The Right Way to Start Mystery Shopping

by Melanie Jordan

One of the most common questions I get from people who are looking to get started in mystery shopping is "how do I get started?" If you intend to make mystery shopping a real career rather than just getting "paid to shop" it's important to get started off on the right foot. Mystery shopping can either be the road to overworked and underpaid, or if you do it correctly, it can be quite lucrative for a legitimate, work-at-home, flexible job.

Unfortunately, the most common error newbie mystery shoppers make is that they go berserk applying to mystery shopping company web sites left and right. Signing up with companies is the last thing you want to do when you are just starting out-unless you want to be a new mystery shopper with sore fingers saying "I applied to 100 companies but I didn't hear anything". Signing up with companies directly, especially if you don't have any, or have very little mystery shopping experience, is a waste of time in my opinion. Most companies are inundated with requests from newbies wanting to become mystery shoppers; what they want are experienced shoppers they can count on. Think of a "real world" job search. If you just apply to companies all over the place without any experience, or knowing if they even have any job openings, it's going to be a fruitless effort.

Another big reason why applying to company web sites is a waste of time is that the largest and best companies outsource their assignments to schedulers-the middlemen of the industry. So companies don't bother going through their own databases. The real way to get started in mystery shopping is to get connected to schedulers in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd and gets assignments coming to you. Okay, you ask, how do I get connected to schedulers? But here's one way:

Go to At the bottom of that page is a link to "Mystery Shoppers Resource", a great site for mystery shopping leads almost exclusively posted by schedulers. The webmaster, Julie Moreau, will even e-mail you each time she updates the page, please mention I referred you). When you see a job posting in your area, simply follow the instructions and apply. There's a lot more to being a professional, top-earning mystery shopper than just this, but it's a way for you to dabble and get a feel for what is possible.

Summary: Despite what others may say, the biggest mistake you can make as a newbie shopper is wasting your time applying directly to mystery shopping companies. You wouldn't look for a job in the "real world" this way, and the "mystery shopping world" is no different. Learn to work with schedulers and you'll have started your mystery shopping career the right way.

Besides her mystery shopping and editing work for several top companies, Melanie writes about and provides personal and group coaching services by phone and e-mail on a variety of topics that she is passionate about related to work-at-home lifestyles, health and fitness and e-publishing. She also publishes a free e-zine for mystery shoppers called The Perfect Work-At-Home Job Update (subscribe by e-mail to For more great tips and techniques check out "The Perfect Work-At-Home Job: Mystery Shopping" by Melanie. For a print copy, order directly from the author. Copyright Melanie R. Jordan E-Publishing

Take the Next Step:

Get Out of Debt
Stay Connected with TDS

Do you struggle to get ahead financially?

Surviving Tough Times is a weekly newsletter aimed at helping you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources.

Debt Checklist

And get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble?
A Simple Checklist and What You Can Do About It
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Get Out of Debt