What are Online Focus Groups and Online Surveys?
The Internet offers lots of opportunities to earn some extra cash. Online gambling, and forex and share trading provide the chance to make and lose real money. If all you want is a side-hustle to supplement an inadequate salary, then other ways are less risky and don’t take up much time. Focus groups and surveys fit the bill.
Not very exciting and don’t pay much, but they are at least reliable and because you don’t pay out before you cash in, are of minimal risk.
The current economic crisis forced on us by Covid-19 has turned side-gigs into a primary income for many. However, as always happens, scammers and thieves have jumped onto the bandwagon. Lots of online surveys and focus groups are fronts. The scammer wants to steal your cash or your personal information or use your free labor to earn money for themselves.
Having said that, marketing research firms do pay you to take part in in-person surveys and focus groups. The Internet has allowed them to carry out legitimate online marketing research. There are many out there, and all major research companies have an online presence.
Focus Groups and Online Surveys
Simply put, market researchers use focus groups and online surveys to help companies evaluate new products and study market trends affecting products and services.
What is a Focus Group?
Focus Groups are a way for market researchers to predict trends in markets, improve products, or find out what people think of new products that might come to market. They typically have between 5 and 8 people who are asked their opinions about a specific topic or product.
Some focus groups require you to pitch up in person, but increasing numbers of them operate wholly online. You can be invited to join, or if you find one, ask to join. Joining sometimes means you need to answer some (free) questions to establish if you are the correct demographic for the focus group.
There are some suggestions below about where to start.
What are Online Surveys?
Online surveys are similar but tend to much more of a one-off exercise, with a set of qualifying questions before taking the survey itself. The format usually is multiple choice answers to a question about the topic or product. Some have a short video introducing the product or service.
Again, there are some suggestions below about where to start.
What do You get?
First, realize that you won’t be making lots of money doing surveys— no Porsche outside the new mansion or early retirement. Most pay anything between $5 and $200, with $200 being the absolute top line. Many give store vouchers.
There are three basic payment types:
- You are paid points for work done, and once you have accumulated enough points, you can redeem them for cash or goods.
- Gift Cards and Discount Vouchers.
Again, you work and receive store vouchers or gift cards. Today, they are mainly discount codes for online orders at Amazon and other online stores.
- Some sites do pay in cash into your local site wallet which can be withdrawn to a bank account or an online bank like PayPal. Most have a minimum qualifying amount before you can remove the cash, and there may be a waiting period between asking for the withdrawal and receiving the money.
Choosing the Focus Group and Survey Sites
The first thing is to remember the old advice “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is”. If it looks at all iffy, or if the rewards are out of line with the work you do to get them, then step away.
Look also at privacy. Whatever the site may say about protecting your personal data, it might still get out there. (Google yourself to see just how much already is). More below.
One other thing to do is to check the Internet for reviews of the site and research company. Make sure they are reputable.
The scammers will play on the easy money to be made and highlight the low pay levels. They will tell you that the real money-spinners are secret or VIP sites and you need to pay them a membership fee to get access.
One golden rule – don’t pay to take surveys or join focus groups.
There are several other ways they will try to scam you:
1. Middle-Man Scam
Middle-man scammers operate by getting you to do the work for which they are being paid. They tell you they are affiliated to a major market research company, and they will pay you to answer a survey or join a focus group on their behalf. You do the work and never see the money.
They tell you that the prestigious market research companies don’t accept unsolicited requests from individuals as market researchers to complete surveys and join focus groups. You are asked for a fee to make it happen, or they change into a middle-man. Either way, you never see your money again.
2. Information Providers.
Finding a service can sometimes be a bit tricky. Of course, search engines will help to find them, but you then need to investigate each and work out if they are real or scam sites.
By searching, or seeing adverts on Social Media, you will find sites that charge a “membership fee” to enter their website for a list of current online paid surveys and focus groups. It’s the same list you will have for free if you scroll down the search results list.
You will be asked for some pretty personal information from time to time to see if you qualify for a survey or as a focus group member. You will have well-justified concerns about where that information could end up. Most sites promise not to share information, or if they do share it, to ask your permission first, then anonymize it. Legitimate marketing research firms have an industry standard to which they must conform.
Middle-men don’t care. They may make half-hearted promises they don’t keep, but that is the best you will get. In many jurisdictions, including the US, using personal information that can be tied back to an individual is limited by law. Again, in some places, there is a do-not-call register.
That makes it very valuable, and some middle-men use their websites purely to harvest personal information they can sell to direct marketers. Ever wonder where the spam email senders or phone callers get your information? Now you know.
The bottom line, use only legitimate websites.
Don’t be downhearted, there are legitimate sites that will provide you with work. Remember that you will not be able to replace a salary with the income from paid surveys, but you may appreciate the prizes and gift coupons you earn.
16 Best Companies That Pay For Taking Part in Paid Focus Groups
14. SIS International Research
Some sites, such as Survey Junkie, cover both focus groups and surveys. One good aggregation site showing how legitimate middle-men sites should work is Survey Feeds, which seeks out the best-paid offline and online research opportunities.
This list focusses on US English-speaking requirements. Be aware that some surveys and focus group sites will have a different language and demographic needs.
Overall, it is possible to make money using surveys and focus groups. Not enough to make you wealthy and not enough to replace a regular wage. It would be best if you also were careful to avoid scammers and ID information thieves.