Start Your Own Mystery Shopper Business

by Alice Seba

What is a Mystery Shopper Business?

A Mystery Shopper is someone who goes to a restaurant, store, hairdresser, grocery store, amusement park or any other businesses and poses as a customer. For example: in a restaurant, the mystery shopper would sit down, order a meal, pay the bill and leave, just like any customer. The purpose of this visit is to evaluate the overall customer service (actual service, knowledge of staff, cleanliness, etc.) that is being offered in the establishment. The Mystery Shopper writes a report and rates the customer service based on a pre-established set of criteria. Then the report is turned into the business to use for training, employee rewards or any number of uses.

This is a business you can do with your family. You can bring the kids, your spouse or all of them. The experience is meant to be as authentic as possible and what’s more authentic than a family of shoppers or restaurant customers? However, keep in mind, you are there to work and observe. Your children or your spouse should not distract you from that.

Mystery Shopper Supplies

There aren’t a lot of business specific supplies you will need. Make sure to have the basics: business cards, contracts and professional attire to meet with potential clients.

Mystery Shopper Skills

  • Negotiation and Verbal Communication skills — you need these to seal deals with clients.
  • Objectivity — you need to be able to provide an objective report on your shopping experiences — WHAT happened — not necessarily your opinion.
  • Customer Service Skills — clearly you need to have customer service skills to establish relationships with clients and potential mystery shoppers, but you also need a solid understanding of customer service so that you can evaluate the service offered by others.
  • Observation & Memory — You need to notice all the little things and you can’t take notes. You will have to remember all the small details and record them later.

Mystery Shopper Rates

The amount you make will depend on who is your client. Some companies only reimburse for expenses, some companies only pay a set amount for expenses (regardless of what you paid) and some do pay an hourly fee of $10-20 for your evaluation in addition to your expenses. You need to decide what you are willing to work for and choose your clients that way. As you gain more clients and references, you will be able to be more choosy in your assignments.

Get Your Business off the Ground

  • When approaching smaller companies emphasize that you are a small enterprise as well. Many small companies cannot afford to pay the large Mystery Shopping company rates and might be interested in using your services if they are affordable.
  • Save your money. Avoid paying for a list of potential clients. The companies or individuals selling these lists are making money by doing so and will sell the list to as many people as they can. That creates a lot of competition.
  • Only take jobs that fit your schedule. Don’t leave your client hanging. This will help establish your solid reputation.
  • Check out the competition. You can do this on the Internet. Check out the big companies and the little ones. What services do they provide? What do they charge?
  • Make a professional-looking brochure that outlines the benefits of your shopping program, etc. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. If you’re going to print your own brochures, avoid color ink unless you have a high quality laser printer. If you have an inkjet or other similar printer, you’re best bet is black ink on subtly colored paper.

Online Marketing Ideas

Although most of your clients will be local and much of your business will be run offline, don’t forget the importance of an Internet presence. Your web page is your "office". It’s where your clients and potential clients can go to see you and what you do. If you plan to expand your business and offer the mystery shopping opportunity to others, a website is essential. It is a way to attract potential clients and mystery shoppers nationwide. Expanding your business in this way is what will ensure you the greatest success to your home based enterprise.

  1. Include your website on all your promotional materials (i.e. business cards, brochures, etc.). It is a place where your current and potential clients can read about the services you offer, your rates and helps establish you as a legitimate business.
  2. Join some home based business discussion groups. These are a perfect way to network and find potential mystery shoppers that would like to work for you. Try for some good groups or start your own.
  3. Form partnerships with other sites that compliment your business. This can include everything from a simple link exchange or why not go a step further and really promote one another’s businesses on each other’s sites? Offer to incorporate their business information right into your website. Give them a page or two about their business, with links back to their site and have them do the same.

Additional Mystery Shopper Business Resources

Recently, we wrote an article on starting your own Personal Shopping Business. This could be a perfect compliment to a Mystery Shopping Business. Both business ideas have you shopping on the behalf of clients. Read the article to find out more about starting your own Personal Shopping Business.

Mystery Shopping Provider’s Association — world wide organization of Mystery Shoppers

Message Boards and Useful Tools:

Free list of companies to apply to (Canada & US) — This is a listing of Mystery Shopping Companies. Applying to these mean you will work for someone else.

For a More Comprehensive Look at the Mystery Shopper Business

If you want to learn more about how to start your career as a mystery shopper, you may wish to consider one or more of these e-books:

  • MyMommyBiz’s Start Your Own Mystery Shopping Business
    This comprehensive guide will save you a lot of time in additional research and includes everything from: why start a mystery shopping business, getting set up, supplies, finding clients, being discreet, what kind of services you can offer, who pays for what, contracts with business, hiring other mystery shoppers and more.

  • Mystery Shopping Made Easy
    Honestly, you won’t get rich as a mystery shopper. But you can eat for free at fine restaurants, stay in top-notch hotels, acquire other freebies — and get paid for it. This e-book will give you the step-by-step information you need to get started.

  • Interview & Article by Alice Seba, editor of — a FREE online business resource center for work at home moms. Visit her copywriting website at for free content, writing tips and services.

    Additional resources

    How to Become a Mystery Shopper
    The e-book author has worked as a mystery shopper, retail manager, and as a manager hiring mystery shoppers. In this guide she shares with you her own experiences as well as insider tips and expert advice from other successful mystery shoppers and owners of some of the world’s leading mystery shopping companies.

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