How to become a mystery shopper

Ever heard of mystery shopping and wondered if it can it be real? Can you really get paid to shop?

Well to put simply, Yes you can!

I have been a part-time mystery shopper for over 10 years. In that time I have done assignments including supermarkets, hair salons, beauty salons, hotels, theme parks, retail stores, phone calls, emails, shopping outlets plus 100’s of restaurants.

I absolutely love it! It fits around my childminding business, as there has been times I have had a few hours off in the day so can fill it with a shop. Last year I had Mondays “off” from childminding so filled up the day with shops. I was earning more than I could have done childminding on one day.

It also fits around family life with me being able to go out for family meals for free and Kayden being non the wiser, or ‘popping’ to the shop for sweets, while assessing the service and getting paid!

What is mystery shopping?

Mystery shopping is where you are paid to act as a “normal shopper”, visiting a store to evaluate the service you receive. You then write-up you report on your findings, answering specific questions.

Because the shopper in posing as an everyday shopper the service they receive is likely to reflect the normal service of the store. It would be a different outcome if the area manager was to visit, as all of the staff would be on their best behaviour and the store would be cleaned from top to toe.

So what how can I get an assignment?

The retailers themselves don’t ever contact you. They use specific mystery shopping companies, which you need to sign up for, who then allocate the jobs to you.

Jobs are allocated either by you logging on to the mystery shopping company’s website and visiting the job board and searching for the jobs in your area or if they are needing a shop to be done quickly the mystery shopping company may contact you and offer you the assignment, usually with an increased fee (pay).

Some jobs on the job board are self allocate, which you get straight away and other are where you have to apply for and wait to hear back from.

Who are the mystery shopping companies?

I am signed up to around 20 companies, some I get regular work from and some I don’t. I don’t live in a city and most companies only have jobs for in cities where the larger stores are, I have singed up to them all so if I travel I get pick up a few.

Here are my top 5 companies I work for:

Market Force



Amber Arch

Retail Active

What do I need to do once I have an assignment?

Once you have accepted an assignment there will be a deadline for when it needs to be completed by. Sometimes it can only be done on certain days or at certain times, so look out for that.

You will be sent the brief beforehand, where there is instructions and lots of information to remember about the visit, including staff names and descriptions along with timings, number of customers and much more, which if you don’t remember correctly may lead to you not getting paid.

There are some mystery shops I refuse to do. For example I don’t do any revel shops (where you reveal yourself as a mystery shopper at the end of the shop) as it can be embarrassing and also prevents you from visiting that shop on a job again as they would already know you were a mystery shopper.

The worst scenario I’ve been asked to do was to visit a jewellers, pretend I’m getting engaged to someone of the same-sex, and enquire about a diamond ring, then at the end of the shop say, I’m a mystery shopper, you passed/failed the task. Yeah, I gave that one a miss.

Once you have completed the assignment according to your brief you must fill out the report and usually submit within 24 hours, sometimes less. The reports can be anything from super simple taking around 10-15 minutes with around 20 questions, or pain staking ones, with question after question taking over an hour to fill out. Sometimes the fee reflects this, sometimes it doesn’t!

I have done a few reports where the fee wasn’t even in double figures and it took ages to complete with repetitive questions needing 100 words or more each. You learn from your mistakes though and never do that job again. Usually you can view the questionnaire before applying or allocating yourself a job though, so make sure you look at it!

You need to be fully honest in your report, if you have had a back customer service experience you need to say, however you must keep it professional. I have only ever had a few times of bad service. I love it  more when I have received fantastic customer service, as I know my report will be read by management and that person will get praised for doing a great job!

How much can I make?

Mystery shopping is not a get rich quick thing. It can be a good income however for a full-time mystery shopper who is willing to travel 100’s of miles a week, doing more than 10 jobs a day and spending hours every evening filling in the reports.

However for someone like me who does it on the side, its more like pocket-money.  Some assignments are reimbursement only, meaning you don’t make any money from it but perhaps get a day out reimbursed or a meal out. Some assignments don’t require a purchase and offer a fee for completing the job, some offer both a fee and reimbursement.

They fees and reimbursements can vary for each job, some being a few quid which you can do while nipping in to town and some  you go out your way for and take some time are well worth if for the fee offered.

No mystery shops pay upfront, meaning you have to pay for things upfront. If its a hotel with meal your doing it can be up to £300. You need to keep the receipts, submit a photo of them with the report and wait around 1 month to be reimbursed for you purchases. The reimbursement allowance will be clearly shown in the brief, anything over you wont get paid for and make sure you can afford the upfront costs.

MAKE SURE YOU REGISTER AS SELF EMPLOYED. You will have to fill in and submit your yearly accounts as you are not employed by these companies, you would be a self-employed mystery shopper. Make sure you remember to put some money aside for paying tax and national insurances.

So yes, you can get paid to shop, however you also need to see it as a job. It can be hard work and sometimes you can feel like it’s not worth the effort. But then other times It’s so much fun and you can do things you may not usually be able to afford. It works for me and could work for you too.

If you have any questions ask below, Thanks for reading.


8 thoughts on “How to become a mystery shopper

  1. I toyed with becoming a mystery shopper once, but decided that remeberingal the questions and then all the details is something that I just couldn’t do! My brain would break!

  2. Oh this is really interesting and something that I would love to do but I’m a bit put off by having to pay for everything upfront. I’m not sure I could justify that… is there a legal contract to make sure that you do get reimbursed?

  3. A really interesting article. It’s something I’ve considered but the time and living in a small town put me off. Perhaps when my kid’s are both in school

  4. I’ve just signed up to a mystery shopper site so this is very useful information. I figured it’s worth it for me as I’m in a big city.
    Thanks so much for the advice – I’ve pinned too.
    love Becinmonton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *