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A couple years ago, I was invited to participate in a focus group. I visited in-person along with about 15 other people. For two hours, we vented all of our feelings about the ways a particular health insurance company interacts with its customer base.
At the end, we each walked out with $125. The health insurance company wanted consumer feedback on their products and customer service, and it compensated us for providing our insights.
Focus groups can be a lucrative side hustle when you break down per-hour pay. You get to be a part of a company’s market research efforts, magnifying your opinion above those of other potential consumers.
These days, you don’t have to participate in paid focus groups in person. During the pandemic and beyond, you can use online focus group platforms to earn anywhere from $20 to as much as $600 per hour.
Online Focus Groups: a Viable Side Hustle
Focus groups can pay extremely well for the amount of time you actually “work.” They can provide surges of side hustle income all at once.
However, they’re not likely to sustain you in lieu of traditional income. Earnings can be extremely inconsistent. First of all, you won’t qualify for every survey, as each focus group has a specific demographic it’s targeting.
Often, though not always, the highest-paying surveys also have the most exclusive demographic requirements. The company may be looking to work with construction foremen who work with specific brands of equipment, for example, or with mobile app developers who use a specific type of programming.
In addition, some consumer research companies will only allow you to participate in one focus group every six months.
Just because work is sporadic doesn’t make this a bad side hustle. When the money does come in, you’re getting paid so much per hour that it’s worth setting aside 30 to 90 minutes of your time.
What You Do in a Paid Focus Group
Most focus groups require between 30 minutes and 90 minutes of work. When you’re doing a focus group remotely, you may be asked to fill out a multiple choice survey. Most of the time, though, you’ll complete a phone or Zoom interview with a live person.
Topics for focus groups are unlimited: You could find yourself answering questions about your favorite margarita recipe, how you’re coping with pandemic parenting or a survey related to your profession.
Some focus groups may require you to dedicate some time outside the interview itself. For example, you might have to give a specific product a test run or keep a journal of your experiences. This extra time is often accounted for in the compensation.
Where to Find Online Focus Group Jobs
All of the following focus group companies currently have online opportunities. In the past, many national opportunities could be completed remotely. But during the pandemic, even most of the city-specific assignments are virtual, too.
These market research companies pay well for your time and consistently update listings for more opportunities. We surveyed current listings for hourly pay and estimated average hourly pay given the jobs currently available.
An overwhelming percentage of the focus group opportunities listed on Respondent are remote. The majority of the listings are not city-specific, allowing you to qualify regardless of where you live.
Current job listings range between $20 and $400 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $120 per hour.
WatchLAB doesn’t have as many opportunities listed, but it does regularly update its inventory on its Facebook page.
Jobs are often city specific, though there is a wide variety of cities with opportunities available. Even city-specific assignments have been primarily remote through the pandemic.
Pay for WatchLAB focus groups ranges from $60 to $150 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $100 per hour.
Focusscope is another smaller consumer research company. It updates its users regularly about new opportunities on its Facebook page, and most studies are now completed remotely.
Focusscope pays $75 to $250 per focus group, with an average payout of $100.
FindFocusGroups.com isn’t a consumer research company in and of itself. Instead, it’s a job listing board. It aggregates current opportunities available across the country, and allows consumer research companies to submit listings.
You can search these focus group listings by state. For example, the pay range for current listings in Pennsylvania is $65 to $160 per hour. The average focus group pays around $100 per hour.
If you’re looking for online or over-the-phone focus group opportunities, User Interviews’ listings are plentiful. However, compared to the other companies on this list, more of these focus group opportunities are in-person. Use filters while you search to ensure you’re only being shown the remote opportunities.
A portion of the listings on User Interviews are medical studies rather than focus groups.
Participating in medical trials can be another lucrative way to hustle together some extra cash.
Listings on User Interviews pay between $25 and $600 per hour — though very few studies get close to the $600 mark. The average focus group pays $60 per hour.
Looking for some advice when it comes to managing your money?
We have stories from a woman who raised her credit score nearly 200 points, a mom of nine who overcame a job layoff and a college grad who was able to pay off $100,000 worth of debt — then start her own business.
They share their tips and secrets for financial success. You can even start using some of their strategies right now.
Secret No. 1: You’re Not Stuck With Your Credit Card Debt
Wanna know something? Even if you have loads of credit card debt right now, that doesn’t mean you’ll have it forever. Heck, that doesn’t even mean you’ll have it tomorrow.
What? We’re serious. One of our favorite first steps in escaping credit card debt is to refinance it with a personal loan.
It might sound counterintuitive — like you’re just moving your debt from your credit cards to a loan — but the truth is, this could lower your monthly payment, save you tons of money in interest over time, and allow you to pay off your debt faster..
