Unrestricted Fees as an Apostille

notary industry Apr 12, 2021

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Wondering what the hell an Apostille is? You aren't alone and my guest, Judi Lawrence articulates it perfectly in today's episode. Plus, we'll explore what your role as an Apostille Agent is (And is not), how that works, and why people pay you to do it.

Episode 4: Enhance your revenue making ability by becoming an expert with new skill sets.

6:43 When opportunity knocks, you have to let it in!
15:58 Value is in the eye of the beholder!
22:26 I've been a 'boot strapper' for my entire life, but i have found it pays to invest in yourself and take advantage of opportunities to reduce the learning curve.


--- Full Raw Transcription of Podcast Below ---

Introduction (00:00):
I took every document from a signing packet. I read every document and I read the origin of every document and I figured it all out. And by Monday I was ready to go. And by Wednesday I was making money.

New Speaker (00:20):
Welcome to the SideHustle Lounge. If you're looking for flexible ways to earn income, grow your mindset, and live the lifestyle you've always dreamed of, you are in the right place. So lower the lights. Grab your favorite beverage and join your host. Founder of NotaryCoach.com and Amazon bestselling author of Sign and Thrive: How To Make Six Figures As A Mobile Notary And Loan Signing Agent, Bill Soroka.

Bill Soroka (01:07):
Welcome everyone and cheers to my guest today. Judith Lawrence of the Lawrence Institute for notaries, also known as the Queen of Apostille and author of Make Your Business Our Business: An Interactive, Step-by-Step Guide to Policies, Procedures, & Profits. It's a great handbook if you're just starting out as a notary public. Judy, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Judith Lawrence (01:31):
Thanks bill. It's my pleasure to be with you.

Bill Soroka (01:35):
I love that. You've agreed to be here and talk about the unrestricted fees available with Apostille work. I had to call it Apostille otherwise it doesn't rhyme with unrestricted fees, but I know you call it Apostille and we're going to dive into that and talk about what an Apostille is how you can build a business around it, all that good stuff. But first I want to share, I wonder if you would share with our audience why we should listen to you about Apostille. Can you start with how you got into your business or how you, what's your origin story here?

Judith Lawrence (02:15):
My origin story is that for a number of years, I was a paralegal and a legal secretary one fine beautiful sunny day. They came to 15 or 16 of us and said we don't need you anymore. And I was a in a man was out of plan if you will. I never thought in a million years that I wouldn't have a job and I never thought that I wouldn't have an income. So after about six months of grieving I was selling a piece of property and I called a notary to come and notarize some papers. I still remember her name and it's seven a half years ago. Her name was Vicky. I, when Vicki walked out my door, a light bulb went off in my head and I said, why did I just pay Vicky to be a notary for me?

Judith Lawrence (03:13):
Why are people paying me to be a notary? And I walked in the other room and I made a business card and I had, I had every intention of being the neighborhood notary. I thought I would go to, I mean, the city and I thought I'd go to hospitals or hotels or, apartment buildings and just give my card and say, if you need a notary. I went to a function of a day or so later. And I met a woman who told me, and I told her my story. And she said, well, what's your background? Why don't you become a signing agent? And I said, what is your signing agent? And she told me, and she gave me five or six numbers to call. And she said, you know, with your background, these papers will kind of be using for you. So I came home, I did what she said.

Judith Lawrence (04:08):
And then I told my friends and family that from Thursday to Monday, no one would hear for me because I took every document from a signing packet. And I read every document and I read the origin of every document and I figured it all out. And by Monday I was ready to go. And by Wednesday I was making money and that's a true story. And I was up 50 years old. I was applying for paralegal and secretary jobs. I think I shared this with you, bill and people would say to me, Oh wow, you're wonderful. You know, PowerPoint, you know, Excel, you know, word, you'd be wonderful. You could help Tommy or, or Barbara. And then the next day I would get this nice letter from them. And I later found out that the words that they put on your resume are T and O and that stands for too old.

Judith Lawrence (05:08):
And I was really prepared that I would not get a job. So the next question was, what am I going to do with my life? And so then I created center city notary, which is a walk-in business. We do general notarization. We're very busy. We worked seven days a week. And that led me into, I was getting a light bulb and people were saying, do you do Apostille? And so one day I sat down and said, I've got to find out all about this. And I did. And I added Apostille to my array of services and our Apostille are different than notaries because of the unrestricted fees.

