Is it possible to make a decent living doing this full-time?


I saw mystery shopping on an article from The Penny Hoarder late last night and figured I'd sign up for some MSCs and see what it was all about, since I could use the extra money and/or free food. Well, I singed up with all of the MSCs on their list and, since I am off of my normal job today, thought I'd get a couple free meals and see what it's actually like to do. I did a quick service place this morning and am signed up for a dinner pizza shop tonight. The quick service one was relatively easy and enjoyable! Took a little longer than I would've thought but I'm confident that I did well at it. I have been thinking about leaving my current employer and it's got me thinking... Is this a viable full-time gig?

I live in a major metropolitan area and have my own vehicle. A lot of the shops, though, seem to be for $2-9 fees with reimbursements, except for the ones I'm finding for like hair removal or fancy restaurants ($50-150) but I can see how you'd easily use most of the fee to pay for the shop.

Extra question I just thought of: is it bad/wrong/disqualifying to sign up for a bunch of food shops in a day but only really eat a few bites to taste? I was thinking it could be a way to make more money but can definitely see how it might not be okay.

Thank you guys so much for your help.

Edit: I would need at least $1,000-1,200 a month (and, of course, more is better) to pay my bills, so that's what I mean by decent living and viable full-time gig.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/05/2017 09:22PM by kstaplet.

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I do many restaurants, but only the ones I enjoy as most are reimbursement with a small fee. I enjoy eating out, so it works for should think of other shops like banks, dealerships, etc. where you can make some $$.

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping....
My advice is don't quit your day job until you are making what you need at mystery shopping.

By then you will know if you can actually make an acceptable amount just by mystery shopping. You have to remember that your self employement income will be taxed differently and you won't have benefits like insurance unless you pay for them yourself.

When I began, I was making money, but if you calculated an hourly rate, it would have been rather low.

As I got better and signed up with more MSCs, I could do the shops better and group shops. Whether they are on a route or just a couple across town, it really helps to group them. Just leave enough time to complete all the reports on time. You'll be surprised how long organizing photos and receipts can take if you do ten shops in a day.

I agree with Irene_LA, I like the shops where you don't have to lay out money to get paid.

That way if your shop is not accepted for whatever reason, you aren't out what you thought would be reimbursed. The other thing is sometimes you have to wait up to 45-60 days to get that money reimbursed.

I think most on this board would tell you that the first shop of it's kind takes a little getting used. By your third or fourth shop of the same kind, you should have the hang of that shop. That's when people develop a preference for the type of shop they prefer.

I prefer to do the high end restaurants as I've found the work on the reports is the same as shops reimbursed at a lower amount. Of course that's with the same MSC, as they usually use the same shop report whether you get a $175 reimbursement or $50 reimbursement for your meal,

Make sure you turn in your reports on time so your shops aren't rejected for being late. If they are going to be late, contact the scheduler.

Read the messages and you'll find out what most experienced shoppers feel about the $2 shop fees.

I work full time, too. I made about $2000 last month - not including reimbursements. I can earn more than double that if I am not working. Keep in mind that there is no health insurance in this line of work... It takes some work and time to get acclimated, but it can be done. I agree with the advice from above: Don't quit your job until you know the culture, find a niche that works well for you, and actually like it.
YES. There are several people on this forum that have been consistently doing so for years. The best advice that I can give you is to treat mystery shopping as a small-business, and develop a reasonable P&L expectation each week. Then, plan your
work, and execute your plan.
Too risky for me and I make a LOT more with my full-time job. I always feel secure with my career as well over mystery shopping. Full-time shopping while slow at my full-time job (overhead) could be a possibility though.

Shopping the Greater Denver Area, Colorado Springs and in-between in Colorado. 27 year old male and willing to travel! Badged for Denver International Airport.
How do you explain all the shoppers who do?

@catlassy wrote:


To add on to some of the stuff wrosie said. In the beginning it can take a long time to organize receipts, photos, etc. Once you get a system going it can be a piece of cake. If you decide to do this as a business, take advantage of the tools at your disposal. Some are free and some come at a cost. I pay $99 a year for Office 365 which includes OneDrive. I always take pics with my phones and they are waiting for me on my laptop when it is time for the report. The time saved is worth every penny to me.

In the beginning you may also be limited by report deadlines. Route shoppers tend to take advantage of their time on the road and just ask for extensions on reports. Most schedulers are accommodating if they know you will get it done when you say.

Equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It's not pie.
Never try to teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of your time and it really annoys the pig.
My problem with doing this full time is no health Ins., or 401 for retirement.....having another source of income is the best, if your SO has health Ins, that works. Great for retired, however there are may here that do make it,
would be too risky for me. I love the perks, as for bonus and actual money, a few hundred a month and being able to work when i want from home is the best......and the meals, a definite yes,.I'm doing a great Beverly Hills
fun restaurant, taking a friend and reimbursement is 90.00 plus a small fee.and a`13.00$ pd. of imported coffee.
Find what works, build a good relationship with the company/scheduler, and go for it.

