Are you one of those people with an opinion on everything? Then you might be able to make money from your views on anything from politics to dog food. You could make hundreds of pounds a year.
Dozens of survey websites and focus groups have been springing up in recent years, willing to pay for independent opinions.
They rely on this research to fine-tune products. For example, to see what packaging grabs customer attention or what tastes they most enjoy.
Something to shout about: Dozens of survey websites and focus groups have been springing up in recent years, willing to pay for independent opinions
Share views in person to make the most money
Focus groups tend to be the most lucrative – you can earn as much as £200 for your opinion. In these, you join a group of people to share your views on what you think of a product or service.
Once, focus groups entailed sitting around on beanbags or a table in an office. But these days much of the opinion sharing is done via online meetings where you only see others on a computer screen.
Market research agencies such as Saros, Angelfish Opinions, Research Opinions and Market Research 4 U typically pay £50 an hour. If you get an assignment that requires you to trial a product over the course of a week or so, you can often earn around £200.
You have to answer a number of questions about the product, which might be anything from a new range of yogurt to a new credit card. The agencies will also ask questions when you initially sign up to make sure you fit the customer profile.
Although the money can be generous, people only tend to be chosen for focus groups once every six months – or more often if they are signed up to several agencies.
Emma Coombes, head of client services at Angelfish, says: ‘When choosing an agency, consider a member of the Market Research Society which has a strict code of conduct for members that includes ensuring sensitive data is shared responsibly.’
Case study one: I got to compare lip balms
Abbey Thornhill has just earned £200 for testing lip balms for a cosmetics company. The 25-year-old civil servant, from Brixton in South London, says: ‘I sign up for focus groups on subjects that interest me – any money is a bonus.
‘As someone who has used dozens of different lip balms over the years, it was a great opportunity to share my views to ensure what is being sold is hopefully what people want – and not just what companies want to sell.’
Abbey was sent a selection of products to try out over a fortnight through Saros and via an online focus group was asked to compare them to others on the high street. She says: ‘I kept a diary and spent a few minutes every day noting down my findings.’
She also recently enjoyed a focus group where she shared insights on how she shares music with her friends.
Case study two: My baby and I earned £200
Georg Alleway recently earned £200 testing baby food with his 18- month-old daughter, Sylvie, through research agency Saros. ‘The cheese and pickle went down surprisingly well,’ says the 38-year-old police sergeant from Woking in Surrey. ‘It is fulfilling knowing that we might have an impact on what is stocked in shops in the future.’
George has also earned £150 sharing his thoughts on car designs with market researcher Research Opinions. Providing his views earns him at least £400 a year.
It is rewarding being first to try new things
Julia Russell admits she is opinionated – and is delighted to earn hundreds of pounds a year from the habit.
The 55-year-old, who is a voluntary rescue worker for the RSPCA, says: ‘You will never get rich quick, but it is rewarding testing something new to the market.’
Rewarding: Retired nurse Julia, from Wallington in South London, is signed up to Angelfish and has tested a range of products
Retired nurse Julia, from Wallington in South London, is signed up to Angelfish and has tested a range of products from washing powder and shampoo to cat food for her pets.
She says it is more than a box-ticking exercise.
‘When I was looking at a shampoo, I was asked to comment on everything from the lather and scent to the size and look of the bottle.’
‘I made £24 on surveys but had to work for it’
A growing number of market research companies pay for people’s views through online surveys. Among the most popular are Ipsos iSay, Swagbucks, Branded Surveys, Toluna Influencers, Inbox Pounds and LifePoints Panel.
Signing up is straightforward. You provide a few personal details and then are contacted with surveys that take anything from five to 30 minutes to complete.
You will rarely make more than a £1 or so for a survey. But you can complete them from the comfort of your sofa on a laptop or smart phone when it suits you.
I myself have got an opinion or two – so I signed up to a number of online survey companies to see how much I could earn in an after noon. Toluna is one of the most generous. It claims to offer ‘the equivalent of a £20 Amazon voucher in record time’. I fill out an eight-minute survey about snacks and sweets.
The highlight is when a picture of a Mr Kipling apple pie appears on the computer screen and I am asked what emotion it makes me feel. I pick ‘desire’ from a list of a dozen; others included ‘shock’ and ‘sadness’.
Don’t forget about tax
If you earn more than £1,000 in a tax year from surveys and focus groups, you may have to complete a self-assessment tax return and pay tax on your income.
However, everyone is allowed to earn up to £1,000 every year from side-hustles such as this without declaring it to the taxman.
However, once done I discover I must complete another two dozen surveys to get the voucher. I calculate that as two 40p apple pies per questionnaire.
Branded Surveys blitzed me with more than a dozen surveys in a few days. I earn points for each that I complete, and am told that once I have 500 I can cash them out for reward vouchers. However, each survey earns only a few points so completing 19 works out at just over a £1 an hour in vouchers for retailers such as Argos and John Lewis.
Ipsos iSay also makes me work hard for my money – demanding I fill in six separate surveys simply to get my profile. After five minutes answering questions on what booze I drink, my coffee machine of choice and cars used, I have already had enough.
I will need to earn 980 points to get a £10 voucher – and at 45 points for an initial grilling it does not seem worthwhile.
A word of warning: when searching for legitimate online survey companies, I came across several purporting to be authentic but that looked anything but.
Alarm bells should ring if an online survey or focus group wants you to pay any kind of joining fee or registration charge. Walk away as otherwise you could be falling for a con. Using your personal email address can also lead to a deluge of unwanted survey requests and junk mail – so it is best to set up a new one for the surveys.
Be careful when handing over any personal details online and make sure you know exactly how your information will be used.
Sweet: Toby was asked what emotion an apple pie produced
Be a mystery shopper… or try out restaurants
You can also make a bit of extra cash as a secret shopper. You go undercover to test goods and services on the high street. Market research companies such as Market Force Information, GBW and GfK typically pay £5 for you to test the quality of a store experience during a trip to the shops.
The companies want you to snoop on everything from how sales assistants are dressed to if there are any empty spaces on shop shelves. You will have to keep a mental record of what you see and write it down later so you don’t give yourself away by taking notes. Sometimes you will be asked to secretly record your findings and take photos.
If you are asked to check on food outlets, such as Greggs or JD Wetherspoon, the researcher will usually throw in the price of a meal or sandwich as well.
Mystery shoppers don’t generally earn big sums, but it can be a good way to fund meals out and make a bit of extra cash going to shopping centres that you are planning to visit anyway. It can take a couple of weeks for the money to hit your bank account, so can’t be relied on for income. Some companies will pay travel expenses, especially if you are asked to visit somewhere a bit out of the way.
Make sure you only sign up for reputable companies.