Bill Soroka (05:59):
Let me, let me, let me pause right there for just a minute because you you offered a lot of great information there and I love that. You've number one, you mentioned grief after being laid off. I think there's so many people who are listening today that can relate to that.

Judith Lawrence (06:19):
I'm going to tell you two quick things to tell you one thing is that the only conversation or eight months, nine months, that this was going on. The only thing I knew how to talk about with people was what television show I had just watched because I was no longer out in the world. I was no longer talking to everybody all day long. And I will tell you that I cried all the time, because those of you who know me know, I am a very strong woman and I am a very happy person, but I would not. There was no hope. And and I made the, I made lemonade out of lemon. And I'm not going to take all the French for that. Cause I do believe in life, half of it, three quarters of it is opportunity. And a quarter of it is when opportunity knocks. You have to let it in.

Bill Soroka (07:11):
Yeah. That's so huge. You gotta hear the knock. You gotta be listening. Yeah. And then open that door. Thank you for sharing that too. And then you also mentioned age-ism, which I know that so many people that are listening can relate to you are highly qualified. And I had never heard that people were putting the TO's on resumes for too old!

Judith Lawrence (07:33):
TO! You know, and they're really are a terrible thing because when you're 50, you're probably not gonna call outsick because your kid has a cold or whatever. You, you know, you stayed out too late the night before. You're probably going to be the best of the best. You have all these years of experience behind you, but it isn't your market. And I'm sure people will hear this and say, well, I got lucky. I got the best job of my life at 55, and I know it happens, but the rare, the typical thing is it just doesn't.

Bill Soroka (08:18):
I think there's a shift in a lot of in some industries where they recognize the experience and their perspective that comes with being in an industry for many years, with all that experience. And then there's still some kind of the mainstream ones that don't, they're looking for that fresh young energy. And it's, there's something to be said for that, but it's, it shouldn't sacrifice the the wisdom and the experience that comes from being older or having more experience.

Judith Lawrence (08:49):
Well, I feel that I was very lucky and working in a law firm for so many years taught me to have some good business sense which I was able to bring with me. But Bill, if you had asked me 10 years ago, if I would be sitting here right now with you talking about having become an entrepreneur and running a business and being well thought of in all the, I would have said, I know I'm a betting woman. And I would have said no way, I'm going to be in this law firm until I don't work anymore, because it's just the way we get, we get complacent.

Bill Soroka (09:29):
Yeah. Well, you just said something too, that I think deserves repeating. You brought that skillset with you. You've got some business sense and it's so important to remember that no matter what endeavor we take on, we don't have to check our bags at the door. We get to bring all of that experience, all that wisdom, all of those skills from wherever we were awesome before into whatever venture we're in right now. So yeah, maybe, maybe it's a notary public. Maybe it's not an Apostille agent. Maybe it's, maybe it's an insurance sales. You get to bring all of that with you. You never have to check your bags. Thank you for,

Judith Lawrence (10:07):
And I'm going to add one thing. If you don't have those skills, you have the internet and you have groups like sign and drive and mine and others and coaches and mentors. There is so much out there to help you. It's just, it's just wonderful that people have stepped up and said, I've become successful. I've become somewhat of an expert. And I want to share like you do bill, you share it with everyone. I try to do that too. It, it is so wonderful that people aren't saying, well, I know this and I'm not going to share it with anyone because I'll be the only one that knows it. You know, get out there, teach other people. There's a big world out there. And there's enough for all of us to do well.

Bill Soroka (10:59):
There is plenty for everyone. And there's really, I think it was Maya Angelou that says it. There's no true success without helping others. You've got to reach the hand back and pull people forward. I love that.

Judith Lawrence (11:09):
I could not agree more.

Bill Soroka (11:11):
So let's dive in here. Let's talk. Apostille... Define for our listeners, what is an Apostille?

Judith Lawrence (11:19):
Okay. An Apostille is a certificate of authenticity or legalization that comes from the secretary of state, allowing you to use that document in a foreign country. That's the, that's the meat and potatoes of what is in our steel.

Bill Soroka (11:44):
Perfect. And so then what you'd help people become or help teach is how to an Apostille agent, what role does an Apostille agent? So how do our listeners actually perform this work?

