This year has been anything but normal. The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged us in ways that we could not have imagined a year ago. Numerous businesses have closed for good, students have been forced to attend school at home, and many people are having trouble buying food and basic necessities. In short, 2020 has been a year to forget.
Earlier in the year, notaries faced a number of difficulties including a surge in demand from customers seeking notarizations of legal documents for updating wills, closing real estate deals, granting power-of-attorney, or other formal transactions. Additionally, many notaries were not familiar with or prepared for online notarizations. However, notaries worked hard to overcome these issues and played a critical role in providing businesses and individuals with much-needed notarial services, including online notarizations.
It is essential that notaries maintain this high level of productivity going into the new year. The pandemic will continue for several months, possibly through the end of the summer. This means that large numbers of customers will need notary services for a long time. In order to provide quality services and meet this demand, start 2021 off right by following the steps below:
1. Review what worked and what didn’t.
December is always a good time to analyze how your notary business performed during the year. This is particularly true for 2020, given the significant challenges brought on by the pandemic. When you start reviewing the year, it is important to ask yourself these types of questions:
- Did I achieve my goals for the year?
- What worked well and what did not?
- What can I do differently to improve those areas that were not successful?
- What can I eliminate to be more efficient and productive?
- Should I seek help to achieve my goals?
- Are there ways I can better help customers who are seeking pandemic-related notary services?
After you’ve answered these questions, next make a plan of action for the new year. Keep it readily available so you can refer to it, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments as the year goes on.
2. Examine your expenses.
Review your finances for the year to find ways to cut costs going forward. Look at which notary services generated profit and which did not. If you see that the income you brought in did not meet your expectations, find out why. You may discover discrepancies in your budget that you did not notice before. Furthermore, if you are not already doing so, it would be in your best interest to use financial software to keep track of your expenses.
3. Assess your compliance.
Maintaining compliance is essential to running a successful notary business and staying at the top of preferred vendor lists. Be sure to check that your E&O insurance provides sufficient coverage. Obtain a background check from a preferred vendor and verify that it’s less than a year old. Ensure you are providing adequate protection for personal information and fulfilling all legal requirements. Check your state notary laws to determine whether you are maintaining compliance.
4. Maintain relationships with customers.
Stay in touch with your customers, especially during this difficult time. They are, after all, the lifeblood of your business. Send them personalized “thank you” cards or give them a phone call. It is critical to tell them that you are grateful for their business and that you look forward to providing notary services in the next year. Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, it is likely they will need your services again.
5. Set aside time to grow professionally.
If this year has proven anything, it is that the notary industry evolves quickly. For example, the use of online notarizations has increased significantly as a result of the need to provide safe, socially distanced notary services. Additionally, changes in notary laws and further advancements in technology can make it challenging for notaries to succeed. These factors demonstrate why it is important for notaries to set aside time to keep learning about changes in the notary industry. Take classes, attend workshops, join an association like the AAN, or learn new skills to ensure your business remains viable.
6. Check the condition of your notary stamp.
The end of the year is a good time to check the condition of your notary stamp. If it’s wearing down, you should order a new one to avoid being unable to perform future notarizations. It may also be worthwhile, if allowed by your state, to get a backup notary stamp. You should also consider ordering extra ink pads or ink bottle refills. Another thing to check is your notary record book. If it’s almost full, you should order a new one so you don’t run out of space.
If you follow these suggestions, you’ll begin 2021 on solid footing. The first several months of the new year will likely be challenging, but you can make your customers’ lives a little easier by providing efficient notary services. As always, keep track of any changes to your state’s notary laws to avoid making mistakes that violate rules or regulations. If you do this, and have fully prepared for the next year, your business will thrive in 2021.
By Evelin Garcia, a Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries, Inc.