Building a Multi-state Notary Enterprise

Jul 18, 2022

Janessa sees opportunity everywhere! And as a serial entrepreneur, she usually turns that opportunity into a business. Hear how she built a thriving Loan Signing business in Southern California, and then MOVED to the heart of the midwest. Through a commitment to Search Engine Optimization and building relationships centered on trust, she now has a thriving business based mainly on GENERAL Notary Work in BOTH states!

Guest Information:

Entrepreneur since 2004, Notary since 2017, Janessa stumbled into Notary work while I was looking for something to add to her real estate income. Little did she know it would become a main source of income!

Originally living in Orange County and then moving to St. Louis, she figured out how run successful notary businesses in two different States. Now she is working to expand her areas of coverage and become more efficient in process and procedures.

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Episode Highlights:

4:31 What if you moved to a different state? Would your Notary business continue to thrive? Janessa West's sure did, in unexpected ways. Listen to the Sign & Thrive Podcast for Notaries now.

46:24 How do you plan your growth? Janessa West shares her strategies for building a Notary empire across the country.

37:34 Have you considered using Google Ads to help grow your Notary business? Janessa has some suggestions to help you get more customers.

--- Full Raw Transcription Below ---

Bill Soroka (00:01):
I'm here with my next guest Janessa West. She's a fellow serial entrepreneur and master of marketing. Janessa, I'm so glad that we get to connect like this now, after all of these years. Thank you so much for being here.

Janessa West (01:31):
Thank you, Bill. Such a pleasure and an honor as well. So happy to do this with you. Thank you.

Bill Soroka (01:38):
You were one of my first students, I think, when Sign And Thrive course came out in 2017, way back when, that was the year that you became a notary, right?

Janessa West (01:49):
That is correct. Yes. I got my commission in 2017 in Orange County, California. Yep.

Bill Soroka (01:56):
Why notary? What brought you to the notary gig?

Janessa West (01:59):
Well I, like you said, serial entrepreneur since 2004. I've, I've done quite a few different gigs from bookkeeping to property management that rolled into real estate agent. And that's where I was at the moment. I was a struggling real estate agent and I was looking for something that complimented real estate. And I stumbled onto one of your YouTube videos way back then with you driving in the car and talking about how you could make a hundred thousand dollars a year being a loan signing agent. And I had a friend that had done loan signings years before, and I went to her with this information and said, what do you think? And she said, I think it's possible, but maybe not so much now. She had really made a lot of money in the last housing crisis mm-hmm in, in what, 2006, 2008, 10, you know, when that really happened.

Janessa West (03:06):
And and she said, so I don't think that it's so much available right now. And I thought, Hmm, well, this guy wouldn't be on here talking about it right now in today's moment in time, if it wasn't still available. And I'm here in Orange County watching the real estate market pick up. But I, I was actually doing a lot of property management and rentals, which was slowing down because home sales were picking up. Oh. And I couldn't get my foot in the door enough with home sales to make ends meet in the way that I needed to live my lifestyle in Orange County. cause it's so super expensive there. So anyways I just thought that, you know what, I gotta prove my friend wrong. That's that's kind of my, my tactic in life. Don't tell me no, cause now I have to try to figure it out.

Bill Soroka (04:05):
Right. Love that.

Janessa West (04:07):
Mm-Hmm .

Bill Soroka (04:08):
And did you?

Janessa West (04:09):
What's that?

Bill Soroka (04:10):
And did you prove it wrong?

Janessa West (04:12):
I have. I mean, it's, it's been a little bit longer road than I thought. But you know, I've had some different life situations and here I am now it's 2022 and yeah, most definitely. I am standing strong and here. I am. Yeah.

Bill Soroka (04:31):
What I, what I love about your story is you've always got something new going on too, which I just love and I can relate to so much. But you have a thriving business going in Orange County, you were, you had escrow direct business things. You were getting that really good momentum. And then you moved states and not just like next door to Arizona or Nevada or Oregon, you moved halfway across the country to St. Louis, right? Right.

Janessa West (04:58):
Yes. Yes. I up and moved from Southern California, sunny Southern California to the midwest right in the middle of the midwest, St. Louis, Missouri. Big life change.

Bill Soroka (05:11):
Yeah. That's kind of huge.

Janessa West (05:13):
Yeah. Yeah. You know, I wanted a change and in, California's a beautiful place. I lived there all my life. I just wanted to have something different and have an opportunity to maybe buy property and have a different perspective on life. And I I've gotten that. I've created a whole different life for myself here and I'm, I'm rather proud.

Bill Soroka (05:39):
I love that you were able to do that and that's such a risk. So what was the impact on your business?

