Best Paid Focus Groups in 2021: Make $150+/hour

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Participating in paid focus groups is a great way to earn some extra cash to supplement your income. If you are interested in dipping your toe in the waters of focus groups, but aren’t sure where to start, keep reading. I’ll cover it all!

What is a Focus Group?

First things first, let’s talk about what focus groups are. Essentially, focus groups are a method of market research that companies leverage in order to gain valuable insight into their products and services. Due to the exploratory nature of focus groups (meaning the participants are actually encouraged to share their true opinions of a company’s products or services), they are considered a qualitative method of collecting data.

Companies like to conduct focus groups because not only do they get important feedback on their products and services, but focus groups also give companies a chance to understand their customer better by providing insight on:

  • What they actually think
  • How they think
  • Why they feel the way they do 

Focus groups can last anywhere from an hour to two hours. It really depends on how the discussion goes.

Types of Focus Groups

There are two types of focus groups:

  • In-person
  • Online

How Do Focus Groups Work?

two women talking through an online focus groupHow a focus group works really depends on the type of focus group it is.

In-person focus groups are conducted in interactive group settings that typically consist of 4-10 participants and a moderator. The moderator facilitates the discussion and encourages the participants to share their thoughts and opinions about the product or service that is being tested. 

The location of in-person focus groups can vary. Sometimes they are held in a room that contains one-way mirrors, so decision makers from the company can watch the discussion as it unfolds. Sometimes they are held in rooms that have video recorders, so the session can be watched by employees at a later date. Sometimes they are held onsite in one of the company’s conference rooms. Sometimes they are held at a neutral location, like a hotel conference room or a library. And, in the case of Google, sometimes they are held in a research van. Yes, you read that right…a research van. I have to give Google points on their creativity for that one. 

There are six different kinds of in-person focus groups:

  • Single Focus Group: This is the most traditional type of focus group. It involves a single moderator asking the participants questions.
  • Mini Focus Group: This kind of focus group sticks to four or five participants to create a more intimate environment. 
  • Two-Way Focus Group: In this scenario, there are two different focus groups with two different moderators. The first group observes the second group as they hold their discussion. And, then the first group has a discussion on what they learned from their observations. 
  • Dual Moderator Focus Group: There are two moderators. One is in charge of asking the group questions, and the other moderator makes sure the questions are answered and the discussion moves along. 
  • Dueling Moderator Focus Group: Two different focus groups, each with their own moderator, are pitted against each other to explore opposing sides of an issue. 
  • Respondent Moderator Focus Group: In this type of focus group, one or more members of the focus group temporarily assume the role of the moderator.

And, online focus groups are conducted…you guessed it…online, so participants can provide feedback from the comfort of their own homes. 

There are a few different types of online focus groups:

  • Virtual Group Meeting: This type of online focus group session is usually conducted using a virtual meeting platform, like GoToMeeting or Zoom. And, like an in-person focus group, the moderator conducts the session and asks questions as well as encourages an open and honest discussion.
  • Surveys: Surveys are super easy to participate in. You just fill out a company’s survey and submit it. Warm jammies and slippers are optional. 
  • One-On-One Interviews: This type of online focus group consists of a researcher or company decision maker interviewing a participant in a one-on-one setting. It can be conducted by phone or virtual meeting platform. 

How Paid Focus Groups Pay Participants 

How a paying focus group pays its participants really depends on the company conducting the focus group. For instance, FocusGroup.org pays participants by either Visa card or check. Some of the paid focus group companies I researched also pay via PayPal. And, some of them pay their participants in the form of points that can be redeemed for money or gift cards for popular retailers, like Amazon. 

Things to Consider Before Joining a Focus Group

Before signing up for a paying focus group, there are a couple things you should keep in mind:

1. Do your research.

Check out reviews about the company conducting the focus group to make sure they are legitimate. Indeed.com is a good place to start because it gives you a chance to see what the company’s own employees think about them. You can also look to see if they have a Facebook page and the kinds of comments users have made on their wall. One place you shouldn’t really rely on is the Better Business Bureau. CNN published a story about them back in 2015, and it uncovered that many companies that were proven to be scams or that were in trouble with the government had A ratings with the BBB. So, use them at your own risk.  

2. Determine how you want to get paid.

If you are strapped for cash, don’t participate in a focus group that pays you in points or gift cards. Look for one that will give you a check or send you money via PayPal or Venmo.  

