shopwithtrends out how you want to track your applications. This can be as simple as a spiral notebook or an Excel spreadsheet. Your headers should include: application date, mystery shopping company, and any notes you feel important. Most mystery shopping companies require an Independent Contractor’s Agreement signed by you and, of course, you need to keep a copy of that contract. Get a box of manila folders (they are cheap at stores like Walmart) and create a folder for each company as you apply.
This is a great place to keep login information, the company address, phone and fax numbers. When you begin to receive shops, you will want to keep a copy of the final report and your handwritten notes taken at the time of the shop; most companies require that you keep reports for three to six months. After that length of time, you can safely shred them.
You are now ready to start the application process, and this represents a real investment of time. So where do you apply? There is a web site, Volition.com, which provides hundreds of mystery shopping companies with links to the companies. In my opinion, Volition does a great job of weeding out questionable or dishonest companies. There is also a forum on the site where shoppers can share information and feedback on their experiences. I found this very helpful when I first started shopping.
If you have never completed a mystery shop, you will probably initially receive the lower paid fast food and simple retail shops. For your own sanity and stress level, this is really best for you as well. This will give you the opportunity to get a handle on what the companies expect in the reports. You will not be investing a large amount of money for the meal or small purchase; these expenses are reimbursable but payment is not immediate.
After you have completed the applications, some of the companies send emails to notify you of available shops but many do not. You may have to search their job boards to find assignments in your area. Most shops must be requested by you and then, if approved, assigned to you. Some companies will let you self-assign shops. After you have successfully completed a few shops, you are more likely to receive emails or even phone calls notifying you that shops are available.