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Paid Focus Groups: Easy, Infrequent Money

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Last week, I participated in a paid focus group and was paid $75 for two hours. Unlike the last focus group in Baltimore, this one was only a five minute drive away.

If you think paid focus groups are easy money, you’re right. There aren’t many things that pay $35 an hour! The only thing you have to know is that it’s infrequent, very infrequent, so you can’t expect to make a fortune off paid focus groups. I signed up to participate with this company in September 2007, seventeen months ago!, after learning about focus groups in an MBA class.

Overall Experience

The experience overall was pleasant. When I arrived, I checked in and waiting in a waiting room. After a few minutes, we all filed into a conference room where we were told that discussion would be recorded. The video would be used by the company to summarize our discussion and our individual statements wouldn’t be attributable to any one person. We spent the next two hours discussing transportation issues in Central Maryland, rating our impressions of various marketing statements, then paid our $75 on the way out.

Insights about Paid Focus Groups

In the waiting room, the group discussed our paid focus group experiences and the general consensus was that paid focus groups were great in terms of money, but very infrequent. In fact, many organizations have rules about participation frequency. If you’ve participated in a focus group within the last six months, they usually won’t call you to participate in one until that six month period elapses.

Some other thoughts:

  • If you’re lucky enough to be called in for a paid focus group but there aren’t enough people (too many last minute cancellations) then you’ll still be paid for appearing.
  • If there are too many respondants, they start excusing people, and you’ll be paid for appearing!
  • If you say you’ll participate and don’t show up (without calling in advance to cancel), then they will usually blacklist you and never call again.
  • As you leave, tell them that you’d like to participate in future focus groups. They usually know this by default but it never hurts to let them know.
  • To maximize how often you can get called, sign up with a variety of focus groups in many geographic regions. Some of the people in my group were signed up for companies in every adjoining county. Since the calls are so infrequent, it’s not a big deal.
  • Never pay to join a focus group. There are focus group scams out there, just like there are mystery shopper scams, so remember that you should never have to pay a penny to register.

If you want to do this, do a search in Google for focus groups in your area and sign up. Then, when they call in a year or two, you’ll be pleasantly surprised! $75 for two hours? I’ll take that any day!

If you’re in central Maryland, the two reputable companies I know, and are registered with, are Columbia Focus LLC (where I was last week) and House Market Research.

(photo: anotherjesse)

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6 Responses to “Paid Focus Groups: Easy, Infrequent Money”

  1. Omar says:

    I participated in a focus group a few months ago. A director wanted feedback on his film.

  2. Jason Unger says:

    My wife has done these for awhile, and enjoyed them.

    We’re also in Maryland (Silver Spring), so she just signed up for both of these — thanks Jim!

  3. Daniel says:

    I did one a few years ago – it was $75 cash, for two hours. Nine guys showed up for it, they only needed eight. A random selection of the one person to be excused (and still paid) resulted in MY name being called! As I walked out of the waiting room, I barely noticed the 16 eyes shooting me jealous daggers – all I was focused on, was the $75 cash for hanging out for ten minutes in a waiting room.

    Unfortunately, although I have received a few random calls from them over the years, I am yet to return for another survey. Either the timing or the subject of the survey, have just not worked out for me. I was all set to participate in one yesterday actually, but when I called up to tell them I was interested – they told me my brother had already signed up and there was a “one family member per survey” rule. I’m punching my brother in the head the next time I see him.

  4. Andrew says:

    Here in the Bay Area, lots of IT jobs pay $35/hour or more.

  5. johanna says:

    I was wondering if you have to report the focus group pay as income on taxes.


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