mystery shopper pinGoGirl Finance is introducing a new series called “The Side Hustle,” showcasing different ways people make money in addition to their day jobs in order to pay down debt or save money. Have a side hustle? Share your story with us: info@gogirlfinance.com

Don’t you wish you could shop for free? Do you hate bad customer service? Do you have an eye for detail and are organized and accountable?

Then you have what it takes to become a mystery shopper.

What is a Mystery Shopper?

Mystery shopping is a legitimate business in which a mystery shopping company is hired by a retail company to audit their customer service and conduct quality control and compliance shops.

Companies want to ensure that their customer’s needs are being met and that their products and stores are held to the highest standards. The mystery shopping companies hire individual as contract workers to conduct these mystery shops. These workers are not employed by the mystery shopping companies and can take on work as they are available.

Working as a mystery shopper can be easy and fun, but requires a diligent eye and strict adherence to a company’s shop guidelines. Each retail company has a set of explicit guidelines asking you to order a certain item, say a specific scenario to a sales representative, document specific information, and time certain aspects of the shop, for example how long it takes for food to be prepared and served.

How to Make Money as a Mystery Shopper

Mystery shopping is not a get rich quick scheme. If you get an email promising you $200 for a mystery shop, it is a scam.

Legitimate mystery shopping companies will reimburse you for any required purchase, plus a fee for your service which usually ranges from $5 to $10 a shop.

Sometimes a company will offer you a bonus for a short notice or far away shop and they will offer you $25 or $30 as a fee, but those higher fees are not the norm.

After getting reimbursed for the amount I spent on required food and product purchases, I average about $200 a month in commission from mystery shopping.

I work full time and conduct mystery shops on my lunch breaks, evenings, and weekends, though I usually do one per day and sometimes take a week or weekend off because of social engagements. You can work more or less, depending on your availability.

How to Become a Mystery Shopper

Mystery shopping is a perfect side hustle for people who don’t have the time for a traditional second job but want to be able to work a lot or a little in a given week.

Assignments are usually posted on a mystery shopping company’s website and all registered shoppers can login and sign up for shops. The number of available assignments depends on how many retail stores in your area contract with that mystery shopping company and how many other mystery shoppers live in your area.

There are many legitimate mystery shopping companies out there but there are also a lot of scams. Check out each company to make sure it gets good reviews.

Volition and MSPA offer lists of companies and many blogs include reviews of these companies. You can also find mystery shopping jobs posted at JobSlinger.

Some great mystery shopping companies with a good reputation are MarketforceBestmarkIntellishop, and Trendsource. There are many others out there too so read reviews and sign up with multiple companies. The more companies you are signed up with the more jobs you can sign up for.

Mystery shopping companies will ask for your contact information when you sign up, including your social security number and your banking information. They need this information to send you a W9 because earnings over $600 from a company as an independent contractor are taxable.

You often choose to receive payments via direct deposit, check, or Paypal, depending on the company. Payments are often sent a month after you complete the shop but can vary by company.

Each mystery shopping company has a different set of contracts with retail stores and restaurants so you will find different types of shops offered by different companies.

Pay Off Debt with Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping may sound complicated, but it really isn’t. For a typical mystery shop that pays around $7, I get a free meal, spend about 15-20 minutes conducting the mystery shop and another 10 minutes or less submitting my shop report online.

That’s a free meal and $7 for a half hour of work. Do enough of these each week and you save money on lunch as well as make some extra money to help you get out of debt or save for that vacation.

If you are organized and treat mystery shopping with all the professionalism of any other job, you can do well as a mystery shopper.

Do you have a side hustle job? Submit your story to GoGirl Finance at info@gogirlfinance.com