What are Paid Surveys?

In brief, paid surveys essentially mean you get paid for submitting your opinions on a wide range of potential topics, typically, but not always, submitted online.

Companies and organisations over the world serve customers by supplying them with products and services. The most successful organisations are broadly the ones that understand the needs and wants of their customers the best, and align their products and services accordingly. However, obtaining this 'insight', especially when an organisation may serve millions of individuals, can be extremely difficult and time consuming.

With the power of the Internet to reach so many people so quickly and cost-effectively, a whole online industry has emerged of companies/websites that are designed to capture the opinions and thoughts of you and me and feed those back to knowledge thirsty organisations. And these websites pay you for your opinions and time.

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Who Does The Information Go Back To?

All sorts of public and private organisations require consumer information for a number of reasons. High street companies and their suppliers, media organisations and even governments all have a vested interest in what the average man/woman on the street thinks and feels about key topics - and all buy market research and consumer insights.

EXAMPLE - If you consider a high street clothes shop:

  • What information could you imagine would be helpful for that business to know about you and your friends?
  • What clothes do you like to wear when you go out?
  • What clothes do you wear to work?
  • How often do you buy a new pair of jeans or a new pair of boots?
  • What high street shops do you have a loyalty card for?
  • How much money do you spend on clothes in an average month?

What Do They Do With It?

High street shopsAll these questions and more would give a clothes shop a real insight into your behaviour and habits on a topic that drives their business. So they can take the information you give in paid surveys online, add it to the information of hundreds or thousands of others like you, and make extremely targeted decisions about things like how they run their business, what products they sell, how they set out their shops and what prices they charge.

Houses of ParliamentTake a political party as another example. A political party has a vested interest in how our country fundamentally runs and they either create or influence policy which affects us all. Political parties are voted into office by you and me and as such their very existence hinges on them making policy choices aligned to our preferences on topics as broad as local policing, tax rates on a pint of beer, child benefits and protection of the environment. But taking to the streets with a clipboard (while that does still happen!) is very time consuming and expensive therefore paid online surveys are a more effective route to the information they need.

UK newspapersNow take a media organisation such as a newspaper or television broadcaster. Have you ever seen published statistics on consumer opinions to back up a story or an exclusive? Pooling opinion online is once again a quick and cost-effective route to sourcing this information, especially when news moves in such a quick and dynamic way.

How Do Survey Sites Work?

Survey sites work by gathering a significant number of contributors with across a broad range of demographics and with a broad range of opinion and feelings. Go back to the clothes shop example above. Assume that it caters for 14-25 year old women – a survey site would only be interested in amassing and then supplying information from that profile of person. On the other hand, say the newspaper was running a story about the effects of a cut in old age pension – a survey site would only be interested in the thoughts of people who actually claimed old age pensions.

How SurveyCompare works

So survey sites work to incentivise a large volume of people to complete wide-ranging surveys in exchange for money or other financially related incentives. In advance of them sending actual surveys to complete, most survey providers will ask you to answer some basic profiling questions (age, gender etc) so they can send you relevant surveys and ensure the responses are coming from the target customers of the organisations they serve. The best part for you is that you get paid for, well, being you!

There are sites that have a slight twist on what has been described above. For example, Nielsen Netratings have a more passive approach to obtaining information about you. Specifically they ask you to download some basic software onto your computer that allows them to track which websites you visit and your surfing behaviour. So you essentially can get paid for doing what you would ordinarily have done! That information is then used by Nielsen to help their website clients serve people better.

Who Can Do Online Surveys?

The easy answer is everyone! As long as you are over 16 and resident in the UK (for most sites), some accept survey takers from age of 14.

The Benefits To You Of Doing Paid Surveys

There any a number of benefits to completing online surveys as outlined below:
  • Earn money just by registering: some survey websites offer incentives just to join –Surveyhead for example offers £3.50 just for registering.
  • Completely time flexible: you can take surveys literally any time of the day or night so you can fit them around your existing commitments, be they work commitments or family commitments.

