I recently met Jennifer Parker, the Affiliate Marketing Manager from Decision Analyst, Inc. at Affiliate Summit West. Her life is a whirlwind of surveys. Her job revolves around getting people to take surveys plus she takes them in her spare time. She volunteered to share the top four questions she get asked most about being a survey taker or, in marketing jargon, a panel member. Take it away, Jennifer!
You know you’ve wondered about them—those ads that say you can make money just for answering a few poll questions. But you haven’t tried it because Mom always told you that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Well, I’m here to let you in on a little secret. Mom isn’t always right. When it comes to taking surveys online, as long as you know what to look for, you can most certainly make a few extra dollars on the side. Read on, beautiful dreamer!
- Does it cost anything to start taking surveys online?
Nope. Any legitimate survey site will never ask for your money. If they do—DO NOT SIGN UP! Be wary of sites that promise you access to X number of survey sites just for signing up and paying a “small one-time fee.” Most likely, if the sites they refer you to are legit, you could have done a little research yourself, saved $50, and signed up for free.
- Will a survey site really pay me for taking surveys? Why would they do that?
Yes! Something most people don’t know is that survey companies are not paying you directly out of their pocket. For example, American Consumer Opinion®—a top research company—works with many big-name clients, including an array of Fortune 500 companies. These companies pay American Consumer Opinion® to send surveys out to panelists—everyday people, like you—to get their opinions about new products, packaging, buying habits, etc. They want to know if their new concept will sell well with consumers. These companies know that your time and opinions are valuable, so they compensate you for your effort.
- What’s up with product testing and focus groups? How do I get in on that?
Sometimes the survey company will want you to work away from the computer and they will have opportunities for you to try out new products. A product is sent to your home (like a snack cake, lotion, household cleaner, etc.) and you are asked to try it out. Afterward, you’ll be required to perform an action such as write in a diary about your experience or answer a follow-up survey.
Every once in awhile there are opportunities to join focus groups, either online or in person. A discussion will be led by a moderator, and you will be asked questions to answer in this group setting. Product testing and focus groups tend to earn you more money because of the extra effort made in using a product and evaluating it comprehensively or in traveling to a focus-group location.
How you “get in on that” is, basically, you get lucky. It’s like winning the lottery of being a panelist. When you sign up, you fill out a lot of information* about who you are, where you live, and how you spend your money. This information, in conjunction with “screening surveys,” brings forward the candidates the clients want to consult.
- Can I make a living taking surveys?
Absolutely not. While I’ve personally seen checks mailed out for hundreds of dollars, usually these larger amounts have been accumulated over many months. No one is going to make a full-time job of taking surveys. But here’s the Pollyanna way to think of it: if you replace a web session with answering a survey, you’ve already made 100% more than you would have done liking posts on Facebook or watching videos on YouTube. Another positive is that you’re taking an active part in shaping the way the future will look, feel, and sound. Companies will take your opinions and use them to design their new products and services. That’s pretty powerful!
*Check to see if the company you sign up with is a member of CASRO—those companies follow a code of ethics that protects your identifying information.