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Who doesn’t enjoy receiving free food or products that you would ordinarily buy? Mystery shopping or secret shopping is an excellent, fun way to earn some extra cash while doing the things you enjoy the most, like going out shopping, visiting salons, watching a movie, and much more. So how can you hop on board and also become a mystery shopper?
Becoming a mystery shopper is not difficult, but you need to have the right personality for the job. The process is simple; find a reputable company and sign up through their platform. Get paid by completing assignments and submitting your mystery shopper questions.
Can we all just quit our full-time jobs and become mystery shoppers? Unfortunately, not, but mystery shopping does come with some perks. Read on to see if becoming a mystery shopper is a good idea for you and, if so, how to land your first gig.
What To Consider Before Becoming A Mystery Shopper
When you talk about mystery shopping, most people have many questions to ask, and can you blame them? Being a mystery shopper sounds like the best job ever, so you may be asking yourself, what’s the catch? Sadly, you won’t get paid for simply going out shopping, but working as a mystery shopper can be fun to earn extra cash with your spare time.
Even though the job of a mystery shopper certainly isn’t difficult, it does require some effort on your part. The point of mystery shopping is to help businesses assess their employees’ customer service or the products they sell. Therefore, you will be playing the role of an undercover shopper and will need to fill out surveys and reports on your shopping experience.
Unfortunately, you won’t get rich doing this job, and it shouldn’t be considered a full-time career. Depending on your location and the number of mystery shoppers in your area, you may find it difficult to find gigs. You also won’t be hired as an employee but rather as an independent contractor, and therefore you don’t receive the regular benefits of being an employee.
The Struggle Of Finding A Legit Mystery Shopping Company
Although some people might not know what mystery shopping is, it is frequently searched online along with other work-for-yourself or work-from-home jobs (such as drop shipping or affiliate marketing). The internet is filled with content in this niche, and more often than not, you’ll come across a scam or an untrustworthy company trying to steal your money.
Therefore, do plenty of research to avoid becoming a victim and be careful of companies promising to make you rich overnight. Be careful which gigs you choose to work on – don’t ever accept tasks where you are required to transfer money or deposit a check on somebody else’s behalf. Never share your personal information or pay money to receive work.
Legit companies generally pay between $8 – $10 USD per task; this is not a fortune, and sometimes these tasks can last for 15 minutes up to a few hours. You may also be required to drive lengthy distances, so check if you will be reimbursed for the fuel. Keep in mind that wear and tear on your vehicle is usually your problem.
You may sometimes be required to purchase products with money out of your pocket but will be reimbursed later. However, be wary if a company requires you to buy a super expensive item.
What Does It Mean To Be An Independent Contractor?
Even though you can make money as an independent contractor, you are not always guaranteed work, and the company for whom you work can let you go at any point in time. And as mentioned before, an independent contractor does not receive employee benefits.
Employees don’t need to concern themselves with social security, unemployment insurance, federal income tax withholding, or state income tax withholding. The employer deals with these costs and tax withholdings, but it will be your responsibility as an independent contractor to manage these.
Before signing any contract, you should familiarize yourself with the Independent Contractor Agreement (ICA) and other documents, policies, and clauses. It is good to read up on your responsibilities as an independent contractor. If you find this information daunting, you can consult with a financial/legal advisor or an organization specializing in consumer advice.
The Reality Of Being A Mystery Shopper
This type of work is best suited for someone who is ambitious and has a desire to explore new things. A few truths need to be considered if you want to succeed in this somewhat misunderstood job.
People generally assume that anyone can be a secret shopper. This is partially true since you don’t need a degree or any experience to get started. However, you will be restricted to lower-paying tasks if you haven’t built up a dependable reputation.
If you want to stand out from other mystery shoppers, consider getting certified. This costs money, but as with many different jobs, you’ll need to invest in yourself if you want more significant opportunities (here is one organization that can help you get certified). As with any other job, people with experience and some form of certification will be given preference when applying for higher-paying tasks.
There is no time to relax when you’re on duty and undercover. A successful mystery shopper is also detail-oriented. It would help to remember people’s names, how they were dressed, what your food tasted like, etcetera.
Your payment depends on your performance. If you don’t do the task well, you are not guaranteed to get paid or reimbursed. These shopper tasks often have precise instructions which need to be followed. A reputable company will always pay you out as long as you take the job seriously and turn your reports in on time.
Side note: many shopping companies include tasks on their platforms that don’t even involve mystery shopping. Various tasks such as audits and merchandising tend to show up on mystery shopping job boards, and not all of these will necessarily suit you.
Most people who get involved in mystery shopping don’t last long. The minimum wage might not be suitable for some folk, especially not those with families to support. Still, some individuals love mystery shopping and find the experience worth it.
