The concept of mystery shopping sounds amazing. It combines multiple things that people love, including making money, getting free things and the all-important shopping. But, just how realistic is it as a money making approach?
Most people who promote mystery shopping gloss over the challenges and the specifics of the role, with titles like this from Forbes:
However, mystery shopping is a bit more complex than it seems and honestly, most people doing it probably don’t make all that much money.
What Mystery Shopping Involves
Mystery shoppers are hired by companies (or third party groups) to visit stores and to act like average customers. The mystery shopper then reports back to the company about their experience, including customer service and anything else significant.
This role frequently involves getting freebies from the company, as well as actually getting paid. However, most of the time you do actually have to make a purchase from the store, so the amount of profit you make isn’t as good as it sounds. Sometimes this purchase is reimbursed, but not always.
Fees vary, but most of the time mystery shoppers seem to get somewhere between $5 and $20 per visit. Once you take gas and the cost of purchase out of that, it really doesn’t leave a lot. Nevertheless, some people like the concept, particularly if they find a way to work for companies that they would normally purchase from anyway.
Perhaps the most major issue with mystery shopping is that it isn’t that easy to get involved in. All the hype on websites makes it sound like anyone can be a mystery shopper – but it doesn’t actually work like that. In reality, this kind of makes sense, because if there were too many mystery shoppers out there, they wouldn’t be very effective at doing their job.
I have actually signed up for mystery shopping sites a few times to test the waters. Hey, who doesn't want to get paid to shop?! Even though I signed up for multiple sites, I never heard back from a single one, and it seemed like this was an issue that many people experience. In fact, the vast majority of people who apply for mystery shopping (either with companies or on third party sites) tend to get nowhere. Most of the time, you won’t even know why.
Time versus Income
Even if you are ‘lucky’ enough to get a mystery shopping position, you will find that it isn’t all that good at earning money. As I noted earlier, most companies seem to pay somewhere between $5 and $20 per shopping trip and most of the time this will be towards the low end of the scale. You will get reimbursed for the purchase sometimes, but not always.
In addition to gas expenses, there is a significant time commitment involved in mystery shopping.
Firstly, the shopping itself takes time. Often you are required to interact with customer services and see how they respond to customers and even look for specific types of staff. You also have to fill out reports about the experience for the company, which can take quite a bit of time.
This means that you might be spending two or even three hours total for a single trip, and making $7 or so per trip. On an hourly basis, that’s a pretty low rate – and that doesn’t even take into account the work you have to do to even get a mystery shopping job.
If you’re hoping to make a full-time job out of mystery shopping (or even a decent income) be prepared for a lot of juggling and time management. You would have to be a mystery shopper for many different companies and you would probably want to consider other kinds of jobs in the field.
This is a whole lot of work and offers absolutely no guarantee long-term.
To make matters worse, many companies and sites require you to go through a certification process before you can start to do mystery shopping for them. This involves extra time and sometimes will cost.
While there are legitimate mystery shopping companies out there, making consistent money from them in the long-term is often a very challenging task.
Now, mystery shopping might be an effective way to earn a little money on the side if you do manage to get a job, but that’s about all it’s good for.
You end up being completely reliant on whatever company (or companies) you are working for. This might mean that you get hardly any work to do, or that the company has some really strict rules in place. Both of these things make it difficult to earn a decent amount of money. They also mean that you might lose the ability to earn money at any point in time.
Mystery shopping is an expensive approach for companies and there are other ways that they can get similar information. Because of this, many companies have scaled back their use of mystery shoppers, which makes it more difficult to get work in this way.
With mystery shopping, the amount of money you make is dependent on two things: the company and the amount of time you put in. This means that to earn more money, the company has to be willing and you have to put in more work.
In fact, this is the case with many ways of making money, including working for a company in a ‘normal’ job. This isn’t what you want when it comes to making money. Instead, you want an approach where the amount you make isn’t directly tied to your work and you don’t have to rely on the whims of a company whose focus is on their own profit.
This is where affiliate marketing comes into play.
Affiliate marketing is a form of online business where people use websites to promote other products, gaining commissions from sales. They use a range of approaches to drive traffic to their pages and to get people to actually purchase what they are selling.
One of the major advantages of affiliate marketing is that you end up selling things that people actually want to buy. This makes the entire sales process relatively easy and there is a lot of potential for money out there.
The other thing is that in affiliate marketing, your income level isn’t directly tied to your amount of work. So, as your business expands, you may well find that you are getting more traffic and more profit, but doing less work per day than you did when you first got started.
Ultimately, this is what you want with any business. This isn’t something that you get with mystery shopping and it isn’t something you get with a normal 9-to-5 job. To be honest, that is why I love affiliate marketing so much. It has given me the chance to develop my own business where I don’t have to rely on anyone else and my income isn’t restricted.
If you are at all interested in finding out more about affiliate marketing, I’d suggest checking out the training site where I learned the basics of affiliate marketing. The things that I learned there have guided all of my online work since.