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Paid market research isn’t the most lucrative job out there, but it can give you some spare pocket change while you’re working on launching your own business elsewhere. It’s a perfect side gig for college students, retirees and budding entrepreneurs who need to make some cash before their business is fully profitable. Why? Much like Uber or Postmates, you basically get to make your own schedule. Commit only to the legit paid focus groups of your choosing, participate in research studies and get paid during your free time. It’s that simple.
Unfortunately, in the age of the Internet, there are a lot of scams that tout themselves as paid market research but end up sending you through an endless stream of hoops where they collect your data but don’t pay you a dime. Carefully research your opportunities and only commit time to focus groups that seem legitimate.
How Much Can I Make as a Market Research Participant?
There are two main types of paid market research: focus groups and surveys. Focus groups generally pay more. The most legit paid focus groups give you around $50 to $100 for your time. You’ll also probably be given free samples of products. It really depends on the company.
Surveys are much less lucrative. You might get perks like discounts or gift cards. Others give you points which you can cash out for prizes or actual dollars. Sometimes you can make as much as $8 per survey or score a $5 bonus for joining a survey service, but you’re better off focusing your efforts on your actual main gig. This is not the same thing as when you participate in research studies and get paid, and really is only worth it if you’re bored and waiting for the train or find yourself in a doctor’s waiting room.
How to Find a Paid Focus Group
Finding a paid focus group is the first step. Many of the legit paid focus groups advertise locally, so it’s worth a quick Google or a deep dive into local Facebook groups hoping to strike gold. The app Eventbrite — which advertises local events — sometimes lists paid market research opportunities.
You’ll probably still end up finding more success outside of social media. There are legitimate research companies that are always looking for market research participants. To get you started, look at:
- Brand Institute: a market research company that focuses primarily on surveys in the medical or product research space.
- 20/20 Research: a market research company established in 1986 that does product tests. They take online applications.
- Athena Research: This California-based company does paid market research relating to shopping, healthcare and product testing.
- Aldier Weiner Research: This Chicago- and Los Angeles-based company pays around $100 to $200 per one- to two-hour session of market research, including interviews and shopping visits.
Regardless of the company, do research whether or not you’re looking at one of the legit paid focus groups around and not another scam.
Look Into Medical Research Studies
If you really want to participate in research studies and get paid, you should look into clinical trials. Medical research studies are generally considered riskier to market research participants than filling out a survey or trying out random products, but the rewards are much greater. This is absolutely something to consider if you're in a bind keeping the lights on in your brand new startup, but proceed with caution as you’ll have to deal with the side effects of whatever treatment course you’re given.
To find a clinical trial or medical research study, you should first look online or contact local medical universities. For example, Columbia University’s Department of Psychology is always looking for participants with certain ailments like Lyme Disease, chronic pain, depression or addiction. You can also visit ClinicalTrials.gov, which is a massive database of research studies seeking participants.
The highest paying clinical trials can make participants an average of $1,968, but they’re usually the earliest trials which means the effects and outcome are less understood. It’s riskier, hence the reward. You can still make around $400 on later clinical trials, where the effects and outcome are generally known.
- Search Craigslist because often times you can find paid focus groups and other paid market research opportunities
- If you choose to take a lot of paid online surveys, you should use a free software called Roboform to automatically fill out surveys so you can make money faster
- Beware of scams and paid research slogans with a lot of hype in the ads
- Investigate each company before you sign up
- Never pay to take paid online surveys - There are hundreds of free paid surveys on the internet
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.