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How to Start Mystery Shopping in the UK

November 23, 2020 No Comments
How to Start Mystery Shopping in the UK

This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click through to a website from a link found here on my blog and register or purchase something, I may get a commission at no extra cost to you. 

A few years ago, with a minimum-wage job and a strong urge to travel, I found myself turning to Google in an effort to find quick and easy ways to make money online. Amongst the various blog posts I found recommending matched betting and survey sites as quick ways to make some extra cash, I discovered the world of mystery shopping.

What is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery Shopping is – in effect – a way for business owners to get ‘eyes on the ground’. They can check levels of service being delivered to customers, promotional stand displays, quality of food being served at their restaurants, and the general running of stores, without their employees ever catching on (and in turn, allowing them to get ‘honest’ results).

Let’s be honest – when we hear that the Big Boss is in town, we all up our efforts. But through mystery shopping, the Big Boss is kind of in town, only in the form of a mystery shopper.

Mystery shoppers sign up to a website or platform that specialise in handing out assignments, and they can then pick and choose what they’d like to sign up to. For every assignment they undertake, mystery shoppers are told exactly what to look out for, what questions they need to ask to employees, and what they might need to take photos of. Once the assignment is complete, they’re then expected to compile a report on their experience, based on what the assignment required of them.

Mystery shopping assignments can result in free meals, free hotel stays and free products – and can even be a way to make a little extra cash aswell!

What Makes a Good Mystery Shopper?

Anybody can be a mystery shopper providing you have access to the internet and can spare the time required to take part in your assignment. However, there are a few things that you should be aware of:

  • Most – if not all – mystery shopper websites require you to be over 18.
  • You need to be able to remain anonymous, and if part of your assignment involves asking questions to employees, you need to be able to pull these off naturally.
  • You need to be reliable. Life happens, and sometimes you might need to cancel, but wherever possible, once you’ve accepted a job, you need to see it through in the designated time frame.  
  • If you like people-watching and observing, this is absolutely the side-hustle for you! A huge part of mystery shopping is observing, and taking in your surroundings.
  • Once you’ve observed all that there is to observe, you need to be able to communicate your findings in a report. The report writing is critical to the whole mystery shopping industry, and some websites will require you to pass a short grammar and comprehension test prior to being accepted to their platform (I promise it isn’t as scary as it sounds!)
  • Ideally, you’ll have a good memory as some assignments will require you to memorise a script. That said, don’t let this put you off, as there are plenty of other opportunities (e.g. taking photos of displays) that don’t require any interaction whatsoever.  
  • Many assignments will need you to take photos of meals, products or displays, so a camera phone or camera is typically a must-have.

What are the Best Sites to Start Mystery Shopping in the UK?

I’m hoping by now you’re absolutely chomping at the bit to get started with your new side hustle – and the great thing about mystery shopping is you can sign up to as many mystery shopper platforms as you like. The more you join, the more chances you have at nabbing assignments as they crop up.

There are a whole host of websites and organisations that facilitate mystery shopping, but here are the ones I’m signed up to and can therefore personally comment on:

These platforms in particular provide a great mixture of assignments, include website and apps, and are trusted by a whole host of reputable companies.

There are plenty of others also available, so it’s definitely worth heading to Google and seeing what else you can find in your area. I personally like to see which companies a website works with to ensure they are a trusted platform – the bigger the brands, the more likely they are to be a great platform to work with.

Can You Make a Full-time Income Through Mystery Shopping?

Assignments are sporadic, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be inundated with opportunities. Likewise, the payouts are typically in the region of £5-10 plus the meal or product you are assigned to report back on – and it’s worth being aware that not all assignments include a payout!

Where you live also plays a part in how many assignments you’ll have access to. If you’re in a city, you’ll typically have more opportunities become available, compared to if you’re in a small village.

I noticed a big difference when I moved from a city to a village – but that’s not to say the village I now live in doesn’t have the occasional opportunity arise in our nearest town.

Personally, I’d look at mystery shopping as an opportunity to enjoy a few treats for free, rather than looking at it as an opportunity to make a full-time income – although I’m hoping one day, one of you reading this will be able to prove me wrong (in which case, please reach out as I’d love to feature you on Funding Her Freedom!!)

How to Get More Mystery Shopping Assignments

Mystery shopping can be addictive! It’s a great way to add a little variety in to your day to day, along with saving money on experiences and products you might already have been in the market for.

So to help you secure as many assignments as possible, the following might help:

  • Sign up to as many platforms and websites as possible. The list above is a great place to start, but there will be others out there. Head to Google and see what else you can find!
  • Check the websites and platforms first thing in the morning, and then occasionally throughout the day. Assignments are typically snapped up super-fast, so you need to make the effort to actually check to be in with a chance of securing one.
  • Be reliable – if you sign up to an assignment and you don’t complete it, it might affect the frequency with which other assignments are made available to you.

Do I Have to Commit a Lot of Time to Mystery Shopping?

Every assignment is different, and requires a different level of time commitment from you. However, this should be made clear within the description of the mission, enabling you to judge whether you can fit it into your day.

There’s absolutely no contract in place here that states you have to commit a certain number of hours per week to your new side hustle. You can commit as much or as little time as you like/can, but be aware that the more you time you dedicate to it, the more you will make and/or save.

Useful Tips to Ensure Your Mystery Shopping Side Hustle is a Success

As with all side hustles, you’ll be going into this wanting it to be a success. So what tips might help you as you embark on this journey:

  • As mentioned above, check the platforms each morning and throughout the day – often new assignments are snapped up fast, so move quickly!
  • Make sure you’ve included your payment details on the mystery shopping websites so you can be paid as soon as possible. You don’t want to have to wait for your details to be loaded on to the system – instead, when you first register, get your payment information added to your profile straight away.
  • Typically, mystery shopping assignments will require you to purchase the item, meal or experience with your own money, and you are then reimbursed afterwards (this is just something to be aware of).
  • With that in mind, make sure you request an itemised receipt/bill that you can send into the website as proof of completing your assignment, and the money they owe you. Often, a credit card receipt isn’t enough.

What’s the Best Thing About Mystery Shopping?

Did anybody else love Spy Kids when they were growing up? I desperately wanted to be an undercover agent – and in a weird way, that’s how I feel when I’m mystery shopping.

So, as well as getting to live out my spy fantasy without any risk to my safety, or not being able to tell my family, it’s also a great way to try new restaurants or products, and I love the variety of assignments on offer.

Through mystery shopping, I’ve been able to sample new products and new restaurants that I would never have known about – for free! I’m just keeping my fingers crossed for an overnight hotel stay one day – you never know!

Another thing I love is being able to report back on employees who have been particularly helpful. Sure, sometimes you have to be less complimentary, but how often do we receive great service and never report it back to a senior? Mystery shopping is a great way to give these employees real recognition with the powers that be at their company, and I love that!

Sure, it might not be the most lucrative side hustle out there, but it’s fun, it’s varied, and I wholeheartedly recommend considering mystery shopping as your new side hustle.

Speaking of side hustles, if you’re looking for other ways to make money, these posts might be of interest:

50 Side Hustles You Can Start Today (free eBook!)

How I Make an Extra £500 Each Month

Money Making Tips for Students

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Steph at Funding Her Freedom


Funding Her Freedom shows you how to make more money, save more money, and become financially free. If you'd like to get in touch, shoot me an email on Looking forward to connecting! Read More


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