Yearly income goal

I want to set a goal for my mystery shopping income for the coming year. I’ve been doing it hit and miss for years, but have become rather consistent over the past 5 months. Is $35,000 a reasonable goal for somewhere between part time and full time?

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After 41 years in sales as a one call closer, I miserably failed as a full timer. One of the reasons was I was unwilling to "hit the road." ALL of my routes were day only. I do not think a $35,000 net would be possible without some traveling and overnight stays.
Your goal seems reasonable if you are in an area where there are ample shops and not too much distance between each one. You are basically looking at earning around $700 a week. To account for self employment taxes, though, it should be more like $800 or so.
If you're basing the 35k on what you've done over the last 5 months then it's likely realistic. But shopperbob is right. I don't know how anybody would get there without route shopping, and in-town routes would almost certainly not be enough.
After I was retired in 2016, I expanded the driving radius that I was willing to accept shops within, but always home by night to report the shops. I put in long days. I did not do video shops, but otherwise would do almost any kind. I found that my mileage cost went from about 1/3 of gross to about 45%. I was then living in Southeastern Pennsylvania so I had access to that part of PA, northern DE, northeast MD, and northeast MD. I managed to gross about $28,000. A really big chunk was deductible due to the IRS mileage rate. I am willing to believe that there are areas where grossing $35,000 is feasible without overnight travel. I could not do it then, and the types and number of shops have decreased sharply due to COVID.

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
With the amount of shops available from what I see in NY and PA, I don't know how you would gross 35k. More power to anyone who can.
@OP: I would love for you to find the sweet spot and meet that goal!

Smell the roses. Smell the coffee. Whatever it is that makes you happy. - Rita Moreno


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I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born. - Ronald Reagan
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Mom04,

You inquired concerning 35,000, which would imply a gross. In my mind, and due to my years of self-employment, I replied as a net. Certainly a gross would be more achievable, but, as has been noted, the reduction in work due to the epidemic would render even that goal difficult.
I have a friend who works 10 days a month merchandising and grosses between 4 and 5,000 a month. So gross certainly doable. However, she is away from home the entire 10 days, overnight. She does, however, take off the other 20 days a month. Not doable with kids and chores, unless you have at-home backup. She averages over 20 assignments a day, knocking out about 200 in those 10 days. Only some is sheltered by tax write-offs, so she does send quarterly tax payments in to cover that self-employment/SS liability.

I worked 20 days in November, home every night, and grossed in the 3,000 range. But my work days were VERY short, as my poor eyesight demands I be home well before dark. So many of those 20 days, I left home by 11 or 12, and was home before 4 PM. Total hours worked probably less than what my friend clocked in her 10 days. But my mileage was much greater, so I actually created very little tax liability. My shops are normally about 100 miles away from home, so I tend to do mini-routes, and can rarely complete more than 5 in one day.
My reaction is that the most successful shoppers are those who have a specific goal in mind, though not if it is an unrealistic goal that always leaves them disappointed and frustrated. A goal such as paying off student loans, saving for an amazing vacation, a child's wedding, a down payment for a house or building a retirement fund are all goals that offer some leeway as to how quickly they must be met. For myself, initially I shopped to pay my health insurance in an early retirement. I was quite pleased to quickly be earning more than enough each month to do that and turned my attention to paying down my mortgage such that at the time Medicare age arrived I had paid off the mortgage entirely.

A reasonable challenge to yourself is to strive to beat the average of the past two months by 5% or 10%. Sometimes you will make it (end of quarter shops are noticeably more remunerative than first of quarter) so you must be able to 'forgive' yourself if nothing is available.
I am having a wonderful (for me) month. I did not work every day, I out-earned the abandoned disability benefits amount, earned in the four figures, and am hoping that I can repeat this at least once next year. In order for that to happen, the stars, moon, and rotations must align with the weather, roads, body comfort, and work schedule.

Will it happen again? I dunno. I did it once despite wintry weather and its delays. Mind you, my goal was not $35,000 gross in a year. It was to out-do myself in a few key areas. I did it. If I can do this, the OP can meet their much more impressive goal.

I love the idea of that dollar amount divided by twelve, or by fifty two, or by x number of routes, or x number of gigs, or whatever makes the math easy. Didn't one of the people who left say that one goal could be some number of dollars per mile? Two dollars per mile, or one dollar, or at least fifty cents per mile? *will search for the post*

Smell the roses. Smell the coffee. Whatever it is that makes you happy. - Rita Moreno


____
I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born. - Ronald Reagan
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I do out of town routes when they pay. Just finished a 73 job route that grossed 1750.00. After gas, about 120.00 and hotels 300.00, I still had a nice return for 5 days. The 1100 miles will make a major impact on my taxable income at .58 per mile.

So I see grossing 35K as very doable!

Dan
In 2006 I found myself out of a full time job, so I took this side hustle that we are all involved in to full time. My goal was to make $100/day every day. I was able to do it.

However, I did not just do MSing. I did "one-off" merchandising jobs like display building, tons of facility audits, product pickup/recall jobs. If I did the same thing today I would add the multitude of photo audits available on the various merchandising apps. I did travel, but rarely overnight, and almost always received some sort of mileage allowance in addition to the job pay/fee.

In 2010 I was able to trip over backwards into a sweet gig back in my primary vocation, and worked for another 10.5 years until November 2020. Now I'm back to my various side gigs to keep busy and to finance my social life. My original goal for this year was to make a paltry $100/week, but I've been able to nearly triple that without breaking a sweat.

