In one of my more risqué moments of earning side cash (and before the advent of paid online focus groups) while completing my graduate studies, I got to look at market campaign ads for K-Y Jelly.
A group of about 10 women, including me, sat in a small room and commented about which ad appealed to us the most and why.
While we wrote down our responses and discussed them amongst ourselves, we were monitored by observers sitting behind two-way mirrors.
At the end of an hour, we exited the room and collected our $60 checks at the front desk.
I ended up making $120 because I participated in two such ad campaigns.
Later, I participated in a weekly online market research survey that was conducted for Domino’s Pizza.
Each week, I answered five multiple-choice questions about the company and its products. Each answered question earned me a dollar. At the end of the five-week study, I had amassed a tidy $25 that was paid to me via PayPal.
In both cases noted above, I participated in a consumer focus group.
What are consumer focus groups?
Companies that are about to launch a new or improved product typically gather consumer feedback about that product prior to launch.
This helps these companies tweak the product to fit different consumer needs and address relevant concerns. Consumer focus groups typically consist of 8 to 20 members of their target audience for the product in question.
These group members are asked questions by a moderator after reviewing the given product; their responses are recorded and analyzed via hidden third-party observers. For their efforts, focus group members are paid quite well, with some members earning as much as $100/hour.
Paid Online Focus Groups are the New Norm
Consumer focus groups used to operate strictly on-site in big cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and Atlanta.
Focus group participants would have to go in person to designated locations and spend anywhere from half an hour to several hours.
Back then, most companies feared that online focus groups, where participants were unobserved, would dilute data quality.
Today, however, many (though not all) companies prefer the online consumer group format, feeling that it encourages a truer response because the participant is not being affected by the act of observation (also known as the observer effect). This is great news for folks who wish to work from home or who reside in rural locations.
How you can get involved in consumer focus groups
There are several well-known market research companies that regularly recruit focus group participants.
I’ve compiled a list of companies below that are actively looking for participants.
Sign up for as many as possible.
Invitations come infrequently, but by signing up with all of the companies below, you will maximize your chances of actually getting to be able to participate and get paid.
19 Paid Online Focus Groups to Join
In some cases, the companies operate both online and in-person focus groups.
Here is a list of companies that you could consider:
Opinion Outpost pays users for joining focus groups, as well as answering surveys and testing products.
Their payment model is simple. Complete your profile information when you sign up to get a welcome bonus.
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You’ll be asked to complete a more detailed questionnaire afterward, which they use to determine which focus groups and surveys you’re best suited for.
Payment is through PayPal or various gift cards.
Swagbucks allows ANYONE to take part in short, easy focus groups.
They also have daily surveys and poll their users and offer rewards for participating. Quick, easy, free. One of the best. Free $5.00 offer just for signing up.
Don’t pass this one up.
As a Inbox Dollars participant, you will get to evaluate new and upcoming products from some of the world’s biggest brands.
You get paid cash via Paypal or check for sharing your opinions.
You have a voice and companies are paying top dollar to hear what you have to say.
Sign up, confirm your email, and start helping brands shape their products and you will get paid just for sharing your opinions.
Branded Surveys is one of the top market research companies that work with some of the most respected companies that need insight from their target customers through online focus groups, as well as paid surveys, product reviews, and video testing.
Join the Branded Surveys community and get paid for your honest feedback.
6. 20/20 Panel
This company has been operating since 1986 and pays $50-$150 per focus session, which may be performed through in-person focus groups, one-on-one interviews or online sessions.
The studies can involve a few hours of your time and/or may also be spread out over the course of one to several days.
Prescreening (i.e., filling out a short qualification survey) is required if you wish to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming focus group or product test.
This marketing research company mainly offers in-person focus groups in the Chicago and Los Angeles areas, but they also allow individuals all over the US to participate in paid online focus groups.
The reported pay for 1- to 2-hour focus group participation ranges from $100-$200.
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This site pays $75-$150 for each successfully completed survey.
Participants must take an “eligibility screener” before being assigned to any online studies and must later pass four stages of screening.
This site has you answer in-home survey questions via a short video, using your computer with a webcam, or via the mindswarms Android or Apple Store app.
The pay can range from $10 to $50 per study/survey, and sometimes even greater than $50 depending on the survey.
10. Plaza Research
This company conducts in-person focus group discussions, telephone and in-home interviews, and online surveys.
The focus group sessions last roughly 1.5 hours and pay a minimum of $35 up to $100+.
11. User Interviews
This company facilitates conversations about products, websites, and services both through in-person and online focus groups.
The pay rates vary depending on the company and the length of the session, but the average is around $50 per hour.
Respondent is constantly on the lookout for all kinds of business professionals, such as software developers, marketers, business owners, and executives.
This is why the pay is higher than most of the other companies on this list, ranging from $150 per hour to $700 per hour.
PingPong is a platform where app developers and website developers can connect with testers to help with their user experience (UX) research.
The pay ranges from €20 to €100 per hour, paid via PayPal or TransferWise.
American Consumer Opinion is a big survey company with over 7 million active members.
The pay isn’t normally that high; short surveys pay as low as $0.05. However, if you get selected for longer market research surveys, you can make as much as $50 per survey.
15. Survey Club
Sign up as a member of their research panels and be rewarded for participating in research activities such as online focus groups, surveys, phone interviews, and the occasional daily poll.
Aside from online focus groups, you may be invited to participate in other types of focus groups, such as two-way, moderated, or teleconference focus groups. Participants in these activities are usually paid between $50 and $200 per hour.
This California-based marketing company recruits participants from all over the country to join focus groups for their clients, which are companies from various industries and topics.
As with the other websites on this list, you’ll need to create a profile with as much detail as possible so that they can determine if you are the right fit for their focus groups.
You can subscribe to their email list to get informed if you’ve been selected to participate.
In-house consumer focus groups
Major manufacturers often offer their own market panel opportunities via their corporate websites. Here are just a few companies that you can work with to earn extra cash and receive free products:
This company offers consumers the opportunity to try new products, answer surveys, and participate in focus groups to try out upcoming Johnson & Johnson ideas.
18. Summer Infant
If you have a baby on the way or a newborn at home already, Summer Infant is paying new parents to participate in focus groups and try out some of their new products.
Engage has broken down their research groups into two categories: regular consumers and those in the healthcare industry.
Pay is determined by the company conducting the research, but Engage lists an average rate of anywhere from $50 to $250 to participate in a study.
Online Focus Group Pros and Cons
With online focus groups being more of the norm as opposed to in-person focus groups, you’re less likely to get stuck clearing your schedule for a day and traveling someplace only to find out that you’re not actually eligible for a particular study.
However, because focus groups pay rather well, competition for these opportunities can be stiff.
Thus, it’s best if you sign up with several market research companies and even follow them on Twitter or Facebook.
If you are notified of a focus group opportunity, don’t delay in applying for it as spaces often fill up quickly.
Focus group screenings can take up a significant portion of your time, from filling out your personal information online, to answering questions on the phone, to filling out additional paperwork before you are finally cleared for the study.
Disqualification can result from something as simple as not having the right type of smartphone, so make sure to read all of the requirements carefully before wasting your time.
The Bottom Line
Paid online focus groups aren’t going to replace your full-time income, but they can be an excellent way to make a few bucks in a day.
Companies do care what you think, and your opinions can help shape the future of some worldwide brands.
Plus, you get to see and use cool new products before they ever hit the shelves.
Which of these paid online focus groups are you most inclined to join? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!