Janessa West (05:46):
Well I wasn't there , so I couldn't take the calls anymore and I didn't know what to do with the direct escrow calls. So those kind of fell away. However, I had my website and my Google business was still there. So I had an internet presence and I was still getting calls for general notary work. And just before I had left, actually it was at one of your meet and greets. I had met a fellow notary that was in the next city over from Huntington Beach where I lived, he lived in Long Beach and he and I connected and we stayed in touch. And so when I was getting these general notary calls, I started talking to Mark and asked him, would he like to do some general notary work for a referral fee? And he said, sure, let's, let's try this out and see what works. And so that, that was the basis of that.

Bill Soroka (06:52):
I love that. So even though you had picked up and moved states and I know we'll get into this here in a little bit where our, as the, just rolling into signing agent in St. Louis didn't quite work out as, as it was in California, but you still had your, your presence over there. Had you mastered Google My Business at that point? Or what did, was it just kind of like the rest of us? I think when we first get first get started, we just throw it together. We follow the little guidelines and we figure it out. Or did you really put some time and effort into that?

Janessa West (07:24):
I wouldn't say I had mastered it at that moment. I had other businesses that I relied on, Google Business Four, and I was already ranking top with those. I wouldn't under, say I understood how I was ranking top with those, but I was doing it organically. And I kind of, at that point was digging into how can I really hone in on this? And that's when I started to figure it out.

Bill Soroka (07:58):
And you still have that core of notaries in Southern California, too, right?

Janessa West (08:03):
I've built up on it. Yes. I it's. It's actually expanded greatly.

Bill Soroka (08:07):
Mm-Hmm . That is amazing. And it's what I love about this is it's the general notary worker, the specialty notary work instead of just loan signings, right?

Janessa West (08:15):
That is correct. Yeah. We do get loan signings here and there. They are direct though. It's usually a real estate agent or maybe escrow or title or mortgage calling from out of state asking for our help. Maybe their client is traveling or you know, they just, they need it done and they don't want to deal with a signing service or whatnot. So they just open up Google, find my listing and, and call us and say, what is your price? So yeah, they like that they only have to make one phone call and I can make sure that they get a notary.

Bill Soroka (08:54):
I think that's kind of the important part of this whole thing, right? Like the people who hire us, they've got a problem and we can be the solution. They don't want to have to call around to a dozen notaries or more cause that's what it takes sometimes. I mean, even with our signing company, sometimes I gotta go down like` 20 people before I get somebody who will answer the phone and that's not what they want. They just want somebody who can solve their problem for them. So it sounds like you're, you're the solution for them.

Janessa West (09:23):
Most definitely. I, I would say that in this day and age, people are looking for instant gratification. Yeah. And especially if they're going to pick up the phone and make a phone call for their problem, they're looking for that solution. And if you're not answering the phone, if you're a business and they're calling you and you're not answering the phone, they're just going to go on down that list till the person that does answer. So if you're not the person answering, you're missing out on that business,

Bill Soroka (09:54):
What do you say to people who have, well, let's say reasons or justifications for not answering the phone. Maybe they've got a part-time job. Maybe they've got their ringer off. Maybe they're actually so busy they don't have time to answer every single phone call. Do you have any suggestions for working around that?

Janessa West (10:12):
Yeah. I mean, I'm so busy. I can't answer my phone a lot of times I'll be on the phone with a client and I see another call coming in or I'm with a client face to face. And of course you can't answer right in front of them. So I do miss calls. I, it makes me cringe because I want to pick up every call. However, it's not possible all of the time. And I know there are notaries out there that have other obligations, whether it's, you know, kids or family or a job. So my suggestion for that would be, have a really good voicemail, quick, simple, and easy. Also have a website that you can refer them to where they can book an appointment and let them know that they can instantly go to your website and book an appointment and also give them the opportunity and let them know that they can text you. And let them know that you'll return a text message or a voicemail as soon as you can. And let them know also that you check your voicemail, you know, X amount of times a day or at certain times a day, so that they know that, you know, it's not going to be two or three days that they're waiting for a return call, but maybe just a couple hours and they might sit tight with that.

Bill Soroka (11:31):
Yeah. I love that. You're even talking about this Janessa because I feel like I've been talking about it for years and still almost, and I would say it's probably close to 95 to 98% of the time when I get a notary's voicemail, it's either just the technical you've reached this phone number or it's, hey, it's me leave a message or something so unprofessional that there's no way I'm risking my reputation with my client by leaving a voicemail message on that. So I think this is extremely important, cause it's not realistic. We can't answer every single call, but we can sure as heck set expectations to put you on. Can I put you on the spot? Sure. Could you just as an example, run through what a professional voice message maybe your own or somebody you've seen do, can we just see an example in action?

Janessa West (12:26):
Yeah, sure. Gosh, I've recorded mine probably 15,000 times and I will literally sit there and record replay, record replay over and over again cause I'm like, nope, that wasn't right. So basically I will say something like thank you for calling mobile notary St. Louis. We are sorry to have missed your call. If you need a quick response, please go ahead and send us a text message or feel free to leave a voicemail. You can always schedule an appointment online on our website at www.mobilenotaryStLouis.Com. We look forward to helping you and connecting with you soon. Thank you so much and have a prosperous day.