If you live in the right area, are willing to travel some, and are willing to accept related jobs that are other than MSing, then you can do it. I did it!
And one needs to keep in mind that every net dollar earned over $400 pays 15%+ in self employment tax so is 'worth' roughly 85 cents even before you think about income taxes. That makes a reimbursement dollar more valuable if it saves a dollar you would have spent otherwise.
Reimbursements for items that you would buy anyway are a great way to boost your effective net MS income: fuel, oil changes, tire rotations, car washes, groceries, pet care and food, hair cuts/styling, dry cleaning, entertainment, etc. Remember, the "boost comes from limiting reimbursed purchases to what you would have to buy anyway. Also, reimbursed hotel stays, charged to that hotel "family's" credit card will earn lots of points that you can use on free hotel stays either for vacations or to cover overnight expenses while on MS multi-day routes. So, those reimbursement only ACL hotel shops, where they reimburse by check instead of having the hotel reverse the charges to my rewards credit card, are worth much more to me. Better yet, whenever I get one of those hotel stays I make sure to turn that into a mini-route by picking up shops near the hotel that would not ordinarily fit into my single day MS outings. Of course, always pay off those credits cards, in full, every month or you really fritter away the rewards "bonus."

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.
with current pandemic it will be very hard to reach.
If you are in well shopping area you can but keep in mind you are likely now alone there with other shoppers close by.

Shopping Eastern Pennsylvania since 2009
For us older workers, just not so. Something like the first $13,000 isn't taxed at all, unless one has other, taxable, income (either earned, like from working, or passive, as from investments). I don't mind paying SS/SE taxes on my net; and after mileage deductions, my net is never high enough to owe regular income tax.

smiling smiley

Just sayin'.

(I don't make enough all year, with social security and self-employment earnings combined, to even pay the property taxes on a modest home in New York City, San Francisco, CA, or Denver, CO. Ah, the joys of rural life!)

@Flash wrote:

And one needs to keep in mind that every net dollar earned over $400 pays 15%+ in self employment tax so is 'worth' roughly 85 cents even before you think about income taxes. That makes a reimbursement dollar more valuable if it saves a dollar you would have spent otherwise.
I think it depends on where you live and, as others say, how much travel you're willing to do. If you're in a large metropolitan area with a lot of shops, it's not as difficult as in a less-populated area, even though there are more shoppers in the more-populated metro areas. I see a lot of shops in Pa., Md., and the D.C. area that are all outside a range that would make it profitable for me, unless I did an overnight route and picked up several shops. I'm willing to do that, since I don't have young kids anymore, but there never seem to be enough of them in the same general area to make it worthwhile. I was ready to make a 3-hour one-way drive to Virginia to do a $300 audit, but somebody grabbed it before I could. I'm sure I could have found a shop or two on the way down and on the way back!

In my immediate vicinity, there's not enough work to make a lot of $$ shopping, unless I'm willing to do $10 and $12 shops every day, every week. Which I'm not, because I do have other self-employment income. But I'm making more this year than I ever have MS'ing and working less. Jobs here are becoming bonused more often and for higher amounts. I think some shoppers may have dropped out of the field in my area.

My goal is to pay for at least one car payment, which I usually do easily, and half or all of the other one. I made that goal last month and this month. So I'm happy! LOL.

Good luck! I'm sure you can do it with planning and flexibility.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
My goal is to earn at least US $25 trillion per week while working no more than 3 hours on any day. Those weeks that one earns more are a bonus.
@Rousseau wrote:

My goal is to earn at least US $25 trillion per week while working no more than 3 hours on any day. Those weeks that one earns more are a bonus.

One MS company had bitcoin shops. You might make a few trillion on those, if you buy and hold... winking smiley
@Susan L. wrote:

@Rousseau wrote:

My goal is to earn at least US $25 trillion per week while working no more than 3 hours on any day. Those weeks that one earns more are a bonus.

One MS company had bitcoin shops. You might make a few trillion on those, if you buy and hold... winking smiley

I only accept real money, not scams posing as money. If it is not government issued, it is not money.
I did a couple bit coin shops. The 40 I spent turned into 30 real quick after transaction fees or whatever. Doesn't matter since they reimburse for the 40. I would do more for the fee and being able to keep the purchased bit coin or sell it.
I've been tempted to do one, especially once they got bonused up. But the nearest one to me was a 40-minute drive, and I couldn't find another shop to tie into it, so I passed. If any come up closer to me, I'll give it a try if they get bonused way up again!

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
@87Supra wrote:

I did a couple bit coin shops. The 40 I spent turned into 30 real quick after transaction fees or whatever. Doesn't matter since they reimburse for the 40. I would do more for the fee and being able to keep the purchased bit coin or sell it.

Remember, to complete the cryptocurrency disclosure on your 1040.
One thing about a shop that takes you out for a night or two is that you can claim a per diem for every day you are out of your local tax authority. I do not remember the distance it has to be. But I worked with a guy that never bought groceries at home. He carried around coolers in the trunk for the cold stuff. Said that all of his groceries were a tax write-off. here are two links or you can search for them. GSA per diem rate sheet info [www.gsa.gov]
IRS Per diem Travel expenses. [www.gsa.gov]

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/13/2022 12:07AM by 2stepps.
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