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping....
Fortunately, for now, I'm still covered under my father's insurance but I know this will definitely be a concern of mine in a year. I do have a 401k at my current job but I'm so young and new to the company, I think it's only worth $500 at this point. I don't think I'd aspire to be a full-time mystery shopper for the rest of my life but I graduated university in Spring and have no idea what I want yet. I work for one of the country's major insurance companies but hate it. It's a call center where you get the fancy title of being in Claims but are not much more than glorified customer service. It's the same thing, with back to back calls, over and over again. No decision making, no responsibilities, no higher brain function. My two introductory easy food shops today were fun and made me feel like a cool spy. As sad as it sounds, I felt like my brain and opinions mattered way more during those little shops than I feel at work every day. So, perhaps, I could just try it for a few months to a year while I get things figured out.
Kstaplet, can I give you some unsolicited career advice? Since you just graduated I assume you're 22 or 23. I'm 57 and have been in your shoes.
1 - Even if you hate your job, go in to work everyday with a positive attitude. Never complain about your job at work.
2 - Have a facebook and LinkedIn account and connect with your college friends and coworkers. Network - that's the best way to find a better job.
3 - Your work for a major insurance company. Check the internal job board for new opportunities. You have you foot in the door, and any company is looking for a college educated, hard working person with a positive attitude.
4 - Every time you get a raise or a promotion, add 1% to what you're putting into your 401(k).
Other people on this board can add to this. But experiment. You will find things you enjoy.
Good luck.
Since you mentioned that you work full time, perhaps doing mystery shopping in your spare time would be your extra money to save. If I knew back at my early 20's with what I know now, I would earmark saving at least $50 to $100/month to early 50's. It would be either $18,000 or $36,000. You would be surprised how much you had saved with accrued interest in a 401K, regular savings or low risk investments.
If I had known about mystery shopping in my 20's and 30's and all of those compliance jobs, I would have been all over it.
I've done mystery shopping as my full-time job off and on for over 10 years. I have a medical issue that sometimes makes traditional work a challenge, so MSing is my go-to to fill those gaps. $1000+ a month is definitely doable. As others have said, compliance audits are amazing if you fit the age range. When I was younger and within the right range, I could take a route of compliance audits and earn $1000+ in a weekend in a major metropolitan area. Because they were the same shop with the same company, I had the guidelines memorized and a great system for doing many shops back-to-back without needing to stop in between.

Even now that I've aged out of those shops, I still get a good deal of work. It is definitely a challenge when working with a new company or trying out a new shop. I have my monthly go-to shops for companies I've been with for ages, and reporting is super easy because I know what's needed. I always review guidelines just in case there have been changes, but that's easier than starting anew with a shop I've never done. I can practically bank on earning $### per month on my regular shops alone. Everything else is icing on the cake.

It's not as easy as those mom blogs make it out to be. You don't get paid "just for eating" or "just for shopping." You get paid to make detail-oriented observations, submit well-written reports, and maintain your business just as you would any other business - including all of the financial and legal aspects of being self-employed. It is a business, and the more you treat it like one the better you'll come out.
To the OP, if you quit your full-time job you will regret it. As you work for a big company, there is possibility of promotion.

If you become a full-time shopper, it won't look good in your resume and it will become more difficult to get a job going forward.

In short, with regard to your current position suck it up. And start looking for full-time positions offering decent benefits.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/07/2017 04:21AM by Catnap.
Shoppers who have read the forums extensively or who have been to large shopper education conferences know many shoppers who make a living at MS.

Based in MD, near DC
Shopping from the Carolinas to New York
Have video cam; will travel

Poor customer service? Don't get mad; get video.
After reading Catnap's post, I would like to add one question for your consideration. Considering the assignments that you have completed: are you willing to do many more of the same, similar, or different assignments in future which will pay you the amount of money you desire? In other words, will you like this work as much when you must do more of it as you have liked it up to this time? Now, you have other revenue and are free to add or decline assignments. In future, will it bother you in any way that you rely on these assignments for your income? Will it bother anyone in your world who is accustomed to your life/schedule as it is now?

“I want a yacht and, really, that’s not a lot”
(Santa Baby)
@Shop-et-al wrote:

will you like this work as much when you must do more of it as you have liked it up to this time?

This is a good point. I personally had fun with my first few assignments way back. It was new and different, and I made money!

Now, over 10 years later, the fun is mostly gone. Thankfully, I don't do it for fun: I do it for money. I will take some shops at a loss if it offers a personal benefit to me (like, the movie theatres where I always end up spending more than the reimbursement amount and the fee - but I get to have a movie night with kiddo and get some of the expenses paid back to me), but at the end of the month it's about how many shops I cranked out and how much income I will be getting. That's not to say I don't enjoy the work. I do enjoy the opportunities, the grocery reimbursement, the time out of the house, the opportunity to write....there are enjoyable parts. I just wouldn't say it's fun in the sense that "YAY! I'm going to spend my whole weekend mystery shopping for fuuuuuuuuuuun!!"