Bill Soroka (13:14):
Ugh. I love that. cause that shows enthusiasm too. That's somebody that says, yeah, I want your business. And here's the different ways that I, I can help you. I want to be of service to you. Here's how I can help. Even if I can't answer the phone right now. Awesome. Thank you for sharing that. That was huge. Sure. So now you're in St. Louis. Obviously we just heard your voicemail message and you've transferred that business model, the same one that you're doing in Southern California right now to Missouri,

Janessa West (13:45):

Bill Soroka (13:46):
How's it going there?

Janessa West (13:48):
Wow. well I'm 19 months in here with the new business and you know, I had to start all over as you do. You have to get recommissioned when you move to a new state. And I thought I would do loan signing, actually let me roll back a minute. What happened was I moved here and I didn't even think I would be doing notary work here because cost of living was drastically different. I didn't need to make the income that I was making in California. So my other businesses were sufficient. Then comes COVID and it just shut down my other business. I have a mobile massage business in Las Vegas that I own and manage. Wow. And obviously I'm not there and I'm not a massage therapist myself. I just manage it. And I contract a massage therapist and send them out on jobs and nobody was getting massages during COVID.

Janessa West (14:54):
So I had no business. I had to think fast on my feet. And I ended up talking to somebody that told me they were doing notary work here. And I had heard before that though, that people didn't do loan signings here mobile, because they were still traditional in the fact that people liked to come to the signing table and sit in the office. And so I had never really given it a, a second thought until I spoke with this person that said, yeah, I'm doing loan signings for a bank. I am slammed. And I only have once a week that he did it all day long because he had another job and he was getting ready to quit his job in order to go into it full time.

Bill Soroka (15:46):

Janessa West (15:47):
And I thought, well, you know, maybe this is something worth looking into. So I hopped online and looked at what it took to get commissioned in Missouri. And sadly it is a little too easy. You don't need to do much to become commissioned in Missouri. Unfortunately there's not education that is required. Like there is in California. In California there is yeah six hours of in person education. Actually, I don't think it's in person anymore because of COVID but yeah, in California it's six hours of, of education plus a proctored exam. And it takes months to actually receive your commission. In Missouri you simply go online to take a quiz that you could probably Google the questions to. But I happen to know the answers because I was already commissioned in California. And you pay $25 and now you're a notary

Bill Soroka (16:50):
And then you're a notary. Yeah.

Janessa West (16:52):
With no knowledge of anything really. It it's quite frightening and it's really a disservice to the, the public and to the notary themselves.

Bill Soroka (17:02):

Janessa West (17:03):
Yeah. I I'm working to change that, hopefully.

Bill Soroka (17:06):
I love that. I love that. It is it doesn't I, I know why states set the bar so low because the public needs access to a notary public because we play such a critical role in fraud prevention. And at the same time, there's a, there's a, that's a double edged sword, right? If you make it too easy to become one and then not train them how to be good ones you set yourself up for failure, I think. So I love that you're taking that on and trying to change things.

Janessa West (17:37):
Yeah. I, I think, you know, as a notary, you're taking part in one of the most important transactions of a person's life. I mean, not always, but yeah. I mean, pretty much everything we do is imperative. Otherwise they wouldn't need it notarized, right?

Bill Soroka (17:56):
That's right.

Janessa West (17:57):
. And I think that the knowledge and education needs to be there. It needs to be in place. It safeguards the notary. It, it most definitely safeguards the public. They don't even know what we do and the power of our stamp and signature,

Bill Soroka (18:14):
So true. So true. And that's why I, I think I think Laura that says she, her mission is to educate consumers one signer at a time. She just wants to teach them that this, this work really does matter. This is important. The notorial ceremony makes a difference. You know, fortunes are transferred with the swipe of our pen. Rights to make decisions about life and death are granted and revoked with our, with our seal and our pen it's important work.

Janessa West (18:45):
It is. And, you know, we can notarize something one day like a, a trust or a, a durable power of attorney. And it might not come into play for weeks or months or years down the line.

Bill Soroka (19:00):
Mm-Hmm .

Janessa West (19:01):
And if the notary didn't do it correctly, nobody knows until it comes into play. And it's at that vital moment that they realize that something isn't right. And it's usually too late.

Bill Soroka (19:15):
That is such a great point. And that's the danger, you know, and I learned this the hard way, sometimes we think that notaries that have been doing this work for 20 or 30 years, that they have a certain bit of wisdom and they do if they've educated themselves in that 20 to 30 years. But if you started doing it wrong 20 years ago, and you did it the same way for 20 years, that's not who you want to be learning from. And that's the biggest challenge that we see.

Janessa West (19:42):
Correct. And YouTube is great. It is very resourceful, but it is not…..

