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Legitimate Paid Surveys for Extra Money
by Peggy Deland

Many homesteaders wind up doing a little bit of everything to make ends meet. Selling hand-crafted goods, running a fruit stand, working as a freelancer, and even paid surveys can add to your family's income. Paid surveys won't provide a full-time income -- or even a part-time one -- but it's certainly possible to make a few hundred dollars a month being a "guinea pig" for market research firms.

Watch Out for Scams
As with most opportunities to make money from home, there are more scams than legitimate websites where you can do paid surveys. Most paid survey scams take one of two forms. Either the company wants to sell you a list of places to take paid surveys, or they offer a "survey" that involves signing up for trial offers in exchange for a little money or a free product. To actually receive the product, you must convince several other people to sign up for trial offers as well. Although a few people manage to make a little money this way, it's a huge hassle and rarely worth the payoff.

How Paid Surveys Work

It may sound a little far-fetched that companies really want to pay you for your opinions. After all, we all have opinions and most of us are happy to share what we think. But paid survey companies aren't usually interested in hearing what you think about politics, religion, or gas prices. g what you think about politics, religion, or gas prices.

Paid surveys are conducted by companies that specialize in market research. Suppose, for a moment, that Joe's Restaurant is working on a new television commercial. They've made mockups for a few different possible commercials, but before paying actors, a filming crew, video editors, and buying screen time for a major network, they want to make sure that the commercial works. They also want to know which version of the commercial is most likely to bring in customers.

Joe's Restaurant signs a contract with a marketing research agency called Quality Research Services. The restaurant's advertising team works with QRS to develop a profile of the target demographic. As it turns out, the people who like Joe's Restaurant usually have a household income of between $25,000 and $50,000 annually, love barbecued ribs, and have at least one child between the ages of 4 and 10.

QRS creates two surveys -- a screening survey, to make sure that the person taking the survey fits the right demographic and doesn't have any conflicts of interest, and the real survey. Then an email announcement is sent out to members of QRS's "research panel" -- the paid survey-takers. The email offers $5.00 to anyone who qualifies for and completes the survey.

EEllen gets a copy of this announcement, and decides to do the survey. She passes the screening questionnaire, answers questions about how she feels about Joe's Restaurant, and then watches the mockups of commercials. She answers questions about how she feels about each commercial, and whether watching it makes her more likely to visit Joe's Restaurant in the next few weeks.

Based on the information from Ellen, along with that from a few hundred other survey-takers, QRS compiles a report. The results are clear. The first of three commercials is much more effective than the others, but many respondents question whether $12.99 is a fair price for the new rib platter. Joe's Restaurant decides to go ahead with production of the best of the three commercials, and reduces the price of the rib platter to $11.99.

Income Potential

Paid surveys may offer anywhere from $1.00 to $100. The most common amounts offered are between $2.00 and $5.00. The amount of money offered reflects the budget of the company that contracted with the market research firm, the length of the survey, and how difficult it is to attract the qualifying demographic. Most survey offers include an estimated length of time to complete the survey.

Survey sites sometimes offer perks in addition to, or instead of, cash payments. Product testing is a common perk. You may be given several full-sized products to try out, and receive a payment for completing surveys about the products you tried. Some companies offer a point system. In this case, you earn points for completing surveys, which you trade in for products, gift certificates, or cash.

Keep in mind that you won't qualify for most of the surveys you're invited to, and you won't be paid for completing the screening survey. Unfortunately, it's common to spend hours doing screeners and only qualify for a few paid surveys.

Making a Difference

In general, the hourly rate for doing screeners and paid surveys is very low. If you make $5.00 an hour, you're doing pretty well. But there are other reasons to get involved in market research. The main one is that your answers really do make a difference. You won't be cut from a survey panel, or not paid, because you express critical opinions. Be honest -- if you wouldn't consider visiting Joe's Restaurant because their food is over-processed and unhealthy, say so! If enough people express a similar opinion, they may make the switch to grass-fed beef. Because the company paid for your opinions, they're more likely to pay attention to what you have to say.

Legitimate Paid Survey Sites

Here are a few companies to get started with:

  • Greenfield Online
  • MineField Online  
  • eSearch  
  • TestSpin  
  • Clear Voice Surveys

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