Make Extra Money from Home: How to Become a Secret Shopper

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Wondering how to become a secret shopper? Contrary to many online ads that you may have seen, mystery shoppers are not paid to shop but rather gather information. 

In fact, in my opinion mystery shopping is one of the easiest ways to make money on the side. It’s not only fun, but it’s unique and can be very interesting.

I stumbled upon mystery shopping about 10 years ago.  What I like most about being a secret shopper is that the work is extremely simple.

SECRET SHOPPER OVERVIEW

In a nutshell, it’s basically what it sounds like — you visit stores, restaurants, banks, movies, even theme parks, posing as a customer. You gather information about your visit and then report this information back to the mystery shopping company on an evaluation form. 

What’s so cool about becoming a secret shopper is that every assignment is different. 

Typical assignment can involve:  

  • Checking the cleanliness of the business.
  • Evaluating the speed of service you received.
  • Checking to see if a display is set up correctly.
  • Evaluating an employee(s) – dress code, greetings, etc.
  • *Buying a particular item or service. 
  • Checking the price and/or quality of a product or service.

*If you are required to purchase an item or pay for a service, the mystery shopping company will reimburse you for your expenses and you get to keep the merchandise. 

pros and cons of secret shopping

Of course, every opportunity has it’s pros and cons. And when you become a secret shopper, it’s no different. 

Pros:

  • It’s easy to get started.
  • You can get started for $0 out of pocket costs.
  • You can set your own work schedule.
  • You have the power to choose or reject the assignments that you want to complete.
  • It’s easy to incorporate around your current lifestyle.
  • Most companies are always looking for dependable people, so you can always find work. 

Cons:

  • Some assignments pay low fees and may not be worth your time or effort.
  • Unlike a traditional part-time job, you won’t generate a regular income right away. 
  • The work flow can be inconsistent. 
  • Some companies pay slow. They only pay once a month and/or pay by check.

WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME A SECRET SHOPPER

Although mystery shopping is an easy way to make extra money, it’s definitely not for everyone. You will need to possess certain qualities and traits in order to be successful.

  • You need to be dependable. 
  • You will need to be observant and detail oriented. 
  • You will need to have good memory recall. 
  • You will need to have good writing skills. (The ability to structure sentences and paragraphs together in a way that it makes sense to the person who is reviewing your reports).
  • You will need to have good time management skills. 

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO MAKE

You won’t get rich when you become a secret shopper. It won’t allow you to quit your day job or earn enough cash to buy that dream home.  It will however, allow you to earn a few extra hundred dollars a month to supplement your income, pay off debt or save for that dream vacation, etc. 

Shopping assignments fall into 4 basic categories: traditional, telephone, video and hospitality. The amount of money you can expect make depends greatly upon the type of  assignment that you complete, as well as the complexity of the shop. 

For instance:

  • Traditional mystery shopping assignments, pay  on average $12- $250 per assignment.
  • Telephone assignments, pay  on average $3 – $25 per assignment. 
  • High-end hospitality assignments, pay on average $25 – $500 per assignment. 
  • Video shopping assignments, pay on average  $50 – $500 per assignment.

Here’ s an Example:

Your assignment is to pose as a potential mortgage customer at a local bank. This assignment requires you to evaluate your experience and the bank employee’s knowledge of the different mortgage products. This assignment could take approximately 30 to 40 minutes to complete. It pays $90.00. 

 

how to become a secret shopper

GETTING PAID

You will find that most companies pay via PayPal or offer direct deposit. There are some that only pay by check. On average most companies pay once or twice a month. You can generally find this information in the FAQ section.

STEPS TO BECOME A SECRET SHOPPER 

Step 1: Set up a separate email account just for your mystery shopping activities. 

Step 2: Register with one or more mystery shopping companies and/or a scheduling service like Coast to Coast. Secret shoppers are independent contractors, so you register with as many companies as you like.

Step 3: Once you are approved to become a shopper, set up and complete your profile. (Demographic, Cities you want to work in, How you want to get paid, etc.) 

Step 4: Configure your email account and check the appropriate box in your portal to receive immediate email alerts when assignments come available. 

Step 5: Complete any online assessments.  Some companies may require you to take a short quiz to verify that you actually understand the job.

That’s it! After you have completed the above steps, you can use the portal to search for available assignments. You can pick as many assignments that interest you. 

 TIPS TO MAXIMIZE YOUR EARNING POTENTIAL

  • Register with several different companies – This will increase your chances of getting access to more available assignments.  If you want to make a consistent income, you will want to register with at least 10 companies or more.
  • Read the guidelines carefully before accepting an assignment – Only accept jobs that you understand and are comfortable performing. You won’t get paid if the job is not completed as instructed or you will have to re-do the assignment at your expense. 
  • Watch the job boards and check for available shops often – The best paying shops generally go fast.
  • Accept last-minute and less-glamorous shops when first starting out – This will improve your ranking with the company. Plus, last minute assignment often pay more or include a bonus. 
  • Make sure the fee is worth your time and gas – You don’t want to accept assignments that pays less than $25.00 if you have to drive more than 20 miles back and forth to complete the assignment or that will take more than an hour to complete.
  • Complete assignments on time – This will help increase your ranking and show that you are dependable. Which helps to open the door for higher paying or special assignments. If you can’t complete the assignment on time, its’ best to email the scheduler to see if you can get the due date extended. 
  • Don’t always take the first fee that is being offered – Sometimes, the first fee offered is not the most the mystery company is willing to pay to get an assignment done.  In some cases, it pays to wait it out before accepting an assignment. Some assignments have strict deadlines so the longer it sits on the job board, the higher the fee goes up. 
  • Plan out your assignments –  In some cases, you can maximize your earning potential and save time and gas by accepting assignments that are in the same area, neighborhood, mall or even the same store. (It happens more than you think).   I call this double dipping. 

HOW TO AVOID SCAMS 

Unfortunately, not all mystery shopping companies are reputable. To avoid falling for a scam, you should avoid any company that:

  • Requires you to pay a fee. (Reputable companies don’t charge registration fees).
  • Solicits you without your permission via email. 
  • Requires you to pay for a certification to become a secret shopper.
  • Advertises that you can make hundreds of dollars in a day shopping.
  • Asks you to deposit a check and then wire money back to them. 

The best protection against scams, is to work with companies that belong to the Mystery Shopper Providers Association.

FINDING YOUR FIRST ASSIGNMENT

Ready to become a secret shopper?  Mystery shopping is so easy, you can be on your way to making extra money this week.  Here’s a list of  25 well-known companies you can start with. You can also find legitimate opportunities on these free websites:

Volition.com

Jobslinger

MSJobBoard

Mystery Shop Forum

 

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