I’ve been seeing more and more advertisements for paid survey sites. And the promises keep getting more and more ridiculous.
I think it’s a scam. You can make a little bit of spending money filling out surveys, but don’t let anyone hoodwink you into thinking you’ll get rich. Look at it as a way to spend a couple of hours a week to make a little bit of extra money, and nothing more, and you stand to do OK.First of all, don’t pay your $35. The people who run those sites say you can make that money back immediately. The problem is, they don’t know that. So why should you part with $35 without knowing when you’ll recoup your investment?
I filled out my first paid survey in 1996 or 1997. The first survey I filled out must have been some early marketing research for Webvan, because I distinctly remember it asking me questions about online grocery shopping. I asnwered their questions, and a few weeks later a check for $12 appeared in my mailbox. Occasionally I got e-mail invitations to participate in another survey. I probably made about $50 from that research firm before it disappeared. That happens.
More recently, after seeing an ad for someone wanting my $35, I decided to see what I could find on my own. A Google search on “paid survey” turned up a few leads. I ended up joining a couple. They sent me a few surveys. Some of the surveys meet their quota within minutes of being sent out, so I’ve probably missed half my opportunities.
Here’s my advice on these things. Let people pay you for your opinions, but protect yourself. Get a free e-mail account from Yahoo, since it has decent spam protection, and use it for surveys exclusively. I’ve started getting a lot more spam since I signed up with these guys. I can’t say I’m surprised. I thought I opted out of all the mailings but it’s hard to know you checked all of the important boxes.
Shy away from people who offer you coupons or merchandise. Why should you work for frivolous things you probably don’t want or need? Stick with survey sites that offer cash. One site I signed up for pays in points, redeemable for cash. Problem is, when you convert it to cash, you get five cents per point, and you have to accumulate a minimum of 1,000 points before you can cash out. The last survey I got from them promised to take 30-45 minutes and pay 100 points. Considering I’d have to take 10 surveys before I saw a penny, and the effort was twice as much for half as much pay as some other sites pay, I wish I hadn’t bothered.
A lot of the sites require you to have a bunch of plug-ins installed, like Flash and Real. Most don’t seem to work with anything but Internet Explorer. If you want to do this a lot, it might not be a bad idea to dig the old Pentium-200 out of the closet and use it for your survey activity and only for your survey activity. That way if it gets infected with spyware, it won’t affect your good computer, and you’ll have a better idea where the problem came from.
The claims of making $200 an hour are very misleading. Most surveys that pay $20 take 20-30 minutes to fill out, especially if you answer honestly, which you should. Fill out three surveys and I guess you can say you make $60 an hour. But you’d have to be in an unbelievably desirable demographic to get more than a couple of surveys a day. While some sites promise occasional surveys that pay $100 or more, I have yet to see one. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but it suggests they aren’t common.
One site, Surveysavvy.com, allows you to refer friends, and they pay you a small commission based on your referrers’ work, allowing you to set up a two-level pyramid scheme. (Full disclosure: the link above is a referral to me.)
So, don’t expect to be able to quit your day job and get rich filling out online surveys. Don’t expect to be able to quit your job, period. If you’re in a reasonably desirable demographic, you might be able to pull in a thousand dollars or two a year filling out surveys. That could make a nice retirement nest egg, help you pay down some debt, or pay for a vacation.
That pretty much mirrors what an interviewee said in a recent news story I saw about secret shopping. He said he makes enough to go on vacation once a year, but he does have to work a little bit for it. He also said you should never pay anyone to be a secret shopper.
I won’t get rich, but if I end up making enough money to pay my accountant come tax time, I’ll be happy.