The money you earn each month doesn’t have to be limited to a set amount. If you often find yourself wondering: If only I could make more money or If only I had a better job that paid me more money then it might be time for you to establish a side hustle.
For this series, I’ve committed to talking about a different profitable side hustle each week. The purpose of this series is to share all the different options there are out there and provide tips and actionable steps you can take to get started with the side hustle that interests you the most.
Ever since I started side hustling, I’ve been able to take better control over my earnings and avoid letting my income limit or control my actions and my goals.
Today I’m excited to talk about one of my favorite side hustles, mystery shopping. When I first became a mom and wasn’t working much, I started picking up mystery shopping gigs to make some extra money.
So What is a Mystery Shopper Exactly?
A mystery shopper or secret shopper is someone who is hired on to do a form of market research by visiting different retail locations or businesses to observe certain aspects of the company and report their findings and observations after the experience.
When a mystery shopper visits a location to make an observation, no one knows they are there for market research. Mystery shoppers dress in normal casual attire and blend in with other shoppers and even make purchases and ask for services to help make the experience more authentic.
In other words, mystery shoppers get paid to visit places, purchases goods, food, and deliver an observation report to the company who hired them after the visit.
The best thing I love about being a mystery shopper is getting paid to visit so many different locations and utilize their products or services. Some shops are fun like the bowling shops or the ones that require you to visit a restaurant. The shops are quick and easy (most take less than an hour) and they pay pretty good money.
As someone who sits at a computer now for 50 hours/week, I’d jump at the opportunity to get paid to visit a store, restaurant, etc.
While the jobs pay decent money for the time you spend, it’s worth mentioning that I don’t think it’s realistic to be able to earn a full-time income or support yourself 100% from the money earned from mystery shopping.
More than anything, it’s a great option to have as a side hustle to help bring in additional income which is why I figured it was perfect to mention in this series.
If you’re interested in becoming a mystery shopper yourself on the side, here are some important tips and guidelines to follow.
Find a Company to Work For
When you’re ready to start mystery shopping, it’s important to sign up with a company so they can offer you gigs on a regular basis. Also, before adding any personal information, make sure the company you sign up with is legit.
Generally you should Google the companies you’re interested in working with, search for reviews about them and check to see if they are accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
Here are a few companies that I know are good choices:
When you find your ideal company, begin the process of signing up, filling out your profile of interests, and receiving a Shopper ID with the company so they can notify you when shops are available for you to do.
No matter which company you choose to work with, you will most likely become an independent contractor and you will be responsible for paying your own taxes quarterly or at the end of the year for the income you receive because the company will not take out taxes when they issue payment.
Decide How Far You Want to Travel
One of the downsides of mystery shopping is traveling to various locations each time you take on a job. Some jobs may be in your hometown and some may be in neighboring towns or far away from you.
It’s up to you to determine how far you’re willing to travel for a job regarding your time, fuel and mileage and the amount paid. For example, attending a $35 shop at a restaurant that’s 45 minutes away from you may not be worth it for you in the end.
Some jobs will offer reimbursement for gas but most won’t so it’s important to keep your driving at a minimum and only opt for jobs that are 20 minutes or less from your home unless the pay will be worth it to you.
Set Aside a Fund For Shops
It’s important to understand how mystery shopping works. Since you are going to several different locations undercover, the company that hires you can’t give you a company card or anything similar to make your required purchases.
If the shop you sign up for requires you to visit a bowling alley and spend at least $20, you will have to spend your own money initially then get reimbursed for it and/or paid compensation for completing the shop. This may not be how all companies do it, but in my experience, this was the norm.
On the other hand, some shops won’t require you to spend money at all. An example of this situation would be a shop I completed at an auto store where I just asked the employee a few questions and received a no-obligation quote for a service. In that case, I was compensated just for visiting the location and didn’t have to make any required purchases.
To be on the safe side, you should establish some sort of a fund or account where you can safely store money to complete your shops. I’d start with setting aside $100, all of which will be reimbursed after you complete your first few shops, but the point of this side hustle is to earn money and not spend your own trying to complete jobs.
Like all jobs, it’s important to be organized to avoid confusion about the tasks you need to complete. Once you sign up with a mystery shopping company, you’ll receive email notifications often about jobs that are available. You’ll need to bid on the jobs you like, or basically ask for them or assign them to yourself.
When you sign up for jobs, it should be a no-brainer to mark it down in your calendar or set an email reminder. Certain jobs require you show up at certain times so you don’t want to mix up the days and times.
Just like a regular job, you’d be penalized if you didn’t show up or give any notice about your absence. To avoid losing out on job opportunities, always make sure you check your schedule and make the necessary preparations for the shop beforehand.
Another aspect of the job that you’ll need to organize is delivering the paperwork. In order to get compensated for each shop you complete, you’ll need to answer questions about your experience through a brief survey and send it back to the company along with any other materials or receipts they require.
As an independent contractor, it will be your responsibility to keep track of all your receipts and send in paperwork by the deadline.
Earn Money Without All the Hassle
Overall, mystery shopping is an easy and dare I say fun way to earn extra money in your spare time. It requires minimal effort and time, pays a reasonable amount, and allows you to set your own schedule and determine how much money you make. Folks, that’s a job with flexibility at its finest.
Your Income is Abundant. Ready For Side Hustle Success?
There is lots of extra money to be made. Sign up for the free Side Hustle Success online workshop so you can learn how to find the right profitable side hustle for you.