We've all seen the emails: "Make $200/hour mystery shopping." The world of mystery/secret shopping has this mysterious aura surrounding it as a result of all the misinformation on the internet and the spam emails which consistently pop up in most of our inboxes. Yet, there are a whole host of legitimate ways to make money through mystery shopping. In fact, you can become an independent contractor and start working today by simply signing up with legitimate mystery shopping companies. You just have to know where to find them and how the process works. 

1. Begin finding companies through sites like Volition and the Mystery Shoppers Providers Association. The MSPA is the main trade association associated with mystery shopping, which should ease your mind about signing up for member companies. In addition, keep this rule of thumb in mind: you should never have to pay to shop for a mystery shopping company or for access to a list of companies.

2. Don't expect to get rich quick (or at all). Mystery shopping likely won't offer a path to riches, and it would be difficult to make a full-time living off of the commissions. However, the jobs do present an opportunity for excellent side income. Over the past three years, I have considered mystery shopping my second job, and it has allowed us to pay off medical bills, debt, and other bills which my salary could have never covered.

3. Gain experience. Mystery shopping is like any other position - you must try several shops to feel more comfortable with the process. Understand that you will pay for expenses out of your pocket, and they are typically reimbursed as stated in the job guidelines. 

4. Take jobs with bonuses and create your own shopping routes. Mystery shopping companies are in business to make profit. Therefore, they are trying to get the job done by paying you as little as possible. It's probably necessary to take a few low-paying jobs at first to establish good rapport with a company. However, real money is a made through being paid bonus money and taking a route of shops.

Bonuses are often attached to the regular commissions and reimbursements when a scheduler/mystery shopping company is approaching a hard deadline with their client. Be sure to put on your best negotiator's hat, as the bonuses are often negotiable and have the potential to increase if you are willing to drive further distances. This is where a route comes into play. If you can create a route of multiple shops in the same vicinity and combine those with bonus money, your income potential soars.

Forget all those false get-rich-quick emails and websites. By following these ideas instead, you can begin to earn actual side income through mystery shopping. 

For more mystery shopping tips and information, please visit Mystery Shop Coach. Mystery Shop Coach is dedicated to taking the mystery out of mystery shopping.