  • Benefits of paid surveys
  • Get paid for your personal opinions: With paid surveys there are no qualifications needed, there’s no studying to do, only answering questions based on your own personal views and understanding.
  • Variety: given the range of organisations who use consumer insights, you’ll doubtlessly complete surveys on topics you never thought you’d ever be asked about – from your views on colours of cars to your understanding of how energy efficient your house.
  • Time efficient: no travelling to work or getting stuck in traffic, you can literally work from bed if you’d like to.
  • Anybody can do them: as noted above organisations want the input from a wide range of people, albeit most require you to be over the age of 16 and resident in the UK.
  • They are ideal for all sorts of people of differing circumstances: so whether you’re a stay-at-home mother or you’re looking to supplement your mainstream income, or whether you’re a student or pensioner – online surveys can play a role in almost everyone’s finances.

Survey Sites: The DOs And DON'Ts

DO sign up to lots of sites: the research requirements of the companies on the books of a website researcher will vary and as such you could be inundated with survey requests one week and have very few the next. Therefore maximise your chances of having a strong pipeline of surveys by registering with multiple sites. More sites also = more variety. DON'T EVER PAY to anyone: be aware of scams - avoid websites asking you to pay any money, no legit survey company will ever ask you to pay anything.
DO check the privacy policy of the website provider: while giving certain amounts of personal information is a requirement, it’s worth checking just how a website might use your data. Look for statements about not passing on your information to third parties. DON'T expect to earn your millions: surveys can pay well but accruing monies into the hundreds of pounds can take some time, especially given potential ‘dry’ periods at certain times – another reason to register with multiple sites.
DO keep a log of all the sites you’re registered with and what you have earned with each one: this means you can keep on top of things just in case a provider makes an error and also means that you don’t end up leaving sums of money in accounts that you forget about. This can lead to balances being wiped which ultimately would waste your valuable time. DON'T forget that your income is taxable: earnings from surveys or any other paid online work count as self-employed earnings which are therefore taxable if your total earnings through all employment is greater than the taxable threshold. If in doubt, visit the HMRC website.
DO make a complaint if you’re not happy: and if the provider doesn’t give you appropriate feedback, don’t be afraid to pose your questions to them again on Facebook or Twitter in front of the world. You’ll be amazed at how sensitive some providers are to potentially having their reputations tarnished in the spotlights. Caution: only use this avenue if you have a justified complaint and you’ve had no success when approaching them privately. DON'T be hooked by a prize draw: several websites promote the fact you could win up to £20,000 just by completing a survey – and the more you complete, the more chances you have to win. Of course winning £20,000 would be fantastic but don’t factor in any chance of winning a prize – small or large – no matter how good the odds are portrayed, into your earnings calculations. Completing online surveys is all about earning money, so keep the focus on that.
DO a search engine search on the provider before you invest a lot of time and effort registering and completing surveys: a little research into who you’ll be working for may just prove to be invaluable. DON'T lie: as it’s likely you’ll be found out: While it can be tempting to complete a survey that requires answers from a smoking 50+ year old living in the south east when you’re an 18 year old student from Scotland, website surveyors adopt sophisticated cross-referencing tools which serve to check you’re being consistent and thus telling the truth. At best, you won’t be sent more surveys, at worst you’ll lose all your earnings accrued through that provider and have your account shut down. It isn’t worth the risk.
DO set up a dedicated email address: as it will mean you can more easily track your survey activity and your normal email won’t get inundated. DON'T expect to qualify for each survey: every survey is designed for different demographics - some need opinions from parents, some from students and some from pensioners. Don't get upset if you get screened out from the survey, next one might work well for you!
DO regularly check your emails: some surveys have short time spans and as such will only be open for short periods of time – you don’t want to lose your opportunity to earn the money you want to. Surveys also have quotas which means that if other people of a similar profile to you complete it first you may not get to at all. DON'T leave cash in your accounts if you can take it out: cash is better off in your secure bank account where you know you can definitely access it at will. You never know when a supplier may close down their site or you could easily forget about it for a few weeks and come back to find the supplier has closed your account due to inactivity and your money will be lost.

Beware: What Surveys Providers May Not Tell You About?

You can be screened out mid-survey: what this means is that you can be half way through completing a survey when the provider shuts the survey down (and you won’t get paid). The reason this happens is that mid-survey, the provider may hit their required quotas from other survey recipients which means they now don’t need your answers.

Your answers may not fit the required profile: and therefore the provider is no longer interested in your answers. There’s very little that you can do about this – the only thing you can do is monitor how often it happens and if it happens much more frequently with some providers then focus on others.

