When I was attending university I found a lot of bloggers and YouTubers we telling their audience that completing online surveys was printing gold. Although you can make money from online surveys, in the long run you have a limited earning potential so I wouldn’t quit your day job.
Taking online surveys for money is a teasing offer. You can earn either cash, gift cards, or rewards points and all you have to do is have an opinion. You can earn that money from the comfort of your own home, or knock out a few surveys during slow moments at the office, racking up money when you’d usually just be trolling Facebook. Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity?
Survey sites advertise that you can get paid between $5-$35 per survey. My experience and research shows those figures equal to around $2-$3 per hour depending on the provider. The reason the hourly rate of pay is so low for completing surveys is because these ‘brokers’ are utterly ubiquitous. There are thousands of websites that offer money for completing a questionnaire, these are normally funded by large marketing and research firms looking for broad customer perspectives over a multitude of topics. You could literally be asked anything under the sun.
However, with any money making opportunity there are upsides. I’ll run you through how it all works, what you should and shouldn’t be doing, and how to find the right opportunity to make some money.
The definition of a side hustle
The Urban Dictionary defines a side hustle as: “Sideline that brings in cash; something other than your main job”. I define a side hustle as: “A business that you run in your spare time, this business must be scalable, able to be done from home, and have the end goal of replacing your main income”.
Completing surveys for a little extra cash is not a side hustle, it is a hobby. Let's go through the ‘Side Hustle Checklist’...
- Is it scalable? No, because you are trading your time for money this is not a scalable business.
- Will you leave your job to do it one day? I hope not, the earning potential is not great enough.
- Can it be done from home? Yes, this small exception to the rule does not mean it passes the test, as I mentioned, it is a hobby, not a business.
If you want some side hustle ideas that fit all of the criteria you can check out Why you should start a side hustle!
Why do companies pay for you to complete surveys?
You might think that getting paid to take a survey seems ridiculous. But it’s not, they want your opinion, which is very valuable. Most companies rely on consumer feedback to build new ideas. Companies that don’t have a department to run consumer surveys and panels hire survey companies to do it for them.
Consumer feedback helps companies generate more customers by tweaking products and advertisements before they release them publicly. That’s why companies will pay you for your time when you take a survey. The information you give them is crucial to their success.
How does it all work?
Taking online surveys is very simple once you get through all the admin and sign up pages. Here are the main steps involved, from signup to payday:
- Find a legitimate company to sign up to: I’ve included some links below to the companies I think are reputable brokers, but you can easily find hundreds online.
- Create a profile: You will most likely need a separate profile for every company you do surveys for, and you’ll need to fill out each profile as completely as possible so no conditions are missed. Each survey will have a target audience so the broker won’t send you the survey unless you fit the demographic.
- Get your survey: Once a company releases a survey that fits your demographic you will be notified usually by email. Other cases I’ve seen have mailed products out to people to review, but this isn’t a typical practice.
- Answer the questions: Answer the questions as honestly as possible, take your time because some companies will reject surveys they feel are untrue or not filled out properly. Sometimes you will have a quick multiple choice question, other times you may need to describe a feeling or experience.
- Get your reward: The reward process can be dragged out a bit as I mentioned before as companies want to check the authenticity of the survey. Also the rewards themselves can vary dramatically. Some companies will give you points towards a purchase, others will give you cold hard cash into a PayPal account, and the really annoying ones enter your name into a sweepstake for a prize.
How much money can you actually make?
As I’ve mentioned you are never going to be rich from doing surveys online, but you can have some fun while earning some extra cash. Surveys I’ve recently seen can vary from $1 up to $35 per authentic fill out, however the high end surveys require you to fit very specific demographics. So everyday people are probably looking at no more than $5 per survey.
How much you earn can depend on which broker you sign up with, how many surveys you do, and which demographic you fit in. If you are in a generic demographic you can do more surveys, meaning your earning potential is higher.
The key to making this worth your time is to complete surveys during time you would spend doing something meaningless, such as checking Facebook or watching YouTube. 10 minutes of your time could be used to complete a survey to earn yourself $5.
If I have said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, this is not a scalable business. You are trading your spare time for money. Once you run out of time, you run out of earnings. The average survey payout based on Student Loan Hero is around $1-$3 per hour.
Just think, based on these figures, if you wanted an extra $100 per month, that's at least 50 hours of work. You might as well get a second job.
Finding legit survey companies and avoiding scams
The number one lesson to learn is the difference between survey brokers that are 100% legit and those that are complete scams. I’ve been scammed before and all you get is a lot of junk email, dodgy phone calls, and no money for your time.
I don’t do online surveys for money anymore, but the companies I have linked on this article are completely legit and reputable. My goal on this website has always been to inform people about products, services, or companies that will actually help you. You can see more of my reviews on our Recommended Tools page.
Completing a survey and getting paid is NOT a fast process
If you want cash immediately this is not the way to go. Most companies that pay you in cash for completing surveys have payout times of well over a month. This is because, as I’ve mentioned, they need to check you have given authentic answers to their questions.
If you need fast cash you can try some of these: 6 ways to invest $100
Not all side hustles are going to be fast, but waiting 30 days for a $5 check is a joke if you ask me. I would rather spend 30 days building knowledge in a subject, advertising my services and being paid for a job.
Companies to check out
These companies are the survey brokers I have researched and tried, they are legitimate companies that actually pay in either reward points, gifts, or cash.
- Swagbucks: This company offers a $5 signing bonus. It also allows you to earn cash or gift cards to high street companies. It is free to sign up and this broker has the most variety of surveys to fill out.
- 20/20 Research: This company does more specific surveys, so you might have to pass pre screening before they allow you to sign up. That being said, if you are lucky enough to be approved, the commissions are the highest on this list. You can earn gift cards worth over $100.
- Valued Opinions: Although this company only pays between $1-$5 per completed survey, this can easily add up as they have a lapsed demographic screening process.
- PineCone Research: This broker offers $3 per survey taken, that is a flat rate so you know you will be paid a good value. However they aren’t always accepting new members so you would need to keep checking for an open spot.
Is completing online surveys for money a good idea?
I’m sorry for those who are looking to get started with online surveys but I do not think this is a good way to earn money. There are so many other opportunities out there to make extra cash.
If you are currently doing surveys and making decent money I congratulate you and how it keeps going well. But I also encourage you to look for other methods of money making. Let’s face it, if you are willing to spend an hour completing a survey for $3, why don’t you spend an hour building a real business that will someday payout $3000.
All of that being said.
I’ve seen online surveys advertised as “mindless money,” meaning it doesn’t take much brain power to earn from them, and that’s true. Surveys are good when you really just need a mindless activity that might also earn you money. So, the next time you find yourself playing Candy Crush on your phone while watching a movie with boo, take a survey instead.