Why Focus Groups Can Be a Great Way to Make Extra Cash

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Why Focus Groups Can Be a Great Way to Make Extra Cash

You may have heard that taking online surveys can be a legitimate way to make a few dollars. Although that’s true, the payout you get from many of these surveys is pretty minuscule. However, in some cases, these surveys can lead to something larger and more lucrative: focus groups.

Unlike surveys that might only pay you a few cents, participating in focus groups and other market research studies can sometimes earn you $100 or more. Additionally, in some cases, the opinions and feedback you offer during these sessions can directly impact the products you’re discussing. Sound good? Let’s take a look at focus groups, how you can make money from them, and a few resources you can use to find studies.

What are Focus Groups and How Do You Make Money From Them?

What is a focus group?

Focus groups are used by brands and marketers to gain insight from consumers like you. To do this, they’ll gather several people from various backgrounds and moderate a discussion about the topic at hand. Considering that “group” is in the name, you can expect most studies to include at least a few other people. However, some firms will also employ one-on-one interviews between respondents and moderators/researchers. Additionally, studies might start with a larger group of respondents but only invite a few select individuals back for a smaller session.

What do focus groups cover?

There are all kinds of focus groups that can cover a long list of topics. These could include:

  • Existing products
  • New products
  • Restaurants
  • Politics
  • Entertainment
  • Advertisements (all of the above)
  • Etc.

In most cases, you’ll probably have at least some idea about what the general subject of a study is before you agree to participate (even if you don’t know exactly who the client is). That way, you can decide whether or not a particular focus group sounds right for you.

How do you qualify for focus groups?

To a certain degree, this is a bit of a secret and often times it can be difficult to know exactly what a marketing group, brand, or researcher is looking for in a participant. Nevertheless the way you’ll qualify for focus groups is to first take a survey that will ask you some questions both related to and unrelated to the study itself. From there, you may be referred to someone from the study who will ask you further questions. If all goes well, hopefully you’ll be invited to participate and receive more details.

Keep in mind that being rejected for a focus group doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. Moreover, even if you technically may have qualified, the study may have already been filled — or at least they no longer need someone of your demographic profile. So, instead of worrying about why you weren’t invited to a particular study, it’s best to just move onto the next.

How you do make money with focus groups?

Since most people aren’t able or willing to simply offer their time and insights for free, researchers are willing to compensate focus group participants. Typically this compensation is agreed upon ahead of time and can obviously vary from study to study. That said, many companies will pay participants upwards of $75 per hour (again, this is just an estimate).

Are focus groups available online?

Traditionally, focus groups have been an in-person event. However, thanks to increasing technologies, now many studies can be conducted remotely as well. This may involve a conference call, group chat room, or some other medium. Despite these capabilities, there are still plenty of in-person studies to be found as well.

My experience with focus groups
I’m actually no stranger to focus groups or making money from them. Back when I lived in Arizona, I was registered with one of the companies we’ll discuss in a bit and participated in a handful of in-person sessions. One study I remember well was about renters insurance and how to best sell people my age on the concept. Another played us various radio ads for the restaurant Z’Tejas and asked for our feedback. In each of these sessions, I walked out with more than $125 in cash for less than two hours of my time. Outside of this particular company, my friends and I also once made a few bucks at the MGM Grand volunteering to screen a television pilot and offer our thoughts (is this not what everyone does on Vegas trips?).
Each of these focus group experiences was positive in my mind. Beyond the money to time ratio — which was pretty awesome — I also found the topics we discussed to be interesting. As a result, I also felt like I had something to offer and was helpful to our hosts. Therefore, while I’m sure some studies are less enjoyable than others, I’d recommend the practice of participating in focus groups personally.

Resources for Finding Paid Focus Group Opportunities

Fieldwork 

Fieldwork — specifically Fieldwork Phoenix — is the company I mentioned earlier when I said I had previously participated in focus groups. Of course Phoenix isn’t their only market, as the firm has locations across the U.S. This includes:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Seattle
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Fort Lee, New Jersey
  • Los Angeles (Orange County, actually)
  • Minneapolis
  • New York City
  • Phoenix
  • San Francisco

If you live in any of those areas, you can join their respective databases by first visiting Fieldwork’s main site. In the event you live outside of those metropolises, they have a National Database for phone or online interviews as well.

Funny enough, I actually got a call from the research company just a few days ago, despite having left Phoenix a decade ago. This just goes to show you that, once you’re in some of these databases, you may be there for a while (however you can also request to be removed).

Respondent

Having only previously done Fieldwork studies myself, I hadn’t heard of Respondent until recently. However, looking around their site, it seems they host both in-person and remote focus groups. Their site also notes that their average payout to respondents is $140.

Poking around their site I did discover that they charge a 5% “fulfillment fee” that will be deducted from your earnings. This means that an advertised $150 study would net you $142.50. Obviously that’s still not a bad rate, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

Also interesting is that Respondent offers referral bonuses for bringing friends and family to the site. Once someone you referred completes a paid study, you’ll earn a $50 bonus (it’s unclear to me if the 5% fee applies to these payments or not).

FocusGroup.com (Focus Pointe Global)

Talk about on-the-nose naming. Actually, FocusGroup.com is a stellar domain name owned by Focus Point Global. That company hosts studies in several major cities across to the United States as well as online. Looking around their site, I saw studies paying between $60 and $150 dollars covering several topics ranging from music and shopping to health and (my personal favorite) cheese — yes, cheese.

To join FocusGroup.com’s database, you can sign up here.

Peters Marketing Research

After reflecting on my focus group days in Phoenix, I asked a local friend of mine if she’s ever done a study. As it turns out, she had done one run by a St. Louis-based company called Peters Marketing Research. Browsing their site, they do have a database that calls for both local and nationwide consumers.

In all likelihood, this one is probably only best for those in the St. Louis and greater Missouri/Illinois area — but let this been a reminder to look into research companies that might be local to your area.

FocusGroups.org

Not to be confused with FocusGroup.com, FocusGroups.org isn’t a research company but actually a focus group aggregator. In other words, the site offers an easy way to view multiple studies happening in your area. From the looks of it, they list in-person for a number of cities as well as online opportunities.

One aspect I like about this site beyond the fact that it highlights several studies is that it also lists the company hosting the focus group. This is key as it will allow you to register directly with that company if you wish to become a part of their database.


Although it’s been years since I participated in a focus group myself, it’s clear that they are still a great way to make some extra money. That said, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to turn focus groups into a full-time gig since you will need to qualify for each study (and there are only so many research companies). Still, if you’re willing to answer some questions, share some info, and give your true opinions on products, politics, and more, making cash from focus groups may be for you.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and has recently starting publsihing his own personal finance blog at https://moneyat30.com/

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