I need help with calculating the true costs of doing business

After taking as many assignments as I could mostly to become familiar and comfortable with the documents I did not focus on the price in most cases. Now that I am somewhat familiar as I had a pretty decent first two-week experience in completing 13 closings I need help with setting my pricing for maximum profitability for each package type. I need help with figuring the average page count for the different packages and I am asking all experience notaries for your help on this, please.

For example, I had a refinance package that I did for 200 pages. I did the math and found that my hard cost for printing two sets and packaging ( not gas) was $42 dollars. When they first posted it they offered $90 and I countered and they accepted my $150 price due to the distance of the closing.

Overall it was a profitable month but I would like it to be better. Can you post the types of closings that you do and the average per page counts I can expect so that I can start 2022 in a stronger position?

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Is that 200 different pages, with you printing two sets, for a total of 400 pages? $42 seems high. I hope you’re not using an ink jet printer. Perhaps you’re using a printer with expensive, low-capacity toner cartridges? Are you adding something in to replace the printer when it eventually wears out?

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Yes, that’s my cost for 400 pages. I am looking to upgrade my equipment as I’m using the tools I have right now which is not cost effective I know. I am using a laser printer and the costs I outlined include paper and folder costs. I know it’s high but I need to make more money so I can buy better equipment.

How are you calculating your printing cost? There is no way your printing costs should be $42 unless you are counting the purchase price of your printer.

example:
Letter Paper $4.00/ream=$0.008 each
Legal Paper $6.00/ream=$0.012 each
Toner $100/each 10,000 pages/toner = $0.01 each
Brother printers need to factor Drum replacement as well.
You can factor in printer depreciation, electricity, internet as well.

So 200 pages, 150 letter, 50 legal = $7.60

You can buy letter as low as $34/case and legal as low as $60/case. Generic toner can be as low as $20

You can go Office Depot or Staples and have them printed for $0.04-0.07 per page(though this may violate agreement with hiring company or NNA guidelines).

Sellers 30-50 pages
Buyers 80-120 pages
Refi 100-180 pages
Reverse 200-300 pages
HELOC 30-60

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It would be in your best interest to jot down all of the expenses associated with performing the services you provide within your service region to determine a baseline operating cost. Then, at that point, you can calculate the fees that will generate a net profit to determine if you’ll have a Profit or sustain a Loss at that rate.

There are many items to consider within your Overhead calculations. Here are a few to get you started:
• telephone expenses including cell phone equipment and monthly service fees
• office equipment and furniture; i.e., work chair, work desk, reliable dual-tray printer, trustworthy scanner, etc.
• Notarial stamps for Jurats, Acknowledgements, Notarial Name, Commission Expiration, etc.
• rent and utilities
• paper
• toner
• binder clips
• pens (inexpensive for one-time use)
• stationery and supplies including stamps & envelopes
• travel costs to & from signer locations (i.e., create a generic by county list)
• travel costs to & from FedEx/UPS/USPS, etc. (i.e., choose your favorite location OR the closest that will provide you with a receipt)
• business insurance
• business-related meals and entertainment
• professional association memberships
• annual background checks
• annual certification expenses
• legal and accounting fees
• tax preparation fees
• advertising and marketing costs; i.e., Google ads, yellow pages ad, website, business cards, or brochure
• Protection equipment; i.e., COVID-19 masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, etc.

AND many more!

Your individual overhead would also include the cost of fringe benefits; i.e., medical insurance, disability insurance, retirement benefits. Also, remember to include quarterly income tax payment to federal & state (as appropriate) and self-employment taxes.

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If calculating all this accurately seems to be a bit overwhelming, reach out to your tax advisor and ask for guidance in this regard. :sparkles::yellow_heart:

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Also, there is an excellent specific cost breakdown by one business owner for services within her [ @anon78047977 ] region & for her overhead:

"Ok for a seasoned already in business Signing Agent (meaning no start up costs to factor in, just on going costs)

Average Refinance

  • 150 pages (300 when having to print 2 copies)
  • 35 miles average miles to signing/from signing/to FedEx drop
  • Print cost average .15 per page (Laser printer, standard paper. Note this is also the cost at Staples, FedEx Office in the area BUT I have actually calculated my real costs by dividing the number of pages I get from a toner kit, my drum kit, cost of paper etc. but I use this average of .15 because there are Notaries around who actually use outside printing)
  • IRS mileage .56 per mile (you can use actual costs of gas, insurance, plus maintenance costs. I will use the IRS rate because it’s a good average and I also have Tolls I have to pay which I will not add in this example. Also later I kind of use this amount as a “catch all” for other expenses. Again, I have determined my “actual” costs and the averages I use are pretty spot on.)
  • 2.25 hours an average total time spent which includes, confirming appt & reviewing instructions, printing/prepping docs, travel time to/from/to FedEx, signing/notarizing docs, scan back
  • Costs that people usually do not take into consideration because it’s part of their household BUT they are costs of running a business (home office expenses - internet, electric, computer, phone, supplies, etc.) Remember every business has similar expenses

So here we go…let’s look at average total for this signing:
$45 print costs
$19.60 mileage rate (So this number is based on IRS mileage rate. I use this number as a catch all to give me an estimate of my actual costs (gas, toll, %of annual maintenance, %of insurance and a % of home office costs, %of supplies, etc. Since I know my % for every business expenses, I already know this number is pretty close to my actual costs. For example my actual costs for this signing would be around $21)

It will cost me $64.60 for a 150 page refinance order. With no issues, no traffic, no reprints, no problems

If I took a $75 signing fee I would net $10.40
I would net roughly $4.62 per hour for a signing that took up 2.25 hours of my time.