Popular Paid Focus Group Companies

While you can find a lot of paid focus groups online just by searching “Paid focus groups near me,” it’s important to remember that not all focus groups are created equal. You definitely want to beware of scammers. Because I love my readers oh so much, I did the research for you and compiled a list of reputable focus group companies. 

Online Survey Companies

If you’re looking for short online surveys that you can quickly complete while watching TV in the evenings, try one of the following. They all pay out in gift cards, PayPal, or prepaid Visa cards and are easy to do. You won’t make big bucks doing them, but you’ll cash out several times throughout the year to snag some gift cards for the holidays:

These are the heavy hitters that pay the most for online or in-person interviews. I’ve detailed what type of focus groups they include, how much each pays, and how they pay out.


20|20 Panel (or 20|20 Research)

20|20 Panel provides a nice mix of options for participation, including:

  • Quick surveys that pay out anywhere from $1-$10, depending upon the content.
  • Survey with a chance at an online chat interview
  • Online discussion forum, where you log in and participate for 45 mins or so for several days
  • Online webcam discussion that lasts 30-90 mins with other participants
  • In-person study for those living near Charlotte, NC, Nashville, TN, and Miami, FL.

Payout: $50-$350; prepaid Mastercard, or virtual or physical Visa; also started paying out via e-gift cards to places like Amazon, Best Buy, Fandango, iTunes, Starbucks, Walmart, and more.


Brand Institute

Brand Institute helps companies build their brands. From naming pharmaceuticals to market research, they cover anything that involves branding. The site is very dated, and I understand it can be hard to qualify for surveys. However, if you do, they pay out very well!
Payout: $30+, via PayPal or check


Craigslist

Surprisingly, there are a lot of focus groups listed on Craigslist. I searched Google for “craigslist focus group,” and the results brought back many focus groups in specific cities. When I checked locally, I found several online focus groups and had links to legitimate focus group websites. Please remember to use caution and always question anything too good to be true!
Payout: Varies


Engage in Depth

Engage in Depth offers focused studies to consumers as well as business and healthcare professionals. They provide both online surveys and focus groups.
Payout: $50-$250 via PayPal or check


Experience Dynamics

Experience Dynamics is looking for a wide variety of focus group participants, including people new to the web, IT professionals, users with disabilities, and even people across the world (we do regular global usability studies). Incentives are between $50-150 dollars per review, depending on the scope of the study.

They have several types of studies that they conduct, including:

  • Field Studies: Visiting you at home or work for a 1-2 hour interview (about a topic such as an MRI, mobile banking, or hospital visit)
  • Diary Studies: Providing a diary for you to record your thoughts over 1-2 weeks
  • Usability Testing: Inviting you to our facility to review a Web site or software application (across the US or globally) or asking you to join a live web conference
  • Phone interviews: Speaking with you over the phone for 30-60 minutes
  • Online Focus Groups: Participating in an online focus group study
  • Online Surveys: Getting your thoughts from an online survey

Once you fill out a profile and get added to their database, they’ll reach out to you as new focus group opportunities arise.
Payout: $50-150 a study


Fieldwork

Fieldwork seems to be a more hands-on approach to focus groups. They do taste tests, product trials, in-home interviews, shop-along interviews, and online research. While they do most of their focus groups in 14 locations, they also have a national database for broader studies. Focus groups are conducted in 1-2 hour interviews and panels and range from breakfast cereals to video games and everything in between.
Payout: Starting at $75


FindFocusGroups

FindFocusGroups is an aggregate of other focus groups. They pull together available studies that they find from different companies, making it easier to find ones that fit your profile. You can search by city, state, or scroll their listings. They also offer paid surveys as an additional option.
Payout: $100-$375+


FocusGroups.org

When I checked out FocusGroups.org, they had 185 available studies ongoing. They cover everything, including focus groups, clinical trials, app installs, online surveys, usability testing, and mystery shops. You can search by city or review studies that take nationwide applicants.
Payout: $100-$400+; Prepaid VISA or check


Focus Forward / Survey Squad

Survey Squad is powered by Focus Forward and provides opportunities for focus groups, phone interviews, online diaries, and other types of marketing research. They are looking for consumers as well as business and medical professionals.
Payout: Surveys pay $1-$5; studies pay $100-$300; paid via cash, check or gift card


Google User Experience Research

You can help shape the future of Google with studies conducted in Google’s offices, research van (interesting), your home, business, or online via your computer, phone, or tablet.
Payout: Paid via gift cards or donation to your favorite charity


Mindswarms

If an in-person focus group freaks you out, check out Mindswarms. Once you qualify for a study, you record yourself answering ten questions. That’s it! Use your smartphone, webcam, or tablet to participate.
Payout: $50 via PayPal


MintVine / Branded Surveys

Formerly known as MintVine, Branded Surveys offers online surveys to earn points.
Payout: 1000 points equal $10; paid out via PayPal, prepaid Visa, or Amazon e-gift cards


Plaza Research

Plaza Research conducts focus group discussions, phone interviews, in-home interviews, and online surveys.