Judith Lawrence (12:00):
Okay. So you are the facilitator or the expediter. You are the person that is going to tell your customer what they need for that country. What they need, how they need it, what forms they need, how much money they need. You're the person that is going to be the facilitator or the expediter to get those documents to the secretary of state. Now that brings us to something that we've talked about many times, and that is people think people call the secretary of state and they call me and they say, I want to take your course, but I can't because my secretary of state said, they do it. And this is true. You can't do the actual Apostille. The secretary of state's the only one that can do that, but you are the facilitator. You're the one that's going to make it happen. You're the one that's going to be the expert. That's going to tell the person this is a non Hague country. And because it's a non hague country, you're going to need these documents. And because it's a Hague country, you're gonna need these documents. You're going to learn the processes so that when these people come to you, you can make the process easy for them and get them their job, get it done on time and get it done. Right? Get it done correctly.

Bill Soroka (13:37):
What a beautiful description of what an apostille agent is. So let's talk about the qualifications for that. Is it federally regulated, state regulated? And do you have to be a notary public to do it

Judith Lawrence (13:50):
And was not federally regulated and it is not state regulated and believe it or not, it is not mandatory to be a notary. Now, many of your documents will need to be notarized. So if you're not a notary, this is still a great business for you. You could do it on the side, you could do it full time. You could do it whenever you want, but you will have to connect with a notary because I think, I think it's about maybe 75% of the documents will need to be notarized. And you, so you're going to have to have someone on the end that can do those notaries. And of course, whatever you pay, that person you will build into your cost. But the law does not say that an apostille agent or an apostille facilitator needs to be a notary.

Bill Soroka (14:43):
That's huge. That opens up a lot of doors. And that kind of brings us to even the topic that we were we're naming this episode over is the unrestricted fees for apostille. How does that work? And can you define why that is?

Judith Lawrence (15:02):
Well, there is that state regulated and it's not federally regulated. So what you, what is regulated the secretary of state fees are regulated. The department of state fees are regulated your carrier fees to get them to these places are regulated and your notary fees are regulated, but after that, you can charge whatever you want. So let me just embellish on that for just a moment, please, when you take these orders, you're going to find different people. Some people will say to you, thank you so much, and I don't need it for a month. So just call me when it's ready and thank you. And then you're going to get the person who is crazed and dazed and comes in and says, I just found out that you close the deal. I need your apostille, and I need it tomorrow. And of course, pre pandemic, it was a lot easier to do tomorrow.

Judith Lawrence (16:04):
It's very difficult to do that now, but let's go tomorrow. So if you can provide that, you can charge anything you want. And I'll tell you a quick story. It was just beautiful. Sunday morning, I got a call from a woman and she asked me if I could come over to our office, which is like minutes away from where I live. And I did. And she said, I'll meet you in the lobby. And she did, but she took me up to one of the most major law firms in the city. And they said, we need your notary because we're going to take this document to city hall in the morning and get it apostilled. I said, unfortunately, you're not because city hall does not apostille documents at which point they were all in a tither because it had to be on a plane to go to Belgium on Monday night, remember I said, this was Sunday morning and it had to be on an airplane, which meant it had to be apostilled and back in Philadelphia by Monday at 3:30, four o'clock. So we got someone to drive up there. This was pre pandemic. We got someone to drive up there at six o'clock Monday morning, got the document done when they opened their doors, got back here by lunchtime. And we were able to charge them over $750 because we, we got somebody that did the job.

Bill Soroka (17:28):
And value in the eye of the beholder, right. They had to get it done.

Judith Lawrence (17:32):
I had to get that done. Luckily they did not wait till Monday morning for somebody to notarize it because they were pretty sure that this was going to have been in city hall. One of the things that's so interesting bill is most people have never heard of them until they need one. So we'll call you on the phone and say, just to look for my lawyer and I need something. And it sounds like a-a-a-a and I say, apostille and that, you know, or, or destination wedding is coming in. And they were just told that they need these documents and they have no idea. So you're talking about something when you really have the ability to make yourself the expert without going in and making yourself sound pompous or, or, or rude, you can go in and say, aha Mr. Soroka, I have you, I have your back. I know exactly what you need, and I know exactly how to get it to you for your meeting next Thursday, what an opportunity it is. It really is. So It Takes A little work and you'll have to study a little bit.

