this all together. And what you just described with the hovering stamp, you can literally use the pen to, to stamp the paper. And it's really… If you, haven't watched a demo of that, go to escrowtab.com and check that out. It is the coolest thing ever. And I think they're really going to change the way we do in person electronic notarization.

Nicola Jackson (14:28):
Yeah. That's very, that excites me a lot because I think that's really where everything's headed. And that, that does, it makes me very excited.

Bill Soroka (14:36):
Yeah. Cool. Well, that was a great little side step there. I love that we're on the same page with some of those things, and I'm glad I could tell you more about Escrow Tab. What do you, let me find my question here. So one of the things that when it comes to diversification in embracing general notary work or specialty notary work that I hear from a lot of notaries is just this total fear. It's so intimidating cause they just don't know what they're going to, they oftentimes don't know what they're going to see. That's kind of the safety net of loan signings, right? You're going to see the same thing all the time. You're kind of getting a groove, but in the specialty or general world people, you get sideswiped with documents. So how do you, how do you teach people to move through that, feel the fear and do it anyway, I guess?

Nicola Jackson (15:28):
So I, the, my advice is going to be the same for what you just described as it is to the new signing agents. The less you know about the documents, the better off you are. And, and I say this in the sense of I'll clarify that for signing agents in a second, cause it's important to know about the, the documents and what they say. But here's what I mean by it when I say that.⠀***The less you know about the documents, the less that you can tell somebody about them, the more, the better your chance of not practicing law accidentally. So an acknowledgement is an acknowledgement is an acknowledgement. You as a notary have no responsibility for that document whatsoever. Other than making sure that anything where information's supposed to be provided has so that you're not notarizing a document with blank spaces where fraud could potentially be committed.

Nicola Jackson (16:20):
But if your document has an acknowledgement at the bottom, you are doing the same steps, no matter whether it is a, you know application for a birth certificate or whatever it is, you're certifying the same thing for an acknowledgement on every document that has an acknowledgement certificate. Now where we trip up is, oh, this is an acknowledgement that's not from my state, but guess what the word acknowledged is in there somewhere and you're certifying the same set of facts you do in your state. Now maybe you get tripped up because you see notary wording you've never seen in your life. They hit you with a jurat and you're like what is this? You've never seen it before. Well guess what? That's where my notary hotline will come in handy and they will just tell you, oh, you know what that subscribed and sworn to you're not familiar with.

Nicola Jackson (17:04):
Here are the set of facts you're going to certify for that. Don't forget to give them the oath. And so, you know, as a notary, it's your responsibility to know the two basic notaral acts. And if they, you see them to be able to identify them and then know what's required of you. But the document itself, the service you're providing to the signers to make sure that they have done what they need to do, but you know, reading the instructions can help. But at the end of the day, the advice I'm going to give is the same, make them call who's getting the document to make sure they did it properly. You have to worry about what you are filling out what you've done properly. So that your part, you can check that box that it'll get, you know, received by the agency, how the signer intends it to.

Bill Soroka (17:47):
Yeah.⠀***Sounds like you're saying stay in your lane.

Nicola Jackson (17:50):
I am , I'm absolutely saying that. And so let me clarify for the signing agents, it's important to be able to answer questions about where somebody can find the information they're looking for, but you can't answer questions as an NSA anyway. So it's really, you know, if you're new and don't have the answers anyway, great. Now you can't overshare, you can't over amilyexplain. And so there's no harm in not knowing as long as you know who the right people are to call. If there's a problem, that's⠀***the most important thing to me when you're getting started is do you know who to call about which problem? And, and then from there you gain that experience.

Bill Soroka (18:28):
That's such a good point. There's a hierarch, I call it the hierarchy of support and being resourceful, right? It's like the MacGyver notary. You've gotta know where to go to find the answers. You won't know everything about everything. That's just not possible. Right. But know where to go. When you have that and you mentioned the hotline and my friend, Judy Lawrence, you know, Judy as well, she calls the hotline, her national treasure. And I can't agree more. I was a relatively late adopter to the National Notary Association. You know, I re, I resist everything that I don't create, right? I'm, I just do. That's just part of my personality. But I, once I got involved and I saw the value that the NNA brings, especially that hotline and the education programs that you bring, it really helped change my entire business and boosted my confidence. Can you tell us more about what the NNA can do for notaries or the hotline in particular can do for the notary?

