Student Jobs: Is Mystery Shopping The Answer?
Back in the day when I studied linguistics at Lancaster University, there were times when I needed the extra cash. Student jobs were not easy to come by. Studying was erratic, seemingly snowed under one week and then without a great deal to do the next. The most seasonal places were those that students frequented. The barman at the college common room bar only employed females. I was out of luck on that front. A sex change was a step too far for some extra cash. And I think it would have cost far more than I would have earned. Part time jobs for students weren’t that common. I needed something different.
It was while travelling back on the train one day that I struck up a conversation with a student from Preston. He made some extra cash flexibly as a mystery shopper. I wanted to know just what that was. I tried my first assignment, back then the reports were wither posted or dictated over the phone. I liked the look of this. I could go out and earn a few bob while shopping or eating out. And there were often assignments where I could grab a drink or two as well. Perfect student job as far as I was concerned at the time.
Fats forward a number of years and mystery shopping has changed beyond recognition. And it is one of the great student jobs for the exact reasons named above –
- It is flexible
- It is part time
- You can take it to uni and back home
- The pay is OK
- You can still get pub assignments
Mystery shopping is becoming one of the most popular student jobs. So, let’s take a look at why.
The typical student jobs include working on a bar, shop or restaurant. And this can work well for both the student and the employer. You will probably only be able to commit to working in term time. But that’s probably when their trade is higher, needing extra staff. This kind of seasonal work helps out when needed.
But there are other typical student jobs such as tutoring high school kids as they look to sit exams that you passed only a short while ago. But they ned your support the most (in the run up to exams) when you need your time the most.
Lifeguard seems to be something that uni students get involved in quite often. If you have the relevant qualifications, then the local leisure centre will most probably be looking for people to work a few shifts making sure people are okay when swimming in their pool.
Barista has become one of the part time jobs for students chosen more and more over the last few years. We don’t make a cup of coffee any longer – we need a barista to create one for us! And if you have picked up these skills somewhere then you are the perfect match for a coffee shop frequented by students.
Of course, nowadays, you have the chance to use your skills in many other areas. Businesses all over are looking for social media support. Being a YouTuber is the dream of more than one of my kids. Even writing a blog can make serious money. All of these media and tech options exist where they weren’t a consideration in my days back at Lancaster.
Back at university, I tended to work a great deal during the holidays, and then only occasionally in term time as I wanted to study. Mystery shopping was an ideal choice as one of the part time jobs for students. I could work when I wanted, and then disappear for weeks at a time if I was busy or exams were happening.
Flexibility In Student Jobs
And it is the flexibility that often makes a job difficult to find. Traditional jobs need people to turn up for the same number of hours per week for 48 weeks per year. When you live away from home and have studies to do, this isn’t practical. A student job is usually one where you dip in and out depending on how busy you are.
That’s why mystery shopping is ideal. You can carry out 20 assignments this week and then no more for the next 2 months. There isn’t an expectation that you turn up for work every day. Simply look on the website of a provider and they will show all the available assignments in your selected area. If you want one, then click on it. If you don’t then log off and come back to check another day.
That’s the real beauty of mystery shopping as a part time job for students. You don’t have to commit to anything at all. But remember that they don’t have to commit to you either! If you want to work, then you look on the sites. If there are no assignments available, then you can’t earn cash. Just a short warning here.
And the times of the year when mystery shopping tails off are –
- Bank holidays
So, you might find that the times when you really want to get some extra cash, the options are just not there. Bear this in mind when you start to look for mystery shopping opportunities.
If you want to become a mystery shopper, then you need to find the right company to work with. There are many choices, so take a look at what might work for you.
Mystery shopping companies shouldn’t charge a fee for you to become part of their team. Don’t pay for the privilege. It will probably be a scam of some sort.
Instead use one of the mystery shopping companies that have happy shoppers working for them. We have a list of the legit companies in the UK at the moment. Work from this list and you will be in a good place.
