Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
A few 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 can participate in paid focus groups in person or online. We’ll focus here on the online space. These focus group platforms let you earn anywhere from $20 to as much as $900 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 parenting in the 2020s, 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.
The following 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 $250 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 are a wide variety of cities with opportunities available.
Pay for WatchLAB focus groups ranges from $75 to $900 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $125 per hour.
Focuscope 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. Focuscope pays $75 to $250 per focus group, with an average payout of $100.
FindFocusGroups.com isn’t solely a consumer research company. It is also a job listing board. It aggregates opportunities available across the country and allows consumer research companies to submit listings.
You can search these focus group listings by state. The average focus group pays around $125 per hour, though there are currently jobs listed for pay ranging anywhere from $75 to $595.
5. User Interviews
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 $500 per hour — though few studies get close to the $500 mark. The average focus group pays $60 per hour.
Pittsburgh-based writer Brynne Conroy is the founder of the Femme Frugality blog and the author of “The Feminist Financial Handbook.” She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Information from Penny Hoarder writer and editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors is included in this report.