Bill Soroka (19:52):
Not the end all be all. It's not a university.

Janessa West (19:55):
It, it is not the resource for your foundational education.

Bill Soroka (20:00):
Yeah. So true.

Janessa West (20:01):
It's an addiction.  

Bill Soroka (20:05):
Probably sad, but true, right? Mm-hmm true. Okay. So tell me more about how, what you did. So now you're in St. Louis, it was easier than you anticipated to become a notary public. So you jumped in

Janessa West (20:18):

Bill Soroka (20:19):
And where, where did you, what'd you do with this business?

Janessa West (20:21):
Well, I thought I was going to do loan signing just because that person kind of put that in my head that he was doing really well with it. And so I got my commission, got my business cards, put some goodie bags together and thought I would go out and market and I got everything ready and went out there, made my list of, of local offices and you know, what their doors were closed because it was COVID. So , I'm standing there, the doors. And actually nobody was even in the office or they wouldn't even come to the door. Wow. So I maybe could tuck a business card in the, you know, the crevice of the door, but other than that, it was really a waste of my time. And so I came home and I started doing what I do best. I got online and I started creating my online presence, which, you know, was Google Business and my website. And I really just started pecking away at that and spending a lot of time developing that.

Bill Soroka (21:28):

Janessa West (21:29):
And it paid off big time. quickly.

Bill Soroka (21:34):
In what way? For general notary work or for loan signings as well?

Janessa West (21:38):
I would say about 95% general notary work, which, you know, surprised me. Like I said, I thought I was going for loan signing, but it ends up that the avenue opened up for general notary work. And I do get calls directly from, again, same like I do in California from agents or escrow or title that are looking for somebody locally to close. And they ask me how much. So I love that, you know, it's not a signing service that says we'll pay you X amount of dollars.

Bill Soroka (22:17):
Right. Flips that script.

Janessa West (22:19):

Bill Soroka (22:21):
I love it. So you said before we started recording that you have so much volume that you cannot keep up with it. So do you have a team in Missouri as well?

Janessa West (22:33):
I do I have a fabulous team here? Yes.

Bill Soroka (22:37):
That's pretty exciting. How do you, how did you meet your team and how do you vet your, the notaries that you invite to participate?

Janessa West (22:45):
Yeah, so California is a lot easier because they do have that required education. And so really it's just about talking to the notary and making sure that we're on the same page and everything's good between the two of us and that we're in agreement with things. In Missouri, little bit different because the education isn't required here. So pretty much anybody can become a notary . So I want to make sure that while they're out there on an appointment, that they are well educated and representing not only themselves but also my company in the best way possible. And so I do have a required education that I provide for my team. It's just very basic. But I want to make sure that they know how to fill out their journal correctly how to properly give an oath, what the difference is between an acknowledgement or a jurat.

Bill Soroka (23:50):
Yeah. That's huge.

Janessa West (23:51):
Very basics. I can't, I can't give them all the knowledge, but I want to know that they are prepared with the basics and then they have my number in hand. So if they're at assigning, they can call or text me if they have questions and they do.

Bill Soroka (24:05):
I, I think that's important. I think sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the expert and to know everything about everything all the time. And that's not necessarily what you're looking for. You want to know the, the foundation of your role and what you can do and can't do, but just having the resources at hand, you know, whether it's Janessa's phone number or the NNA hotline or the the statutes for your state that guide you or your state handbook to guide you along the way you can use that reference material all the time. You don't have to know everything at every single situation. It's impossible.

Janessa West (24:39):
Yeah. I don't know everything. There's people I go to to ask questions.

Bill Soroka (24:44):
Yeah, exactly. As it should be, right? There's this hierarchy of support that you can just work your way down until you get the answer. And I think for some notaries, and you tell me if this is the same in your experience, there's some notaries who embrace the fact that they get to make a decision. Like really it comes down to them, their reputation. They can weigh it cause there's this gray area of notary law. So they do the best they can, due diligence, make a decision and go. And then there's this whole other section of notaries and they're petrified by the, the fact that they have to make a decision and it's not black and white.

Janessa West (25:20):
Yeah. I would agree. You do have to kind of think on your feet and you have to take control of his situation. You know that from loan signing, you have to control the room. Let the people know how it's going to go set the precedents for the appointment. They don't know what to expect.

Bill Soroka (25:41):
That is so true. They're looking for an expert some, but they want to be, they want somebody to take control of the situation. Otherwise they do it. Somebody has to do it. So when, aside from the, the training that you provide, what other, what other traits do you look for on your team? Is it and I'm, I guess I'm just looking for characteristics that you look for in a notary that's a good fit for your team. Is it integrity, personality? What plays into that into your decision there?