Bill Soroka (18:46):
Exactly. And, you know, sometimes an expert just has to be a few pages ahead of where they're at. And while it's probably true that you can, a normal consumer could get on the internet, could get on the secretary of state's website and try to follow those instructions. We know what it's like working with the government and government manuals and descriptions. It's not for everybody. So we get a really good chance here as an apostille agent to shine a light and be that hand-holder through the process

Judith Lawrence (19:20):
And you will make mistakes. We all make mistakes. You know, you will, you will. I want to make a mistake. And, and Egypt asked for two checks, two money orders, or two cashiers checks, I'm sorry, each $25. So I wasn't being careful enough. And I sent him two money orders. And so they sent back the job, they rejected it. And I had not to go to the bank and change the money. That's not the issue. I had to get a backup to them. And they had to get him back to the Egyptian embassy and I had to pay those costs. And I also had to tell my client that your job's going to be later on as my fault. So I don't think I, I love when people say, because, you know, I do know that don't think we don't all make mistakes, the idea of sharing and why I've created a community out there of apostilles and notaries is because it's great to have people to bounce things off. Oh yeah, it is.

Bill Soroka (20:25):
So in that, and I really love that you brought that up. Perfect timing because people ask and I know even people in our notary community there, they think, well, I'll just look it up online. And there is, there's something very practical about that. I love it when people are resourceful, but when you, when you get involved in a training program or you get mentorship from an expert or you're part of a community, what you're really paying for is perspective and experience. So you've made a lot of those mistakes and you share that information. I know you do really well. Judy sharing that as part of your course in your community. So you can help people not stumble where you stumbled. And to me, that's the real value.

Judith Lawrence (21:12):
Yes, absolutely. And I tell in every class that I teach, I tell don't be too hard on yourself. And remember when you became a signing agent, did you automatically remember the rescission calendar? Well, probably not. I know I didn't now it's, you know, it's, it's second nature to me, but I had to do a few signings before it became second nature to me. So the same with any business that you undertake, you have to learn. I opt to tell you I'm on Facebook a lot with this, and I'm on Instagram and Twitter. And and sometimes when I'm even teaching a course on the chat line, someone will say all you need to do is put it in an envelope, put the check in the envelope and send it to the secretary of state. You don't need to worry about learning all of this.

Judith Lawrence (22:02):
Well, it's just not true. There are Hague countries and Non-Hague countries. There are documents that don't go directly to the secretary of state. They may have to go to the department of state. So to really be good, you do want to learn the processes. Once you get them under your belt, you will be fine. And, and it's like, anything else? It's like being a signing agent it's redundant. You will go out there and you will, you will remember the last time you did it. So you'll know for the next time that that's the answer,

Bill Soroka (22:37):
Judy, that's such a good point. And I mean, let's look at the reality too. I know there's, there's always the big movement of people trying to do things for free. And there's, I get that people are in different situations at different times, and I can appreciate that I've been a bootstrapper for my entire life, but there's also something to be said for investing, investing in yourself. So you can cut the learning curve. And that's what really a good training program can do, because what we're talking about here, Judy, and even in your apostille Academy, your masterclass, it's a couple hundred bucks and you offer a great discount to our listeners. So thank you for that. You guys can learn more about that in the VIP room at SideHustleLounge.com, but we're talking about literally a couple hundred dollars. And I want to wrap up here with, again, going back to the unrestricted fee component. What do you see as the average fee that a apostille agent can charge for their services?

Judith Lawrence (23:35):
I don't see charging less than a $100, and I see charging probably closer to $150. It, sometimes you go up to maybe one $185 or $190, but again, I caution people know your know, your neighborhood, know where you are, know what people are going to say. I'll just, I'll just walk through the next one. I mean, so I answer my phone a lot at center city notary. And when I say that a notary is $10, people say on the other end of the phone, that's it $10. I'm on my way. I'll be right there. I'll be there in an hour. The other person says $10. Are you kidding me? Oh my God. I thought it was free. Well, I got to go and they hang up. So you're going to get both people here too. You're going to get somebody who you're going to say that it's $150 and they're going to say, Oh my goodness, well, for $150, I could do it myself. And what you're going to say is, okay. And if there's anything I can do to help you let me know, because they can't do it themselves. And they're going to come back to you and they're going to say, I want you to know I did it myself. I waited a month. Then they send it back. Cause I didn't have the right form, and then they send it back for something else. And the next time I need this oncoming to a service like yours, and I'm going to let you do it.

Bill Soroka (25:10):
Yeah, exactly. I think there's opportunity to build a relationship regardless of whether or not they use your services right away. I love that. You mentioned that. And what I really wanted to highlight though, is if you can make between $100 - 300 hundred, I've seen some of it depending on your city, you know, a hundred, $300, like you said, for those major expedites, you can pretty much charge whatever the market will bear when they need them that quickly. But,

Judith Lawrence (25:37):
But, but wait, wait, I want to interrupt you. You're talking about one. How about the ones that come, come with you for three or four?

