Thursday, January 31, 2013

Focus Groups

Focus groups operate differently from surveys.  A focus group is almost always conducted in person; in some cases you can participate remotely via phone or skype.  Depending on your attitude a focus group can either be a tedious experience or lots of fun.  If you enjoy interacting with people and giving your opinion on just about anything you will probably enjoy the experience, but remember you are being asked your opinion on what is important to the company doing the research not what you are interested in.  The last focus group I participated in was about how my electric bill was formatted, not earth-shattering stuff, but I was paid $100 for my time.

If you are asked to participate you will be given the time and location where you are to report.  You will be told how long the session will take and the amount of money you will be compensated. The session will be held in a conference room with usually 10-20 people and a moderator.  Usually the session will be recorded and you may also be observed live via 2-way mirror or CCTV by executives of the company that paid for the study.  The moderator will ask questions and lead the discussion, you are only expected to answer the questions honestly, not come up with ideas to help the company with marketing or anything else.  The session should about the same amount of time they told you it would.  Generally you will be given cash when you leave.

How do you get invited to a focus group?  Sometimes a local company will ask a research company to pull together a group of existing customers for the study, so you may be asked to join just because you are already a customer.  You can also register with market research firms that conduct focus groups and they will call you if you fit a study they are conducting.  If you register with a research firm be aware that they don’t want to use the same people over and over so you will probably only be called once or twice a year at the most.  You can also find focus groups listed on

If you live in a small town it will probably be difficult for you to participate in focus groups as they are usually held in person in a large city.  

Next Topic:  Update on Leapforce

Monday, January 28, 2013

Make Extra Money with Paid Surveys

Do you feel that your opinions are ignored?  Do you always wonder who those people are who are cited as participants in surveys? Believe it or not, businesses actually do want to know what you think about the type of products and services they provide, and best of all some of them will pay you for your opinions.  

Short surveys will pay a few dollars or perhaps just an entry in a drawing, but if you are invited to a Bulletin board or Blog survey it will generally pay in the neighborhood of $100.  The latest thing in consumer research is the bulletin board where participants enter their opinions about the topic in their own words in blog-style posts and can enter into discussions about the topic at hand.  The participant usually contributes to the bulletin board daily over a period from one week to several months and the pay is usually from about $100 to $300 depending on the length of time required.

Bulletin board surveys are sweet; the pay is great and they don’t require that much time, but you will have to check in to the site every day and contribute something.  Generally you are required to give your opinion on the topic threads started by a moderator, or you may be asked to respond to surveys.  The moderator may ask you to expand on or explain your posts, or the moderator may ask additional questions.  If you have time and are interested in the topic, you can enter into discussions with other participants.  One bulletin board I was on included areas where participants could start their own discussions about hobbies, pets, money saving ideas, and other topics of personal interest.

Online surveys can be tedious especially if they are long, repetitive, or poorly designed.  You may often wish you could complain to the survey designer when the questions are vague or don’t make sense.  For instance the last survey I completed was about in-store shopping as specific stores, but the survey started asking about shopping on the store’s website, I never said I shopped on the website and there was no option for “not applicable” so I had to guess.  But that’s a problem for the business that paid for the research, they aren’t going to get accurate data.  Even if it’s frustrating you can be well paid for completing the survey.  Usually you are told in advance what the incentive (pay) is and approximately how long the survey will take to complete.  Some surveys only pay off with entries into a drawing for money or prizes.  It is your choice whether you think it will be worth your time to complete the survey.

Sometimes a survey can be in the form of a phone or webcam interview as well.  Often you will also have a phone interview with someone from the research firm before being invited to join a bulletin board survey.  Research firms are trying to get the full range of potential customers represented when they do a study, they also don’t want the study to be weighted too heavily in one particular demographic, so you may not be invited to join the study because your demographic is already full.  Don’t be insulted if you are told you don’t fit the study, this will happen often if you apply for them a lot, it only means that your demographic group has already been filled for that study.

So how do you get in on all this lucrative fun? Begin by visiting  On this site you will find hundreds of available surveys, bulletin boards, and focus groups to participate in.  You can limit your search by the city you live in (if you live in a large city), your state, or by category (demographic or topic).  Most often the studies listed on this site will be given by reputable research firms--there are scams out there and you have to be careful.  The studies listed will have a little information about the topic of the survey and the amount of compensation.  Click on one that you are interested in and you will be taken to a pre-screening survey.  If you fit the demographic they are looking for you will go to the survey or there will be a message that you will be called for a phone interview if they are considering inviting you to join the study.

The pre-screening survey will ask for your contact information, age, annual income, and other demographic data.  If the survey asks for more sensitive data like ID numbers, account numbers DO  NOT enter that data, surveys can be used as phishing scams and a legitimate research firm will not ask for this type of information.

Often you will be invited by the research firm to register with them so they can send you announcements of upcoming surveys.  As long as you are comfortable answering the questions they ask (they will request even more demographic information and about your interests and shopping habits) go ahead and register so you will learn of more opportunities to take paid surveys. 

You will not be able to make enough money to live on this way, but you will be able to earn some extra mad money.  In four months I have earned $285 doing this, and its painless and often fun.

Next Topic:  Focus Groups

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Its Alive!

I've been away for a while, working on Leapforce mostly, its turned out to be a good supplement to my regular income. But I have a new goal, I'm planning to retire (from my library job anyway) in 2 years. I'll still have to work though.  So I'm back to looking into more opportunities to make money working from home, and this blog will be revived.

Recently I've done some paid surveys and focus groups, found some "lost" money online, investigated mystery shopping, and I'm working on some other ideas.  I'll be posting about all of these in the coming days.