Janessa West (26:09):
Most definitely integrity is at the top. I'm sending them out to people that are calling my company. They're representing my company when they go out on appointments for me. And you know, oftentimes that person that they meet with, they might ask for a business card. So they're going to leave their own business card. And maybe that person's going to call them back at a later time. And now is that their customer or my customer and that's been a discussion and really, you know, it's up to the notary at that point. And that's when integrity comes in. I ha, most of my notaries will say, oh, hey, you know, Mr. Jones called me, remember him from three months ago. Well, he called me again and, and scheduled an appointment with me, or I told him to call you directly. And, or I went ahead and took the appointment because it was, you know, kind of urgent here's, you know, the referral fee.

Bill Soroka (27:10):
Wow. That to find people that committed to a win win is, is a gift. And I love that you found some people that fit that role.

Janessa West (27:19):
Most definitely. And I think it's, I think it is because, you know, we are notaries, we do work from integrity and I continue to give them work. So I think it's, you know, it's a, it's an equal give and take. It's a, it's a thank you in kind.

Bill Soroka (27:37):
Yeah. Powerful. Powerful. Okay. So how do you get your phones ringing and dinging? How have you mastered this?

Janessa West (27:45):
Yeah, I would say that is probably 99% Google Business. And, well, I wouldn't say 99%, but pretty high up there, Google Business. And then my website.

Bill Soroka (28:01):
What did you do to master that?

Janessa West (28:04):
A lot of time.  

Bill Soroka (28:07):
Time doing what? What do you do? Just studying, mastering the elements of Google, my business? Like I know, and the reason I'm asking, let me tell you, cause I have some people who they follow the prompts for Google Business profile or Google My Business and then it just doesn't get results. And then they think that it doesn't work. So what is the extra effort that goes into truly optimizing your Google Business profile? And I'm, you want to segue into that and talk a little bit about Google Ads too and see if what your opinion is on those. And if they play into this at all.

Janessa West (28:45):
Yeah. Most definitely. So Google Business, anybody can set one up. It is free, which is great. Google's doing us a service as small businesses to provide that for us. And I would say it's not even the notary sector, it's any business that does not know how to really hone in and optimize Google Business. Most businesses that are ranking in the top one to three, which are the first three businesses that you see listed when you Google anything, they're there by luck, but you can be there by persistence and work. Hmm. You can kick those lucky people out of place if you know what you're doing, because most people don't know how to optimize.

Bill Soroka (29:40):
What do you think is the biggest weight or strategy in that? Is it keywords? Is it listing your services, reviews? What do you, what do you think in your opinion and experience?

Janessa West (29:52):
You know, when I walk people through the whole process, I kind of explain it like it's like that great recipe for soup that you gotta put in all the different ingredients. And if you forget something it's not going to taste quite right. And then it also has to simmer because it doesn't happen overnight. It takes time.

Bill Soroka (30:18):
I could literally picture this. Yeah.

Janessa West (30:21):
The flavor has to come up, you know, mm-hmm and it probably even tastes better the next day. So it's kinda the same thing with Google business. Like you can't just create it and leave it. You have to put time into it. You have to optimize it. There's so many little working parts to it that most businesses don't understand and there's a lot to it. And then you have to tend to it. It's, it's not a one and done.

Bill Soroka (30:55):
What advice Janesa do you have for notaries that are either super intimidated by technology. Maybe they're in the generation where just jumping on to Google My Business. Isn't second nature. And they're just really resistant for it. How important is this to the success of their notary business and what can they do to overcome their fear?

Janessa West (31:18):
I think it's vital. You know, when you're searching for any type of service, whether it be a plumber or a mechanic, or you're maybe looking to go out to eat, what do you do? You open your phone or your computer, you start searching for things that are local to you and you know, even a notary . So if you don't have that online presence, how are people finding you? You can spend all your days and hours out there marketing face to face, which is great, but it's exhausting. And you can only cover so much ground. If you are online, people come looking for you when they need you. And if you're at the top of Google, Google Business, if you're at the top of Google with your website, they're going to see you. You have relevance, you have trust and they're going to click on you. And if you answer your phone, you'll get the business. .

Bill Soroka (32:24):
That is so true. I, I heard an estimate. I don't know if it's a statistic, cause I don't know how they gather data to make this a statistic. But I heard an estimate that said that there's over a Billion documents a year notarized and that's a huge pie. So even just a little sliver of that and you, I think you nailed it too, is that people only need a notary when they need a notary and where they go and they're going to Google. Like we can't pretend that's not happening, right. So they need a notary near me and they need it now.

Janessa West (32:57):
Absolutely. Yeah. People, you know, maybe they come home from a long day at work and they see the paper sitting on their table and they're like, oh my gosh, I forgot. I need to take care of this. And they have their phone in their other hand, they're going to Google, I need a notary. And if you're the one popping up, you're getting the business. If you're not there…..

Bill Soroka (33:21):
, They're, they're going to one of the other lucky ones at the top, right? Exactly. Yeah. How do you how do you ask for reviews or do you ask for reviews?

