A new year is a good time for a new start, especially when it comes to running your mystery shopping business. Here are some moves you can make now to get organized and take your mystery shopper business to a new level of profitability in the coming year.
Clear out your file cabinet. Get rid of outdated shop notes, printouts of reports and guidelines, and other clutter. In general, you should keep shop notes ad report copies for at least 90 days, although some mystery shopping companies may recommend keeping them longer.
Go paperless. OK, going completely paperless is probably not realistic for most people. However, you may be able to reduce the amount of paper that flows through your office. Instead of printing copies of the reports you submit, save them to your computer as PDFs. Scan papers you would normally keep and get rid of the papers. (Before getting rid of things such as receipts, make sure that there is no chance the mystery shopping company will ask you to produce the original.)
Clear out your computer files. If you are already saving many of your reports and other documents as files and not paper, clear them out from time to time. Don’t forget photo files. When you do reports requiring digital photos, you can end up with a large section of your hard drive filled with photo files. You may also have lots of photos or scans of receipts and other documents. You may want to keep receipts for several years (to have them just in case you face a tax audit) but other documents can generally be deleted after 90 days or so.
Set up a work area. If you do not have a space dedicated to your mystery shopping business, set one up. Keep files, reference materials, equipment (such as digital recorders, thermometers, stopwatches, etc.) and supplies (pens, batteries, memory cards, etc.) in one handy place. Get a comfortable chair and make sure your computer or laptop is at a good height.
Establish a good record keeping system. Keep a notebook in your car for writing down mileage and recording small expenses, such as tolls or money you put in a parking meter. Keep envelopes in your car so you can keep receipts and other documentation together. Set up a calendar, spreadsheet or other system for tracking your shops, expenses, and payments due from mystery shopping companies. Keeping good records makes you more profitable because you will not forget shops and you will remember to deduct all of your expenses.
Once you have your organization in place, you can work on being more profitable.
Apply to more mystery shopping companies. The more companies you apply to, the more mystery shopper jobs you will be offered. Take a few minutes to set up all of the information you need to fill out applications, then make it a habit to apply to at least one or two companies every few days.
Educate yourself. Develop the skills that will make you a better and more sought-after mystery shopper. Take a grammar class to improve your writing skills. Get a mystery shopper certification.
Use technology. Although you may not want to invest much money in technology for mystery shopping if you are only doing it part time or spare time, there is no reason not to use technology you already own. Do you have a digital camera, digital voice recorder, navigation system or other device that could make your life as a mystery shopper easier? Use it! And learn the power user tricks that can make those devices work even better for you.
Take a chance. If you play it safe, only doing shops with which you are “comfortable,” you are holding yourself back. Try a different kind of shop, work with new companies and be open to new opportunities. If you decide you do not like doing some types of mystery shops, or the schedulers for a company are unpleasant to work with, dump ‘em. But be open to trying new things.
Here’s to making 2011 the best year ever!