How do I get started?

I am very new to doing this kind of thing. I work full time, but I ultimately want to be a stay at home mom for my boys. I also want to make money at home as well to help support our family. Is there any advice on where to start and what companies are the best to start with?

I noticed that you mentioned in your post that there are different companies out there and that they pay different rates. How do I find those? I am so worried about sites being legitimate. There are so many out there that aren’t. I really would appreciate any advice you might be able to send me.

Thank you in advance for any assistance you may be able to give me.


Thank you for the letter, JL. I’ve also asked Jacques to comment on this, but I’ll go ahead and start.

First of all, let me congratulate on your entry into the world of mystery shopping. There are fundamentally three different ways to view this industry, if you will. First, there are the mystery shopper hobbyists. These are people who do very limited shops, maybe only picking up restaurants or grocery stores. You generally won’t find them on the forum because they don’t really need or want to take their shopping to a part time or full time business.

I’ll let Jacques comment on the part-time shopper since that’s his forte.

I have a full time job as an industrial designer. As business declined in the “Great Recession,” I turned to shopping as a way to supplement my income. I shop generally about 20 hours a week on average, sometimes more. I look for shops that generally pay in money rather than reimbursements. Unlike James, who shops full time, I’m not willing to make that leap into a full time shopping world, mainly because of the commitment I feel it takes.

James again, and I would agree that it does take a degree of commitment to make shopping a full time, and profitable, occupation. First, to be successful as a full time shopper, you need to get firmly into the mindset that this is a business. Where you live will have an impact on what you will need to do to achieve a full time income. In my case, I had to take the jump into route and video shopping. I’m on the road anywhere from six to 14 days every other month, generally the first and third weeks of the month, and I will likely increase those numbers to monthly in 2014. And, when you include reporting time, drive time, time finding the jobs, etc., there are some weeks where I’m at 60 or 70 hours per week.

Since you don’t mention where you live, I would suggest part time shopping, especially since you want to be a stay at home mom. As far as companies that I would suggest, Cori, Market Force, and Bestmark. Jacques, what would you add to the list?

I would add About Face, Troy Dolan, and Service Sleuth. Trendsource can also be a good company. I would also follow the perennial advice given in www.mysteryshopforum.com, sign up with as many companies as you can because clients change the MSC’s they shop with.

As far as how to tell a legitimate company…if they send you payment in advance or if they want you to pay to work for them (outside of a minimal fee for a criminal background check that some companies require due to the nature of their shops) don’t walk—run, run away very fast.

James & Jacques

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