How to Start a Mystery Shopper Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

Do you love shopping? Have you ever thought about getting paid for it? If your answer is yes, then you might want to consider starting your own mystery shopper business. Not only is it an exciting way to earn a living, but you can also help businesses improve their customer experience.

Starting a mystery shopper business can be intimidating, but with the right tools and strategies, it can be easier than you think. The first step is to research the industry to understand the process of becoming a mystery shopper and how to turn it into a profitable business. Next, you need to develop a strategic marketing plan that will help attract potential clients. Finally, you need to be proactive about finding clients and marketing yourself as a professional in this industry.

Being a mystery shopper can be an incredibly fun and rewarding career, but it requires hard work, dedication, and a passion for providing valuable feedback. If you are ready to start your journey in the mystery shopping industry, then stick around for some useful tips and tricks on how to make your business a success!

Conduct market research on the demand for mystery shopping services.

The success of your mystery shopping business will depend largely on the demand in your local area. Before diving into the business, you should conduct thorough market research to determine the potential demand for your services and how much competition there is in the area. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Population: Look at the population density of the area you are targeting. The larger the population, the higher the potential demand for mystery shopping services.
  • Consumer behavior: Analyze the spending habits and preferences of consumers in your area. Are there many high-end stores and restaurants? Do people frequently shop for leisure or necessity? Understanding these factors can help you determine the types of businesses that will likely benefit from your services.
  • Competition: Check out the competition in your area. Are there many established mystery shopping companies? Is there room for a new one? Understand what the competition is offering and how you can differentiate your business.

Market research can involve online searches, speaking to business owners and consumers, analyzing local economic data, and reviewing industry reports. By understanding the potential demand for mystery shopping services in your area, you can develop a solid business plan and marketing strategy to help ensure your success.

Develop a Business Plan Outlining Objectives, Target Customers, and Financial Projections

A successful mystery shopping business begins with a strategic business plan that outlines a clear set of objectives, target customers, and financial projections. By developing a plan of action, you can set realistic goals, create a roadmap for your business, and ensure that you stay on track towards success.

  • Objectives: The first step in developing a business plan is to define your objectives. What do you want to achieve with your mystery shopping business? Are you looking to build a loyal customer base, expand your reach into new markets, or simply generate a steady stream of income? Whatever your goals may be, it’s important to define them clearly so that you can develop a plan to achieve them.
  • Target Customers: Once you’ve defined your objectives, the next step is to identify your target customers. Who are you trying to reach with your mystery shopping services? Are you targeting individual consumers or businesses? What types of industries or markets do you want to focus on? Understanding the needs and preferences of your target customers will help you tailor your services to meet their specific needs.
  • Financial Projections: Finally, it’s important to develop financial projections for your business. This includes creating a budget, forecasting revenues and expenses, and estimating your profitability. By creating a financial plan, you can identify potential challenges and develop strategies to overcome them. It’s also important to regularly review your financial projections and adjust them as needed to ensure that you stay on track towards your goals.

In summary, developing a strategic business plan is essential to the success of your mystery shopping business. By clearly defining your objectives, target customers, and financial projections, you can create a roadmap for your business that will help you achieve long-term success.

Determine legal and tax requirements for starting a mystery shopper business.

Before starting a mystery shopping business, it is essential to research the legal and tax requirements to ensure compliance with the law. These are the legal and tax requirements that you need to consider when starting a mystery shopper business:

  • Business Structure: Decide on the type of business structure you want to establish, such as a sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation. Choosing an appropriate structure will depend on your financial circumstances and the level of liability protection you need.
  • Licensing: Check if your state or local government requires a license or permit to operate a mystery shopper business. You may need to register your business with the state or obtain a business license and renew it annually.
  • Tax Obligations: Determine the tax responsibilities of your business, including obtaining a federal employer identification number (EIN) and registering for state and local taxes. Mystery shoppers are typically considered independent contractors, which means they are responsible for paying their own taxes and filing a Form 1099-MISC with the IRS.

It is wise to seek legal and financial counseling from professionals who can guide you through the legal and tax requirements based on your specific business needs. Having the right structure and following the legal and tax guidelines can protect you from legal battles and hefty fines that may arise in the future.

