I’ve resisted touting survey sites because, for the most part, I’ve felt that they waste too much time and effort. Sure, you can make a few bucks here and there with a survey. You might even score an in-depth webcam-enabled interview that nets you $40 or $60. However, getting decent-paying surveys is a crapshoot, and best not relied upon for a steady income.

Or is it?

How to make online surveys worth it.

1. Calculate how much your time is worth.

The first thing you should do before taking any online surveys is to calculate the least amount of money you are willing to make per hour. Typically, this is done by taking your current yearly compensation and dividing it by 2,080, which is 52 weeks per year multiplied by 40 hours per week. Use this hourly rate to determine the value of your time.

If you are unemployed, don’t assume that your time is free. You can still complete other tasks to make money, including taking up a part-time job, house and pet sitting, becoming a microjobs agent, etc.

2. Sign up to online survey sites.

There are many online survey sites available, so how do you find the good ones? First of all, read online reviews of survey sites, including reviews of survey sites such as Swagbucks, 20/20 Research, Opinion Outpost, Pinecone Research, and Toluna. Try to choose those sites that pay you with money, not survey drawings or coupons.

Many online survey sites pay you in points or some other currency other than money. That’s not a problem if the redemption terms are defined and followed. For example, Swagbucks pays in Swagbucks, which are then redeemable for gift cards or Paypal payouts. So, not all monetary alternatives are bad.

Don’t stop at signing up with just one or two survey sites. Surveys are far and few between for many survey companies, and you’ll need to join at least 10 sites to have a steady stream of work.

3. Learn how much each survey is worth.

It’s easy to get sidetracked by a supposedly easy survey that takes just “minutes” to complete. For example, a survey that claims to take 20 minutes to complete and pays $3 may not really end up making you the equivalent of $9/hour. Because many surveys require a pre-qualifier survey, you may end up working 10 minutes on the pre-qualifier before you even get to the real survey. That drops your earnings significantly. And if you fail the pre-qualifier, you’ve just wasted 10 minutes of your time.

If you have a selection of surveys to choose from, choose those surveys that pay you at least $10/hour. Also, it’s far better to spend more time and effort on surveys that promise to pay $50+ even if they do take more time to complete because, once you’re in, you’ll probably be webcam interviewed. That may sound intimidating at first; however, webcam-enabled interviews are better because they last a shorter time and are more likely to send you a payout.

4. Download online survey mobile apps.

If an online survey site announces that it has a mobile app version of its platform, download it. Why? Online surveys are best performed when you are already wasting time standing in line at the store, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, etc. They are usually not the best use of your time when you are sitting at home and could find many other (and better) ways to make money.

5. Keep payout thresholds low.

Back in the early 2000’s, a steady crop of survey sites popped up and promised large amounts of money to survey takers. What they didn’t advertise was the fact that survey takers would not be able to cash out until they had reached $100+ thresholds. By the time such thresholds were reached, the sites had either disappeared or just didn’t have enough work for their survey takers.

Before you commit to working with any online survey site, read the site’s fine print about payout thresholds. Alternately, if you’d rather collect gift cards, find out how much you need to spend to obtain those gift cards. You don’t want to be almost at your points goal for payout only to learn that your survey site shut down.

6. Don’t game the system.

Many survey takers try to fool survey sites by deliberately lying on pre-qualifying surveys and claiming to have tried product X, have children ages 2-4, etc. While such lies may initially get you qualified for a higher number of paying surveys, eventually, your lies will catch up with you. How does this happen?

Survey sites track survey takers and create profiles on them. Some survey sites work with other survey sites. If your supplied information doesn’t match up across different platforms, or even across different surveys, you’ll eventually be found out and banned.

7. Use survey sites as a stepping stone.

Online surveys can lead to better-paying opportunities, such as becoming a part of a consumer focus group, for example. Oftentimes, survey companies collaborate with clients that want more direct feedback than just online answers. Once you are recruited into a more “live” panel, your pay can jump from a few dollars per survey to $100- or even higher.

Online surveys are worthwhile if you value your time

In summary, online survey sites can be a good way to supplement your income. The caveat to this conclusion is that you should be aware of how much time you spend filling out those online surveys. Valuable surveys should take up the majority of your time and energy. Less valuable surveys are better off being filled out when you are bored and/or waiting for something else, such as a dental appointment.

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