So, the first thing you need to do is make an application. This is simpler than it sounds. Mystery shopping companies want to know a few things. They will ask –
- Your availability
- Where you can work (geographically)
- What skills you can bring to the party
- Where else you work (or have worked)
They are looking for objective shoppers, so won’t let you go to mystery shop a place where you work or have worked in the past. This ensures that the reports are fair and accurate. They need a report on what happened on your visit – not any feelings you have there from previous experience.
There will be some questions as you apply. And they kind of skills they are looking for are –
- Good timekeeping
- Attention to detail
- Good English skills
If you are able to go out there and shop with these skills then you should be in a really good place.
Now it’s time to find your perfect mystery shopping partner…
Part Time Jobs For Students And Market Force
If you are looking to start out as a mystery shopper, then I suggest that you take a look at Market Force. As with any legit mystery shopping company, there is no fee to sign up. You just give your details on their site and you have the chance to apply for mystery shopping assignments.
In the first month you are restricted to only 2 assignments. This is to protect both of you. As you start out then you will have loads of questions. Rather than make loads of mistakes, they look after you by analysing the reports you send. After this month ypu are free to take as many assignments as you like.
Market Force have been around for some time now and operate in countries across the globe. This means they have developed systems of support. You get the help you need when you have a question to ask. And their website is great. It is easy to use and the reports are a breeze to submit.
If you have any questions at all about mystery shopping with Market Force, then drop us a line. We’ve been on their books for almost a decade so know them inside out. Alternatively, just sign up and move on from there.
Your First Assignment
As with any of the student jobs listed above, there will be some nerves on the first assignment. But there really isn’t a great deal to worry about. If you have read the notes thoroughly then you are in a great place. Unlike some of the other part time jobs for students in this article, you are on your own. There won’t be a colleague holding your hand or talking you through it. This is all down to you!
We’ll get through this!
Before we dive headlong into the first assignment, let’s take a look at how we got here. You apply for an assignment on the website of your chosen mystery shopping provider. You can sign up with many of these so don’t restrict yourself to just one.
On their websites there will be a system that allows you to select assignments. The better ones have a map where you can scroll around and see the ones that mean something to you. On your profile you will be able to set a location and then a certain number of miles around that where you are willing to travel. And with the better sites you can do this in multiple locations so home and uni mystery shops can be assessed at the same time.
When you find an assignment you like, you will click the relevant button. There are 2 options here, depending on the company you are with –
- You get the assignment straight away
- You apply for the assignment and someone at the company will assign it
Each company has their own rules. I must say that most of the mystery shopping companies allow you to just click and it’s yours. The others might be looking for certain criteria, such as getting it done as quickly as possible or a men’s clothing store that needs a man to carry out the assignment. Either way, you’re in the game.
Getting Ready For Your First Shop
Once you know it’s yours then you have a few things to do –
First read the assignment notes. As with any of the student jobs you look for, there are rules and regulations. These aren’t onerous. But if you want to get paid then you need to make sure you get it right. There will be a few set things in the notes. These make sure you assess the service you are given in the same way as all the stores in that chain. These might include –
- The time you are to visit
- If there are days you cannot visit
- What you have to buy (if there are restrictions)
- Any questions you must ask
As already said, these are to ensure you asses people the same as every other mystery shopper. The companies want objective feedback – this comes from doing the same thing.
Once you’ve read the notes, ensure that you know what you need to do. This is the time to ask questions if you have any. Rather than wing it, you should pick up the phone and talk to the mystery shopping company if you are unsure about any parts. But let’s not get hung up on this. They are broad rules, and this is easy for you to follow. As far as part time jobs for students go, this is an easy one!
Just before you head out on the assignment, re-read the notes so you have all the details you need. It’s good to refresh.
While You Are There
Once on the assignment it’s a case of staying cool and getting on with it. There are never hundreds of things to remember, but a few that you will need to get right. I always take a note with a few items on that I might forget. This could be the question I need to ask or the details I need when giving a description of the person who served me.
