Online Focus Groups: Up to $100/hr Paid Research Studies
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 companies that operate nationwide or even ones that conduct paid research 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 and InboxDollars, and 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.
1. User Interviews
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.
In another case, I earned a $10 Amazon gift card for completing a short online survey for bald guys! It said it should take 15 minutes, but all the questions were straight yes/no, so it probably only took 5.
Click here to join User Interviews.
Or check out our full User Interviews review.
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.
While there are some “general population” studies, the best-paying opportunities are for industry professionals — up to $500 an hour!
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!)
Click here to join Respondent.
Read our full Respondent.io review here.
3. Survey Junkie
While most Survey Junkie earning opportunities don’t pay much, you’ll occasionally get emails for better-paying focus group and product testing studies.
These admittedly are pretty rare, but pay up to $75. Power users of the regular Survey Junkie site/app report earning up to $30 a month.
Click here to sign up for Survey Junkie.
Fieldwork was the company that hosted the San Francisco 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.
Powered by Schlesinger, a leader in market research, FocusGroup.com offers nationwide paid research opportunities.
Be on the lookout for the “National” studies that pay between $75 and $200. These 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.
Since then, I started to receive a few email notifications every month with studies. Those ranged from around $3 for 15-minute surveys, up to $125 for an hour-long in-person focus group.
I was excited to discover PingPong as a newcomer to the online market research field. The service specializes in user experience testing for apps and websites, with pay rates ranging between €40 and €100 an hour. (Roughly $45-110.)
You might be curious — with the rates in euros — if this one is open to non-Europeans. PingPong let me join as an American and says they welcome testers from all over the world.
Since joining, I’ve received invites to several studies but haven’t been able to book one just yet.
7. Experience Dynamics
Experience Dynamics specializes in user experience and user interface testing (UX and UI). Corporate clients pay them to help “make their users smile,” and they turn around and pay people like you to give honest feedback on website designs and software applications.
According to the site, they recruit testers worldwide with all levels of technology experience. Most studies pay between $50-$150 dollars.
Experience Dynamics also facilitates:
- Field Studies, 1-2 hour interviews at your home or work.
- Diary Studies, where you to record your thoughts over 1-2 weeks.
- Phone interviews
- Online Focus Groups
- Online Surveys
8. American Consumer Opinion
American Consumer Opinion is another market research company where you can typically qualify for several surveys a year.
Annoyingly, they insist 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.
9. Survey Squad
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.
Important Note: The “real” consumer studies are the ones that pay $50-250 in cash, check, or Visa gift cards, not Survey Squad points. The Survey Squad point surveys only pay the equivalent of $4-5 an hour 🙁
Mindswarms is a unique video consumer research platform that will pay you $50 via PayPal to answer 10 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.
FindFocusGroups.com is an aggregator service that lists focus groups and paid research opportunities from around the country.
At press time, they had the best-looking interface of most of these sites. The banner ads are distracting, but you can easily navigate to find a list of studies near you or online.
When I checked the compensation for these ranged from $50 to $200.
Similar to FindFocusGroups, 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.
13. Field Voices
When I checked out Field Voices, I found a couple available studies to apply for. One was a neighborhood improvement interview that paid $150 for one hour, and the other was a group workshop on snacking habits that paid $300!
This firm works directly with companies as well, meaning they’re not just pulling together lists of other research projects.
14. Plaza Research
Plaza Research has market 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.
15. Probe Market Research
Consumers, medical professionals, and high-level executives are in demand for Probe Market Research’s 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.
16. SIS International
Through “compensated interviews” and focus groups, SIS helps brands figure out direction for their products. You can see a full list of available paid studies on this page, though not everything there is still actively recruiting.
I found rates from $25-200, depending on the time required and complexity of the topic. SIS recruits participants from all around the world, not just the US.
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 1-2 hour focus groups. 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.
18. Recruit and Field
Recruit and Field is one of the longest-running national market research companies. Since 1977, they’ve built up a participant database of over 300,000 consumers, business leaders, and medical professionals.
