I love finding ways to make extra money. To me, it allows me to have more control over my finances and tell the universe that I don’t have to settle for my income.
If I want to make more money, I can and there are plenty of opportunities out there.
Last fall, I came across the idea of trying out focus groups to make extra money. I had tried only one before this year and it was when I had just left high school. It was easy, fun, and I made $100 in an hour.
Now, my husband and I are hooked on this side hustle and it’s allowed us to make extra money to fund house projects, birthday parties, and even take care of a few bills.
What Is a Focus Group?
If you’ve never heard of a focus group before, it’s a form of market research where a company, brand, or their marketing department solicit a group of people to sit down and share their honest opinions about products, services, and various different topics.
Think of it as a survey but much more in-depth. Focus groups usually last anywhere from 60 – 90 minutes but they could be longer or shorter. It’s common to attend in a group setting but there are also one-on-one opportunities as well.
Focus groups have always been fascinating to me because it’s an easy way to get paid for your opinion. Plus, since I work at home and don’t have coworkers anymore, Iike the idea of getting to chat and share my opinions and experience in a group like-setting.
I also like the fact that nothing you say is wrong since the interaction is slowly based on your thoughts and opinions. There’s no pressure to come up with the perfect idea or answer which makes this such a low-effort way to make extra money.
What Topics Are Covered?
So what types of topics are discussed during a focus group? Literally everything under the sun. I only apply to group that I feel I qualify for, but I’ve seen opportunities for everything including:
- Pet owners
- Home decor
- Skin and hair products
- Food Lovers
- Smartphone users
- And more!
There is such a diversity in topics and literally, anyone can find something they qualify for given their experience.
How Much We’ve Made
So by now you’re probably wondering how much we’ve made doing focus groups so far. Each focus group opportunity has its own unique price but you can expect to earn anywhere from $100 – $400 for just an hour or two of your time.
We started seriously looking for focus groups back in October so in about 3.5 months, we’ve earned $1,500 from focus groups. Since we combine finances, I haven’t really separated earnings. Nor have I been spending a ton of time searching for opportunities.
I’ve only used one site to find focus groups so far and my husband has used one as well. I applied to about 8 focus groups last year and 4 so far this year. I’ve been trying to look more aggressively since I’m trying to cover some extra expenses in our household.
What’s the Best Focus Group I’ve Had So Far?
The best focus group I had so far was actually my first one I applied for a focus group back in October that paid $500. This type of compensation is definitely not something you can expect every day when searching for focus groups, but I was thankful for the opportunity.
The group was for 4.5 hours (the longest focus group I’ve ever attended), but it included free meals, snacks, and a parking fee reimbursement since I had to drive to downtown Chicago and pay to park. It was a technology brainstorming session and again like I said, you really couldn’t screw it up with your answers so it was super easy, fun, and paid well for my time.
How to Find Opportunities
Let’s talk about how to get these focus group opportunities. I’ve done a lot of research and testing over the past few months but I did this in order to confidently recommend some of the best sites to find quality focus groups.
All you need to do is sign up for one of these sites, fill out your profile details, and start looking for opportunities. The great thing about focus groups is that some are in-person and require you to be local, but others are also online as well so you can live anywhere in the U.S. and qualify.
Respondent is my favorite focus group site thus far and it’s where I’ve found all my focus group opportunities at. I don’t hear too much about this site but it’s definitely a hidden gem. With Respondent, you can browse through offers you may qualify for and fill out a short survey to see if you qualify. Offers are updated very regularly but here’s a snapshot of what I’m seeing today.
Completing a survey is basically like applying to a focus group. Once you complete a survey, you can go to your ‘Surveys’ tab to see how well you qualified for the focus group. Here are some recent surveys I took where qualification percentage was pretty high. Having a high percentage doesn’t guarantee you’ll get picked, but it is good news.
What I like: What I like about Respondent is the variety of opportunities on the site (but local and online focus groups). I also like the fact that Respondent is a 3-rd party site and their staff members are not picking focus group participants directly. Respondent seems to be the middle man and brands set up surveys and vet all the applicants.
I like this better because it means I have a better chance of getting picked since it’s likely the brand’s first time interacting with me. I want people choosing me based on my experience and survey answers and not by how many focus groups I’ve attended in the past few weeks.
I also like how well the compensation is for your time. The pay rates are much higher than you’d earn taking surveys. Plus, the qualification surveys (to see if I’m a good fit) have never taken longer than 5 minutes.
