With some jobs, you can sit at a desk all day long and really get paid the same amount regardless of how productive you are during the day. As a mystery shopper, the amount of money you earn, and more importantly your net income from each assignment, can vary due to a number of different factors. The truth of the matter is that some assignments can be highly lucrative and others can actually cost you money. Yet most assignments on the surface appear to be paying roughly in the same range in competition. So what is going on here?
Travel Costs: One of the biggest hidden costs, or hidden benefits, of mystery shopping assignments are those travel costs. These are costs associated with filling up your tank to travel to and from the assignment location as well as the cost of your time to travel to and from these locations. While there are costs associated with traveling, you may actually make out ahead on travel after you factor in the tax write-off for business miles travels as well as a travel bonus, if there is one. Of course, there is the factor of how much gas mileage your car gets, too.
Required Purchases: Most assignments, although certainly not all of them, do have a required purchase. Most require you to spend a certain dollar amount on-site, such as $5 or $10, and you will have to present a proof of purchase in the form of a receipt when you turn your report in. Likewise, most will reimburse you the full amount of the minimum purchase, but some will require a $10 minimum purchase and only reimburse $3 or $5. Another factor to consider here is if there is something at this store or venue that you needed to purchase anyway, or are you being forced to spend your money on something you don’t need or want? Also consider if there is anything in the store that you can buy for that minimum purchase amount. After all, if the minimum purchase is $5 and the cheapest thing in the store is $20, clearly this purchase is going to eat away at your profits.
Your Time: With a job like mystery shopping, where you get paid based on productivity, time is absolutely a factor when it comes to how profitable your assignments are. Your goal is to get the most money you can in the least amount of time, after all. So as you factor in the travel costs and purchase requirements costs of an assignment, you also need to pay attention to how much time it will take to earn you that paycheck. This, of course, is just an estimate from the outset as you cannot be certain exactly how much time it will take to travel to a certain location or walk through the site visit. However, do your best to estimate the time, and then calculate a rough “hourly pay” equivalent for that assignment. In some cases you may be shocked to see that the hourly pay equivalent for some assignments is actually less than minimum wage, but in other cases you can walk away with over $20 per hour as an equivalent.
As you can see, there are quite a few factors that come into play when you are looking at how profitable mystery shopping assignments really are for you. Keep these things in mind as you explore the options, and you will better people about to pick and choose the more profitable assignments to work on.