Hot Home Biz: Mystery Shopping

Want to work from home but not sure what you can do? The Hot Home Business Directory helps you find a business to run out of your home, lists the skills you need to do it and tells how to get started and where to get more information. Read on to find out if this Hot Home Biz is for you!

What You'll Do: Visit stores, restaurants, banks and other establishments, and discreetly evaluate the service through questionnaires that rate factors like helpfulness, safety and cleanliness. There's also a growing need for online mystery shoppers to assess e-commerce sites. (For these assignments, you won't even have to leave the house!) After registering with a mystery shopping company, you'll receive occasional assignments with specific instructions and a window of time in which to accomplish the "shop." For example, you might be told to visit a fast food establishment and order a kid's meal, and then time how long it takes to get your order. Or, you could be sent to a bank on a particular day to open up a new account and rate the customer service. Most mystery shopping assignments (whether online or off) will require at least a half-hour of "shopping time" and another half-hour for filling out the evaluation form. While not a big moneymaker, mystery shopping can be a convenient way to earn a small supplemental income with the kids in tow.

Skills You'll Need: You must be attentive to details, and a good memory is essential because you may not be able to take notes while on assignment. (As a mystery shopper, your mission is to act like a regular consumer, so you don't to want to do anything that could bring attention to the fact you are evaluating the business.) You'll also need good record-keeping skills, so you can keep track out-of-pocket expenses, such as gas and car mileage.

Equipment You'll Need: A car is usually necessary for getting to and from the establishments you're evaluating, and a computer is needed for online shopping. A fax machine or email fax service is also desirable.

Start-Up Costs: Though you'll be reimbursed later, you'll have to lay out the money needed for each mystery shopping assignment. (For example, you'll have to pay the price of admission at the theater you're evaluating or cover the cost of groceries when doing a supermarket shop.) You bill the mystery shopping company for these expenses when you send in your evaluation form. Since mystery shoppers work as independent contractors, you will be able to write off any non-reimbursable expenses on your taxes.

How Much Can You Make? Anywhere from around $5 for a supermarket or fast-food evaluation to up to $100 for complicated, time-consuming tasks like opening a bank account or assessing the service at an airport ticket check-in counter. But most pay in the $20 to $40 range, and include additional incentives such as coupons for free dinners or movies. Some companies don't pay cash -- instead they'll only offer coupons, free products or services, or gift certificates.

How to Break In:


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