Janessa West (33:33):
I do ask I, I don't have any qualms about asking. Most of my clients are so thankful when I'm there. You know, first of all, it's different than loan signing because they're calling me, they're needing my services. They know they need me. It's, it's different. Loan signing, I think they know they need you. It's just a little bit different relationship, right? So usually the person's calling they're in need. Sometimes it's a desperate situation or they're very stressed out and they make the appointment either myself or another notary shows up for my team. When it's me you know, I'm there and they're so thankful. It it's so nice. It's it feels so good to help people. That's what I absolutely love about this the most is helping people and getting to kind of be the, the, I don't know, what would you call that?

Bill Soroka (34:39):
Well, I call it sometimes you're the hero to the trans you're the hero to their day. Yeah. And I, I love that cause you and I are in the of like mind in that regard, you know, we, we meet people on their best days and then a lot of times it's on their worst days when they just need somebody with a compassionate heart that knows what they're doing and can just be a beacon of light in a stressful situation. I think that's a true gift that we have here.

Janessa West (35:04):
Yes, yes. Yeah. It's very rewarding.


Bill Soroka (35:07):

Janessa West (35:08):
So yeah. You know, by the time I'm done with the transaction, they are so relieved, so thankful. Whether it was just a minor one single document that they needed notarized that was just, you know, something, a car transfer or if it was a life changing document, like a power of attorney, they are so relieved, it's done, it's out of their head. They can move on with their lives. And they're so thankful. And it's at that moment, I ask them as I'm closing the transaction, they've paid and I say, hey, you know, I'm going to follow up with a link to my Google business via text, if you would be so kind as to leave me a review, that's how I build my business. I would greatly appreciate it. And they always say, yes. Do they always actually leave the review? No, but you know, I appreciate the intention. <Laugh>

Bill Soroka (36:06):
Exactly. And I, I, I hear interesting estimates again on this. I've heard some notaries say that about one in 10, actually follow through and they do the review. Do you find that's similar number or higher?

Janessa West (36:22):
I'd say prob, that's probably about right.

Bill Soroka (36:25):
About 10%? Mm-Hmm <affirmative> Do you, how much of your business have you found is repeat business?

Janessa West (36:33):
You know I'm going into month 19 here in St. Louis in business. And I started seeing repeat business within the first, probably six months of business.

Bill Soroka (36:49):
Fantastic. Mm-hmm

Janessa West (36:50):

Bill Soroka (36:51):
I think the lifetime value of our customers is greatly underestimated in this business. I think people get caught up on the $1, $3, $10, and they forget that there's a whole life of think, ways they need us plus Therin stuff. Right? Like the awesome relationships, the joy that you get from taking care of people, but there's a, there's a financial reward to staying in touch and just doing your work in an awesome way

Janessa West (37:17):
There is. And I love it when I show up to an appointment and the person's, I haven't seen them before, but they tell me that, oh, their neighbor or their friend or somebody referred them and I'm like, oh, that's so amazing. And I love it, like words getting around. <Laugh>

Bill Soroka (37:34):
Yeah. That word of mouth is so powerful, so powerful. Okay. So you in a phone conversation recently, you talked about your use of Google Ads as well, and that's where you you can pay to be towards the, the top of Google with certain keywords and things like that. How much have you utilized that in your notary business?

Janessa West (37:59):
Yeah, I have used it from time to time. I used it when I first started because I needed to get my phone ringing. Yeah. And it worked. <Laugh>, It's as simple as that it works, but I will say that it's kind of like Google Business in the fact that you can set it up, but if you don't set it up correctly, it's not really going to work correctly. Mm-Hmm

Bill Soroka (38:26):

Janessa West (38:27):
So yeah, there, there is a recipe to that as well.

Bill Soroka (38:34):
I think in that in particular, Google Ads is a rabbit hole. When you try the Google, when you Google Google Ads I know Google does a great job of teaching it on your own, but when you get into industry specifics and stuff, and you're trying to figure out key words and what works in your industry versus others, it can be like YouTube is a nightmare for this stuff too. Do you offer services to help mentor or guide people through these things?

Janessa West (39:05):
I do. I do offer a service where I walk each notary or I actually do other businesses as well through the actual service of setting up their Google Ads specifically for their business in their local areas. So that they're getting calls from their neighbors, their community right there in their specific areas. So they're not driving, you know, 20, 30 miles outside of their area to take an appointment. And so it's really worth their dollar spend on ads

Bill Soroka (39:41):
That see, I think that's exactly what we need. We just need somebody to help us connect the dots and just say, here's what works in a notary business, because this is so specific. And we don't want to drive a hundred miles sometimes for, for appointments. Although I don't mind, I don't mind the 3 or 400 mile drive, but it's not for everybody. What of the, what kind of budget should somebody count on when it comes to a Google Ad campaign?