Define the scope of the services you will offer, such as in-person or online mystery shopping

Before starting a mystery shopping business, it’s important to define the scope of services you will offer. You’ll need to determine if you’ll offer in-person mystery shopping, online mystery shopping, or both. In-person mystery shopping involves visiting physical locations, such as restaurants, retail stores, or hotels, to assess the customer experience. Online mystery shopping involves evaluating the customer experience of websites, apps, or social media platforms.

Both types of mystery shopping require attention to detail, observation skills, and strong writing abilities to report your findings. However, in-person mystery shopping may come with additional requirements, such as travel expenses and the ability to blend in and remain anonymous to avoid tipping off employees. Online mystery shopping may require knowledge of certain industries or software programs to provide accurate feedback.

  • When offering in-person mystery shopping services:
  • Identify the types of businesses you will target, such as restaurants, retail stores, or hotels.
  • Define the geographic areas you will cover and research potential clients in those areas.
  • Research industry standards for mystery shopping, such as guidelines from the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA).
  • When offering online mystery shopping services:
  • Identify the types of websites, apps, or social media platforms you will evaluate.
  • Define the industries you are knowledgeable about and can provide accurate feedback on.
  • Research industry standards for online mystery shopping, such as guidelines from the MSPA.

No matter which type of mystery shopping service you choose to offer, be sure to define your services clearly to potential clients and outline your pricing structure. You’ll also need to determine how you will recruit and train mystery shoppers to ensure they meet your high standards of quality and accuracy.

In-person mystery shopping Online mystery shopping
Requires travel expenses and anonymity Can be done from anywhere with an internet connection
Assesses physical aspects of customer experience Assesses digital aspects of customer experience
May require access to certain industries or businesses May require knowledge of certain industries or software programs

In summary, it’s important to define the scope of services you will offer in your mystery shopping business, whether that be in-person or online. Consider the requirements and skills needed for each type of service and define your target markets and pricing structure. With a clear understanding of your services, you can build a successful mystery shopping business.

Create a Pricing Structure for Your Services

One of the most important aspects of starting a mystery shopper business is figuring out how much to charge for your services. Here are some tips on how you can create a pricing structure that is fair to your clients and profitable for your business:

  • Research the market: Find out what other mystery shopper businesses in your area are charging for their services. This will give you an idea of what the going rate is and help you determine how much you can charge.
  • Determine your costs: Calculate all the costs associated with running your business, such as marketing, travel expenses, and compensation for your shoppers. This will give you an idea of how much revenue you need to generate to break even.
  • Consider your target market: Think about the types of clients you want to work with and how much they are willing to pay for your services. For example, if you want to work with small businesses, you may need to keep your prices lower than if you’re targeting larger corporations.

Once you have a good idea of what your costs are and what the market will bear, you can begin to create a pricing structure for your services.

One common pricing model for mystery shopper businesses is to charge a flat fee for each shop. This fee can range from $20 to $100 or more, depending on the complexity of the shop and the amount of time required to complete it. Some businesses also charge an additional fee for detailed reports or photos.

Service Price Range
Basic shop $20 – $50
Complex shop $50 – $100
Detailed report/photos $10 – $20

Another option is to charge an hourly rate for your services. This can range from $20 to $100 per hour or more, depending on your level of experience and expertise.

Ultimately, the pricing structure you choose will depend on your specific business model and target market. Whatever you decide, make sure your prices are competitive, fair, and profitable for your business.

Develop a database of potential clients and establish relationships with them

The first step in starting a successful mystery shopper business is to develop a database of potential clients and establish relationships with them. As a mystery shopper, your clients will include retail stores, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses that want to gather feedback on their products and services. Building a strong client base is essential to the success of your business; the more clients you have, the more opportunities you will have to work and earn income.

  • Start by researching local businesses in your area that could benefit from your services. Look for businesses that are likely to have high foot traffic and a strong customer base, such as popular restaurants or retail stores.
  • Make a list of potential clients and their contact information. This can include phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses.
  • Reach out to potential clients by sending them a personal email or letter introducing yourself and the services you offer. Make sure to highlight the benefits of mystery shopping for their business, such as improved customer service and increased sales.

