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As you know, Ryan and I are trying to transition to working for ourselves by setting up multiple income streams. Today, we answer the question: are paid surveys worth it?
How do paid surveys work?
There are a lot of companies out there that offer the opportunity to participate in paid surveys. Some of the more well-known names are Inbox Dollars, Swagbucks, and ProOpinion, but there are many, many more.
You have to sign up with each company individually. You typically give them your name, email address, phone number and mailing address. They may also want things like your date of birth and PayPal account email.
Some of them pay with money, like Inbox Dollars. Others, like Swagbucks, may give you a gift card. You may have an option to receive payment through PayPal or via a check or gift card in the mail.
Who do survey companies want to do their paid surveys?
On the surface, it seems like they will take all comers. You sign up for free, and they start sending offers your way.
But think about who wants the information from the surveys. It’s companies that sell products. They want data from their target audience–someone who will buy their product. The survey company wants to provide data to clients at a price they will pay. Naturally the people who are most likely to “qualify” for the survey are part of the target audience, right?
How do you know if you qualify?
Unfortunately, the way to find out if you will get paid for a survey is to start taking the survey. The survey will keep going until there comes an answer that does not fit what they want. This may take two minutes or twenty minutes. You may have had to answer multiple-choice questions, or typed in answers. Maybe you watched a video (that could have eaten up your data if you did it on your phone). And then you give them one “wrong” answer and you are disqualified with nothing to show for it.
Is your information safe?
It’s hard to say. I would be really careful reading the fine print. Ryan signed up for a bunch of them all in one day. He took a survey that asked if he was interested in hearing more about solar panels. He said no and went on with the survey. A few minutes later, he got a phone call from the solar panel company wanting to talk to him about solar panels. Even though he said no.
He got a lot of calls like that, and tons of emails with ads. Even though he unsubscribed from all the survey companies, he still gets contact. He also got this weird call from a recording saying it was an attorney’s office calling, and to call back right away or legal action would result (about what, it didn’t say). When he tried to call back, it was a cell number and “the subscriber was out of the service area.” We can’t help but wonder if this was related to the survey stuff.
How much and how often can you get paid to take surveys?
The frequency of payment varies, but one thing is the same for all of them: you have to meet a certain threshold before they will give you money. $25 seems to be a popular number. So if the requirement is $25 and you earn $10 in one week and three months go by without any additional surveys that you qualify for, you still haven’t seen that $10 yet.
As for how much you will make (if anything), I know Inbox Dollars sent a lot of emails for surveys that pay a couple of cents. Ryan did surveys with other companies that were going to offer him a quarter for 20 minutes of his time. There are some that pay more, but I’m sure you have to know all the right answers to the questions.
I’ve done some research among people who have been doing this for awhile and the most popular answers seemed to be $25-$200 per month. I can’t say how many hours they had to put in to get to that amount, because everyone will qualify for something different. A target audience member probably has these characteristics: moderate to high income, younger (20s and 30s), keeps up with all the trends, active social life, and likes to consume lots of different products: clothes, eating out, movies, electronics, taking vacations, etc. They want people who are likely to spend.
Bottom line: can you make money taking paid surveys?
Probably not. I know I belonged to Inbox Dollars for a long time, years ago. I faithfully attempted every survey they sent and never met their threshold for receiving any money. Perhaps even then I wasn’t their target demographic.
If you don’t meet some or all of the guidelines I mentioned above, you may still qualify for surveys. The problem is that they don’t tell you what they want, because then you can just give them answers they want to hear, in order to get the money. And I guess you could try to trick the system and give the “right” answers, but it sounds like a lot of work, and result in even more sales calls and emails.
In the meanwhile, spending time on this means that the survey companies are still getting free information from you. They can arbitrarily disqualify you at any time and you will have nothing to show for it. I don’t know the statistics on these things, but polls are often wrong (for example, many polls predicted Hillary Clinton to win the last presidential election). Data and professional integrity may not be something these people are overly concerned about, so it’s possible that to keep costs down they don’t pay everyone they should.
I know these are some big accusations; and what they are doing may even be perfectly legal. But working in clinical research has taught me a lot about data collection and how often it is manipulated. Even physicians, who are (hopefully) more likely to adhere to ethics, falsify data for research money. Is it really hard to believe these companies wouldn’t do the same?
Will we be using paid surveys to make money?
As you may have guessed, Ryan and I have decided that paid surveys are not worth our time and efforts, and will be focusing on other things. We gave it a shot, but at this point we will not be doing any more surveys, nor can we recommend them to anyone else. I could be signing up as an affiliate for a lot of these sites and getting referral fees for sending people their way. But I’d rather be honest and save everyone a lot of wasted time.
However, if you still want to give it a try, here are some tips:
- Consider opening an email account just for taking surveys. That way you can delete it if/when you decide you’ve had enough, and they won’t be able to bother you any longer.
- Don’t sign up for everything, or you’ll get too many emails. Do some research into the different companies and pick the ones that have the types of surveys you’d most likely enjoy. Choose types of rewards you’d actually use (for example, if you only want cash don’t sign up with the companies that only issue gift cards).
- Read the fine print and make sure you’re ok with whatever you’re agreeing to.
- Look for reviews of the survey companies. Don’t just google “paid surveys” and assume all the listings are for legitimate companies.
- Never give out information that doesn’t seem necessary. Examples would be your social security number, driver’s license, passwords to other accounts…you get the idea.
- If you receive inappropriate contact, make note of the details and then make a complaint. For example, if a company calls you after you declined contact, take action. Write down the name of the person who called you, company, the type of survey and which company sent you the survey. Clearly state to the person on the phone “You do not have permission to call me. I am not interested in your product. Please take me off your contact list immediately.” Then contact the survey company and let them know what happened and you are not happy. If they are a professional company, they will at least pretend to be apologetic and take action. If not, ditch them.
- Don’t expect to get rich or be able to quit your day job taking surveys. At the most this will be a little extra cash.
What is your experience with paid surveys? Are you going to give them a try?