They are spammers: or, put another way, they are not genuine providers and are trying to make money out of you. If a potential provider asks you to do something that you feel is odd or is out of scope from what you were expecting that do more investigation on their validity. Also, don’t pay to register with any providers – it’s usually the other way round. Finally, if an offer sounds just too good to be true then it probably is, so avoid them no matter how tempting it may seem at the time.

There can be daily survey caps: there are genuine reasons why some providers have survey caps – to avoid fraud for example – but this will ultimately cap your earning power through that provider so be realistic as to how much you can earn.

You may fail ‘quality control’: similar to being screened out in that a provider may stop a survey while you’re still completing it. Failing quality control usually means that one or more answers you’ve given is inconsistent with another answer or answers. The lesson here is to be honest.

There are sometimes earnings thresholds that you’re required to meet in order to extract your cash: you can’t just extract the cash you earn in one day and head off to spend it. Most websites have a threshold which you’re required to surpass before you can withdraw your money. This cap could be upwards of £25 so depending on how many surveys you’re completing, it could take some time before you can get access to your money.

If you don’t log on for a long period of time, your account could be wiped of its credit: the moral here is extract your money as soon as you can and keep a log as to what you have and where. If there’s regular activity on your account then this won’t be a problem – aim for completing at least one survey with all registered providers every one to two months to limit any possibilities of having money absorbed.

Some sites pay through PayPal: and as such you will be liable for a commission when you access your money – usually capped at £5. However, this could wipe off as much as 20% of your earnings so if alternatives are possible, look for the cheapest option for you to access your hard earned money.

Some sites don’t pay cash: they pay vouchers. However, those sites that do pay vouchers tend to offer them for a wide variety of high-street chains and supermarkets so it’s unlikely you won’t find a voucher for a place you already shop at.

Surveys could dry up when you’re approaching the payment threshold: if this happens, try referring a friend – sites pay nominal fees for referring new people and that small amount may be enough to tip you over the edge so you can cash out. The surveys may just start rolling in again too…

How Much Can You Earn?

Firstly, be aware that some websites (Shopperthoughts for example) work on a points basis rather than an out-and-out cash basis. However, how much can you earn from surveys? It really does depend on how much time will be spent on completing each survey but prices start from in the region of £1 per survey and upwards.

Certain websites (MSE for example) have accounts of users earning upwards of £200 per year with some quoting sums of £800. Earning power really is a factor of the time and effort you put in to completing the surveys.

How To Maximise Your Survey Income?

There are a few pointers that will assist you in maximising your income with online surveys – while recognising that it will still take some time before gains will be realised:

  • Fill out all initial profiling questions / surveys quickly, once you’ve registered. This will mean the survey provider will be able to start sending targeted surveys straight away
  • Provide accurate contact information – this is essential so that you receive the surveys in the first place, as well as receiving payments
  • Be truthful – the survey company will likely find out eventually and you jeopardise your earning potential, and earnings to date if you’ve been untruthful
  • Respond quickly – it will reduce your chances of being screened out mid-survey or missing the boat completely
  • Sign up for product tests – you’ll likely get paid AND get to keep the products you’re sent to test. Plus, testing is likely only to entail using a small amount of product which means you’ll have a lot left over – an extra bonus to getting paid in the first place!
  • Make use of the refer a friend payments and registration payments that are on offer – money for very little work and again, can be useful to boosting your account if you’re very close to the payment threshold

LEARN - click here to find 15 tips to maximize your survey earnings.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are more in-depth versions of online surveys. They are typically ‘gatherings’ of people who are assembled to take part in a guided and observed discussion about a particular topic, product or service.

Organisations like to use focus groups to get more detailed information on needs, wants and preferences and look for more spontaneous answers from participants.

Focus groups can take place in person – physically at a prescribed address or alternatively they can be conducted over the internet, in a chat forum or on the telephone.

In terms of what’s required, it’s very much the same as online surveys in that it’s being vocal about your opinions but as it’s a little more time intensive and may involve a higher degree of commitment – especially if you’re required to travel – focus groups tend to pay better than online surveys.

The only down-side with respect to money making potential is that many agencies restrict participation to a small number of focus groups each year. However, it’s not uncommon to earn over £100 for participation in one group so as a supplement to online surveys, it’s an excellent opportunity for some.

Six providers of focus groups are as follows:

  • Focus4People
  • FocusForce
  • Headbox
  • Indiefield
  • Researchopinions
  • Saros

Now you've learnt all there is to know about paid surveys why not get started by registering with the UK's leading market research companies?