With a traditional job your boss decides how much you will earn. As a mystery shopper, you have more control over your earnings because you decide which assignments you will do, how many shops you will take on and how you will get your work done. With a few simple changes you can increase your profits and your hourly rate.
Here are some ideas that can help you be a more successful mystery shopper and give yourself a raise.
Use your non-shopping time effectively. If you start out looking at some job boards, then end up spending an hour or two absentmindedly reading some posts on a forum, you are not using your time effectively. Limit or eliminate non-productive activities. Set a timer. Have a procedure for reviewing job postings so that you do not waste a lot of time looking at listings that are not a good fit for you.
Look for groups of shops you can do. When a client has lots of locations, ask for as many of them as you can do. It can be much easier to shop six locations of the same client instead of doing six different assignments. You will spend less time preparing for each assignment (if all of the requirements are the same for each location), it will be easier to remember what you have to do onsite (and require less backtracking) and the reports will take a bit less time when you are familiar with them. (Remember, though, that you should never copy-and-paste comments from one report to another.)
Specialize in one or two types of shops. If you do a lot of shops of one type of business, such as apartments or banks, you will be able to do more in less time. You can still take other assignments, but specializing can mean becoming very good at a couple of types of shops and working very efficiently on those shops.
Focus on working with a few of your favorite companies. As a new mystery shopper you may want to take a variety of assignments and work with as many companies as you can. Once you have some experience, you may find yourself working more often with just a handful of companies that have the most shops in your area or the “best” shops in your area. Look for opportunities to help out with last-minute jobs. By working for the same companies more often, the schedulers get to know you and appreciate your work. They will then be more likely to give you first shot at the most desirable and highest-paying mystery shops. You also become more familiar with what editors expect and how to give them what they need.
If you are in this to make money, focus on finding assignments that pay a fee, not those that reimburse for a purchase such as a meal. Many mystery shoppers take assignments that they think will be enjoyable and that will give them a perk they want, such as a “free” meal. Of course, if a reimbursement is for something that you need, that is at least as good as cash. I have gotten reimbursed for groceries, dry cleaning, oil changes, a new cell phone and many other needed purchases. That meant the money didn’t have to come out of my pocket. (Well, I did have to pay for those things, but I got paid back when the mystery shopping company paid me for the shop.) But if you want cash, look for the assignments that may not have a reimbursement, but offer a good fee.
Organize your work area. Have a work area set up with everything you need to complete your shops. Have a scanner or camera nearby for making copies of receipts, and make sure any needed cables are handy so you can upload the images. Make sure that anything else you will need is close at hand, and keep the clutter (e.g., old reports and receipts) off your desk and out of your way. You will work faster and more efficiently.
Prepare before the shop. Review the guidelines and highlight or note the most important requirements. Know exactly what you need to do for each mystery shop. Being prepared means that you will spend less time at the location doing the shop, and you will have everything you need to do your report. You will also find it faster and easier to complete the reports with a bit of advance planning.
Plan your shops to spend less time traveling. You can enter a series of addresses in Google Maps and then set up a route, or you can use software or websites that will automatically create the most efficient route for you. For example, you can enter up to 26 addresses in Mapquest (manually or by uploaded a spreadsheet) then let Mapquest plan the best route for you based on the shortest distance or time.
Get a driver. No, I am not suggesting that you hire a chauffeur! But if you have a friend or teenager who would be willing to drive from location to location, you can make notes about the last shop or do your last-minute prep for the next one between stops. Your driver may accompany you on some, but not all, shops. Check the guidelines to see if you may have a companion.
Don’t spend more time onsite than necessary. When you first start mystery shopping it can be hard to remember everything you are supposed to do and, because mystery shopping is new to you, you may spend more time collecting information than an experienced shopper would need. Once you have the experience, you need the confidence to know that you can enter the location, get the information you need and leave. You do not need to spend a lot of time just walking back and forth or otherwise stalling and you don’t need to browse. Of course, if the guidelines require that you spend a minimum time onsite, make sure you do.
Prepare to do reports. If you did three or five or fifteen shops in one day, you have a lot of notes, receipts and other documentation. Get it in order before you sit down to enter the reports. Scan or photograph receipts and other documents that must be uploaded. Process (e.g., edit, resize, rename) any photos that you will upload. Review your notes and highlight anything important. For example, I make my notes on a copy of the report form, and I highlight any “no” answers so I do not forget to comment on those answers. I also carefully check and compare my timings to make sure they are correct.
Don’t agonize over reports. Your reports need to be your best work, but too many mystery shoppers waste a lot of time on reports out of fear of writing. As a result, they waste a lot of time dreading doing the reports and procrastinating. Spend a few minutes reviewing your notes and getting things in order, then sit down at the computer and write. Answer the questions, add comments and narratives and upload required files. As you enter the report, save your work often to avoid losing it. After you have completed the entire report, go back and edit what you wrote. Also check carefully to make sure all of your answers are correct and that they match your comments. Errors may cause the editor to contact you for clarification, taking her time and yours. And some companies will reduce your pay if they have to contact you.
Most importantly, do not do anything that would get your mystery shop report rejected. If you fail to follow the guidelines the client may not accept your report and you will not be paid. That means you wasted the time and money spent on that shop. Go the right location with the time window allowed for the shop. Make sure you get all the required information to do a complete report. Then do a great report and submit it by the deadline.
Following the tips in this article can make you more productive—and more profitable! What tips have you found that make you more profitable?