How to Earn Extra Cash with Consumer Focus Groups

7 Comments
Post Pic

In one of my more risqué moments of earning side cash 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 then discussed them amongst ourselves, our discussions 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 on in my life, 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/or its products. Each answered question earned me a dollar. At the end of the five week study, I had amassed a tidy $25 which was paid to me via Paypal.

In both the 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 tweak the product to fit different consumer needs and/or address concerns. Consumer focus groups typically consist of 8-20 members that match certain demographic requirements (e.g., a strong likelihood of using the product). These group members are asked questions by a moderator after reviewing the given product; their responses are recorded and analyzed via (usually) hidden third-party observers. For their efforts, focus group members are paid quite well, with some members earning as much as $100/hour.

Consumer focus groups used to operate strictly on-location 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 even several hours on-site. Back then, most companies feared that online focus groups, where participants were unseen and unwatched, 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. In some cases, the companies operate both online and in-person focus groups. Here is a list of companies that you could consider:

Our Must Join Recommendation: Swagbucks

Swagbucks: 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.

Additional Options

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.

Adler Weiner Research: This marketing research company offers in-person focus groups in the Chicagoland and Los Angeles areas. The reported pay for 1-2 hour focus group participation ranges from $100-$200.

FocusGroup: 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.

MindSwarms: This site has you answer in-home survey questions for $50/survey. However, you must answer these question via your webcam, which means that you must have your computer set up to record audio and play video. Surveys are estimated to take about 20 minutes and require a prescreening.

Nichols Research: This San Francisco area company pays its participants $225+ for focus group studies that run as long as 8 hours. From what I can determine, Nichols Research offers no online focus groups.

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 $100+.

Manufacturer-based consumer focus groups

Major manufacturers often offer their own market panel opportunities via their corporate websites. Here are just a few manufacturers that you can work with to earn extra cash and/or receive free product:

General Mills: This company offers consumers the opportunity to try new products, answers surveys and even coordinate a “house party” to test/try GM products.

New Balance: If you are a runner and are willing to test out some sneakers for cash and/or other incentives, this is the place to go.

Tide: At this site, you can sign up to participate in Tide research studies.

Consumer focus group drawbacks

Because consumer focus groups pay rather well, competition for these work 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. Also, in some cases the market research companies will overbook their participants; however, participants who show up and are turned away are usually compensated for their trouble.

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. Fortunately, with many focus group sessions being conducted online, you’re less likely to get stuck clearing your work schedule and traveling downtown only to later find out that you’re not eligible for a particular study.

There's only ONE program I really recommend. It helped me turn my 'hobby' into a $6,000+ per month money making machine. Click here for the exact formula I followed.

Photo credit by ayngelina

7 Comments

  1. Moriah Landis says:

    I searched SQM and I don’t see where you can register as a panelist, and it seams that it’s only for Australia residents. Is there another one similar to this site that caters to USA?

    Reply
  2. Halina Zakowicz says:

    Hello back Peter and thank you for your comment. To answer your questions, there may be some companies that limit how many FGs you do per semester or season. I worked with several companies, and while none of them gave me that requirement, it’s certainly within their rights to do so. My advice is to branch out and sign up with several different marketing firms, so that you always have work. Yes, you may get excluded from time to time based on past participation. Overall, I doubt you will ever replace your entire FT income by participating in FGs…I do them for spare cash, not for a FT 40 hr/week income. Thank you again for your comment.

    Reply
    1. My intention is also to simply complement my income.. You say that the companies you worked with didn´t have this requirement but it´s very odd because I signed up with every company you list above and absolutely all of them sistematically ask if you have done any previous studies in last 3 to 6 months ..I can upload screenshots .
      How do you explain this ? Thanks

  3. Hi Halina,

    The other day i read ur article on focus groups and decided to try .. I have two simple question i would be really thankful if you could answer . I read on all focus groups sites and some actual focus groups applications that they screen out those who have done more then 1 FG per semester .. so i´m just wondering how can anybody make realistic extra money with just two FG a year ? I dont think it´s possible without lying .. and the question i´m aiming at is: If i ever do a focus group ( i havent yet even called for screening ) it would be impossible to lye to the same site staff right ? I guess that the only solution left is to lye at different FG web sites .. Or is there a way to make realistic money from this being honest about past participation ? ( i call realistic at least 1 focus study per month )

    Many thanks for your answer.

    Reply
  4. Great article Halina,
    I’m wondering if you know of any of these companies for Australian participants thanks so much ? Carla

    Reply
  5. Great article Halina. I have never done any regular focus groups, but I really like online ones. They are a convenient way to make some cash and they are easy! You can do it from home and they do not mess with your work schedule. I have done few online focus groups, which I found through a company called SQM . I was actually looking for mystery shopping deals; I hadn’t realized that you can also earn money by doing online focus groups. You are right, competition for focus groups can be stiff and people who are interested should sign up with market research companies. It makes more sense to sign up for such companies that do more than focus groups, so you can know when there are other types of deals (e.g., mystery shopping) as well.

    The focus groups I have done took about an hour each. They asked several questions but it was more like a general group conversation, so I did not feel like I was in the spot or anything. All in all, it was over quickly, but I guess the companies that are doing it get some in-depth insight compared to surveys or other stuff.

    Reply
    1. Halina Zakowicz says:

      Hi Rob, Thank you so much for commenting and for mentioning SQM. I’ll definitely be looking into this online focus group. I also noticed, interestingly, that they warn folks about yet another money-wiring scam that has their name involved. I just happened to notice this warning because I wrote about a similar car wrap scam last year. Not that I’m calling SQM a scam- just noting that they’ve been targeted by another scam group.

      I occasionally mystery shop through HS Brands International and TrendSource; free subs and oil changes rock!
      Thanks again Rob.

Leave a Reply