Janessa West (40:13):
Yeah. That depends on your area, your population, who you're trying to attract or how far out you're trying to attract. If you're only trying to get hone in on your actual, like maybe community neighborhood area, or if you're trying to go out a little further, maybe your county and cover several cities, then of course, you're going to want a larger budget. You can start with as little as a hundred dollars.

Bill Soroka (40:45):
Hundred dollars a month.

Janessa West (40:47):
What's that?

Bill Soroka (40:48):
Was that a hundred dollars a month?

Janessa West (40:50):
A hundred dollars a month. It's not going to get you a lot of traction. You, you're not going to get a lot of calls, but you will get some calls. And if you figure, you know, the average notary makes what, 40 bucks a, you know, for a single signing on an average, you're definitely going to make your money back from a few calls, right? Right. But you know, of course like anything, the more you put into it, the more you're going to get back. So the larger budget, the more calls you're going to end up getting, and I would say, you know, rate of return, it's going to be different for everybody. You really have to look at your personal budget and what you're looking to do.

Bill Soroka (41:35):
Yeah. And I guess the state specific fee requirements and travel and all that probably plays pretty heavy into it as well. Is Missouri pretty flexible?

Janessa West (41:46):
We, we are $5 per notarized signature, and we are uncapped on our travel fee.

Bill Soroka (41:57):

Janessa West (41:57):
So that just changed January 2022. We used to be capped at $25. Plus we could charge mileage, but I don't travel the 200 miles like you, like you will. I am pretty much local in my neighborhood and community here. So, you know, I don't really go any farther out than about 10 miles.

Bill Soroka (42:20):
Nice. And that's far....

Janessa West (42:21):
I charge mileage.

Bill Soroka (42:23):
Makes sense. And now that you're uncapped, it's really what two people just agree upon, right? So you quote the fee you say, does that work for you? They agree to it. And it's a done deal.

Janessa West (42:35):
Yes, that is correct. I do have a set fee that I ask for that I feel comfortable in asking that I know that is good for our community. It's it's not too high. Most people say yes. And the people that say, no, I know aren't my customer. And that's okay. Those are usually the customers that don't want to pay anyways. And they're, they're capable of going to UPS or wherever else they might go to go get their documents notarized. And that's fine. They're not my customer in the first place. My customer is a customer. That's looking for the convenience or the necessity of having a notary come to them.

Bill Soroka (43:16):
I'm so glad that you brought this up. Cause I think that's so important. How long did it take you to, to get to that level where you could say no, or hear no and be okay with it?

Janessa West (43:28):
Day one, because <laugh> because of my other business. Yeah. The mobile massage business, you know, I have a set price. I have to pay my therapist and I know what they need to earn and what I need to earn in order to make it work. And that's my price. If people don't want to pay it, I'm good with them going to someone else. So it's the same thing with notary work.

Bill Soroka (43:52):
That's a fantastic attitude. And I love it. I wish I had that when I first started, I, I struggled trying to be everything to everyone. Right. So I would, I'm like, oh, well, if, if that's too high for you, maybe we can make a deal. And it's always those ones where I made a deal where things just went haywire, they didn't have a driver's license, but their name, you know, it was just, I learned the lesson the hard way. Cause I kinda assert yeah. Set those healthy boundaries.

Janessa West (44:16):
Yeah. I've mentored quite a few notaries that are like, I can't ask for that. That's too much. I'm like, no, you need to realize you're worth. You're providing a, an important service to these people and either they're going to pay for it or they're not. And then the person, the next person that does call that sees your worth and the value of what you're offering will secure that appointment with you. So don't worry about the ones that don't.

Bill Soroka (44:45):
It does. It takes a little bit of faith in the beginning, but it it's a, it's been amazing to me how it opens up when you say no to one opportunity that was not the right fit. Like three more right. Opportunities. Fill that space.

Janessa West (44:58):
Definitely. The same thing with like when people cancel, you know, don't, don't get stuck and oh no, that appointment canceled and I was really looking forward to that income or that appointment for whatever reason. No, you'll get three more. Don't worry about it. It'll come. If you get stuck on that, then that's where you'll stay.

Bill Soroka (45:20):
That's so true. How do you, how do you maintain your healthy mindset?

Janessa West (45:26):
Hmm. You know, I, I think that's another reason why I connected to you as well is I, we share a lot of the same like positive values and I love your, your morning. What is it called?

Bill Soroka (45:42):
Morning Mastery or the Miracle Morning?

Janessa West (45:45):
Yes. Miracle Morning.

Bill Soroka (45:47):
With hello, right?

Janessa West (45:48):
Yes. So I'm up every morning at 5-6:00 AM. I'm journaling. I am planning my day. I am working things out in my head business wise, personal wise. I set goals for myself constantly. I don't set them too high <laugh> I, I have visions for myself. I plan growth and I check myself quite often and I allow others to check me too. I'm open to criticism. I, I actually love it. So yeah.

