One of the easiest ways to make money online is to take surveys. There’s little more to it than signing up, filling out a profile, and giving your opinion on ads, products, services and more.
The big question is just how much money can you make and how much work is involved. While you probably can’t make a full-time living taking online surveys, they can leverage your spare time to earn a bit of cash. Or, you might use surveys to get other perks, like free products.
Why Companies Pay for Surveys
You might think that getting paid to take a survey seems ridiculous. Why would anyone pay you for your opinion?
In truth, most companies rely on consumer feedback. 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 make more money 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 It Works
Taking online surveys is simple, though getting started can take a bit of time. Here are the steps involved:
- Find a company to sign up with. I’ve included a list below of companies to check out, but there are hundreds of legitimate companies out there.
- Create and fill out a profile. You’ll need a separate profile for every company you do surveys for, and you’ll want to fill out each profile as completely as possible. Each survey is targeted to a particular demographic, so the company won’t send you a survey unless they can tell from your profile that you fit the demographic they want.
- Get surveys. Most survey companies will notify you of available surveys by email. Some are immediately available for you to take. For others, you may have to spend a couple of minutes answering presurvey questions to ensure that you fit the demographic. If you do, you can go on to take the survey (and get the reward). Other times, you may get products in the mail that you’re meant to review.
- Take surveys. Just answer questions. Sometimes it’s as simple as answering a few multiple choice questions. Other times, you may need to type out long-form answers to more specific questions.
- Earn rewards. The rewards process varies dramatically from one company to the next. Some companies give you points, which you can redeem for cash or other rewards. Others transfer money immediately to your PayPal account, and still others enter your name into a sweepstakes drawing.
These steps vary from one survey company to the next, so be sure you understand how the process works when you sign up.
How Much You Can Make
Like I said, you’re not going to make a fortune taking surveys online, but you can make some extra money for fun, for paying off debt, or for investing. Monetary survey rewards vary from less than $1 to more than $20, though they’re usually on the lower end of that range, $1 to $5. If you can take several a day, you can earn quite a bit of money in a month.
Other companies don’t give you cash. But they may help you save money by offering you free products, often full-size products, that you need to test for the survey. Obviously, this can be a great way to get free household products, personal care products, diapers, and other things you use regularly.
Still other companies will enter you into a sweepstakes drawing when you take a survey. The more surveys you take, the more chances you have to win. These can be a little frustrating, since you don’t necessarily get a reward right away. But they can pay off with some great prizes, including gift cards, products and cash.
How much you can make depends on which companies you sign up with, how many surveys you take, and which demographic you fit. If you’re in an often-surveyed demographic, you may get more opportunities to make money, thus upping your survey earning potential.
Some companies, like Swagbucks, also offer prizes, points or cash for referring others to the service, so this is another aspect of survey-taking to check out.
The key is that you can use surveys to make money when you would otherwise not be doing anything. You’re certainly not required to take any surveys that land in your inbox, but you can do so if you find 10 or 15 minutes where you would otherwise be checking Facebook or Tweeting.
Spotting the Bad Apples
While there are lots of legitimate survey companies out there, this is also a good market for a scam. Some companies will sell your profile information, which can be quite personal, for profit.
Also, never, ever pay a survey company up front. This is a scam designed to get to your money without giving you anything in return.
Remember, companies need the information they get from surveys, and they’re willing to pay to get it. So legitimate survey companies will share the wealth by paying you, not by asking to be paid.
Top Companies to Check Out
There are hundreds of survey companies that could be worth checking out. However, because different companies research different demographics, you may get different results out of different companies, so it’s worth your while to look around.
In fact, people who get the most from taking online surveys say it’s best to sign up for at least five to 10 companies, if you want to take surveys daily.
That said, here are some of the top companies:
SwagBucks: This is a good company because you can accumulate points, which you can cash in for prizes like gift cards and electronics. So even if you don’t qualify for a survey, you can get points that add up quickly.
LightSpeed Research: Because this company offers generous amounts of points for surveys, you can leverage your time here to get some great stuff. You can cash in your points for cash, gift certificates, music downloads, and lots of other stuff.
20/20 Research: This company does more specific surveys, so you may not pass many prescreens with them. However, if you do land a survey, you could get really great compensation, such as $100+ of gift cards and other rewards.
PineCone Research: This company pays $3 per survey taken, so they’re a good use of your time. They aren’t always accepting new panel members, but you should check back frequently to see when they are accepting sign-ups.
Valued Opinions: This company pays $1-$5 per completed survey, so these can quickly add up. You can also use surveys to earn rewards from various retailers.
Have you ever earned money from taking online surveys? Are there any online survey companies you recommend?
Published or updated May 17, 2013.