In-person focus groups are conducted in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Metro New York (Paramus), Metro Philadelphia (Marlton), Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, and Tampa.

Payout: Focus groups payout immediately following the session and range from $50 to $200 for a 2-hour session.


Probe Market Research

Get a sneak peek of upcoming products and advertising campaigns when you participate with Probe Market Research. They conduct interviews via focus group, online, or over the phone on popular products and concepts for their clients.
Payout: Between $50-$400 in cash


Recruit and Field

Recruit and Field offer the opportunity to participate in various focus groups, including in-person, phone interviews, online surveys, and in-home testing. Clients include Grey Goose, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Uber, Clinique, Nestle, Netflix, GMC, and Spotify, to name a few.

Payout: $100-$275+ per study; pay via Paypal and e-gift cards


Respondent.io

Respondent focuses on finding business professionals to provide insight into their customers’ products and services. The type of study participants they need include:

  • Software developers
  • Marketers
  • Executives
  • Enterprise software users
  • Business owners
  • Sales and support

These focus group participants earn a whopping average hourly incentive of $100 to $700 an hour! Users verify their profile, get matched to research studies, participate, and get paid. You can also earn by referring your colleagues!
Payout: Automatically paid out via PayPal. Respondent only collects a 5% fulfillment fee on the incentive paid.


Schlesinger Group / Inspired Opinions / FocusGroup.com (Formerly Focus Pointe Global)

These two focus group companies work together but cover different areas of the globe. If you’re in the US, you’ll apply to Schlesinger Group. If you’re in the UK, you’ll apply to Inspired Opinions.

These companies are looking for consumers, business and healthcare professionals, patients, and caregivers. They offer several different ways to participate in their marketing research studies, including:

  • Online surveys
  • Over the phone (at an agreed time)
  • In-person focus groups or interviews
  • In online communities
  • In-home product tests

Payout: Depending upon how you participate, you can earn anywhere from $1 to $150. Earnings paid with pre-paid Visa card, check, gift card, or cash.


SIS International Research

SIS International conducts some fascinating studies, including mock jury research and online and in-person focus groups in cities worldwide.

Their focus groups are based in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Washington DC, Miami, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, and many other cities nationwide. Internationally, their focus groups are held in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Shanghai, and many more.

Payout: $25-$200, depending upon the project


Survey Feeds

Survey Feeds provides both online and in-person focus group opportunities. I appreciate that you can see what’s available right on their site and how much each pays. It takes the guess work out!
Payout: $100 – $500


Survey Junkie

Survey Junkie has several ways to participate in their offers, including SJ Opinion and SJ Pulse. SJ Opinion lets you share your opinion through surveys and focus groups in exchange for rewards.

SJ Pulse allows you to share your digital browsing information for rewards.
Payout: Redeem points instantly for cash via PayPal or a bank transfer. Or, grab e-Gift cards to companies like Walmart, Amazon, Visa, iTunes, and more.


UserTesting

UserTesting is my favorite, and I use it often. Every test pays out $10 and takes 10 – 20 minutes to complete. You’ll use a browser plugin to record your screen and voice and walk through a set of instructions while answering questions. It’s a great way to earn extra money!
Payout: $10 per test, via PayPal, one week later


User Interviews

User Interviews is unique in that you can see the current focus groups available upfront, along with their pay and the amount of time required. When I checked their site, I saw everything from a mortgage lender survey to test new software to a regenerative medicine study.

Payout: $30-$340+ through Amazon gift cards or cash


WatchLab

WatchLab is currently running a promotion where you’ll be entered into a $100 raffle upon submitting your profile. Once you qualify for a study, they’ll reach out to you to join the online boards, in-person focus groups, or interviews.
Payout: $100 – $175+; cash or check mailed to your house

Now that you know the best online and paid focus groups, let me know which ones you try out in the comments below!

Looking for other ways to make money quickly?

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A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More

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