In an effort to save time and be more efficient, many mystery shoppers rush into the decision to select or pass up on assignments. Often, mystery shoppers will look only at the face value of the compensation of an assignment and make a quick, split-second decision whether to snatch that assignment up or kick it to the curb.
However, there is quite a bit more to the actual financial benefits of an assignment than what the standard “shop pay” is. You CAN quickly and easily select top-paying assignments when you take into account all of the factors involved in your total compensation. Here’s what you need to know:
On The Road. Whether you know it or not, there are financial pros and cons for spending time on the road traveling to and from assignments. The IRS allows you to write off $0.50 for every business mile traveled. So if you travel 10 miles round-trip, you are being compensated with a $5 tax deduction. All you have to do to reap the tax benefits of your business travels is to simply keep a mileage log.
What this tax deduction means for you is that a certain amount of your pay for that assignment is essentially earned tax-free. So while you think you may be able to make the same amount of a $10 mystery shopping as you would be able to make flipping burgers in a fast food joint, think again. With the tax benefits of being able to write-off your mileage with mystery shopping, you are able to keep more of your money in your pocket (versus giving a large chunk of your burger-flipping income to Uncle Sam in taxes.) So before you sign up for another assignment, do a quick mileage analysis in your head and determine how much of a mileage tax write-off you will be able to squeeze out of that assignment.
More Than Window Shopping. Quite a few mystery shopping assignments have a required purchase, and this purchase has a big overall effect on how much money you earn on your assignment (or how much you lose!) Consider an assignment for a requirement minimum purchase of $10 at a lingerie store, with only $5 reimbursed. Chances are, you didn’t have it in your plans to buy a new undergarment this week, so this required purchase is an added expense of your assignment. However, when you walk into the store, you quickly realize the cheapest thing you can buy is $20. With only $5 reimbursed, you are down $15 for the purchase.
Now take into account a grocery store assignment with only $5 reimbursed, and a minimum of 10 items required to be purchased. At a grocery store, it’s pretty easy to pick up things you likely intended to purchase for the week on your regular grocery store outing. Whether you spend more than the $5 that will be reimbursed or not is a moot point since you are purchasing items you would be purchasing anyway. So for each assignment with a required purchase, consider what you can purchase at the store that is something you intended to buy.
Check The Clock. Many mystery shoppers will pass over a $5 assignment without taking the time to read what work is involved, and they will quickly jump on $20 assignments. The error here is that often an account of the time and effort involved in the assignment is not considered. If you can complete the $5 assignment in 15 or 20 minutes whereas the $20 assignment will take two hours to complete, it’s pretty easy to see that the $5 assignment is a better deal.
When you take into account all of these assignments, you can get a better idea on if the assignment is a good financial deal for you or if you should keep looking for other assignments. Initially, weighing all of these considerations can take some time. But after you get accustomed to considering these factors for each assignment, you will soon be flying through the job boards and making better decisions about the assignments you select.