I recently participated in a paid focus group in San Francisco. You know, the kind with the one-way mirror on the wall.
We talked about travel habits and preferences for an hour and half, and I got paid $150 for my time and opinions. Not bad!
(I also won an extra $50 in a raffle for showing up 10 minutes early, which definitely sweetened the deal.)
The whole thing was pretty quick and painless, and actually kind of interesting, and it got me thinking that this could be a fun side hustle.
So down the rabbit hole I went, trying to find other consumer research companies that operate nationwide or even ones that conduct studies online.
And I should note before we get started that these aren’t the typical companies that pop up when you search for “online surveys.” Those companies, like Swagbucks, InboxDollars, and Springboard America, are legit, but pay relatively little.
(Though sometimes they do have higher-paying online focus groups.)
The companies I was after here were the ones that pay bigger sums to make it more worth your time. I earned $100 an hour for my little focus group adventure, and I think you can too.
Respondent is a cool service that facilitates consumer research studies online and in-person — with an average payout of $140 an hour!
Once you create your account, you’ll be able to browse all the open studies you might qualify for. The research brief will tell you the types of people the company is looking to connect with, along with your time commitment and pay rate.
If it looks like a fit, answer the brief screener questionnaire to throw your hat in the ring. I just finished one pre-survey and it gave me a match score of 91%, so I imagine if the company can’t find anyone better-qualified, I’ll get a call.
Respondent will also show you which studies are “over subscribed,” meaning they have more willing participants than they need, so you know not to waste your time applying for those.
The company takes a 5% processing fee, but the rest of the funds you earn will hit your PayPal account within 8-10 days of your study. (I did a $200 in-person focus group through Respondent and netted $190–not bad for a couple hours!)
Fieldwork was the company that hosted the focus group I participated in, which was moderated by a market research professional. They have locations throughout the US:
- Los Angeles (Orange County)
- New York (Fort Lee)
- San Francisco
Compensation starts at $75 for participating in focus groups, and the sessions usually last between 1-2 hours. The drawback was I got paid in Visa gift cards instead of cash, so I went to the grocery store and bought Amazon gift cards with them instead.
Focus Pointe Global operates under the well-branded FocusGroup.com domain name and offers nationwide paid research opportunities.
The studies pay between $75 and $200 and are scheduled over the phone or webcam so you can take the calls from anywhere at times that are convenient to you.
When I signed up, I answered several of the screener surveys and didn’t end up qualifying for anything yet, but found the site relatively straightforward and easy to use. The studies I saw were related to beer, pets, and banking.
User Interviews facilitates in-person and online consumer conversations about products, websites, and services. The pay rates vary by company and length, but ranged from $25 for 3o minutes and went as high as $200 for an hour, but the average seems to be around $50 an hour.
For example, I took a screener survey for a chat about millennial financial decisions, which would have paid a $75 Amazon gift card for a 1-hour conversation.
Ipsos is one of the nation’s largest research firms, and i-Say is their consumer survey platform. While most surveys pay only $0.45-1.50 for a few minutes of your time, you’ll occasionally find higher end surveys that pay up to $95.
You can cash out for gift cards or transfer your earnings to PayPal.
ACOP is another market research company that insists on using their own “virtual currency” point system. Each point is worth $0.01 (basically nothing), but you can earn $0.05 to $0.50 for completing short screener surveys and up to $50 worth of points for longer market research surveys.
There’s a $10 minimum to cash out and you can deposit your earnings directly into PayPal. To give users an added incentive to complete the almost no-pay screener surveys, American Consumer Opinion will add your name to a monthly $50 drawing.
Inspired Opinions is the consumer-facing side of the Schlesinger market research company. When you register, you’ll be invited to join studies online, over the phone or in-person at one of 16 offices around the country.
The annoying thing about Inspired Opinions is they’ve created a point system to reward participants instead of cash. 100 points is worth $1, and you can redeem points for gift cards once you’ve accumulated 1000 points ($10 worth).
I attempted to create an account to see how much various surveys paid, but when my confirmation email finally came through, the back-end of the site had no studies available.