Mystery Shopping: How To Receive And Complete Tasks
You should sign up with as many legit mystery shopper companies as possible. It is best to stick with companies that are well known and verify their authenticity before applying to work for them. This way, you can receive more tasks.
To keep the assignments flowing in, you need to ensure you have all the necessary equipment, so you don’t run into any problems while working. You want to show that you are a reliable shopper capable of meeting deadlines.
- A decent computer and internet speed will be needed since you’ll be working on submitting information on your company’s website.
- Economical and reliable transport will be needed for traveling to each task.
- Depending on the task, you may sometimes need formal clothing.
- You will also need a modern smartphone or tablet for performing various tasks (such as taking notes, photos, or logging into your company’s mobile application).
Be Proactive, Organized, And Take Initiative
It is very easy to become disorganized as a mystery shopper since you’ll receive numerous tasks. It is suggested to use tools that will make your life easier and keep you in control of your work.
Whatever organization methods you choose, keep it simple. You can use a notebook, compile spreadsheets, and use programs like Evernote or OneNote. Most mystery shoppers will make columns for different details such as the business name, location, task date, and additional reminders (specific date/times or photo uploads).
Another suggestion is to make a profile/template and fill it with all the general information that most companies want to know about you. This is particularly useful when applying to work for multiple companies as it will save you time filling out your applications.
You could include areas where you are willing to go mystery shopping and a few paragraphs about a recent shopping experience. Make sure you put a lot of effort into this template, as everything counts here. This is where you can show your skills, personality, and reliability.
Remember to keep track of all the companies you have signed up with and note down your login details for each website. This may sound simple and unnecessary, but you’ll thank yourself later for being organized.
You want to be proactive and read up on the latest news provided on each company’s website/blog. Don’t expect your company to give you tasks, go and search for them on the job boards. As an independent contractor, you essentially work for yourself, so you need to put in the effort if you want to see results.
Print out the necessary documents, questions, and instructions for each task. Familiarize yourself with this information before visiting the shop/business so that you don’t forget anything critical.
What To Do When You Are Out Mystery Shopping
When you take on your first task, you may feel nervous, and that’s okay. Take a deep breath; remember these tips, and you’ll do a great job.
It’s essential to prepare for your tasks and know what is expected from you beforehand. Follow the instructions for the assignment carefully and do what is required. Remember to pay attention to all the small details. Write notes straight after each task to fill in your surveys/reports confidently without forgetting any details.
Dress appropriately for each task. Generally, you will only qualify for assignments that suit your age, interests, and appearance. You are there to blend in with other people and not get caught out as an undercover shopper.
Try your best to act the part of a typical shopper. Remember you are just another person shopping, don’t be noticeable. Never make notes while on the job, as this will immediately make you look suspicious. If and when things get awkward, try to act calm and collected. You’re there to see how the business runs typically.
As a mystery shopper, you need to be incredibly punctual and reliable. Ensure you’re on schedule and submit all the appropriate documents on time. Contact the company immediately if something comes up and you need an extension or reschedule the task. Mystery shopper companies are known to be strict and won’t hesitate to delete you from their system.
How To Submit Your Surveys And Assignments
Once you have visited the business, you will need to report back to your mystery shopping company and let them know how your visit went. When filling out the documents, make sure you give your best efforts and hand them in on time.
Check your spelling and grammar. Try to express yourself using professional language, and provide as much information as possible. It is good practice to keep a copy of the completed documents for your records.
Make sure you know how to answer your surveys and the requirements. These documents are for the clients and need to be completed with care and in the correct format. Be honest and transparent in your responses to show that you are trustworthy.
The Best Mystery Shopping Companies To Work For
There are many dodgy mystery shopper jobs out there. People often end up disappointed either with the tasks or not getting paid. It is crucial to use caution when choosing which mystery shopper companies to work for. Below is a list of a few companies that are legitimate and well-known.
- IntelliShop deals with numerous top brands, and the mystery shoppers receive a rating score for the assignments they’ve completed. Having a higher rating score means you get access to higher-paying jobs.
- BestMark has been around for a long time and has many active mystery shoppers working for them. According to Glassdoor, they pay an average hourly rate of $13 USD, but this depends on the assignment.
- Market Force deals with companies in multiple industries, although most assignments are food-related.
- Service Evaluation Concepts pays higher than $50 USD for some assignments; however, their shoppers are certified and have advanced training. They also have uncertified mystery shoppers, but they can’t select tasks.
- Secret Shopper is another company that has been around for a while. Their pay ranges between $15 to $25 USD.
You should now have a better understanding of what a mystery shopper does. It can be a great way to earn pocket money, but it is not suitable for everyone.
If you decide to try mystery shopping, you will need to invest some time and effort if you want to be successful. Do your best to stay organized and perhaps consider getting certified or sign up for a training course to further your knowledge.