This note looks like a shopping list, so you are never in a position where it looks like you are a mystery shopper. As far as student jobs go, you want one that isn’t pressurised. That’s why mystery shopping is ideal. If someone asks if you are a mystery shopper, there are some tactics you can use.
Act like a normal shopper. You will notice much of what is asked of you already. The questions on the questionnaire ask things like –
- Was the store clean and tidy?
- Were you greeted as you entered the store?
- Was there a queue at the till?
- How many team members did you encounter?
- What time did you enter?
- What time did you get served? (hint: it’s on the receipt)
- Did the team member make eye contact?
These are things that you will readily remember if you are relaxed and just act as a normal customer.
After The Assignment
As you might expect with any student job, there is a little bit of paperwork to complete. I say paperwork but, in this day and age, it is all completed online. The reports take me between 5 and 10 minutes so I’m sure you’ll rattle through it in no time at all. Some mystery shopping providers have apps that are easy to use so you don’t even have to have access to a laptop or desktop.
There will be a questionnaire to complete. This gives the company a good idea of what happened when you were in store. The whole point of a mystery shopping assignment is to gauge the service and feed this back. So, the questionnaires are the same no matter which of their sites you visit. You will see how important this is when you carry out mystery shopping assignments for bigger chains such as Wetherspoons, McDonalds or Next.
Once the assignment is completed online by you, it will be assessed by the mystery shopping company and then the client. This might be to check a few facts or to clarify something you have said. They ask that you are contactable for a few days after just in case they need to ask you some questions.
There is a lot of talk about how much money mystery shopping can earn you. Some talk about it being very lucrative. Others state that it doesn’t bring in much cash. I find that it sits somewhere in between the two of these extremes. When looking at part time jobs for students, this one is flexible but won’t make you rich overnight.
If you want to make money, then you have a few options as a student. Some of these jobs take up a big chunk of your time. For me, mystery shopping doesn’t do this. You can earn a meal or two per week, get a free drink every now and again and have someone else pay for new items of clothing. This is the beauty of mystery shopping and why I believe it is one of the best student jobs.
If you want to make a little extra money to make ends meet and have a luxury or two every now and again then this could be the one for you. Check out all the details we have on the site and make up your mind.
Student Jobs: The Final Decision
We usually have to make a choice in life. If we go for a job, then we have to stick with it. Our employers don’t want to train and support someone who will be there today and gone tomorrow. But the reality of student life is that sometimes we need to take a step back. Party season is a time where we don’t want to add working to our already busy schedule. And when exams kick in, we want to do our best. Working several hours each week can eat into valuable study and revision time.
That’s why mystery shopping is a perfect part time job for students. You can shop to your heart’s content this week and then not take another assignment for the next 3 months. Nobody will be on the phone wondering what happened to you. Then you can come back and put a load of assignments in your account and earn cash again.
Part Time Jobs For Students
Student times are some of the best of your life. Enjoy every minute of them. And part of this is having the cash to be able to do what you want to do. The image of a poor university student eating cold beans for dinner again is one born of experience. Cash is always tight. Earning a few free meals per week is very appealing. And we know that it is easily within reach for the average student.
If you are looking to become a success mystery shopping, then this is the site for you. It looks at all angles of the phenomenon that we call mystery shopping. You will learn all about the different mystery shopping companies. And the different types of mystery shopping, such as –
- Mystery shopping for hotels
- Supermarket mystery shopping
- Mystery shopping for restaurants
And there are many others too. If you have any questions, then please just drop us a line. We love to talk about mystery shopping so get in touch and find out what it can do for you. As far as student jobs go, this is a pretty good one.
If you are looking at student jobs, then consider mystery shopping. As a mystery shopper you can earn good money and take that work with you from home to uni and back again. I started out doing this to earn a little bit of extra cash and have stayed with it for many years since.