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How to Become a Secret Shopper in 6 Steps

Looking for a way out of the dull, monotonous routine of everyday life?

Become a secret shopper and turn your daily, somewhat trivial moments into fun, exciting experiences.

Flexibility is probably one of the top reasons that people get into mystery shopping, but the best part is you get paid to shop.

However, beneath the fascinating experiences lies the murky waters and exhilarating challenges of mystery shopping.

We’ve got you covered, though!

In this article, we offer some insightful tips on how to become a secret shopper to help you navigate the fascinating world of mystery shopping.

An Overview of a Secret Shopper: A Primer

Being a secret shopper is exactly what it sounds like: You get paid to shop. And it’s a great way to start an online gig from home.

Secret shoppers, also called mystery shoppers, are individuals hired by an agency, retailer, restaurant, or other businesses to evaluate the customer service and product quality of their establishments.

Secret shopping is part of any business’s marketing strategy.

These shoppers pretend to be customers. They can do mystery shopping in-person, over the phone, or online and use a wide range of methods to gather information, such as in-person interviews or surveys.

Some common job duties of a mystery shopper include:

  • Interacting with company employees and sales personnel
  • Assessing customer service and sales quality
  • Evaluating physical aspects of a store or business
  • Evaluating the quality of products or services
  • Using questionnaires to identify key areas of improvement
  • Documenting their findings and providing their valuable feedback

How Much Do Secret Shoppers Make?

According to career expert Zippia, the average salary of a mystery shopper in the U.S. is $24 per hour. The data indicates that the average salary ranges from $26,000 to $94,000 per year.

With the right skills and enough experience, you can do well in the field and make a full-time income as a secret shopper.

What You’ll Need to Become a Secret Shopper [& Associated Costs]

Secret shopping isn’t your typical freelance marketing job. It’s an aspect of market research where you can make extra income just by shopping and giving your honest opinion.

But to do that, you’ll need these skills:

  • Excellent Communication Skills: Having great communication skills is vital since you have to constantly interact with employees and sales personnel from all industries. It’s important to know how to effectively communicate the results in a clear and helpful manner.
  • Anonymity: A good mystery shopper should always remain anonymous. Because you have to make anonymous visits to the same establishment more than once, you should be able to do that without being detected by the employees or the staff members. 
  • Honesty, Integrity, and Ethics: Businesses or brands hire secret shoppers to provide objective and unbiased feedback about the products or services they offer. Honesty is important for mystery shoppers because the company pays you to be open about your experiences.
  • Confidentiality: As secret shoppers, you’re often required to keep your findings and reports confidential. You shouldn’t reveal any confidential information or disclose your identity as a mystery shopper to the employees or anyone else.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Secret Shopper?

You don’t need substantial upfront investments to get started.

However, some secret shopping platforms or companies may require you to have mystery shopping certifications in specific fields, which probably won’t cost you more than $100.

Is It Hard to Become a Secret Shopper?

No specific qualification or training is required to become a mystery shopper.

But while it’s an easy way to earn some quick money, it’s a time-consuming task. You may have to spend anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days to report your findings.

If you’re fine with starting out with a few dollars, then there are great chances you can begin right away. The higher-paying tasks, however, are reserved for those with experience.

Also, top brands or companies will probably hire only certified or experienced mystery shoppers.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Secret Shopper?

The time can vary depending on a couple of factors, such as the availability of projects, the application process, etc.

You need some time to research and select the legit companies that provide mystery shopping assignments, fill out application forms, and possibly go through a screening process.

You may also need time to take online courses or earn certifications.

Overall, the process could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

How to Become a Secret Shopper in 6 Steps

Our detailed guide will help you start a mystery shopping gig from the ground up. Here’s how to get started in a few steps:

Step 1: Research and Identify Legit Secret Shopping Companies

The first step is to find legitimate mystery shopping companies to work for.

Do thorough research about the company and see what others have to say. Look at online forums to evaluate a company’s credibility to avoid getting scammed.