Once you have established relationships with your clients, it’s important to maintain them by providing excellent service and staying in regular contact. This can involve sending regular emails or reports with detailed feedback on their product or service, and ensuring that you are always available to answer any questions or concerns they may have.

Your client database can be managed using a spreadsheet or database software, which will allow you to keep track of important information such as contact details, feedback reports, and payment records. By taking the time to establish strong relationships with your clients and maintain a detailed database, you will be setting yourself up for success as a mystery shopper.

Hire and Train a Team of Mystery Shoppers

One of the most crucial parts of starting a mystery shopper business is hiring and training a team of reliable and efficient mystery shoppers. Your success as a mystery shopping business owner will depend largely on the quality of your team.

Here are some tips on how to hire and train a team of mystery shoppers:

  • Define the role: First, you need to define the role of a mystery shopper and what you expect from them. A mystery shopper is someone who poses as a regular customer to assess the quality of service and products offered by a business. They must have keen observation skills and be able to provide accurate and detailed reports of their experiences.
  • Recruit: Look for mystery shoppers who have experience in the field, are reliable, and have great communication and writing skills. You can find potential candidates through online job postings, social media platforms, or mystery shopping agencies.
  • Screen: Conduct an interview process to screen potential candidates. Ask about their experience, availability, and why they think they would make a great mystery shopper. You may also require them to provide writing samples or assessments to evaluate their observation skills.

Once you have hired your team of mystery shoppers, it’s time to train them:

  • Provide clear instructions: Make sure your mystery shoppers fully understand the requirements and expectations for each assignment. Provide detailed instructions on what to look for, how to document their findings, and how to submit their reports.
  • Offer feedback: Regularly provide both positive and constructive feedback to your mystery shoppers. This will help them improve their skills and ensure that they are meeting your expectations.
  • Offer ongoing training: Continue to offer ongoing training and support to your mystery shoppers. This will help them stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.


Hiring and training a team of mystery shoppers is an essential part of starting a successful mystery shopping business. By following these tips, you can ensure that you have a reliable and efficient team that will help you provide high-quality services to your clients.

Pros Cons
Increased productivity and accuracy Recruiting and training can be time-consuming and expensive
Provides real-world customer feedback Requires ongoing support and training for shoppers
Helps to identify areas that require improvement Shoppers may have conflicts of interest with the business they are assessing

Overall, hiring and training a team of mystery shoppers is a vital step in creating a successful and thriving mystery shopping business. With the right team in place, you can attract high-quality clients and provide them with valuable insights into their businesses.

Set up a system for scheduling and assigning mystery shopping assignments

Now that you have a group of reliable mystery shoppers, it’s time to set up a system to effectively manage and distribute assignments. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Create a database to keep track of shopper information, availability, and completed assignments.
  • Establish clear guidelines for each assignment, including specific requirements and deadlines.
  • Develop a scheduling system that ensures each shopper receives a fair number of assignments and can plan their time accordingly.

To effectively manage assignment distribution, consider implementing a tiered system based on shopper experience and availability. For example, you might have a group of top-performing shoppers who receive priority assignments, while newer shoppers are given less complex tasks to build their portfolio.

It’s important to maintain communication with your shoppers throughout the process. Send regular updates on upcoming assignments and provide feedback on completed assignments. This helps to build a positive relationship with your shoppers and ensures they feel valued as part of your business.

Task Responsible Party Deadline
Create shopper database Business Owner Within 2 weeks of starting business
Establish assignment guidelines Business Owner Before first assignment is distributed
Develop scheduling system Business Owner Within 1 month of starting business
Implement tiered system Business Owner After first 3 months of business

Remember, a well-managed scheduling and assignment system is essential to running a successful mystery shopping business. By carefully considering the needs of your shoppers and developing clear guidelines and processes, you can ensure that each assignment is completed effectively and efficiently.

Create a Feedback System to Collect and Analyze Data from Mystery Shopping Reports

One of the most important aspects of running a successful mystery shopping business is collecting and analyzing the data from your mystery shopping reports. This data is what you will use to make informed decisions, identify trends, and improve your clients’ businesses. Here are some tips on how to create an effective feedback system:

  • Use a standardized form for your mystery shoppers to fill out. This will ensure that all of the necessary information is collected and that you can easily compare data across different reports.
  • Include both quantitative and qualitative data in your form. This could include things like ratings (on a scale of 1-5), yes/no questions, and open-ended questions that allow your shoppers to provide more detailed feedback.
  • Consider using online tools to collect and store your data. This can make it easier to analyze and share the data with your clients.

