As you all may (or may not) know, I am a stay at home parent to a now three year old boy and I live on a budget. For my family, budgeting means no unplanned eating out, movie excursions, or anything else fun in nature. Just because we can’t afford these fun things often doesn’t mean we aren’t dying to do them! Having a part-time job is just not practical for me. My husband works a job where he basically has no scheduled working hours and gets home when the job is done.
While trying to figure out a way to make any income so my family could do these fun things I stumbled onto an ad for Shadow Shopper mystery shopping. At this time I knew nothing about mystery shopping but was very intrigued. Getting paid to shop, eat, drink and do things I actually wanted to sounded way to good to be true.
After doing some research, I found that mystery shoppers are hired by retailers, restaurants and other companies that depend on top-level customer service. Their job is simple: visit the business or make a transaction with the company and share the results of that experience.
While this isn’t an alternative to a traditional part-time job, I did look at mystery shopping as a way to earn a little extra money, as well as an outlet for my husband and I to have a night out without having to spend a lot of money. It turned out mystery shopping was so much more than that for me.
For the last two years I have been going to dinner, shopping for gifts, hitting amusement parks, getting my car serviced and so much more for free and you can do the same!
Tips For Getting Started
Mystery shopping is a job, and though it’s fun, it requires real work. When beginning mystery shopping, remember to take it seriously and pay close attention to the job requirements. Download a stopwatch app on your phone, text yourself notes during the shop when needed, and keep your eyes and ears open.
Mystery shopping requires specific interactions with customer service representatives, which includes—specific questions to ask and specific purchase requirements. You have to follow all of the requirements or you risk not getting paid. Start with one mystery shopping company and one type of shop that you can become comfortable with as you learn the ropes. Once you get that down, try another shop type and branch out from there.
Keep track of your shops and stay organized
Keep a calendar and write down every shop that you’ve scheduled for yourself, as well as other activities you’ve planned. This will keep you from over-scheduling yourself and from forgetting what you need to do and when.
Keep a spreadsheet of all the shops that you’ve completed and when, as well as how much you’ll be reimbursed and how much you’ll be paid. Mystery shopping companies usually take anywhere between two weeks and two months to pay you. Make sure you know when you expect to get paid and that you can keep track of it.
Also, make sure to track your mileage and pay taxes because mileage is deductible and all earnings are taxable (though reimbursements for purchases are not). Keep all your receipts and shop notes at least until after you get paid (or for longer if the mystery shop company requires it). After that, just keep your receipts for tax purposes.
Experienced mystery shoppers shop for multiple mystery shopping companies. When I first started, I signed up with Shadow Shopper and Job Slinger. Now personally, I’m signed up with 31 companies, and I shop about 15 times every month. Each mystery shopping company has its own client list and a limited number of shops available in your area.
In order to keep busy and find a variety of shops you can schedule for yourself, I recommend signing up with a few companies that have a lot of shops in your area. Large metropolitan areas will have more shops available than smaller towns—so if you live in a big city you may only need a few mystery shopping companies to keep you busy with enough assignments.