Don't do it because it's fun in the beginning. Do it if you can honestly see yourself doing it and treating it like you would your own business that you are 100% responsible for. Try it out for a while, but don't put all of your eggs into one basket.

As an aside, I don't agree that "it won't look good on your resume." I've had it on my resume since I started and have never had an issue. I don't put "mystery shopper," but I use a more official sounding title and list the duties and responsibilities.
@kstnaplet wrote:

A lot of the shops, though, seem to be for $2-9 fees with reimbursements, except for the ones I'm finding for like hair removal or fancy restaurants ($50-150) but I can see how you'd easily use most of the fee to pay for the shop.
@ wrote:

Keep in mind that for most of the restaurant shops you mentioned for $50-$150, it is reimbursement for what you spend. If you spend $100 but the reimbursement fee is $150, you do not get to pocket the extra $50 unless it states that it is a flat fee of $150, but that isn't very common. And often when I do fine dining with my husband we always go over the amount because the reimbursement amount is designed for the shopper to purchase the lowest price range of menu items. I just look at it as a nice discounted dinner and we get to have a great meal (hopefully) with only $25 to $50 out of pocket. And many MSCs such as A Closer Look generally don't give a fee in addition to the reimbursement.
I have been full time mystery shopping since 2008, and there are several others who have been doing this longer than I have. I never have and never will do a shop for reimbursement only. When you are doing a movie shop, you should consider that it is like taking a 3-hour vacation from your work day. Is that good business to do that frequently?
I have been shopping since 2001. It is only a fulltime job for me when I feel like it, as I do not depend on this for a living. I rarely do movie shops because there is little value in it. However, a date night with my husband where I can treat him to a fine dinner service is worth it for me, even if it is reimbursement only, since he pays for everything else in my life (house, car, etc.). If I had to depend on this as a job to pay my bills, I would look at it much differently than I do.
@kstnaplet As someone relatively close to you in age (I just turned 25), my advice would be to keep your full time job for now. You can always quit later. Hanging onto it may be a real drag right now, but once you quit, that’s that and you’re stuck with the decision.

I have been full time mystery shopping for about a year now. I stumbled across it when my life was suddenly upturned about a year ago. It definitely has its perks— deciding my own schedule, choosing what work I want to do, and being my own boss. But it can be tough too.

I constantly have to schedule new work or I won’t have money coming in. It requires a lot of detail & organizational skill. Not to mention, nothing is a guarantee. Companies can go broke overnight and skip out on paying you whatever they owe (not common, but it can and has happened to shoppers). Shops can be rejected, especially in the beginning while you get a feel for things.

Bottom line, it’s a lot of work and can be very stressful when you depend on MS as your sole source of income.

Have you considered volunteering in some capacity? Dishing meals at a homeless shelter, walking dogs at the humane society, etc. Trying something like that might give you more satisfaction with day to day life.

Keep feeling things out for now with shopping and if you feel the same way 6 months from now, quit your job. Just don’t rush decisions that you don’t have to make. That’s my advice.

And p.s. I would highly recommend you look into performing some compliance shops. Those tend to pay pretty well and they need shoppers in their early 20’s to complete them.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/07/2017 07:58PM by Megs7521.
I appreciate all of your time and answers.

After taking your responses and talks with my boyfriend and parents into consideration, I've decided that I, ultimately, just need to find a new job. My boyfriend made a really good point in saying that, if I had put the same amount of time and effort that I had put into signing up for MSCs and looking at shops the other day into applying for new jobs, I could've probably gotten some interviews in the coming weeks. That really hit home and, so, I will keep mystery shopping as a way to get free food, supplement my income, and provide experiences that I wouldn't have thought of or been able to afford otherwise.

I detest the attitude of some of the replies, though-- that I have to suck it up or stick it out at this corporation. I know that, even if I stayed long enough to get promoted, it wouldn't be to a position that I would like much more than what I'm doing now. I'm not delusional enough to believe that I will find my dream job this young in life but it's not unreasonable to have a job where you don't completely dread going in everyday. I never complain when I'm there and always give our customers my best, as evidenced by my good performance reviews and the fact that I've had customers call back to commend me to supervisors on a few occasions. But, just because I'm good at it, doesn't mean that I have to accept that this is it for me. It's nice that the pay is good but I'm not happy. Working in retail during college was more mentally stimulating than this, even if it was just because I had to walk around and put things away.

I've begun applying to new jobs, so, if anything, this thread spurred me into taking action.

I will definitely also look into compliance shops. Getting paid to get carded (or not)? Sounds great! lol
I think that you are on the right path. Ignoring advice to just make do with a job that you hate testifies to your good sense.

Based in MD, near DC
Shopping from the Carolinas to New York
Have video cam; will travel

Poor customer service? Don't get mad; get video.
Why do you ask this here?

Based in MD, near DC
Shopping from the Carolinas to New York
Have video cam; will travel

Poor customer service? Don't get mad; get video.
Just with like owning any type of business, it definitely matters how much effort you put into it. You can't expect to work 20 hours and expect it to rain cash.

Love. Not Hate. Life is too short to spend time hating one another. We're all in this together
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