Legit companies won’t ask you for a registration fee or certification to access their job listings. The MSPA (Mystery Shopping Providers Association) maintains a large database of reputable and best mystery shopping companies.

Some of the most trusted mystery shopping companies are IntelliShop, BestMark, Perception Strategies, Second To None, Market Force, etc. You can find mystery shopping jobs there.

Step 2: Complete the Application Process

Once you’ve identified a legitimate mystery shopping company to work for, you have to complete the application process.

You’ll need to provide your personal information, such as your Social Security number and tax information, to initiate the application process. You may have to pass a background check.

Step 3: Gain Relevant Skills and Training

While you don’t need any formal qualifications, some mystery shopping jobs will require a certain level of expertise.

The best way to do that is to take an online course or earn some certification. The MSPA Americas offers certification courses to educate independent contractors.

For example, if you’re taking a mystery shopping assignment for a fashion retail brand, you must have a keen eye for fashion and styling and excellent communication skills.

You could take some courses or workshops to hone your skills before you go out and find mystery shopper jobs.

Step 4: Complete Your First Assignment

After you’re hired by a company, you can start with your first assignment as a mystery shopper. Each job is unique and comes with detailed instructions that shoppers must follow to get paid.

Remember, you should maintain your anonymity, pose as a typical customer, and follow all guidelines on what to evaluate and the time frame to complete the assignment.

Other job duties may include making purchases, observing customer service, compiling receipts, and so on.

Step 5: Prepare and Submit Detailed Reports

Once you’re done with your assessment by evaluating a store or service, you need to submit your findings through careful observations and information gathering.

Be sure to take note of the time frame in which the reports must be submitted.

Step 6: Continuously Seek Opportunities for Personal Growth

Maintain a good relationship with each company you’ve worked for and complete the assignments with utmost care and perfection.

This solidifies your credibility and paves the way for more exciting opportunities. Stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends to remain competitive.

Continuously seek feedback to identify areas where you can improve and provide more useful insights. Remember that it’ll take some time to master the art of mystery shopping.

Reasons to Consider Becoming a Secret Shopper

Being a mystery shopper has many perks. Here are some top reasons to consider providing mystery shopping service as a side hustle or a full-time career:

  • Save Money on Everyday Items: As a mystery shopper, you can get some items for free, such as meals or everyday products. This allows you to save some money each month.
  • Flexible Work Schedule: You can work anywhere and anytime you want.
  • Excellent Job Opportunities: While many mystery shoppers often work in retail, you can extend your expertise to a variety of industries and work with some of the biggest brands.
  • Fun Experiences: Getting paid to shop is a great way to turn that monotonous, boring routine into an exciting experience. You get to visit new places, try amazing foods, and shop for new products, all while getting paid. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Mystery Shopping Be a Full-Time Job?

It depends. If you live in a high-population region, then yes, there’s a high chance you could turn mystery shopping into a full-time gig. But the chances are slim to none if you live in a suburban or rural area.

Do Secret Shoppers Keep What They Buy?

Yes, sometimes. You could get free meals if you’re visiting a restaurant or free clothes if you’re reviewing a clothing store.

Similar Gigs to Check Out

Consider some alternatives if you don’t think the mystery shopping industry is right for you. Here are some good options you can consider:

  • Get Paid to Give Advice: If you’re looking for a lucrative side hustle that makes use of your excellent interpersonal and communication skills, you can make money by providing expert advice or consultations.
  • Get Paid to Review Movies: Love watching movies? Now, turn your passion for movies into a great side hustle or full-time gig and get paid to share your honest feedback and opinion.
  • Get Paid to Watch YouTube Videos: Looking for fun ways to make money online? You can do that by watching videos, ads, and more content on YouTube.

Wrapping Up

When mystery shopping, keep in mind that you’re not hired to catch someone in the act or trap some employee. Instead, you’re just recording your full experience (anonymously).

Follow our step-by-step guide to start your exciting journey and become a successful mystery shopper.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section below. And if you liked our article, feel free to share it with others who might be interested in mystery shopping.

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