Running your mystery shopping assignments like a business

Mystery shopping may not be your only way of making a living, but it is certainly a business.

Mystery shopping may not be your only way of making a living, but you should still think of it as a business. According to Mystery Shopper's Manual, this means having a plan, and it also means having solutions to do with your taxes and other issues you might not have thought about.

Treating your job like a job
Remember that a mystery shopper thrives on professionalism, and so the first step to being a good mystery shopper is to do everything right in terms of presentation. This goes as far as having appropriate email etiquette. Make sure to send out applications to different companies advertising your mystery shopping skills. Post to multiple mystery shopping boards. Keep a spreadsheet of open jobs and completed assignments.

Making a good mystery shopper's resume
Don't forget to update your resume once in a while, either. It can't hurt to list all the different jobs you do, but it would also help to show your facility with different mystery shopping technology, such as various smartphone applications that enhance productivity.

What businesses most want to know about your mystery shopping skills is how many jobs you've done and the level of complexity for each one. They don't want to hire someone who doesn't have experience with the type of work you're applying for. As such, you should take the time to sit down and think of how much you've already accomplished that coincides with a particular job. For example, if you've done business-to-business jobs before and made up a good cover story to preserve your anonymity, then you can use that to apply to any job that necessitates taking on a new identity, such as certain service industry assignments.

Handling your taxes and other money concerns
According to Intuit, creator of accounting software Quick Books, one of the hardest things for a self-employed person to do is manage money. When you're running your own mystery shopping business, you have to remember that you will be paid for this work and that you will also be responsible for paying taxes off of that income. Keep very accurate reports of when you get paid. Additionally, think of how much you make per job, and think about how much you spend on a given assignment, including things like money for gas and the amount of cash that you spend above the reimbursement you receive.

Ultimately, the taxes for a mystery shopper aren't much different from those of someone doing contract work in addition to having a full-time job. You might not need to contact a tax expert because much of the software available online has the ability to do your taxes for you. Keep all the pay stubs you are sent, and fill out your taxes for the contract labor much as you would do for your regular job that has tax forms you get in the mail.

Keeping records is not only useful for doing your taxes, but it can also help you choose assignments more carefully. As your business expands and you grow more comfortable with doing stuff like making up a new identity, doing research for that, and keeping accurate records of timing points, you will find that the jobs market for mystery shopping will open up and become more lucrative.

Because your time is limited and precious, you will want to take on the jobs that let you make the most money. But you might not be able to figure this out without writing it all down. Remember that some jobs also take up more of your hours, and you will need to factor that into your calculations as well.