How to make extra money with online focus groups

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

A few years ago I was invited to participate in a focus group. I was there personally along with about 15 other people. For two hours, we vented all our feelings about how a particular health insurance company interacted with its customer base.

We ended up walking away with $125 each. The health insurance company wanted consumer feedback on its products and customer service, and compensated us for sharing our insights. Focus groups can be a lucrative side hustle when you break down hourly wages. You become part of a company’s market research efforts and elevate your opinion above that of other potential consumers.

Today, you can attend paid focus groups in person or online. We are concentrating on the online area here. These focus group platforms can earn you anywhere from $20 to $900 an hour.

Online focus groups: A viable side hustle

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Focus groups can be very well paid for the time you actually “work”. They can offer an increase in part-time income all at once.

However, they are unlikely to support you instead of traditional income. Earnings can be extremely inconsistent. First of all, you don’t qualify for every survey because each focus group targets a specific demographic.

Often, though not always, the highest paying surveys also have the most exclusive demographic requirements. For example, the company wants to work with builders who work with specific device brands, or with mobile app developers who use a specific type of programming.

Additionally, some consumer research firms only allow participation in a focus group every six months.

Just because the work is sporadic doesn’t mean it’s a bad part-time job. When the money comes in, you get paid so much per hour that it’s worth investing 30 to 90 minutes of your time.

What you do in a paid focus group

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Most focus groups require between 30 and 90 minutes of work. If you are conducting a remote focus group, you may be asked to fill out a multiple-choice survey. Most of the time, though, you’re conducting a phone or Zoom interview with a live person.

The topics for focus groups are unlimited: you could answer questions about your favorite margarita recipe, how you’re coping with parenthood in the 2020s, or answer a survey about your profession.

Some focus groups may require you to dedicate some time outside of the interview itself. For example, you may need to test a particular product or keep a journal of your experiences. This additional time is often taken into account in the compensation.

The following market research companies pay well for your time and are constantly updating listings to provide more opportunities. We have analyzed current vacancies by hourly wage and estimated average hourly wage given the jobs currently available.

1. Respondent

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An overwhelming percentage of the focus group opportunities listed on the respondent are remote. Most entries are not city-specific, so you can qualify regardless of where you live.

Current job openings range from $20 to $250 an hour, with the average focus group paying around $120 an hour.

2. WatchLAB

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WatchLAB doesn’t have that many options listed, but it does regularly update its inventory on its Facebook page.

Jobs are often city-specific, although there are a variety of cities with opportunities.

Pay for WatchLAB focus groups ranges from $75 to $900 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $125 per hour.

3. Focusing head

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Focuscope is another smaller consumer research company. It regularly updates its users on its Facebook page about new opportunities, and most of the studies are now conducted remotely. Focuscope pays $75 to $250 per focus group, with an average payout of $100.

4. FindFocusGroups.com

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FindFocusGroups.com is not just a consumer research company. It is also a job board. It aggregates opportunities available across the country and allows consumer research firms to submit lists.

You can search these focus group lists by state. The average focus group pays around $125 an hour, although jobs are currently listed for salaries ranging from $75 to $595.

5. User Interviews

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If you’re looking for online or phone focus group opportunities, you’ll find numerous listings of user interviews. However, compared to the other companies on this list, more of these focus group opportunities are in-person. Use filters while searching to ensure you only see remote opportunities.

Some of the entries in user interviews are medical studies rather than focus groups.

Participating in medical trials can be another lucrative way to earn extra cash.

User interview entries range from $25 to $500 an hour — although few studies hit the $500 mark. The average focus group pays $60 an hour.

Pittsburgh-based author Brynne Conroy is founder of the blog Femme Frugality and author of The Feminist Financial Handbook. She writes regularly for The Penny Hoarder. Information from Tiffany Wendeln Connors, author and editor of Penny Hoarder, is included in this report.