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    Useful Independent Contractor Tools

Mystery Shopper Assignment Log · Handy tool you can print out to track your assignments and payments.

IRS Guide: Small Business and Self Employed · It offers industry/profession specific information and provides links to other helpful non-IRS sites.

CafePress Mystery Shopping Gear · Designed by Volition.com, CafePress offers a line of t-shirts, mugs and mousepads which are the perfect reward for a dedicated shopper. (If you would like to see any other sayings that would be appropriate to Mystery Shoppers, just post your ideas to the forum.)

Vista Print · Get 250 FREE full-color high-quality business cards. Many establishments have giveaways where you drop your business card in a bowl and you'll win a prize. Hey, you're in these places doing a shop anyway you might as well get the added benefit of a prize. (Small delivery fee.)

eFax.com · Lets you receive all your faxes at your existing email address.

McAfee · Save $5 on McAfee VirusScan Online

Open Office · A Free Alternative to MS Office. Everything you'd expect in office software. You can create dynamic documents, analyse data, design eye-catching presentations, produce dramatic illustrations, and open up your databases. You can publish your work in Portable Document Format (.pdf), and release your graphics in Flash (.swf) format without needing any additional software.

StarOffice · The StarOffice productivity suite includes word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications. A complete set of rich, easy-to-use office productivity tools in a unified desktop environment makes it easy to share documents with friends and colleagues using Microsoft Office applications. It costs around $75.

602Pro PC Suite · An alternative to MS Office. Not as powerful as StarOffice, but a much smaller download.



Excel Viewer · The Microsoft Excel 97 Viewer allows users to view and print Excel 97 and Excel 2000 spreadsheet files, in addition to other Excel for Windows® (versions 2.0 and greater) and Excel for the Macintosh® (versions 2.2a and greater) spreadsheet files. This small, freely distributable viewer gives users the flexibility to view page layout, copy and control cell sizes, and access the zoom and AutoFilter features. This viewer also supports OLE DocObject as well as the ability to view any Excel file.

Excel Tutorial · Many assignments require Excel.

FillOut Manager · Written by the same guy who wrote the chat software for our forums. FillOut Manager is a program, which enables you to fill out forms very fast. Drag your text directly from FOM and drop it into the edit-control you want to have filled. It's also possible to drag&drop multiple lines of data at once. You're probably typed in a lot of redundant information in various forms. When you use FillOut Manager, you only have to type it once.

PeoplePC · Internet service for $10.95 per month. Or for a bit more get a PC Package. Packages include a brand-name desktop or notebook computer, unlimited internet access, email, and 10 MB of personal web space, customer care, member benefits, and great discounts.

Net2Phone · Make free calls by turning your PC into a phone.

Health Insurance Savings & Discount Plans · Take advantage of great rates on health, dental and life insurance for those self-employed and small business owners.

Franklin Covey · Factory Outlet for: Planning Pages, Refills, Binders, Cases, Planner Accessories, Software Solutions, Handhelds, PDAs, Tablet PC, Tech Products, Wireless Phones, Books and Training.

Viking Office Products · Office essentials right at your fingertips.

Office Depot · Check out the super values section, it changes weekly.

Dell Deals · This link takes you right into Dell's Deals department. This is where they hide the offers for stuff like a free DVD player or a $200 19 inch monitor with purchase.

BestBuy Weekly Specials · Great deals on computers, peripherals, recorders, camera, telephones and accessories.

Wal-Mart · Get your digital camera here.

PayPal · Several companies use PayPal to pay you. Sign up so you have an account and the money just gets e-mailed to you. Paypal gives you $5 just for opening an account.

Adobe Acrobat Reader · Install it and it will open PDF files.



Demo Stuff

AllHeartChefs · Discount aprons - as well as chef coats, chef hats, restaurant and chef uniforms.



Auto Stuff

American Automobile Association · What would we do without AAA?

MapQuest · Free Directions. Find your way anyplace in the United States. Look up an area and identify specific restaurants, gas stations, national landmarks, and libraries for your road trip.

Excite Maps · Another online mapping site.