Survey Squad is a unique aggregator of paid focus group and survey opportunities. (The parent company Focus Forward helps provide participants to other research companies.)
The big money lies in their curation of actual consumer research studies, which may be specific to particular locations or conducted over the phone or Internet, and not their cheap online user surveys.
The “real” consumer studies are the ones that pay $50-250 in cash, check, or Visa gift cards, not Survey Squad points.
Mindswarms is a unique video consumer research platform that will pay you $50 via PayPal to answer 7 questions about a product or service. These studies normally take around 10 minutes and can be recorded via your webcam or smartphone.
When I tried to create an account, it asked me to make a profile video talking about one of my passions, but the “record” button didn’t work, so hopefully you have better luck.
SurveyFeeds isn’t a market research company itself, but instead a promising “feed” of paid survey opportunities around the country and online.
I found their Facebook page updated more frequently than their website, so it might be worthwhile to check there and see what you might qualify for.
The studies I saw ranged from $75 to $300.
Plaza has research facilities in 14 cities across the country and does some phone-based and online studies as well.
You can earn $50-200 for a 2-hour session discussing new products from major manufacturers. Plaza Research targets consumers, parents, kids/teens, students, physicians and business professionals.
Consumers, medical professionals, and high-level executives are in demand for Probe’s market research panels. Focus groups pay between $50 and $400, and you may even may able to participate online or over the phone.
Major manufacturers and brands enlist Probe and its partners to conduct online surveys, mystery shopping gigs, mock juries, product trials, and more.
WatchLab has an obnoxiously inadequate website, but they claim to facilitate all sorts of focus groups, usability tests, interviews, mock juries, and more.
The pay varies depending on the research, and may be in the form of gift cards or cash. I saw ranges from $100 to $175 for an hour or two focus group. WatchLab have locations in San Francisco and Chicago, as well as online options.
For in-person focus groups you are paid on the spot, online may take 4-6 weeks.
The companies listed above certainly aren’t the only research companies around, and for this side hustle, it might make sense to join as many firms as you’re comfortable with. That way, you’re presented with all the opportunities available, not just the projects managed by one company.
Here are a few more to consider:
- FindFocusGroups.com – An aggregator service that lists focus groups from around the country. When I checked the compensation for these ranged from $75 to $350.
- Prize Rebel – Earn $10-12 an hour doing surveys or completing other tasks. Just avoid the low-paying ones.
- 20/20 Research – Funky looking website, but says you can earn $50-300 for participating in focus groups online or in-person in Nashville, Charlotte, or Miami.
- UserTesting – Earn $10 for completing 20 minute online user tests of websites, apps, shopping portals, and more.
- Tell Us Your Opinion – Mainly operating in Tulsa but may have online/phone opportunities as well.
- IndyFocus – Indianapolis-based focus group opportunities, that seem to focus on the healthcare industry.
- Adler Weiner Research – In-person studies in Chicagoland and Southern California.
- Advanced Focus – Hosts market research panels and focus groups in New York City.
- Consumer Opinion Services – Paid research studies in Seattle, Portland, and Las Vegas.
- Engage Studies – Earn as much as $100 per focus group through this research company with a dated-looking site and intake form.
- Nichols Research – Get paid to participate in in-person focus groups, primarily in Northern California.
- Concepts Testing – The social accounts for this company are pretty dormant so I’m not sure if they’re still in operation, but they promise $20-1000 for product evaluations.
In doing all this research, a new side hustle came to me: web design and social media for these companies.
I ran into dozens of severely-outdated sites with copyright dates in the footer going back to 2010 in some cases. Their Twitter accounts where ghost towns and the blogs (if they had one) hadn’t been updated in years.
They might have a hard time making sales if their online presence makes it look like they’re no longer in business!
I wouldn’t look at focus groups or online surveys as a mortgage killer, but if you can land one or two a month, it would definitely help build your side hustle snowball.
Have you had any success in landing paid focus group studies? What do you think of this little supplemental side hustle?
Let me know in the comments below!
Stock photo by Akhenaton Images via Shutterstock