Bill Soroka (46:24):
I think that just being open to, to feedback and suggestions is huge too, but you just said something plan growth. What's that look like?

Janessa West (46:34):
That looks like you know, like you said you love what I'm doing. Like I didn't plan to just be a notary. That's not enough for me adding a team deciding that I'm going to take on the state in implementing education. <Laugh> Doing all these things. I can't just sit and I think that's the entrepreneur in me. Like I have to do more. I, just going out and doing notary appointments. Isn't enough for me.

Bill Soroka (47:13):
And you probably see opportunity everywhere, right?

Janessa West (47:15):
I do. It's it's sometimes it's a little overwhelming for my brain. I wouldn't want to let anybody else inside here because yeah. <Laugh>

Bill Soroka (47:24):
I say that a lot too. I'm like, don't even ask what's going on. Cause I am somewhere else. Yeah. And steps ahead. <Laugh> Yeah. So one of the questions that we get a lot of times Janessa, is you know, is there still opportunity in the notary realm? What's your, what's your take on that right now?

Janessa West (47:47):
Absolutely. I think a lot of new notaries in the last couple years were enticed into the business because of social media and the talk about, you know, become a loan signing agent. They probably got in, maybe they did get busy because of the height of the real estate market was great. Yeah. Good for them. I I'm, I'm happy that people made some great money in the last couple years, but they were probably signed up with signing services and getting their appointments handed to them and they didn't take time to build a business. And now that the real estate market has come down to actually what us notaries and the real estate world know as normal...

Bill Soroka (48:38):

Janessa West (48:39):
But you know, newer notaries think it's, you know, dead. It's not, it's just normal. <Laugh>, It it's become painful for those that were relying on signing services for their income. And they don't know now what to do in order to get business. And there's so much that they can do starting with creating their business online and making sure that they have that online presence with Google Business and with their website, and then also adding different services to what they offer. As a notary there's so many more things that you can do. I just became a wedding officiant the other day.

Bill Soroka (49:26):
All right. Congratulations.

Janessa West (49:28):
Yeah, that came to me. After I actually was called to swear in an, a Missouri attorney and they had a huge party for him. So it was quite a big to do it was reported, a press release and everything. And I, I was really excited to be a part of that person's moment. And I thought, you know, what, if I can stand in front of you know, a hundred and something people and swear somebody in, I can do this as a wedding officiant. Why am I not? Yeah.

Bill Soroka (50:07):
I love that. Congratulations. And you're so true. There's I call it the notary umbrella. There's so many different things that we can be doing in here. And any type of service that you decided to add in your business, you've got to optimize your digital presence with it, right?

Janessa West (50:22):
Yes. Yeah. If people don't know what you offer, what's the point of knowing it <laugh>, you can, you can spend all kinds of money on getting educated in different ways. You can become a wedding officient, you can learn fingerprinting, you can learn apostil work. You know, there's so many things that you can learn, but if you don't tell the public that you offer those services, then there, it's kind of pointless to get the education and spend the time and money.

Bill Soroka (50:53):
So true. Janessa, this has been a really enlightening conversation. I really appreciate you. Now. I know that you you've got a, obviously the thriving business you offer the mentorship and people can check you out at And of course that'll be in the show notes as well. But what advice do you have to new notaries thinking about entering this business right now?

Janessa West (51:19):
Believe in yourself. Even though you're a solo business, as a notary you do have a whole notary world behind you. There's so many great resources. There's a few at the top that I would say to go to for your education. There's other people that you can go to for mentoring or coaching that maybe aren't as well known in the industry. Don't go to them for your foundational knowledge.

Bill Soroka (51:53):
Where would you have them go?

Janessa West (51:55):
Hmm. Notary to Pro. Yeah. I, I think Carol Ray's of great information within your program. And then I think that, you know, the NNA has good stuff, but they don't, they just provide certifications really. They don't provide the nitty gritty of how to.

Bill Soroka (52:28):
The practical day to day stuff?

Janessa West (52:30):
Yeah. Which is what Notary to Pro and your program.

Bill Soroka (52:34):
Yeah. I appreciate that. And I totally agree. I think Carol Ray blazed an amazing trail for the rest of us and offered a high quality course in product and certification as well. So I love that you even mentioned that. Do you, what's your take on the NNA membership and their hotline for support for notaries?

Janessa West (52:58):
I, I think that, especially in your first couple years, that that's super important and it's a good resource for anybody. You know, as, as you've been in the business for years and years, maybe it's not the first thing that you turn to. Maybe it's more of your, your mentors that you reach out to. But I think as you're learning, I think it's, it's very important.

Bill Soroka (53:27):
Janessa, thank you so much for joining us and sharing so much of your journey and your passion for helping people. It's been a pleasure hosting on the show finally, and I know people will want to check out and you can check the show links as well. Thanks again, Janessa.

Janessa West (53:46):
Thank you, Bill. My pleasure.

--- End of Transcription ---




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