Friday, June 13, 2008

The Basics of Mystery Shopping: Big Bucks?

I've touched on this in previous installments of this series, but it bears repeating: Unless you are prepared to spend five solid 8-hour days a week and have a good sized nest egg with which to begin, you will most likely not be able to start off making a solid second income with mystery shopping. I'm sure someone out there supports themselves with a mystery shopping income, but most of the shoppers I have contacted say it's just not enough to live on.

There are dovetailing occupations which can net a part or full time income. For instance, if Mystery Shopping Company is impressed with your reporting and writing skills, they might offer you a job as an editor, compiling and correcting the reports sent in by other shoppers. Some shoppers have created lines of supplementary income by inventing reporting databases (like the one I use) and selling them to other shoppers. Some are on the "lecture circuit" and hold seminars to teach mystery shopping skills. A very few open their own mystery shopping companies, and a good percentage of those charge a fee to the shopper.

Never, ever pay a fee to become a shopper. Ever. Did I stress that enough? There are hundreds of mystery shopping companies with open opportunities. There are even websites that have links where you can just click to check job listings easily. Paying to become a mystery shopper does not get you better or more job listings, it just lines the pockets of disreputable companies.

Shopper fees and reimbursable expenses are arranged between (going back to my part one labels) Superstore, Inc and Mystery Shopping Company long before the assignment is available for Sally Shopper to choose. Some companies are willing to consider negotiating shopper fees, but for the most part they are pretty solidly set. Don't even ask about reimbursement for mileage because even in these $4 a gallon days, it is one more level of work for Mystery Shopping Company, and one more chunk of billable hours that cut down on overall shopper pay. The minority of companies that offer travel expenses will request proof of auto insurance during your application process.

There are occasional bonuses available for shops that are nearing their deadline. These occur most frequently near the end of the month and are well worth keeping an eye open for.

Just how much can be made? Think of a pyramid. At the bottom are lots and lots of $5 jobs and at the very top are a few $200 jobs. Of course, Mystery Shopping Company has a large chunk of trust built up with Superstore, Inc if they are offering $200, and will want their most experienced, trustworthy shoppers taking those jobs. They most likely won't even be offered to newer shoppers. Build your reputation and skills by performing lots of $5 and $10 jobs, reporting accurately, meeting your deadlines and not "flaking," and higher paying opportunities will be offered to you.

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