What I Don’t Like: I don’t like how Respondent charges a 5% fulfillment fee for the earnings. Since they are the 3rd party company, they probably make their money off the focus groups you get selected and paid for. This fee is not huge, but it could add up depending on how big your payment is.
FocusGroup.com is the site my husband has found a lot of success using. This site is great for focus groups and clinical trials. FocusGroup.com pays $75 – $150 per focus group. Though, my husband earned $250 for one particular group because it paid $150 but offered a $100 bonus if he typed up a response to a specific question and brought it with him to the focus group.
This site actually kicks you out of the survey if they find that your answers don’t qualify you for the focus group. This can be seen as a good thing which saves you time when taking the surveys. Another cool thing about this site is that you can earn points by taking surveys. The average reward is between 100 and 1000 Points, which translates to $1 to $10. Payment is made in the form of a prepaid Visa™ debit card.
What I Like: I like how this site pays participants with a Visa card so they don’t have to be charged a fee. Plus, the card is ready for you as soon as you finish the focus group while Respondent takes a few days to pay. I also like how the surveys are quick and to the point. You don’t waste too much time if you don’t qualify.
What I Don’t Like: I don’t think this site has any online focus groups so your only way to make money online would be to take the surveys and earn points.
Pros and Cons Of Doing Focus Groups
- They pay well for your time
- There are opportunities available for everyone regardless of your experience/current stage in life
- It’s easy and doesn’t even feel like work
- Online options are available as long as you have a computer, webcam, and mic
- Compensation can be inconsistent (since you don’t know which groups you’ll get picked for)
- You may have to do some traveling for local groups (this could include driving to your nearest metropolitan area where a focus group is being held)
- You may have to wait a few days after the focus group for compensation (depending on which site you use)
Focus groups are a great side hustle for us because it’s flexible and pays pretty well. I’ve also learned a ton about focus groups over the past few months so I wanted to close this out with a few tips to help you increase your earnings if you decide to try this side hustle.
Be honest when submitting your survey questions
This should be a no brainer but don’t get tempted to fabricate any details about yourself or your situation in the hopes of getting chosen for the group. It will likely come back to bite you.
Most focus group sites track your answers and common trends in your responses. They are also known to ask you similar test questions to make sure you’re being truthful and not just saying what you think brands want to hear.
In one focus group my husband attended, a man was asked to leave because it was revealed that he lied about owning a product he said he didn’t have. As with everything, honesty is the best policy.
Focus group opportunities can be there one day and gone the next so it’s important to act quickly when you come across something you are interested in. It only takes a few minutes to apply, and the sooner you apply, the better. The online/virtual focus groups are more competitive to get chosen for since more people are probably applying for them.
Some sites will send you notifications for groups that you might like so that is helpful. Just be sure to check your email at least daily.
If you get selected, you will also need to act quickly. With Respondent, I’d receive either a text and email or a phone call. If I missed the call, I’d try to get back to them within 1-2 hours.If you don’t answer your messages or return the phone calls, the team will just move on to someone else. Being responsive made it easier for companies to work with me and helped ensure I booked the focus groups I wanted.
Consider Using More Than One Site
If you want to increase your chances of getting chosen for focus groups, I’d recommend using more than one site. This will diversify your options. I plan to add more sites to the list I started above over time as I check them out and determine their strengths and weaknesses.
The major downside with focus groups is that it’s likely not going to be a consistent source of income for you. It’s easy and low effort which makes it a great side hustle for people who are already busy and have a ton of their plate.
Given this, you can’t really control when opportunities will be available and when you’ll get chosen. However, if you don’t apply, you’ll never know.
If we passed on focus groups, we wouldn’t have made $1,500 extra during the last 3 months of 2018.
The key is to:
- Sign up on quality, trusted sites (limit to using 2-4 different sites at once)
- Fill out your profile in full
- Check regularly for opportunities and apply with honest responses
- Be timely and respond quickly to any follow-up questions
- Arrive on-time for your focus group
- Enjoy the opportunity and repeat the process, increasing the volume of quality focus groups you apply for
Would you ever give focus groups a try to make extra money? Why or why not? What’s your favorite site hustle?
STOP Living Paycheck to Paycheck
You can't break free from the status quo when you're living like everyone else. Get one of the free spreadsheet tools I used to pay off $35,000 of debt quickly, build an emergency fund, and break the paycheck to paycheck cycle.