By Nora Grace – Online Investigator

“How can I make some extra cash for the holidays without having to pick up another part-time job?”, I thought to myself while staring out the window at the snow trickling down.  While our twins napped in the other room, I had an hour before needing to get ready for work and decided to do a quick search online to find some ways to make money from home.  Scrolling through my phone, I saw many ads pop up for “get rich quick” schemes that promised things like steady cash flow and flexible hours.  Some sites offered positions of being virtual assistants or telemarketing, but they required training and availability during peak hours.  I needed something more flexible that allowed me to work during my own time.

There were tons of ideas for everything from renting out your home to online tutoring, but the further I clicked on them, the more dead-end they became.  With many other websites, I knew they were too good to be true with promises of a “six-figure salary in six months” and “you can make thousands in your first 28 days!” The further on I looked, I realized most were just trying to sell their services into some pyramid scheme or hook me until I needed to purchase training courses or online seminars.  I just wanted to find a way to make some extra money without much of a hassle. Yet, my main question remained: was there even a way to start making money from wherever on my own schedule nowadays?

This weight settled onto my shoulders while I was heading off to my afternoon shift. One of my co-workers had suggested joining her for a marketing opportunity with another new health and wellness company I never heard of before.  While I was supportive of her MLM business, I was not ready to commit to investing thousands of dollars into an inventory to maybe break even in half a year. Plus, the training required would take me away from home and I would have to work out sitter arrangements.  Some people can make that work, but I was skeptical and was just looking for something a little simpler.

Later that evening–after what seemed like an endless, hopeless interviewing of bad websites and scams–I came across a local research study online.  I had never done a research study or a focus group before and I was a bit hesitant to try but thought, “Why not?”  The study was looking for women who had recently given birth in a hospital.  Being a new mom myself, I felt confident this survey was something for which I would qualify.  Within minutes of clicking the submit button on the online form, I received a call back from Fieldwork.  They wanted to chat with me for a few minutes on the phone to see if I would be able to meet their qualifying criteria. Their site seemed legitimate and checked out when I investigated it more. (Another reason I felt good about submitting my information.) Sure enough, I was a match, and they were able to set up a time for me to come into the office.  (Some of their studies are online only, some require in-person, and some asked to try a product.)

This study required an in-person, 1.5 hours visit to answer a few questions and give some insight on my personal experience.  We picked an evening time slot that was convenient with my schedule and I was given email instructions on what to bring and where to go.  The office was less than 15 minutes away from my home.  I couldn’t even believe how close it was.  Once I checked in, I was told I qualified to win another $25 for being early.  They would pick a winner from 5 people who arrived 15 minutes early to win as a bonus to their payout.  This particular focus study was for 1.5 hours and paid $200 on a VISA prepaid credit card.  The focus group even provided refreshments and snacks.  I stepped into the conference room with 12 other participants and we discussed our opinions on our recent experience of the hospitals in which we delivered our babies.  Afterwards, I signed out and received my VISA card along with the bonus I had won just for showing up early. I left feeling great and was so excited to have another $225 toward Christmas gifts for my family that year and it was all just for giving my opinion!

My name was in the study database, so I was receiving regular emails about additional surveys as well.  Sometimes I would fill them out and never hear anything. So, I kept looking for other similar types of surveys to have a rotation.  For every 5 surveys I applied for, I would get a call back on 1 and 50% of those times, I qualified further to come in for an in-person visit. Depending on the survey, I could come in 2 times per month and get paid. Typically, I was doing a survey about once every 2-3 months. Surveys and focus groups usually ranged from 1-2 hours and paid between $125-300.   This extra bonus money totaled to over $1600 in 1 year and allowed me to purchase some equipment for a photography business I was trying to start up on the side, along with various holiday gifts for my family, of course.  I was hooked! I started forwarding the emails to friends and family members for things I might not have qualified for, but I knew someone else who may and my mother-in-law was able to do one of the focus groups herself.  She was equally thrilled at how legitimate the study was and how much she got paid from market research.

Fieldwork was my go-to survey site, but I started noticing other surveys coming into my email inbox and began giving them more notice.  One for a popular printing/photo company that I loved was offering a $250 gift card for a 20-minute survey filled out online.  Remembering my initial thoughts about the focus group, I decided again, “Why not?” Before I knew it, I had entered myself into a drawing where I won the credit, and this came in handy for the holidays when it was time to print our annual holiday cards!  These were all just quick online surveys that I started doing whenever I had a little bit of down time.  The more I did, the better chance I had at earning additional cash.

A week or so later, I found and downloaded an app onto my phone that would allow me to do quick surveys when I would be sitting in a waiting room for a doctor appointment or even during TV commercial breaks.  The surveys on the app would pay anywhere from $0.25 to a $1.50 per survey and once you reached $20.00 in the account, you could cash out to a PayPal account or choose a store gift card of your choice. I was able to get an extra $20.00 per week through that app which gave me some extra spending money as well.

Every now and then, the app offered surveys that paid more money for turning on your location and taking pictures of a product.  Places like the grocery store or even some department stores were hotspots for these types of surveys. These paid anywhere from $5-$10.  One offered $20 for going into an xfinity store and taking pictures and describing the store.  My husband had noticed the extra cash I was making and downloaded a similar app as well that was paying him for taking quick 2-minute surveys.  Between the both of us, we were able to have a little flex account for take-out dinners on busy nights and then for gas money and baby items.  This was becoming a regular additional income for our family.

Flexibility from the apps, online surveys, and market research allowed us to make money even when we were simply watching TV.  It was exactly what I was looking for:  something simpler.

Fast forward a few years and looking back on all the extra revenue earned from doing surveys, focus groups and online studies, I was able to make a few thousand dollars which greatly contributed to investing in my small business where I am now able to make a significant contribution for our family. High schoolers and college students have a really great opportunity nowadays to make money from surveys full-time as well. I noticed many surveys catered specifically to their age demographic and thought, “If only more people knew about these opportunities!”

Whichever situation you might be in whether it’s needing some help with bills because the pandemic has hindered your traditional job or just looking for a little extra cash to help with the holidays, surveys and focus groups are absolutely worth looking into and are a great additional source of income for anyone.