Mystery shopping is a great gig if you’re looking to earn some extra cash. However, there are a few aspects of the job you should take into consideration before signing on the dotted line. Here are five tips to review before becoming a mystery shopper:

1. Get certified

Beginning your career as a mystery shopper career can be a bit challenging, as you may start out by taking an $8 deal to simply order a fast-food meal. Typically, the higher-paying jobs are held for those who are more experienced. Consider taking a certification test, as many companies will only schedule certified persons to mystery shop for their company.

2. Spend it to earn it

Mystery shopping isn’t free — you must spend money to get money. As a mystery shopper, it is your responsibility to cover the costs of your purchases. Seeing as it may take multiple weeks for the company to reimburse you, this may be something to keep in mind if you can’t afford to spare the money upfront. For this reason, be sure to keep enough money in your checking account or wallet. This, however, can be a blessing in disguise, as mystery shopping can teach you how to budget, helping you spend less money on personal day-to-day activities such as dining out.

In addition, there are other costs to take into consideration that you will not be reimbursed for. This includes gas when driving to and from the store, added credit-card costs or a tip if you’re dining at a restaurant. Mystery shoppers can strategize and avoid these added costs by choosing local venues or only accepting jobs that reimburse in full. Another cost-reducing tip is to turn your report in on time, as some companies may charge a late fee.

3. Tick tock

When contemplating whether to take a job, make sure you allocate plenty of time to travel. Consider the amount of time it typically takes you to fully experience and understand the business or restaurant, as well as how long it might take you to complete the report. Mystery shopping is a multistep process that takes time and dedication.

4. Performance yields pay

Keep in mind that mystery shoppers are not on a salary, so your payment is not guaranteed, therefore performance in the line of work is key. If you are not thorough and your review is only mediocre, you may risk not getting paid for that particular job.

If you forget the server’s name, leave a poor tip or accidentally blow your cover about your occupation as a mystery shopper, your paycheck may be at risk.

5. This is not a drill

Diligence and subtlety are both important skills to possess when you’re a mystery shopper. Remember: This is indeed a job, and you are not just shopping for fun. You must take your work seriously to earn that paycheck, as with any job. Details are crucial, so be sure to carry a notebook or smartphone with you so you can keep track of all the specifics. The trick with this is to not look too suspicious or your cover will be blown. Keep it low key as if you’re making to-do list or texting a friend.

Mystery shopping is flexible — you can leave your day job during lunch and make some extra cash by picking up a gig. Or pick up a job on your way home from work. Just like that, you’ll be hooked! Overall, this is the perfect gig for an optimistic person who has some extra time on their hands. It’s also beneficial for someone who has the desire to do something different and explore local businesses in their community.