If you’ve got an eye for detail and want to earn some extra money, learning how to become a mystery shopper could (excuse the pun) be right up your street.
A number of months ago, after looking at ways to make extra money, I took the plunge and decided to sign myself up to become a mystery shopper. Lots of my friends were making money from being a secret shopper and I wanted a piece of the action.
How to become a mystery shopper
After a quick search for mystery shopping jobs online I picked the first company that caught my eye and took the plunge. I could have spent a bit more time choosing but knowing nothing about the different companies, I just went with this one to see the process.
Signing up was easy. I entered my basic personal details and instantly became a member. That said, to start getting invites for the actual mystery shop assignments I need to provide further details in an extended profile.
They wanted me to give them more information about our household, spending habits and lifestyle. It didn’t take too long and I was done in less than ten minutes.
However, after completing all this, they then told me I could not become an “operational” mystery shopper until I had undertaken “ISC Quality Certification”.
This process did take a fair bit longer (around 30 minutes) and it was just a matter of reading their material on how to carry out mystery shopping to a high standard, what was expected of me, and what I should not do.
Once I had read the information, I had to take a test to show that I had understood what I read. There is quite a lot to get through and you have to achieve 100% to get a pass (I admit that I had to do the test twice…). But, when completed, they even sent me a certificate!
It was only four days later that I received my first email from them for my first mystery shopping job. The details provided were quite basic; they said the type of retailer they wanted me to visit, the time frame I had to complete it in and a few key things that I would need to keep an eye out for.
This was my chance.
My mystery shopper jobs
Very excited, I agreed to do the mystery shop.
Before heading to the shop, I went onto their site and read through the brief. I had to make sure that a few things were said and that I asked specific questions and looked out for certain things – there’s quite a lot to remember!
In the afternoon, I headed into town and took part in my first mystery shop.
Due to the nature of mystery shopping (it is secret shopping after all), you are not able to mention which retailer you visit.
I also can’t tell you the details of my actual assignment but all in all I was in the shop for around 20 minutes. In brief, I had to try an item on and say that it was not suitable. I did not have to make a purchase.
Mystery Shopper reporting
Once back home, I had to log onto the mystery shopper site and provide feedback within 24 hours.
I had to provide a written report of everything they had asked me to look out for and to go over what actually happened.
I probably wrote close to 1,000 words. Then, after it was submitted, I had to go through what was essentially a tick box exercise to summarise the visit and give any more details.
All in all, giving feedback took around 35 minutes.
Skills needed to become a mystery shopper
So there is quite a lot to think about when mystery shopping.
You need to have quite a good memory as you have to remember what the brief of the mystery shop is (what do you actually have to do when you’re there).
You also need a good eye for detail so you can pick things up while you are there and remember descriptions of anyone who serves you, what the shop was like and any other details they ask.
also (and probably the most important skill) you need to be comfortable writing a report afterwards. I tried to do it as soon as possible after the visit so I could have all the details fresh in my mind.
You also aren’t there to give opinions about what happened. You need to be factual with the reports and be unbiased with your feedback.
Lastly, you’ve got to be happy to keep things confidential. You can’t let slip to the people in the store that you are secret shopping and you’re not meant to talk about the visits in detail after you’ve done them.
Is being a mystery shopper for me?
I’ve been thinking about this for some time.
When I think about the amount of time I spent preparing and writing up afterwards it was less than an hour and I was paid £12. I have since been sent details of another mystery shop (which is too far for me to travel) but I can see that there is an opportunity to do this a few times a month, if I could travel.
If I can’t travel to them, it may be that I only get to do a mystery shop every few months, meaning I could look to make maybe £50-£60 per year! That’s not a great deal of money but still works out at £12 (ish) per hour of work which is more than minimum wage.
Another thing I now need to consider is registering with HMRC as self-employed and complete a self-assessment tax return. If my income goes beyond a certain level, I will need to be paying tax on any money I earn too.
I think I may continue to undertake more mystery shopper assignments, and may also sign up to other companies. If I signed up to say five more, it would slowly increase the income for our family which is the ultimate goal!
Mystery shopping companies
If you fancy becoming a mystery shopper then here is a selection of companies I’ve come across. I haven’t signed up to all of them so can’t give my personal feedback on them but, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to see what they’re like and how many opportunities you could get.
There is quite a lot of accreditation to becoming a mystery shopping company. As with a lot of things, there are some scammers out there so it’s best to get some feedback on forums before you sign up with any. Do not pay to become a mystery shopper.
All these companies are registered with Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) so you can be sure that they follow the ethics and standards expected in the industry.
ABa Quality Monitoring
AQ Services International
Catalyst Marketing Communications
ESA Market Research
Helion Market Research
International Service Check
Mystery Shoppers Ltd
Platinum Global Business Solutions
Proinsight Research Limited
Service Scan Evaluations Ltd
If you decide to take the plunge and become a mystery shopper yourself, please let me know how you find the process. Likewise, if you’re already a seasoned mystery shopper I would love to hear about your successes.