Google Address Look-up and Directions · With just a phone number Google can get you the address and driving directions. Enter number as 123-456-7890. If you know the address, just enter that in the search box.

RandMcNally.com · Maps, guidebooks, and just about anything else you need for travel.



What zip codes can you work?

Many companies ask you to tell them what zip codes you are available to work in. This is very helpful for a large city with many zip codes where you may only want to work on one side of town or for rural areas with many or no actual cities. You can look in the front of your phone book, where there is always a map with all the zip codes or use these helpful sites:

United States Postal Service · Look up all Zip Codes for any given city.



Other Useful Destinations

Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) · Search for jobs by location, then apply to the jobs you may be interested in.

ShadowShopper · Registered shoppers can search for jobs and all the Mystery Shoppings firms that use the site can find you. They also will be offering training classes and other benefits for registered shoppers. Requires a registration fee to join but is well worth it for most shoppers.

MOM!MOM!.COM · A website for stay at home moms looking to make some extra income. Has an extensive list of Mystery Shop companies on and off the WWW.

The Hauser Group · Needs people for mail delivery tracking and quality control. You track junk mail from certain companies to make sure it is being sent out and on time. In addition to some extra cash, you may also get test shipments of merchandise, or free copies of magazines.



Mystery Shopping Books

Just click on the title to find out more info (like the price) or to order. Most items usually shipped within 2-3 days. We have not read of all of them. If you have read any, please let us know what you think.

The Mystery Shopper's Manual; Cathy Stucker; Spiral-bound · Imagine getting paid to shop in your favorite stores and eat in your favorite restaurants. And, get free meals and merchandise. You can as a mystery shopper. Businesses need to know how they are seen by customers, and they will pay you to tell them. Shoppers are needed now for stores, restaurants, banks, hotels, gas stations, grocery stores, and just about anywhere that deals with the public. In "The Mystery Shopper's Manual" you get step-by-step instructions on how to get jobs. The only book for mystery shoppers endorsed by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.

The Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping; PamInCA · This book is written to help take the mystery out of this job and get you started right away. This is a step-by-step guide to starting, performing and reporting your mystery shops.

How to Start and Run Your Own Mystery Shopping Company; Lynette Janac, Julie Weis; Spiral-bound · Looking for an exciting and profitable business opportunity? Or maybe you just want to earn a little extra money in your free time, while having fun? Mystery Shopping is fast becoming one of the most fun and financially rewarding businesses in America. Imagine being paid for evaluating your favorite department stores, restaurants, movie theaters, health clubs, hair salons and more! Essentially you get paid to shop and dine out. All you have to do is report back to the manager or owner.

Get Paid to Shop : Opportunities in Mystery Shopping; Judith Rappold; Spiral-bound · This book gives shoppers a good idea of what is expected of them and the type of qualities mystery shopping companies look for in shoppers. It also provides a good overview of the mystery shopping industry whether you are interested in being a shopper or operating a mystery shopping company.

Starting Your Secret Shopping Business; Judith G. Rappold; Spiral-bound · If you have experience in retail, training, personnel, or customer service, this could be the opportunity you've been searching for . No one could be better qualified to guide you through the start up process. The author has developed and instructed programs at The University of Texas, Austin Community College, and Baylor University and has owned and operated a successful secret shopping business in Central Texas for 14 years.



Writing

Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay: Practical Advice for the Grammatically Challenged ; Richard Lederer and Richard Dowis · Lederer mixes humor with rigor, he and coauthor Dowis have created a grammar guide for those who like their split infinitives with a side of laughter. An offbeat, enlightening guide to proper English usage.

Merriam-Webster's Guide to Punctuation and Style · We recommend you have a punctuation and grammar book handy for when you are writing you narratives. This practical guide gives you quick, easy-to-understand answers to the questions you face most often in your writing.

YourDictionary · Not just dictionaries in every language you can imagine. Thesaurus, Translation tools and much more.

Research-It · Your one stop reference desk.

Merriam-Webster's WWWebster Dictionary and Thesaurus · Based on the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary

Online Resources for Writers · Guides to Grammar, Writing and Sentence Sense


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