A new year (or any time) is a good time to organize the paperwork, computer files and workflow for your mystery shopping business. Being better organized means you spend less time seeking assignments, doing shop visits, completing reports, and calculating taxes. Most importantly, you will not risk forgetting to do shops, or waste time trying to track down your notes to answer editor questions about your reports.
Here are some tips to get—and stay—organized.
Set up a calendar for your secret shopping assignments. When you are awarded a mystery shopper job, immediately put it on your calendar. This can be a paper calendar, or a calendar on your computer or smart phone.
Consult your calendar before accepting assignments. Does this assignment fit with others you have accepted? Are you scheduled to complete other shops in the same area that can be grouped with this new shop? Are you already overbooked for the date of this shop?
Immediately download and print the requirements for the mystery shop assignment. Read them now, and highlight any special requirements that require attention. Are their activities beyond the shop visit that must be entered on your calendar (e.g., a purchase and return shop, calling ahead for an appointment or reservation)?
Set up a filing system for pending and completed assignments. Keep all of the shop forms and guidelines for upcoming shops together by date. When a report is complete, keep the notes, receipt and other documentation on file. One way to do this is to have a set of hanging files and groups of folders numbered 1 – 31. Keep two months of files for the shops scheduled in the current and upcoming month, and three to six months of files containing completed shops.
Make it easy to log expenses. Keep a small notebook in your car to track milage. Or use a note feature or app on your phone to keep track. Put an envelope in the glove box or console and put all of your receipts and other documentation into the envelope immediately after the shop so nothing gets lost.
Save completed reports as PDFs or screen shots instead of printing them. You will save money on paper and ink, and not be buried in piles of paper.
Don’t forget to keep your computer files organized. Give the PDFs or screenshots of your completed reports meaningful names so you can easily find them if needed. Store all of the files in their own directory, separate from your other documents.
Get mystery shopper email under control. If you are not using a separate email address for mystery shopping, this could be a good time to start. Set up an email address that is only used for mystery shopping, then notify the companies with which you work of your new address. If you are MSPA certified, you need to get a new certification code as it will change with your new email address. Making a change to your email address can be time-consuming if you are registered with lots of companies, but it will make it much easier to manage your shopper email in the future.
Taking a little time now to organize your mystery shopping workflow can save you time and money.