Getting paid to tell people what you think is the ultimate way to earn holiday money.

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The first time I participated in a focus group, I was a broke college student. It’s been a while, so I don’t remember the details other than it was a focus group run at a hospital. I remember being paid a nice chunk of change at the time and thinking that it was the easiest way I’d ever made extra money.

With age has come wisdom. I’m not as excited about focus groups that rely on me taking medicines or sharing any medical details, but I still love participating in focus groups from time to time. They can be a lot of fun, and they typically pay well.

Focus groups are opportunities for companies to get feedback on different topics related to an issue that they are trying to solve.

Issues working in a focus group

  • Perceptions about a particular type of product — a company may decide to sell a new product but before they do, they will bring groups of people in to experience the product (eat it, hear about the concept, or interact with new packaging) that feedback will help the company with its final decision making related to the product.
  • Litigation related issues — I’ve participated in focus groups, where lawyers from both sides of an issue being litigated participate in the same focus group to see how likely it is that they will win or lose the case. And, many times legal focus groups are convened with the idea of figuring out how much a jury may potentially award in a lawsuit.

I’ve participated in all three types of focus groups and they’ve all been a lot of fun depending on the people who are in the group with you.

It’s surprisingly easy to find focus group opportunities, and I use a pretty straightforward process to do so. First, I look for local marketing research companies that have Facebook Groups related to their research.

You may also find that you receive focus group notifications in your Facebook feed. Just be careful about the type of demographic information that you share. Always double-check that the company is legitimate before sharing any information.

Craigslist is also a great place to find focus group opportunities. In fact, Craigslist is one of my favorite places to find side-hustles in general. You do have to pay attention to the listing and make sure that it’s a real listing. If you’re not sure about it, skip it. Period.

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What about the pay?

There is a range anywhere from $50-$300 depending on what the research team would like participants to do.

I usually only say “yes” to opportunities that pay $125 or more. When deciding what focus groups are right for you, consider the following:

  • Amount of time vs. actual pay — If you are looking at a focus group that pays $75 for 3 hours of your time that may or may not be worth your time. But, if your normal side-hustle pays $13 an hour, then this is a good exchange of time for money. I normally do 2-hour focus groups at a minimum of $125 which equals $62.50 an hour.
  • How you’re paid — Recently, I’ve noticed that companies have also begun paying participants in Amazon credit and Visa gift cards. I hate that. Why? Because I prefer cash!  You can typically use Visa gift cards toward paying bills. But you may need to check the bill that you would like to pay on and see if they will take a Visa debit gift card. For me, I feel like issuing these types of payments kind of dictates what I will do with the money. And, I’m always wondering if they are looking at how I’m spending the money. Paranoid, I know! But, cash is king.
  • When you’re paid — I only opt for focus groups that pay at the end of the experience. There is no point in having to follow up on a payment for a quick side-hustle. I like to walk out the door with cash in hand.

Most focus group participants have to go through an initial qualification process and then a secondary qualification process. It will be a little annoying because they ask A LOT of questions. Keep it in perspective though; you’re going to get paid a nice chunk of cash to share your honest opinions about whatever topic they are researching.

The initial questions that most focus group researchers will ask:

  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Ethnicity
  • Where you live (neighborhood or district)

If you’re comfortable sharing those details, then you’re prepared to go through the approval process to participate in a focus group.

Each group is usually looking for a fairly specific mix of people to be a part of the conversation. Some things to be aware of when looking for focus group side-hustles:

  • Companies now keep databases and prefer that participants don’t participate in groups all of the time. They may want you to wait 6-12 months before participating in the next group.
  • Read everything you just might not qualify for the group based on where you live and your demographic information.
  • Live in a suburb of a bigger city? Look for opportunities based on your location.

Focus groups are one of the easiest low-stress ways to add some extra money to your wallet from time to time. It has been a while since I’ve participated in a focus group, time to begin looking to earn money for the holidays!

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About the Author

Michelle Jackson

Michelle Jackson

Michelle Jackson is a personal finance writer who has learned everything about money the hard way. She has paid off thousands of dollars in debt and is excited to help educate others on how to grow their money, stay debt-free, and live their best financial life. When she's not geeking out about money, you can find Michelle hiking in her home state of Colorado.

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