The 10 Best Ways to Make Money as a Mystery Guest
For many businesses owners, truly understanding what their clients think of their business can be a challenge – this is where so-called ‘mystery guests’ come in. A mystery guest can also be known as a mystery shopper, mystery customer, phantom shopper, or secret shopper.
Mystery guests are paid to pose as a regular customer to record their experience with a particular business (typically by filling in a survey after their dealings). Typically, this involves a pre-determined scenario that the mystery guest just plays out. To qualify, you’ll need to be able to write reasonably well, have a computer and means of transport, be reliable and have good attention to detail.
Making money as a Mystery Guest
To help you make more money as a Mystery Guest, we’ve compiled the 10 best ways to maximise your return.
1. Register for as many Mystery Guest programs as you can
The best way to earn money as a Mystery Guest is to register with companies specializing in this area. Examples include www.mysteryshopping.com.au or www.mysterycustomer.com.au but there are a lot more. Sign up for the Mystery Shopping Guide below and we’ll send details of a few extras.
Registering with multiple companies gives you the benefit of accessing a range of different businesses seeking Mystery Guests, rather than having to register individually with each business. Most businesses outsource their mystery guest programs though some do it in-house.
2. Target the mystery guest jobs that pay best
Not all Mystery Guest jobs are created equal. Like anything, you have to balance your time/effort with the payment being made. The highest paying Mystery Guest jobs may pay over $100 but how much time and effort are you prepared to give up for that payment?
The most I’ve ever been paid was $175 for one job but these are scarce and hen’s teeth and took a lot of work. More realistic is jobs that pay around the $40 mark though there are many at or around the $10-$20 mark.
The lowest paying jobs don’t have any payment at all but offer fringe benefits, eg. You are reimbursed for purchasing the service provided, effectively making it free. We’ll discuss below why these still have some value.
3. Target jobs that provide the fringe benefits that are value to you
I’ve done mystery guest jobs that provide free (via reimbursement) food, drinks, accommodation, entertainment, services (eg. using a gym). The problem is many such fringe benefits tend to reduce the amount that the relevant company will pay you. Often such jobs don’t actually provide any payment at all other than the free good/service you receive.
Unless you really like the fringe benefit (Fleetwood Mac concert anyone?) then the reduced / zero payment becomes a disappointment. On the other hand, I’ve had my car professionally washed for free, I’ve had a free night’s accommodation at a reasonable resort, and I’ve eaten out by myself or with the family many times.
Recently, I got in the good books by bringing home free flowers from a florist job. So, did I mention to my wife that I got the flowers for free? Best not to answer that question : )
4. Ask the mystery guest companies how to succeed
Once you’ve registered with a mystery guest company, you’ll discover that you’re no Robinson Crusoe, ie. You’re going to have to compete with a whole bunch of other people to get the best jobs. To maximise your returns, contact the relevant company and find out how they award the jobs.
For some it’s more about speed and reliability, for others it’s about quality/detail of your survey answers. All companies provide a fair bit of detail in their preliminary information about what they’re looking for. This may be part of the testing you have to do to register or otherwise this information is just placed on the company website.
If you go to the extra effort of making phone contact (not always possible), you can potentially set yourself apart. The Mystery Guest business is still the people business, so if you can develop a good rapport with the companies (without annoying them), all the better.
5. Become a trusted Mystery Guest – provide good value and high quality work
In your dealings with the mystery guest company, be a good employee. If you adopt the mindset “I’m only getting paid $x for this” this may affect your attitude to the work and you may provide poor service.
This can show itself in your dealings with the mystery guest company by being unreliable or incomplete or generally not doing what you said you would do. Be the sort of employee you’d like to have and you’ll be ahead of the game.
When filling in your surveys, take a few extra minutes to be really thorough in your responses. Try to fill in all the gaps for someone who wasn’t there. Write in full sentences and use correct pUnctu-ation! : )
6. Where possible, group your mystery guest jobs together
Some of the lower value mystery guest jobs are relatively plentiful. If that’s the case, bid for a whole bunch of jobs together. If it appears there is not a huge demand, you can indicate this when you bid. A number of mystery guest companies allow you to type in a few words to say why you should get the job.
Said politely, you can communicate that you’ll only do a particular job if you can also do another job nearby. This won’t always work but where it does, you can increase your returns on your mystery guest activities and as applicable, reduce your petrol costs.
Of course, if you’re registered with a few different mystery guest companies, then you may get lucky and be able to do different jobs for different companies on the same day in similar locations. I think I achieved five jobs in one Saturday – it was quite a lucrative day. My best ever was $375 worth in one day but that is by no means, typical.
