Planning your mystery shopping downtime

Unlike traditional work, mystery shopping is the kind of job that comes in seasons, according to Wise Bread.

Unlike traditional work, mystery shopping is the kind of job that comes in seasons, according to Wise Bread. There are either going to be times when you've got a lot of shopping to do, or moments when you are down and need to hone your skills for when work picks up again.

Practice your memory
So what do you do when you aren't mystery shopping? It would be a good idea to use that downtime to figure out things you haven't learned to do yet on your own and haven't had the time to practice. For example, having that fine attention to detail companies want in a mystery shopper doesn't develop on its own. You'll need to practice noticing things when you're doing your ordinary shopping. It's called having an "active passive" attention, which means that even when you aren't "paying attention," you still passively notice what is going on around you.

For one thing, many companies expect you to remember the names of all the staff you come into contact with, according to Wise Bread. If you have trouble with names. Why not spend your downtime pretending to mystery shop a company in order to see how well you can remember everyone?

Look for alternate jobs
Mystery shopper job boards occasionally receive requests that don't go in the ordinary way of the mystery shopping business. Don't be afraid to try an unusual job, like auditing or merchandising, if you're certain you will get paid. While it may not be as glamorous as what a mystery shopper is used to, it will help to pay the bills when those major mystery shopping jobs aren't coming up as often. Remember as a rule of thumb that mystery shopping jobs will never ask you to pay a fee. That's one way to make sure you aren't inadvertently joining a scam organization. Another tip is that mystery shopping gigs never require you to cash checks, either. That's a classic scam. The bank will cash a check, and the check bounces only after you've already taken out the money, which means you're left to foot the bill.

Learn to do your taxes
One thing that you won't get taught as a mystery shopper is how do your taxes. Remember to report your income on your tax forms as work performed by an independent contractor. That's how the company that gave you the money will report it on its own tax forms. It would look rather suspicious to the government if one party reported losing money and the other party neglected to report gaining it!

One good side of being an independent contractor is that any expenses you lose (such as tips to waiters or waitresses) can be written off as tax deductible.

If this is  really a challenge for you, you could look for local self-employment tax help in your area, which would either be classes or an actual accountant who would fill out your forms for you. Just using an online tax application works fine, too.

Look at new places
Mystery Shop Coach reminds everyone that downtime is to be expected. During periods when your go-to message boards aren't showing anything new, try to find new locations where people are posting assignments. Theoretically, there could be jobs just about every day if you know where to look.

Contrariwise, if a job is too cheap, then don't do it. It's not worth your time working for a job that will only pay a handful of dollars when you could be looking for something much more lucrative. Budget your time wisely. Remember that when you aren't gaining money, you aren't losing, either. Learn to use your time to do other things that can make you a more reliable mystery shopper.