How You Can Start a Home Business as a Field Inspector and Earn Over $50/Hr Extra Income
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Home Based Business / Mystery Shopping Opportunities
Back in 2006, when loan signings started to dry up, I saw the need to look at what the NNA (National Notary Association) started talking about as "other opportunities" in their newsletter & even their annual convention.
But I found very little information out there about how to get this work & never mind how to become a "field rep," aka field inspector.
Eventually, I stumbled upon SOFI (Society of Field Inspectors) and connected with its founder, Richard Law. (I hope to have an interview with Richard in an upcoming HubPage, so stay tuned!)
While there is a wide variety of opportunities - from foreclosure home inspections to commercial property inspections to business verifications and mystery shopping - it's really a matter of deciding on what work you're interested in doing, how much time you're willing to devote to this. The best thing to do is try out different types of assignments and then specialize as you see which ones are the most rewarding, both financially and personally.
For example, early on I was willing to take on inspections of bank foreclosure, aka REO or real estate owned, residential properties. These are homes that have either been abandoned or have had the owners evicted.
Often, it's sad how the families simply couldn't keep up with the mortgage payments. In a way this was a sobering reminder of the other end of the life cycle on some loans that probably shouldn't have been made. Later, I decided that it wasn't worth the money to crawl around in the sad demise of people's financial lives.
Whereas, performing the commercial building inspections, you're typically dealing with professional managers who often lease out spaces to Fortune 500 companies or key local businesses. In spite of current economic times, these folks are not only hopeful; they recognize that it's just a cycle like any other.
While it's a nice way to supplement income, many mystery shopper companies will be honest and tell you that it's not a way to get rich. Both the MSPA (Mystery Shopping Providers Association) and IMSC (Independent Mystery Shoppers Coalition) provide live and online training that dispel a lot of the myths, as well as help you get started.
I highly recommend MSPA's certification as a starting point to learn about legitimate companies out there that can use your services. Another great resource is a ebook by Pam of IMSC. This really is an "Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping," covering everything from tips and strategy on getting mystery shopping assignments to avoiding pitfalls of starting out.
How much can I make doing this kind of work?
You can earn $50-75+ PER HOUR with this work, and it doesn't require downloading 100-200 page reams of paper from loan companies who keep telling you that doc's are coming as was the case as a signing agent.
Early on, Richard Law emphasized that performing commercial inspections is your best path to earning decent money, and he was absolutely right. As mentioned, commercial inspectors are usually working side-by-side with other professionals in the field. Many thanks again for his advice! (I will cover this type of work in more depth with later HubPages.)
As a mystery shopper, there's a bit of playing the role of James Bond when you are posing as a customer and secretly take notes on the service provided by a fast food franchise. Plus, it's also a great way to have your opinion heard about the quality of a restaurant. (One of the most memorable moments was rewarding an employee $10 for correctly asking if I wanted a soda with my purchase. You would've thought that I was the Publishing Clearing House sweepstakes presenter to them!)
What experience is needed to become a field inspector?
Often, if you can take and upload digital photographs, write in clear and concise English, and most importantly dependably deliver results on time, you've got the basic qualifications for this type of work.
Most inspection companies will simply ask you to fill out a brief application and submit the necessary paperwork to sign up as an independent contractor.
Willingness to learn is more important than actual experience, since there is little in the way of formal training for inspectors. A working knowledge of building construction and real estate dynamics helps, but ultimately you figure the best ways to get information on such things as vacancy rates for different MSAs (Metropolitan Statistical Areas) and trends for office rents or the local economy.
Advantages / Disadvantages
Sure, the money is good. But, as I often talk about with entrepreneurs or those thinking of leaving the employee track, you will only be successful in work that you're passionate about.
So, what else is there to this work? Well, if you work in real estate or other related businesses, such as general contractors or business brokers, this is a great way to network and meet with decision makers.
Typically, you are either meeting with property managers or building owners. These are the folks who decide on what products or services to purchase.
However, while it's great to pick and chose your work and to have flexible hours, you are limited to what assignments are available in your area.
Occasionally, I'll request work outside my neighborhood, but more often than not, the schedulers already have their local pool of field rep's.
Being dependent on schedulers to send work your way or to reveal what is available puts a ceiling on your earning potential.
Subsequently, sometimes there is a feast or famine effect, when you will be swamped with assignments that take away time from your other work. For example, I advise small business clients on exit strategies, i.e. selling their businesses for retirement or health / personal reasons, and SEO copywriting / web marketing.
Field rep / field inspection work can be a nice source of supplemental income, particularly in this economy. There is a wealth of different opportunities, depending on your interests and time available. For more information, come check out my blog for tips on how to become a Field Inspector or join the discussion on this Facebook page and learn how to get started in one of today's best home businesses.
Wait, There's More..! Upcoming Trends in Field Inspections
Here's what I'm seeing out in the field and in my own business. With the rise of computing power and video technology available to individuals these are the top trends for field inspections -
1) video shops / video inspections -
More and more clients are requesting video for assignments. This provides near real-time and more complete pictures. If a picture speaks a thousand words, video definitely raises the bar by a factor! Here's a recent video on what IMSC is offering - https://youtu.be/EmdbLO3UVRs
2) mobile / smart phone inspections -
Recently with the rise of smart phone technology, we can photograph and submit mini-reports with our iPhone, Android device or mobile tablets like the iPad or Samsung Galaxy. Companies are still slow to use the capabilities that are available at your average individual, but this will only give way to more and more applications for field inspections. For more info check out this video - http://youtu.be/JIDNvmWz-R4
3) drone / aerial videos -
As the cost of this military technology continues to fall, more and more individuals will be able to afford to fly these robotic cameras. Here's my latest blog on this growing area - http://droneartists.com/
My New Field Rep 101 Book
Field Inspection Home Based Business Kindle ebook
Field Inspection 101 - Learn How to Get Started in One of Today's Best Home Based Business Ideas