7. Never break your cover as a Mystery Guest
You’d think this would be stating the bleeding obvious, but don’t bite the hand that feeds you. If you EVER blow your cover as a mystery guest, you may just be kissing goodbye your mystery guest income. Mystery guest companies usually have strict policies about never revealing your role as a mystery guest.
So how do you minimise the chance of you being identified as a mystery guest?
(i) For one thing, never take the survey into the business – certainly not in hard copy. I have used my smart phone and copied down some of the key questions I need to remember to ask as a memory jogger. For staff from the business, it can look like I’m just reading email or texting – doesn’t everybody do that these days? But I would never look at my smart phone while I’m talking to a staff member.
(ii) A number of mystery guest companies have specific policies about not completing your survey within view of the business. ie. when you get back to your car, you should drive away from the business before stopping to fill in your survey. It’s fair to assume that staff at the businesses are aware that they may be visited by mystery guests from time to time.
(iii) One other way to reduce your risk of being caught out is to know your material well. If you look like you’re straining to remember which questions to ask (looking skyward with a pained expression on your face), that can appear more obvious so avoid that approach. If need be, practice the survey question with friends or family before hand. Try to make it sound natural.
If you can put all this together, you’re unlikely to be questioned too closely. In the dozens of mystery guest jobs I’ve done, I’ve never been asked if I’m a mystery guest.
But I do have a standard answer prepared if someone asks me: “What’s a mystery guest?” If you don’t want to look like a rabbit in the headlights, maybe practice in front of the mirror. You can improve your acting skills in the process : ).
8. Be flexible – last minute jobs can pay better
For some mystery guest jobs, companies will pay more if they can’t get anyone to do the job. This can be for jobs in more remote locations (see point 9 below) or where they’re approaching their deadlines for a particular job. The mystery guest companies have customers too and want to deliver on a commitment to provide a certain number of surveys in a given period. This can mean more mystery guest pay for you.
RMSA is one company that pays extra for last-minute jobs. The challenge, of course, is whether you want to do wait until a job is last minute and risk not getting it at all (receiving nothing) or just bid early to secure the job in the first place.
You could adopt the tradesmans’ approach. A friend of mine was a plumber. He said to me that if someone ever asked him to quote on a job he didn’t really want to do, he’d bump up the price. As a mystery guest, you might decide that there are certain jobs you really want to do and will bid early on those. But for the jobs you’re ambivalent about, you may decide to what until the fee is increased (and risk getting nothing).
9. If you travel, look for Mystery Guest jobs near where you’re travelling
The size and locations of businesses that hire mystery guest companies varies enormously. If you’re travelling, search for mystery guest jobs in the area you’re travelling to or through.
In some cases, these may be the sorts of jobs that you’ve been doing near where you live. The benefit of this approach is that you’ll be familiar with what’s required and may be able to complete the jobs more quickly.
On the other hand, if you bid for jobs near where you’re travelling, you may get to be a mystery guest in different businesses to those located near where you live – this can make the work more interesting and potentially more profitable.
Mystery guest companies are often looking for shoppers to do jobs in areas outside of main cities. I got paid extra for doing a job in Newcastle once, even though I was going there anyway. I travelled earlier this year to Dubbo and had a free dinner as a mystery guest before heading onwards in my journey.
If you know you’re travelling to a more remote area, contact the mystery guest companies beforehand and see if there are any jobs coming up. You might get lucky.
10. Keep your receipts
For some mystery guest jobs and/or with some mystery guest companies, you must keep your receipts as proof of your work at a particular location. Where such receipts are required, a good way to manage them is to take a photo of the receipt with your phone. Typically, such copies are acceptable by the companies.
On the other hand, if you can’t provide the receipt, you probably won’t get paid. I tend to write on the receipt ‘mystery guest’ or ‘MG’ for short to remind me to hang onto them.
Being a mystery guest can be a great way of earning extra money for your life. It provides a fun and flexible way to do some work and get paid for it. Whether you like the cash or the benefits, it’s a way of enhancing your world while requiring only a little of your time.
Some people use income from being a mystery guest as pocket money or to fund a particular interest/hobby. Other people do mystery guest work to help make ends meet or to keep themselves active in retirement or with young kids. Whatever the reason, follow the points above to maximise your returns.
Mystery guest companies are constantly on the lookout for mystery guests. As long as you maintain your cover and complete good quality work, the sky is the limit. How far will you go?