Nicola Jackson (19:26):
Well, first I want to say that you have, I think we have 17 now, 17 of the most dedicated employees who just live for notary law. It's all that they care about. And they are so committed to doing the research. I mean, when we we got a question the other day that in all my years, we had never heard. And so we literally got on a chat together because obviously they're answering the phone. So we can't even talk in person. We have to chat while we're doing this and debated it. And it was like the best day we've had in a long time, because we live for not knowing the answer. But between all of us, we kind of came together, came up with what we thought and, you know, we actually had to elevate it. Cause we, again, if we're not a hundred percent sure we're taking it to the top to make sure we're going to get the right answer, but these are things like you're going to do your first notarization and you just want to talk to somebody as you're standing at the edge of the diving board to go through how you're going to do your tux and your roles. And just confirm that you've got everything in order. We'll take that call.

Nicola Jackson (20:29):
You get sent some you know, those federal government forms are something else. They, you've got sent those. You have no clue what to do next. You can actually email it in and say, Hey, I just sent an email. Can you pull that document up? Can we go through it together? We'll go through it with you. Things we can't answer are, you know, hey, the ID says this and the document says this, what should I do? We can't, we can tell you what your state says. We can tell you the best practice, but when it comes down to making the decision, it has to fall on you because you're the one that's going to go to court and tell the judge how you came up with that decision. But we will, you know, talk you through it and kind of give you our experience.

Nicola Jackson (21:11):
And we'll tell you every resource that we have available. And then, you know, the NNA has a publication called the Notary Public Code Of Professional Responsibility. And it just had its 20th anniversary and they redid it for the 2022 world. And so it basically covers where states don't address things. So even if your state doesn't address it, there's still an answer. And that's our default. We can't, your state doesn't say anything about it, but here's the default, here's the best thing for a notary to do in that situation. And that's really what we strive for.

Bill Soroka (21:46):
I love that, cause I think in a lot of states it might include it in Arizona. There's this minimum standard, just meet this minimum, but that doesn't make it a best practice. So I love it if we can elevate that and the, and the laws are so silent on so many critical issues, sometimes….

Nicola Jackson (22:04):
It's so true. And that's it's interesting cause the training for hotline we always start with California. The reason being that California kind of has the most robust laws and addresses a lot of nuances that other states don't, but it's a good foundation. And then from there we use that notary public code because it is so all encompassing and talks about little things. Like I never would've thought that if I had a signer who was blind to just read them a kind of couple lines of the document and the title, just to make sure that what they think they're signing is what's actually in front of them. And that I'm good to go. I would, I think a lot of people would just go, oh wait, you're blind. Okay. Actually I can't notarize for you. So then it becomes, okay. So every person who has any kind of, you know, disability or something different has to now go to an attorney like, you know, notaries are supposed to serve everyone. So that, that's what I find encouraging is there is a solution. And it may take us, you know, a couple hours to get it to you, but we'll figure it out.

Bill Soroka (23:09):
Yeah. I love that. So who can use the hotline?

Nicola Jackson (23:13):
Anyone who's an NNA member can use the hotline. It's a paid member benefit. I think it's the most important one. Because we are, we are available six days a week. We're open on Saturdays too. And we open at 5:00 AM Pacific time and we close at 7:00 PM Pacific time. So if you're an east coast notary, we're open from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM six. And so on the weekends, I think we close at 8:00 PM Eastern time. So even on the west coast, we're open for a significant portion of the day. Yeah. But on if you're an east coast notary, I mean we're open for most of your working hours as a notary.

Bill Soroka (23:51):
That is like I said, as, or like Judy said like a national treasure, that's pretty incredible. So as we bring our conversation to an end, I've got really two questions for you. What advice do you have for somebody who is entering this industry as a notary public brand new right now in 2022?

Nicola Jackson (24:16):
My advice for somebody brand new is just, just do it. I don't mean to sound like Nike, but just do it. You, that feeling that you kind of like, well, I want to get more comfortable first that comfort doesn't come. And I don't mean that in like a pessimistic way, but you're never going to feel that level of comfort where you're just like, I am ready to take on the day. Literally every time a document gets it put in front of me, there's a certain like pang in my body where I'm just like, okay, I want to make sure I'm doing this right. And I feel I'll call myself an expert and I still get the pang of like wanting to make sure that I am literally going step one, do this step two, do this. That doesn't change for me. And I should be able to do it in my sleep, but I don't ever want to go in sleep mode for that reason. So if you're new, don't be afraid to pull out resources. Don't be afraid to have notes on the side. I think anybody in the world that sees somebody, who's making sure that they're doing a good job is going to respect that and not go, oh, you're new. You're that new at this? Oh, I'm really nervous. They may feel that, but they're like, I appreciate that. They're trying to do a good job.

