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This article is part of our 2022 Challenge: 12 Months to Sample 12 Side Gigs series.
People are always asking you questions. (You’re a Mama. It’s part of the job description.) Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid to answer questions?
Like you, I have read about bloggers who say they have earned $100 per hour taking surveys. I follow a few people on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram who talk about their success earning money by taking surveys. I even have a coworker who takes surveys and has written about it.
But I like to test things myself, to dig under their claims and evaluate my own real-life example. Can anybody make $100 per hour taking surveys? Do all of the survey sites I see recommended really work? So, I had to experiment.
Experiment: How Much Can I Really Make Taking Surveys?
My first step was to reread other people’s claims. I made a list of survey taking sites they recommended and skipped over the ones they did not like.
Hint: Almost all of the articles I read contained referral-fee based links, meaning the authors got paid for sending their readers to take surveys. There’s nothing wrong with this, so long as everyone is aware of it.
The 10 survey companies I found most often mentioned in a positive way were Survey Savvy, Savvy Connect, Swagbucks, Survey Junkie, Rakuten, Vindale Research, Nielsen Panel, User Interviews, Respondent, and Google Opinion Rewards.
One interesting aside is that referral fees can add up to more than you earn actually taking surveys. While some survey businesses act eager to attract more survey takers through referral fees, the fine print says they don’t actually pay until the newcomer completes certain tasks, such as earning a specified amount.
Register for Survey Sites
The second step was to register with the various survey companies. I attempted to register with all 10 of the survey companies mention above.
The Nielsen registration took the longest by far, as my computer slowly installed their software. While Nielsen was installing, I registered for two other survey programs. And since the Nielsen program only offers $50 per year (actually “up to $50” so it might be less), I had to fight the urge to hit “cancel” and move on with life.
The other registrations were relatively painless. Some survey platforms let you register with your Facebook or Google account, if you like. If you prefer not to share those passwords across so many platforms, I suggest you pick one email address for your survey taking activities and a basic password that you can vary across the platforms, and write it all down as you register.
During registration, you will have choices to make. Some of the programs want to load an app on your phone. Others want to install an extension on your laptop’s browser. On the one hand, yes, all of our online motions are probably tracked 24/7 by businesses that control the internet services (that’s why if I mention “pizza” in an email to a friend, I suddenly get fed tons of pizza company ads). So, what’s the point in denying someone else permission to use my personal data? On the other hand, I read the small print and felt odd about some of the agreements. Plus, I dislike sales calls and so sometimes I will not agree to be part of a program because it just feels like I’m about to have my contact info sold to zillions of telemarketers. But don’t take my privacy thoughts as your own—you decide what makes you comfortable.
Several survey platforms require you confirm your email address or phone number, so have access to both during registration and check your inbox so you can confirm. In addition, one platform strongly requested (but did not require) my business email and a photo.
Step 3: Take Surveys, and Take Notes on the Experience!
Vindale Research Surveys
When I went to register with Vindale Research, I discovered they went out of business in 2021. Disappointing, but hey, look, we just save you time! You can safely skip Vindale Research.
Google Opinion Rewards Surveys
- Phone-based app does not appear to have a laptop version.
- Money looks like it will be paid out through my Google Play account (which I honestly don’t use often) or PayPal.
- Registration was faster than most. I can use an already established Google account, and since it’s all part of the same Google company, it makes sense to do that.
- One of the reasons registration was “faster than most” is the program didn’t explain much up-front.
- There were no surveys available for me to make money taking upon registration. I will have to “wait and see.”
- There’s an easy way to refer friends, but I don’t see any referral fees.
- This is not the same as “Google Surveys” which is an online tool for creating surveys.
- More information on Google Opinion Rewards is here, but it isn’t much. Download the app to get started.
The Nielsen Panel focuses on how people use their devices. Technically, you don’t take a survey while participating. Back when I was a kid, I remember helping a relative fill out a Nielsen television card, mostly listing what he had watched. Nowadays, they just need your permission (and for you to install their software) and they will take care of “surveying” your tech use.
- Ages 18+
- Up to $50 a year
- I decided to enlist my phone and laptop computer. It told me my phone was not eligible; my guess is it didn’t like when I chose “other” for my cellular service provider.
- The installation to my laptop took so long, I was able to register for Google Opinion Rewards, look up Vindale Research, and start another registration while waiting for this file to execute.
- Meanwhile, I pondered how many extensions one browser can have. I knew I already had extensions for Ibotta and Rakuten—is Nielsen compatible with those?
- It did eventually load. Then Nielsen sent a few emails, and I didn’t expect to hear from them again since it’s a behind-the-scenes evaluation of how I use my device. However, I do receive an occasional email; the most recent asked about 5 questions in exchange for 300 points. How much is 300 points worth? I do not see a way to figure that out. Nielsen’s payout is “up to $50 a year” so I assume they will send additional surveys and my participation somehow equates to a higher payout–but I have yet to find that in writing.
