Posted By Jacob Jans, Editor

A Basic Mystery Shopping Business Plan

Written by LIJake

Having retired from my 30+ years as an independent manufacturer’s representative, I was seeking an alternate source of income and a way to keep physically and mentally fit. After exploring several options my research led to mystery shopping and I decided to go in that direction. Since then, I have set specific goals with my mystery shopping, organized a basic business plan, and achieved my first set of goals.

This article walks you through my basic business plan as a mystery shopper.



  1. Be you own boss
  2. Set your own hours
  3. Acceptance to the many mystery shopping companies is relatively easy
  4. Select the types of businesses to be called on
  5. Choose from the many types of mystery shopping available
  6. Earn an income based on time and effort



  1. Income and growth is limited
  2. Mystery shopping will remain a single person operation
  3. Income is earned during the shop/interview but reports of various complexity are then required


Equipment needed

  1. Vehicle
  2. Computer
  3. Printer/fax/scanner
  4. Land telephone line
  5. Cell phone
  6. GPS
  7. Micro voice recorder
  8. Digital camera


Starting my business

I possessed all of the above equipment from my previous occupation as well as an office in the home so there was little initial outlay. The cell phone and digital camera were upgraded. My approach is that this is a business not a hobby and my objective is to earn an income, not a way to get food or product compensation.

When I started mystery shopping, I researched and choose 12 to 15 companies that seemed to offer the types of shops that I would enjoy, concentrated on 5 of them and proceeded to set and meet my goals.

My objectives

At this junction in my life, I have no desire to work 5 or 6 days a week and 8 to 10 hours a day. Instead I choose to work within a 30 mile radius of my home and average 4 to 5 hours a day. I regularly take Friday and the weekend off. My income per job and per day is based on a strict income/expense ratio and I rarely leave the house for less than a 2 to 1 ratio. It is a very profitable day when the ratio reaches 3 to 1 or 4 to 1, which usually occurs when I am able to negotiate bonused shops.

Setting goals

My original goal was to earn more than I could as a skilled or semi-skilled part time retail employee in a local store. I actually went for an interview in the local Home Depot and decided that was not an option I desired. My first goal was easily surpassed in the first month. There are two directions you can go when a goal is reached. The first is to pat yourself on the back, relax and start coasting. The second is to re-set your goals and work harder and smarter.


This is not a business where I feel I can “wing it” so I generally plan a month out and put my appointments and potential visits in an appointment book. The end of the month sometimes brings bonused shops so I try to leave a couple of days open at that time. I am able to do the shops I enjoy and stay away from the ones that I do not.

My business is based on careful preparation which includes logical routing, one page worksheets for the various shops and detailed spreadsheets of my visits.


Because of changing demographics and needs of the mystery shopping companies and clients, I am ready to expand my base and will do so slowly with careful research much as I did when I first started. The information is available and with careful searching I will find companies that suit my needs and likes. Mystery Shop Forum and Mystery Shopper Magazine are both excellent sources of research for finding new mystery shopping companies.




Your Comments:

  1. David Hoppe says:

    What tax deductions are most important for a independent contractor, Mystery Shopping? What receipts and records need to be kept for tax records?