Bill Soroka (25:22):
I think I totally agree with that. And I, for me one of the reasons I love this work so much is that it does keep me on my toes. I, I almost cannot get bored at this. Even in loan signings, I get sides swiped by documents. I've never seen before situations I've never seen before. And on the specialty side, it's all the time. You never know. And to me, that's novelty and my brain craves something new. And I get that almost every single day. I think that's a great point.

Nicola Jackson (25:52):
Yeah. It's so funny because that's, you saying that we are definitely cut from the cloth because there everything's the same, but it's never a dull moment and I love the routine of it, but I also love that it's meeting new people each day. So there's an element of change, but there's still that routine that I crave. So yeah, exactly. I hear what you're saying

Bill Soroka (26:11):
Total perfect fit for, for us, it sounds like. Now my second question though, is what do, what advice do you have for notaries that might be listening to this show and they're well seasoned, you know, maybe they've been doing this for 5, 10, 15, even 20 years. What advice do you have for them?

Nicola Jackson (26:31):
Well, if you are some Lowry Season Salt, I would definitely say to, you know, you've gotta find something that kind of fills you back up. So it's you start mentoring people or so for me, I every now and then I will get, I have to be around notaries again or go to an event and listen to everyone kind of talking and being able to do stuff like this kind of fills me back up and reminds me why I love doing this. And I have to just keep doing things that, remind me why I like doing this. So maybe it's you help a person do something or you discover a new niche or you do a little bit more studying or you, I know a lot of people who are really now like stepping away from just doing what they've been doing and kind of like, okay, I'm going to build my business. So I think that it's super important to do that. And you know, just figure out and remind yourself about that passion.

Bill Soroka (27:34):
Excellent advice. I love that. It's one of the keys to my own feeling of success is that reminding myself why this business has to work, why I love it every single day, setting an alarm, reading my vision, just reminding myself of the impact and the legacy that I want to leave in this world. And it has really helped. And sometimes it comes to pinching yourself too, cause I love this work and it blows my mind that I can have a thriving business helping people.

Nicola Jackson (28:08):
Yeah. That's I wanted to be a teacher that was kind of, well first I wanted to be a sports agent, but it was clear very quickly that wasn't going to happen. And so I loved the idea of teaching, but you know, the idea of going into a classroom and you know, I, but I also wanted to make money if I'm, if I'm being honest and teachers don't make money, unfortunately, and that's a, probably another podcast. But I, so the greatest part about this was I got to stand up in front of people and teach every single day. And you know, the other point of it that I didn't even realize until 2013 was I was helping people start their business. So I don't know, there's a notary from Arizona. Her name is Kathy Fletcher. You may have heard of her. She was the 2013 notary of the year and she, it was at one of the conferences, I was going to actually be the person on stage handing her, her award next to our CEO. And she got on the stage and told everybody, which I didn't even realize that I taught her notary class in 2003. And then she came back and I was her NSA teacher and she asked me a million questions. And I had told her every time she asked the question, I said, Kathy, ultimately you're going to have to figure out what the answer is, but I'm going to say this. What would you tell the judge, right?

Nicola Jackson (29:32):
And so not only did I realize that I started her on her career, but she basically then told the crowd about how I had been a big reason that she started her notary business, that she was able to start her signing agent business. And to say that I was overwhelmed was like an understatement and then slowly but surely people were like, oh yeah, me too. Oh yeah, me too. So I suddenly realized like that it wasn't, I was just teaching the seminar. Like I was helping people create businesses and their lives that they had and seeing them come back and kind of tell me this, it hit me on a whole other level. So I I've been so lucky to be involved in all this.

Bill Soroka (30:12):
What a gift. And I, I totally agree with you. I think when we don't even realize the ripple effect of the words or the seminars or the classes that we teach. I love that you have so much passion and commitment to the success of your notaries, Nicola. Thank you so much for being here with me today. I really appreciate it. Just love all the work that you're doing. I love working with you as well. So thanks again for making the time for us.

Nicola Jackson (30:40):
It's a pleasure to watch you work, sir.

Bill Soroka (30:42):
Totally my pleasure. All right, guys, we'll see you later. Thanks.

--- End of Transcription ---



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