Bill Soroka (25:45):
Yeah, exactly. Well, yeah, exactly.

Judith Lawrence (25:48):
Talking about everybody in the country, doesn't come for one. Lots of people have three kids and they need all their birth certificates apostille or sometimes all at once. You know, sometimes I have someone coming in on Monday who has seven corporate documents and we're going to figure out how to do them and that's going to be about a thousand dollars job. So I urge you think big. Remember not everybody's gonna. You know, not, everybody's just going to have one, but like, there's nothing wrong with one, one, three people with one, if you charge them $150 a pop, that's a lot of money.

Bill Soroka (26:31):
That's good. And that's decent revenue. And that's to my point is if people are if you're in your head right now, you kind of roll your eyes when you think, Oh, why would I spend $200 on training? This is why you would spend $200 on training. So you can be the expert and you can charge a premium price and grow that business. It basically costs you one appointment to get this training perspective and experience to help make you an expert. One thing that you all, you mentioned the other day too, we were doing a webinar Judy, and you mentioned you don't quite understand why it works this way, but if somebody needs an apostille once, they oftentimes need apostille again. So there's a great opportunity for repeat business as well.

Judith Lawrence (27:17):
Yeah. I know that some people move from, from country to country. Some people move, some people go over and then they come back and then they go to a different country. There are so many opportunities now for I'm going to say young people. Cause I guess that that's not true. It's it's not only just young people, but young people who are not yet married and don't have children. A lot of them come in and they're going to go do two years as a doctor in Bolivia or two years as a teacher, I just had a woman she's going to teach in Siberia for a year and then she's going to figure it out from there. So your goal, as a, as a person once told me, I asked the person once I was ready to pitch a big job and I asked a person wants, do you like my pitch?

Judith Lawrence (28:06):
And he said, you don't need it. All you need to say to someone is I'm going to do this job for you when it's not this job that I'm concerned about. It's every job you're going to have for the rest of your life. And isn't that true? As a notary... If someone comes to you and they notarize an affidavit, that's wonderful, but they're going to need stuff forever. There's always a need for a notary. So you want to do a good job and you want to hand them their business card, your business card. So they'll come back again and again, and again, same with our apostille.

Bill Soroka (28:41):
I love that you let's pause a minute and just reflect on that. Cause that was, that was gold Judy right there, because I think that's the biggest missed opportunity in our mutual audience, right? We're used to talking to notaries, but really anybody on here, if you're in any type of business, biggest missed opportunity is believing that this is a transactional business. This is not a transactional business. This is a relationship business. And if they did, if they needed a notary once, if they need an insurance policy once, if they needed to buy a house once, they're going to need all of those services again. And your ability to expertly perform the duties you have been hired to do, and your ability to lay the foundation for a relationship that can possibly last beyond that one, single transaction directly impacts the success in this, in any other business. I love that you brought that up too.

Judith Lawrence (29:38):
Think about it. Think about yourself and think about if somebody does a good job for you before you put it away or finish, you usually now go to your phone and put their number and some identifying quality. Like, I mean, if they cut your hair, then you put Tina hair something to remember that person, because in six months, when you need a haircut, you want to go back to that girl who was so pleasant and so nice and gave you such a great haircut. Well, if you go get it and it's done correctly and it's done on time and you don't have to worry and you didn't have to frame and try and figure it all out, what are you going to do? You're going to put that number under Judy apostille or Bill apostille. And you're going to say, you know, when I need this again, this is who I'm going to go. We are a relationship based customer service world. That is what we are now. And and I think that if you just can mindset yourself that not today, but all the tomorrows, I think you'll do really well. Yeah.

Bill Soroka (30:53):
I love that. Judy. That was awesome. Thank you so much for really defining what an apostille agent is, how people can build a business and how and why some of the fees are well, the fees are unrestricted and you can grow a business with this with whatever the market will bear in your particular market city. This was great. And for those who are listening and you're wondering, how can I learn more? Check out the VIP room at SideHustleLounge.com. I've got links to Judy's resources. She's got a couple of them in there for us as well as her Apostille Academy through the Lawrence Institute for notaries. Again, Judy, thank you so much for sharing so much of your energy and your enthusiasm here.

Judith Lawrence (31:39):
Thanks. Let's do it again.

- Bill

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