Throughout this series, many of you have commented or emailed to tell me how excited you are to get started with mystery shopping, and how you just want to jump in and start trying. I am really excited that so many of you are wanting to try, and after finding out how much mystery shopping companies are willing to pay, you want to seek out jobs in your area.
I will warn you up front: the hardest part of mystery shopping is getting started. A common misconception is that there is one magical website that mystery shoppers sign up through and you’re done. You are able to view every job available in your area from that site. The reality is, that site does not exist. Mystery shops are available through many small companies, and because each company has its own guidelines, rules, and procedures, you must apply through each one individually.
I know such an application process seems daunting. That’s why I saved this post until now, because I did not want to discourage any of you wanting to try. Even though the process seems long, just take hope in knowing that I, and thousands of mystery shoppers have taken part in the same process. It is doable. It just takes a little patience. I will also try to make this as easy as possible for you. Instead of being overwhelmed, be excited! Once you apply- you will be up and running in no time.
3 Tips to Get Going
When I first applied, I invested about 6 hours filling out and submitting applications. I divided this up into 2 hour chunks, 3 days in a row. Within a couple days, my e-mail inbox was full of offers. Although it is a lot of work, once you get a method down, it becomes much easier. Here are some tips to make the process run more smoothly.
Tip #1- Set up an e-mail dedicated solely to mystery shopping. I prefer gmail because of the ease of organization, but whatever you choose, just make sure no personal e-mails will be thrown in the mix. There is a good chance they will get lost. And nobody likes lost emails.
Tip #2- Set up a free Google Voice account. While a separate phone number is not as essential as a separate email, it is much easier if you can keep your work phone number for just that. With Google Voice, you get notifications straight to your email when you receive a text message or voice mail. Although many companies choose to utilize email for job offers, several will call or text when they are really needing a job filled, so it is really handy to have this set up.
Tip #3- Write a 500 word essay. Almost every mystery shopping company asks for a sample of your work. It makes sense, right? I mean- you are going to be submitting reports for them. A 500 word essay is pretty easy in itself, but not when you are trying to write 15-20 different essays a day (like I did.) Your essay needs to be about a recent dining experience- be sure to include specific details (such as greeting, upsells, manager visits, etc.) Try not to be too opinionated. Mystery Shopping companies are looking for facts, not opinions. Do yourself a favor- just write your essay from the beginning, and save it on your computer. Then copy and paste it into each application that asks for it. This tip alone would have saved me a lot of time.
Should you install a robo-form?
A robo-form may or may not help. I hear people rave about robo-forms, but personally, when I’ve tried them they have not been that helpful. I also hate installing programs into my computer that aren’t really necessary. I find most browsers have a “built in” robo form anyway, and in terms of mystery shopping, several companies use the same few platforms for their application. In other words, once you enter your information into one of the platforms, it should automatically fill when you come to that platform again- even if it’s through a different company. If you already have a robo-form that you love, go for it. However, I also think it’s okay just to skip it.
What mystery shopping websites do you use?
In my next posts, I will go over in detail how to navigate the sites I am about to recommend. As helpful as they are, I remember looking at them and thinking “I have no idea how to navigate this site!” That alone might be enough to scare new mystery shoppers off. Since I know some of you would still like to try on your own, the two sites I recommend are:
Keep in mind that these websites provide a list of legitimate companies, and not a single application for all companies.
These companies are asking for my social security number, is it a scam?
A mystery shopping needs your social security number in order to track your income and send you the necessary documents for taxes. So, do not worry about providing it. If it is on one of those two sites, it is a legitimate company. Even if the application does not require your social security number to apply, it will require it before you accept your first job.
One last tip.
If you begin applying, I cannot stress how important it is to save every single email that verifies you have been accepted as a mystery shopper. Most of those emails have information that contain your User ID, Shopper Number, and Password. When you apply with several different companies, it’s crucial to be able to track that information. You can file those emails in a special folder, or save the transferred information somewhere else. Just be sure to track it!
If the websites are confusing to you, in my next posts, we’ll go over how to specifically navigate them. Then, I’ll share my favorite companies to work for. Be sure to check back for more information!