Once you have collected your data, it’s important to analyze it in a systematic way. Here are some tips on how to do this:

  • Look for trends in your data. Are there any areas where your clients consistently receive low ratings or negative feedback? These are areas that need to be addressed.
  • Compare data across different locations or time periods. This can help you identify areas that are improving or declining over time.
  • Use your data to make actionable recommendations to your clients. For example, if you consistently find that your clients’ staff members are not providing adequate customer service, you might recommend that they provide additional training to their employees.

To make your feedback system even more effective, consider incorporating technology such as machine learning and automated analysis tools into your data analysis process.

Pros Cons
Automated analysis can save time and improve accuracy Initial setup costs can be high
Machine learning can identify patterns that are difficult for humans to see Machines are not as good at identifying small, nuanced details as humans are

Overall, creating a feedback system to collect and analyze data from your mystery shopping reports is crucial to the success of your business. By taking the time to set up an effective system and constantly refining it over time, you can provide valuable insights to your clients and help them improve their businesses.

Develop a Marketing Strategy to Attract New Clients and Expand Your Business

As a mystery shopper business owner, it’s important to have a solid marketing strategy in place to attract new clients and expand your business. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Create a professional website that showcases your services and provides potential clients with a clear understanding of what you do.
  • Utilize social media platforms to connect with potential clients and promote your business through targeted advertising and engaging content.
  • Attend networking events and trade shows to increase your exposure and connect with potential clients and industry professionals.

Once you have a solid marketing plan in place, it’s important to track your results and adjust your strategy as needed. This may involve testing different advertising channels or tweaking your messaging to better resonate with your target audience.

To help you stay on track and measure your success, consider setting specific marketing goals and tracking your progress with a tool like Google Analytics.

Marketing Goal Key Metrics
Increase website traffic Number of website visitors, bounce rate, time on site
Generate leads Number of form submissions, phone calls, email inquiries
Grow social media presence Number of followers, engagement rate, reach

By consistently monitoring your marketing efforts and adjusting your strategy as needed, you can effectively attract new clients and grow your mystery shopper business.

Frequently Asked Questions about Starting a Mystery Shopper Business

1. What is a mystery shopper?

A mystery shopper is someone who evaluates a business by posing as a regular customer and providing objective feedback on the quality of service, product, and overall experience.

2. How much does it cost to start a mystery shopper business?

Starting a mystery shopping business can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000 depending on the resources you need. This includes equipment, software, marketing, insurance, and other expenses.

3. How do I find clients for my mystery shopper business?

To find clients for your mystery shopping business, you can network with other business owners, attend industry events, and create an online presence through social media and a company website.

4. What qualifications do I need to be a mystery shopper?

There are no formal qualifications required to be a mystery shopper; however, you should have excellent communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to provide unbiased and objective feedback.

5. Are there any legal considerations I should be aware of when starting a mystery shopper business?

Yes, there are legal considerations you should keep in mind when starting a mystery shopping business, such as obtaining proper business licenses and insurance coverage, and complying with federal and state regulations.

6. How can I ensure the accuracy and quality of my mystery shopper reports?

To ensure the accuracy and quality of your mystery shopper reports, you should establish clear guidelines and procedures for your shoppers to follow, provide training and feedback, and implement a system for reviewing and verifying all reports.

7. How much money can I make running a mystery shopping business?

The income potential of a mystery shopping business varies depending on the types of clients you work with, the number of shoppers you hire, and the scope of your services. On average, mystery shoppers can earn anywhere from $10 to $50 per assignment.

Closing Thoughts: Thanks for Reading!

Starting a mystery shopper business can be a challenging yet fulfilling experience. By following these FAQs and doing your research, you’ll be on your way to creating a successful and profitable business. Remember to always prioritize quality and accuracy in your reports, and don’t be afraid to seek out support and guidance along the way. Thanks for reading, and we hope you’ll visit us again soon for more tips and resources on starting and scaling your business!