- To enroll with Nielsen Panel, go here. I do not see a referral program for Nielsen Panel.
I spent 3 hours taking surveys on Survey Junkie and earned a total of 625 points, which is redeemable for $6.25. There were many surveys, usually advertised at an expected ratio of 2-4 cents per minute, such as 70 points for 30-minute survey. So from 3 hours (180 minutes), making $6.25 fits with what they said I would get.
- I was honest when answering the survey qualifying questions. Many times I failed to qualify to take the full surveys because someone in my family works for an advertising company. Twice I failed to qualify (I think) because when asked about my alcohol preferences, I responded that I don’t drink. At least once, I don’t know why I was dismissed. Each time they told me I didn’t qualify to take a survey, I was given 3 points. Remember, 3 points is about what Survey Junkie pays per minute—and I assure you I spent more than a minute being “qualified for the survey” for most of those surveys.
- If I worked at Survey Junkie, I would have users take a prequalification survey once that answered all the major taboos, then only offer each user matching surveys.
- Ever wondered why it’s called “Survey Junkie”? I originally assumed it was saying it’s a good site for people who are addicted to taking surveys. Now that I receive their emails, I think they are describing my inbox. I receive several emails each day, announcing a new survey is available for me to take or they want to show me my weekly earnings, etc. I picked a day at random and counted 4 emails from Survey Junkie that day.
- Go here to enroll with Survey Junkie. I do not see a referral program for Survey Junkie.
- Swagbucks felt like Survey Junkie. The page layout is different, but the surveys felt similar in style, and I was not qualified to take many surveys. Here I was paid 1 SB (Swagbuck) when I was not eligible to take the survey. That’s about a penny. And, yes, it took more than a minute to be disqualified.
- While most surveys disqualified me, one asked me to do some basic questions that felt like prequalification, then invited my tween to watch a video and answer survey questions, with my parental permission.
- My tween watched the video and answered the survey questions honestly. When the responses earned 200 Swagbucks, the tween asked to see what that’s worth. (And I was so proud my tween asked!)
- The 200 Swagbucks could be redeemed roughly at a penny per point rate for a variety of gift cards. At that point, the tween told me, “Not worth my time,” and left the room. And, yes, each person makes their own decision.
- Swagbucks is not just a survey site. You can earn Swagbucks for purchasing specific products, too, and Swagbucks is fairly popular with couponers who like to stack their deals.
- Like Survey Junkie, Swagbucks sends a ton of emails. I picked a day at random and see 5 emails from that day, but only 3 the following day, so let’s call it about 4 emails per day. Many were promotions for specific stores.
- Swagbucks does have a referral program. To invite your friends, log into your account, click “More” on the top menu, then “Refer & Earn.” To join Swagbucks, click here and yes, it’s a referral link (just like most are in articles). If you use that link to register with Swagbucks (AND you do things to earn 300 Swagbucks within your first 30 days), I get 300 Swagbucks ($3) and 10% of your lifetime Swagbucks earnings. This doesn’t take from you. It’s separate. And if your BFF or grandma or boss has Swagbucks, I totally understand if you ask them for their referral code so they get credit instead of me.
- Rakuten is primarily known as a rebate app (like Ibotta), so this is a familiar name for couponers and therefore attracts plenty of trust and attention. However, surveys take place with Rakuten Insights. When I tried to use my Rakuten sign-in information, it did not work on Rakuten Insights, so I signed up for an account.
- Rakuten pays through PayPal and Amazon gift cards.
- At the time that I registered, the only “survey” available was the one likely served to all newcomers, walking through how to use the Rakuten Insights platform.
- To join Rahuten Insights, click here; at this time Rakuten Insights does not have a referral program.
- Yes! There are “surveys” that pay $100 per hour here!
- I applied for over a dozen surveys and hope to get chosen for a few. (I might never hear back, if I was not chosen. Still…waiting….)
- These “surveys” are actually one-on-one interviews and group discussions, mostly held online. Most require use of your webcam. Some specify they must take place on a computer webcam—not a tablet or phone.
- You can scroll through brief descriptions and apply for the ones you are willing to do by clicking a button and filling out a little more data about yourself.
- Most survey descriptions include the fact that you might get a pre-survey screening to make sure you fit the participant profile they need. Considering the compensation (averaging about 90 cents to a dollar per minute), I’m okay being prescreened. However, it is disappointing that some surveys provide very little description (so I expect that to be a lengthy phone prescreening) while others save everyone time by asking the questions as you are applying. Frankly, I would rather know sooner than later; and I would rather do prescreening online than whenever a strange phone number calls me.