If you’re not sure where to start looking, use a website called Fiona. It’ll match you with a low-interest loan (rates start at 3.84%). You can then use that loan to wipe out your credit card debt. Then you’re left with just one bill to pay every month.
Fiona won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars.
We chatted with one San Francisco resident who struggled to keep up with her credit card debt. She faced a minimum monthly payment of $274 plus $154 in monthly interest plus a $99 annual credit card fee. She said it felt like she was on a treadmill.
She decided to refinance with a personal loan, which spared her from what would’ve been $14,000 in interest over time.
Secret No. 2: Never Leave Free Money on the Table
You’ve probably heard the best way to grow your money is to stick it in a savings account and leave it there for, well, ever. That’s not always the smartest move, though.
If you’re looking for a place to safely stash your money — but still earn some money on it — a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back and up to 11 times the average interest on the money in your account. (The average savings interest is .06% these days. That’s nothing.)
That’s what Denisa Petricko did. The financial planner had her money saved at a “Big Bank,” but when she looked closer at the breakdown, she wasn’t happy with what she found.
“After looking at the breakdowns of how my money was being handled by a larger bank, I realized that I had large sums just sitting in an account accumulating interest — but not for me,” she said. “It was for the banks themselves.”
That’s when she switched to Aspiration.
Enter your email address here, and link your bank account to see how much extra cash you can get with your free Aspiration account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”
Secret No. 3: You Can Leave Your Kids $1 Million
If you have kids, you’ve probably worried about what’ll happen to them if something were to happen to you…
For single mom Rebekah Pearsall, this was difficult to consider. “Since my son doesn’t have a biological father in his life, I wanted to make sure he was secure if something were to ever happen to me,” she said.
That’s when she started looking into life insurance.
You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But you can get a free quote from a company called Policygenius in under two minutes. It will help you find the right coverage for you.
Some policies start at less than $20 per month.* The peace of mind of knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.
Policygenius offers life insurance policies that don’t require a medical exam, so you don’t even have to get up from the couch. Click here to get a free quote from Policygenius.
*For a $500K policy, subject to eligibility.
Secret No. 4: You Don’t Have to Have an MBA to Start a Business
If you dream of starting a business, don’t let the fact that you don’t have a business degree from an Ivy League school hold you back. (Yeah, imposter syndrome is the worst.) We’ve talked to plenty of women who’ve successfully started businesses on their own.
Here’s a story that really resonates with our frugal hearts: The Budget Mom.
After graduating college, Kumiko Love had $100,000 worth of debt — student loans, credit cards and medical bills. All that good stuff. Still, she had trouble sticking to a budget. So she gave up.
Then she started studying the psychology behind money and that gave her a renewed hope: She started viewing her situation through a positive lens. She combined several budgeting tactics and started logging her process through her blog, The Budget Mom.
And guess what? Love is now debt free and she recently quit her full-time job to focus on her seven-figure business, The Budget Mom.
Secret No. 5: Be an Advocate For Yourself (and Your Credit Score)
It’s easy to pass your credit score off as some silly three-digit number — that’s what most of us did throughout our early twenties anyways. But what happens when you want to buy a car? Or a house? That seemingly arbitrary number starts to play a huge role in your life.
And here’s the unfortunate fact: You can do everything right, but if your credit report has an error (one in five reports do), it could be holding you back — for no good reason. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on things.
Thankfully, a free website called Credit Sesame will give you your credit score for free and help you detect any errors on your report. If you find any, it will even help you dispute them.
Salome Buitureria, a working mom in Louisiana, found a major error on her report — a supposed unpaid medical bill that had definitely been covered by Medicaid. Using Credit Sesame, Buitureria fixed the mistake and took additional steps to raise her credit score from 524 to nearly 700.**
Now? She’s focused on buying a home.
It only takes about 90 seconds to sign up with Credit Sesame.
**Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.
Secret No. 6: Invest Like a Tycoon (Even if You’re Not Rich)
Here’s one of our favorite stories: Meet Robyn Bri. When we chatted with her, she was 19 and had more than $85,000 saved.
How? She had a number of side gigs growing up and has been incredibly frugal. But she’s also been extremely savvy with her money and started investing ASAP.
Not sure where to start? A lot of people use the app Stash. It lets you be a part of something that’s normally exclusive to the richest of the rich — buying pieces of other companies for as little as $1.*
That’s right — you can invest in pieces of well-known companies, such as Amazon, Google or Apple, for as little as $1. The best part? If a company profits, you potentially can as well. Some companies may even send you a check every quarter for your share of any profits, called dividends.**
It takes two minutes to sign up, plus Stash will give you a $5 sign-up bonus once you deposit $5 into your account. Subscription plans start at $1 a month.