When I was in college, my friends and I spent an extraordinary amount of time eating pizza and watching TV. We used to joke that if we could find a way to get paid for it we’d be set for life.
Well, I wouldn’t exactly say I’m set for life, but I have gotten paid for participating in focus groups. That’s right, I’ve gotten paid to eat pizza.
How I Got Started
Ever since my wife quit her job to stay home and raise our kids, we’ve constantly hunted for ways to make extra money and pad our bottom line. Our household income was cut almost in half when she stopped working, so we’ve had to do some serious hustling to help close the gap.
I worked a second job at Babies R Us for a while and started blogging, while my wife did some babysitting and direct selling through Party Lite.
One day my wife’s girlfriend stopped by and mentioned she had just come from a marketing research study where she got paid to taste coffee and share her opinion about the product.
My ears immediately perked up. Coffee and money are two of my favorite things!
She gave us the number of her contact at the research company and we gave them a call. After a short conversation where we gave her some information about ourselves and our household, we were added into their database. She promised we’d be contacted as soon as a relevant study came up.
A month or two went by and I honestly forgot all about it until the phone rang one night during dinner. I picked it up and was about to give the caller a piece of my mind, until I realized who it was. It was the recruiter we had spoken to and she said I fit the profile for an upcoming survey.
She asked a few questions to make sure I met all of the criteria, and booked me as part of a group that would get to taste French fries the following week. Jackpot!
My appointment was in the evening after work and I got there early. I checked in at the front desk, filled out a short questionnaire and took a seat in the waiting room with a handful of other testers.
When they called us into the room I noticed a giant mirror running the length of the wall. Obviously it was a two-way one that let the executives keep an eye on us while we shoved fries down our throats.
I took a seat and listened to the facilitator explain what was going to happen. We were each given a glass of water, some saltine crackers (to cleanse the palette in between tastings) and a number 2 pencil. Each time a batch of fries was served they’d give us a questionnaire to complete. It was one of those fill in the circle forms, like the SAT. We had to rank the fries in terms of taste, color, texture, saltiness and potatoiness (I totally just coined that word).
I was there for about an hour and a half and tasted six batches of fries. When I handed in my last questionnaire they handed me an envelope with three twenty dollar bills in it. Not bad for a night’s work.
How Much Can You Earn
In my first focus group I was paid $60 for about an hour and a half of my time, which equates to an hourly rate of $40. Not bad for eating French fries!
I’ve gotten paid similar amounts to taste ice cream, pizza, and a few other foods. I have turned down a few when the payment wasn’t worth the trouble, but for the most part the hourly rate came out to be around $35 to $45.
The lowest payment I accepted was $30, but that was a simple one that I could do at home. I picked up some mouthwash and tried it for a few days (it was nasty) and then dropped off my questionnaire when I was done.
The most I ever got paid was $200 for a two hour job. There was only eight of us in that group and we had to watch commercials for Verizon Wireless and share our thoughts. I guess they didn’t like our feedback because I never saw any of the commercials we watched on TV.
Benefits and Drawbacks
As with anything, participating in focus groups has its benefits and drawbacks.
- Easy money! Seriously, all you have to do to get paid is taste food or try a new product and then tell them what you think about it.
- You get to have a say in what new products will hit the market, and which ones end up in the scrap heap.
- It’s a chance to meet new people. Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet the love of your life.
- You probably don’t know where to begin or how to get started. Don’t worry we’ll cover that in a minute.
- The payout is not always worth the effort.
- You have to be willing to speak up and share your opinions. That can be difficult if you’re shy.
- Scheduling can be tough if you have a day job. I missed out on a lot of focus groups because the timing didn’t work for me.
How to Get Started
If you’re lucky like us, you might already know someone who participates in focus groups. Ask around because that could be an instant in.
If not, you’ll have to do a little bit of legwork to find one in your area. You can start by Googling “focus groups” + “your town” and see what pops up.
I did some searching myself and came across a site called Greenbook, which is a worldwide directory of market research companies. The site seems more designed for companies that are looking for facilities to test their products, but it is just as useful for people looking to become paid participants.
You can search by location, and when you choose a state you’ll get a full listing of market research facilities in that state. New Jersey alone has 17 different listings, and there are links to each company’s website where you can sign up to become a participant.
Check it out and see if there is one in your area. And if you have participated in a focus group before, drop a comment below and let us all know how it went!
Mike Collins is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in personal finance topics. He’s also a husband and father of three children who keep him very, very busy. You can read more about his quest to achieve financial freedom for his family at WealthyTurtle.com.
*Have a hustle yourself you’d like to share with us? Let me know!
[Photo cred: EvelynGiggles]