- Yes, User Interviews does have a referral program, but (like their prescreening for survey taking) it’s not as simple as many other affiliate fee programs. Instead of one link coded to indicate who gets credit for bringing a new user, User Interviews creates unique links for each survey, so each link includes code to indicate to which survey the person was attracted and also by whom they were invited. For example:
- Earn $75 in a 30-minute, 1-on-1 online interview giving your first impressions of “Clio.” (If you click, get selected, and do the interview, and earn the $75, I should get a one-time $30 referral fee.)
- Earn $44 in a 1-hour, unmoderated online task of testing out a new product. (If you click, get selected, and do the task, and earn the $44, I should get a one-time $30 referral fee.)
- There are many different projects, and posting them in an article like this means the links will be outdated soon after publication. (Normal referral links can sit for a very long time.) By including a specific task/survey in the referral link, User Interviews is basically insisting they get shared via email and social media in order to be current.
- One last point on this referral link system…it decreasing the likelihood that the person making a referral will get paid. Since I only get paid IF you register, apply, are accepted, and participate in THAT specific survey, that lowers the chance of a payout. I imagine many people who are referred spend a little time looking at other surveys on the site, register, and become an “active member” but do not take that first survey to which the referral was bound.
- You can apply for up to 3 “surveys” per day. I applied for 3 in different topic areas (toothpaste, language learning, and vitamin use).
- Pay rates appear to be between 80 cents and 2 dollars per minute.
- The prescreening helps businesses find the right participants for their surveys, and the prescreening helps weed me away from wasting time “starting” a survey for which I am not qualified.
- Limiting to 3 (User Interviews has a similar format but did not limit the number of surveys to which I could apply) does make me a little more picky. Not sure about applying for THAT survey? On User Interview, I felt like, “Why not?” but on Respondent, I was more like, “Is it one of my top 3 picks? No? Move along.”
- Respondent does the best job of up-front asking for referrals. Your primary referral link is in the dashboard, but, wait, there’s a lot more.
- Respondent has 2 different referral programs, operating on 2 different link types.
- Primary referral link
- Earn $20
- When a new person you convince to sign up for Respondent does enough survey work to earn $75.
- Project-specific referral link (like User Interviews)
- Earn $50
- When a new person you convince to sign up for Respondent
- Participates in a Respondent survey worth $100 or more
- None of YOUR other referrals participated in THAT survey
- Limit 5 referral bonuses per project (To me, that point conflicts with the previous point, but that’s what it says on their site.)
- You can continue to earn up to 5 $50 referral fees per project.
- Primary referral link
- Respondent has 2 different referral programs, operating on 2 different link types.
- So, I’m going to encourage you to sign up for Respondent by clicking here, which is my primary referral fee. While I would love to earn $50 (it is more than twice the $20 referral fee I might get), using a project-specific link feels a lot like User Interviews.
Suggestions for Making Money Taking Surveys
To maximize your happiness with survey taking we suggest:
- Look at the expected payout versus the expected amount of time. If a site is paying about $2 per hour, is that what you want to do with your hour? You might be more satisfied with a different survey site, a different side hustle, or some non-income activity. (I wish I had spent 3 hours cleaning the house instead of earning $6.25. If I had spent the 3 hours couponing, I might have saved more than $6.25.)
- Recognize that 50 points for 10-minute survey is a higher pay rate (per minute) than 100 points for a 30-minute survey. Don’t be biased by higher payouts—always keep the price per minute or per hour in mind.
- Be ready to turn on your video camera for a video survey with a live person. You don’t need to clean your house ahead of time—but it does help to plan this for when you won’t worry about accidentally waking the baby from naptime.
- Make sure you have a Paypal account. Most survey sites offer payout through gift cards and PayPal, and a few sites have limited gift card options.
Conclusion 1: Can I Make Money Taking Surveys as a Side Gig?
Yes, we made money. But the $2/hour rate was nowhere near the $100/hour rate we read about in typical “make money taking surveys” articles. And while I would love to tell you all the $100/hour surveys picked me, some of them won’t approach me for a month, and they will only contact me if selected.
Still, if you are stuck somewhere with not many options (dentist office waiting room with a loud cartoon on so you can’t concentrate on reading or making important phone calls–and you’ve seen the cartoon a zillion times) doing a few surveys can help earn a little bit of extra money and every bit helps.
Conclusion 2: Is Survey Taking a Passive Income Source?
No. Anyone who includes “take surveys” in a list of “passive income streams” has very low payout expectations and has not actually learned what the word “passive” means. “Passive” means you are not actively involved, and for the higher-paying surveys, you most certainly need to block out time and participate actively—the businesses searching for survey participants say so.