Working as a Market Researcher in the UK
I have done "mystery shopping" - where you pose as a bona fide visitor to a shop, station, restaurant or bar, as well as interviewing door to door and in the street.
How do I get started?
Call market research companies, who will pass your details to the local co-ordinator. Usually he/she works for lots of companies and can help you get jobs from other ones too.
Do you have any general advice?
You need to register with as many market research companies as possible. I used Marketing Sciences, Business Blueprints, Grass Roots, and an online company called www.retaileyes.co.uk. If you live in a popular area (such as London) there will already be a huge pool of willing people (often students topping up income) and you may be asked to do other things as well like interviewing. Some jobs need training which is unpaid, and to do interviewing you need to provide photos for your Market Research Society card on completion of training and annually thereafter. If you live in a less popular area, there may be more work around, but some jobs can only be repeated every few weeks (there is a time specification) and you may have to travel further for the work. There may also be fewer jobs in a more rural area.
Is it full-time, travelling from one job to the next?
No. You spend a long time on the phone ringing up asking for jobs, and then being told which you can have (for example which are available, and which you are eligible for because you haven't done them within the relevant time period). You usually have to commit to them 1-2 months in advance, and you will need a pool of money for the first couple of months, so you can pay for the products and travel up front - it can be several weeks before you get the pay and expenses back. You can also spend a long time phoning in visit reports, or completing and posting off or faxing survey results.
What about hotel and restaurant visits for guidebooks?
I think that most reviews of that nature are sent in by members of the public, and unless you have a particular skill (e.g. you can get on Egon Ronay's tasting panel) it's unlikely you would be paid to do this. However, some hotel chains such as Innkeepers Lodge will let you stay for free in new sites as a "bed tester" - you need to look out for local adverts, or get in touch directly.
Are vacancies hard to come by or are they always looking?
Both - some jobs are unpopular and always there, if you do them you're more likely to get first dibs on the better ones such as pub visits.
What is the average salary?
Low, but enough to make living on a student loan survivable. It works like this: Whatever you buy is free as long as it's what you were asked to buy, and you have a receipt (often you have to buy exact items/meals with no choice, for example if the establishment is promoting them or they want to test how a new meal is being prepared). Then you also get a token amount for going, perhaps 15 quid a job or 30 quid for a six hour shift. With experience, it's possible to complete a job in up to half the time (but within the specifed time slots), but you still need to allow time for paperwork. Your expenses will be refunded when you are paid, as long as you submit the receipt correctly.
Are all expenses included (board, food, petrol)?
It varies, but it's specified in the job details. You must order what you are asked, and then this item is refunded. Sometimes the travel expenses are paid, or sometimes there is just a flat job fee.
Do they favour husband & wife teams?
Not particularly. Most jobs I've done were for one person, others needed two, but they could find someone to go with you if appropriate. However, both people needed to attend unpaid training together (as a team) and as they had to work together, they had to agree to the same shifts for work.
This page last updated: 19 July 2004
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