The company works with lots of name-brand clients and typically pays $100-275 for in-person and online surveys.
The popular and well-rated dscout app connects you with “engaging research missions,” through which you can get paid to share your feedback on a product or service.
Typical studies pay anywhere from $2 to $100, and are paid out via PayPal. The biggest complaints from users is that the often in-depth screener surveys are unpaid.
20. 20|20 Panel
Earn $50-150 for online focus groups and studies. While the website doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence, 20|20 Panel has been around for over 30 years.
Another site that pulls in lots of different paid studies, FocusGroups.org was a great find. When I registered, I saw online focus group options that paid anywhere from $75 to $625!
Topics included pets, hygiene, cooking, luxury cars, and lots more. There are some handy filters you can use to select only online or “National” studies.
Other Online Focus Group and Paid Research Study Options
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:
- PrizeRebel – Earn the equivalent of $10-12 an hour doing surveys or completing other tasks. (Just avoid the low-paying ones.)
- UserTesting – Earn $10 for completing 20 minute online user tests of websites, apps, shopping portals, and more. This is pretty fun but you have to be fast because these tests get snatched up quickly.
- Intellizoom – Get paid an average of $10 testing and reviewing websites.
- UserBrain – Receive new websites to test every week, an earn $3 for each 5-15 minute test.
- Google User Experience – Google pays “tokens of appreciation,” or “small thank you gifts” for providing feedback on their products.
- Tell Us Your Opinion – Mainly operating in Tulsa but may have online/phone opportunities as well.
- 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.
- Nichols Research – Get paid to participate in in-person focus groups, primarily in Northern California.
- Marketade – Specializes in remote usability testing, market validation, navigation research, and more.
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!
Online Focus Groups Alternatives
As with any side hustle, there’s an opportunity cost. As in, what else could you be doing with your time?
I encourage you to check out our monster list of side hustle ideas, but here are a few that are similarly flexible.
Become a Bookkeeper
One of the first jobs that many companies hire out is “someone to keep the books.” If you have experience in this field, or just love numbers, becoming a remote bookkeeper could way to make extra money.
Most businesses don’t need a full-time bookkeeper so they’re open to hiring someone part-time. Most virtual bookkeepers charge $100-300 per client per month.
Network with business owners locally or online and let them know about your service. It might make sense to check out this free training on how to start a remote bookkeeping business.
If you’re after passive income, you might consider adding some alternative investments.
Companies like Fundrise allow you to invest in a diversified portfolio of professionally-vetted and managed commercial real estate properties. This spreads your risk around to a range of properties in multiple geographical locations–with really low minimum investments.
Start a Business
One big drawback to focus groups or online surveys is you’re limited in how much you can earn. It’s probably never going to turn into a full-time income.
Some popular alternatives that have more room for scale are re-selling products or starting a service business.
For instance, my friend Abbey started a virtual assistant business while she was on maternity leave. Now she helps others do the same. Check out her free training on how to get started and land your first clients.
I wouldn’t look at focus groups or paid research studies 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!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there such thing as an online focus group?
Yes! Several companies facilitate online consumer research focus groups, which is great because that means you can earn money from the comfort of your home or office. Check out our full list to learn more.
How much do focus groups pay?
The pay for focus groups depends on how long the session lasts. Most commonly, you’ll find rates average around $100 an hour.
Where can I find legit paid focus groups?
Companies like Respondent, Fieldwork, and FocusGroup.com are all legit facilitators of paid focus groups. Or, for the best results, you might try an aggregator service like FindFocusGroups.com, which pools together focus group opportunities from several sources. Be sure to check the list of providers on Side Hustle Nation as well.
How do online focus groups work?
Online focus groups work either via conference call or more commonly, through a group video chat to more closely mimic the in-person experience. A moderator will lead the group discussion and participants can chime in through their webcam and computer microphone or phone line.
Stock photo by Akhenaton Images via Shutterstock