$95 I would net $30.40 or $13.51 per hour
$125 I would net $60.40 or $26.84 per hour
$150 I would net $85.40 or $37.96 per hour

So when I advocate for SAs and fees I am not just coming up with number off the top of my head. I have done the math for myself personally."

SOURCE: Signing Agent Fee is Just Not a Notary Fee - #38 by notarybe

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I am embarrassed to say yes that is my printing cost with paper and folder costs included. My current ink cost is 0.07 per page which I know is killing me. I am getting a brother printer on Tuesday.

Thank you for taking the time to break this down… extremely helpful

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Great information! I appreciate you taking the time to share this in a very effective and thorough format.
Very helpful :+1::+1:

-Ashley

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Wow! Sharee I’ve been a Certified Signing Agent for 10yrs this year and have done on average of about 15-17 signings a week for the past 6yrs. I must says that if I would have gotten this business advice when starting out I don’t think I could have ever stuck with and succeeded with “My Business”. Sharee the best advice I’ve ever gotten about being a Certified Signing Agent is to know “MY WORTH”! Don’t over think it Sharee. Think of your first year as an apprenticeship to “Your Business”. Good Luck!

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If you have been in business for at least a year, add your fees up, add the ACTUAL amounts on your books for all business expenses, subtract the expenses from your total fees and you have your profit. Divide your profit by the number of closings and you have your average profit per order. You can see then if you are charging enough or too little.

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Is it safe to print outside of your home?

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I know some notaries that have a mobile printer that they hook their computer directly to. But it is my understanding that you cannot use public machines and servers to print documents.

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EXERCISE CAUTION => Regarding printing outside your home/at public print shops:

Most printers have memory storage of the documents printed. Thus, not maintaining the privacy of the client(s) and/or signers by choosing to print in a public print shoppe; i.e., FedEx, UPS, KwikCopy, etc.

I need signings…I am not getting many…

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@nsathompson Could you identify the training & certifications that you have completed?
The amount of E&O insurance you carry?
The State & County of your home base?

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Regarding Signing Orders . . . Notary Café is a Directory that publishes your professional services. It’s not a Job Board.

Are you a Notary Café Pro member? If yes, you can easily increase your visibility by verifying your Profile is complete. Also, add 4 additional zip codes to your Profile (as a Pro Member) & double-check the Public Search option is active. NOTE: The Notary Café support staff can assist you further in this regard.

Here are the results from a quick Search I ran for you on “Best Companies” for you to seek out Signing Orders:
https://forum.notarycafe.com/search?q=best%20companies

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I’ve been a Notary Café Professional member from the onset of my services within this Business Sector. I value my membership here for a variety of reasons. Regularly, clients new to me say they found me on Notary Café, which as a business owner is very helpful information.

Although, it’s important to keep in mind that most clients don’t lead their conversation with how they located you as that’s not germane to the objective of their call.

So, in order to know where your business leads are originating from, the onus is upon you to include in your questions to new clients: “Oh, how did you locate/find my services please?”

This will help you know where your marketing budget is supporting your business and where it is lackluster . . . :angel::pray:

I had to make changes to my profile information a few times to see what worked. When I first signed up with the signing services i was getting the notifications but no signing assignments. Since I tweaked my profile and update my E&O to $100K I get at least one assignment a day. Considering that I am a new signing agent (First assignment December 16th) i consider that a win. I can’t tell you the number of signing services i signed up with as i lost count. I also upgraded my Notary Cafe membership, and, on the weekends, I spend my time researching title companies and send them direct emails. My first signing assignment was from a title company which paid me in two weeks from the appointment date.

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Market is slow now, just be patient, it will recover soon.

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I’m also new at this too. I’m always thinking about my expense versus profit. You all broke it down nicely.Thank you taking time to reply.

This really helps me a lot now that you have broken it down. Thank you!!!

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Thank you so much. My numbers match yours but I have not considered including retirement or medical insurance in my calculations. I also pay to have my office professionally cleaned but have not included that expense either. I average around 2.5 hours per signing for a standard (160 page) refi two signers, two copies and scan and about 60 miles round trip. This includes negotiation, confirming, bookkeeping, travel, printing, shipping and the actual signing time. When I have to prepare invoices, even with a template I’ve devised, it only eats into my hourly rate.

I believe notaries are exempt from Self Employment tax and I also keep records of how many notarizations I’ve performed as well as mileage. For shipping mileage I use an average number because I cannot say I ship from the same place every time. I’ve been using Excel to keep track of everything but I am aware there are software programs for notaries, it’s just been too hectic to stop and learn another new thing.

J

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