Secret shopping has been given a bad rap lately. Websites that promise “to pay you to shop” and then make you jump through hoops or sign up for their sponsors’ offers have done damage to reputable companies like Strategic Reflections, Beyond Hello, and Jancyn, who are hired by businesses to evaluate the level of customer service that they receive when frequenting their stores or hiring their services. In fact, secret shopping scams are so prevalent that the people who ordinarily seek out sources of side income find themselves wondering whether a company is legitimate or not. This article serves as a primer for those interested in working as a secret shopper by dispelling the myths commonly associated with independent contracting.
FACT: Secret shopping is a real, reputable way to make extra money.
FACT: Secret shopping allows you to work around your busy schedule.
FACT: You are in control when you’re a secret shopper. You can accept as few or as many shops as you want and make as much money as you want.
Although it seems too good to be true, companies all over the globe are looking for people just like you to provide honest, objective feedback about the level of service that you receive at the businesses that you frequent on a regular basis. For a few minutes of your time, you can receive compensation for your efforts in the form of cash, free merchandise and services. A viable form of self-employment, secret shopping has its share of benefits.
Completed at a leisurely pace, secret shopping can supplement your income or take the place of a full-time job. Making use of your keen eye and observant nature, you can leave behind the nine-to-five grind and live the kind of life that you have always dreamed of. That is, if you heed the advice given here.
Throughout this article, I will address the topic of secret shopping and provide tips that will not only make you money but ensure that your hard work and efforts aren’t wasted.
Secret shopping is a legitimate way to make a living. With a little time and some carefully worded direction, you too, will be on the road to becoming a successful secret shopper.
What is Secret Shopping?
Secret shopping is an inexpensive way for companies to obtain accurate feedback on the people that they employ and the service that they provide. Big corporations hire secret shopper companies to observe their businesses so that they can expose problem areas and address customer concerns.
Secret shopper companies then assign projects to various Independent Contractors throughout their area and give them a time frame to complete their work. Project guidelines are either posted on the company website or sent to the shopper’s email account. Upon receipt of the shop, the company then compensates the contractor for their time and any of the items that they were required to purchase.
Finding the Right Companies to Work For
Websites stating that you can “get paid to shop” often require a fee to use their services and be registered in their databases. Do not consider working for a company that charges you! There are plenty of companies willing to hire you for free. Make sure to check out their websites:
A simple web search will help you identify which websites are legit and which ones are not. Remember your objective. You are looking to increase your income not your expenses. Do not pay a fee to access databases containing secret shopping company information. Visit a free website like Walletboosters for an updated list instead.
Secrets to Success
Secret shopping is a wonderful way to earn income. If your current job isn’t as flexible and you would like it to be or doesn’t pay enough, adding a couple of assignments a month will surely help you in the long run. Working for more than one company will also give you better opportunities. This is especially true if you live in larger cities where secret shoppers are abundant.
Keeping Track of Paydays
Paychecks are usually cut once a month but some companies pay more frequently. It is helpful to learn what payday is for each company you work for. Keep track of the shops that you have completed and the pay for each one in a notebook or on a calendar. No one likes to work for free!
Also remember to have money up front to purchase items. This may be a requirement for a shop. Most companies reimburse you for your purchases. There are no exceptions to this rule. If you don’t have $10 to spend on lunch or merchandise from time to time, this is not the job for you.
Making the Most Out of Phone Shops
Some shops pay really well while others pay considerably less. Some shops must be done in person while others can be completed over the phone. It is best to do a lot of phones shops if you have free long distance or a fixed rate phone service. An exceptionally large phone bill will squelch any desire to do phone shops in the future. If you are concerned about this, it may be best for you to purchase a prepaid calling card or use a service like Skype or the MagicJack.
Super Supplies That Will Aid You in the Process
Having a few inexpensive supplies on hand will help you in the long run. Purchasing a cheap stopwatch is a necessity. Do not forfeit your reputation by not completing a shop correctly. It is better to earn less for a shop than nothing at all.
It is easy to get confused if you work for several companies. Record the due date of each assignment on the calendar. Also, make sure to list the shop’s fee and the company’s pay period on there as well. Keeping your glove box stocked with extra pens and paper will eliminate confusion. A pocket sized notepad that can be carried and written in discreetly is also a wonderful tool for you to have.
Owning a digital camera will give you an advantage because most companies require strict documentation of the things that you observe. Photo shops often pay better than others because they do require more work. The smaller your camera is, the easier it is to conceal. Keeping your identity anonymous is crucial and one of the most important things to remember when secret shopping. Never reveal yourself unless instructed to do so by the company that you are working for.
Every company has established its own criteria for assignments. In order to fill their needs, you must carefully read the instructions for each shop before completing it. Gather all the supplies you need before hand and pay attention to the time frame given to you to finish the shop. If problems do arise, contact the scheduler immediately. Remaining communicative with the company that you work for is an absolute necessity. Reliable internet and phone service is a must if you wish to work in this profession.
Make Big Bucks Referring Friends
Not every shop will fit into your schedule. That’s where your friends and family come in. By referring those to the companies that you work for, you accomplish two things. You give the people you’re the fondest of extra income and the companies that you work for will pay you a referral bonus for each eligible shopper that you sign up. Referrals=extra income. The more people that you refer, the greater the chance you have to make additional money.
A big push for companies to improve their procedures has caused the secret shopping industry to swell with opportunities. With a few simple tools, these tips, and the desire to succeed, you, too, can start a career as a secret shopper today.
Charissa Arsaoui is a freelance writer for ChickSpeak, Buzzine, DisFUNKshion Magazine, Student Stuff, and a guest contributor for Wisebread. She loves thrift related topics and can spot a bargain a mile away.
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About the Author: Charissa Arsaoui is a freelance writer with a love for thrift. She contributes to many different personal finance blogs.