Taking online surveys from home is a nice way to earn a little extra cash or prizes for your family. There are hundreds of online survey companies that advertise across the web. Amidst the low-end companies that will do nothing more than fill your inbox with spam, there are legitimate online marketing companies that will pay you a little bit of money for taking time to answer online surveys.
The most important thing as you get started is to ensure you are working with a company that will indeed pay you as they promised.
Criteria for Judging Survey Companies
I have developed three criteria that I use in evaluating survey companies, that I have developed by learning the hard way. You can feel free to do additional research before joining any of the firms I mention, but know that I have checked done these three things.
Must Be Free
Any legitimate survey company is 100% free for you to participate in. Do not ever pay money to take surveys. No matter what the survey company says, “if you pay xx amount you’ll get access to a list from which you can take surveys and start earning,” don’t believe it for a second. Likewise, bona fide companies that offer products for testing will not require you to pay for the products. If you are ever required to pay to participate in a survey, then run! (Thanks Tricia, from Sunshine Rewards, for these reminders!)
Identify the owner
Reputable online survey companies are owned by a larger, established market research firm. Typically, but not always, the online survey company is just one division or arm of services that the market research firm provides to large national brands. In a few cases the company is focused solely on digital market research.
This is important because a larger company, with years of history, is more likely to pay on time, be ethical and have the infrastructure necessary to support quality market research than a fly by night shop. I also assume that an established firm wants to protect its brand and should there ever be an issue of any sort that they would be more apt to resolve it; that isn’t a guarantee of impeccable customer service, but my thoughts on why I want a market research firm behind an online survey company.
In a quick google search I am able to get a flavor for an online survey company. Certainly, by the nature of the industry there are always (like 100% of the time, negative reviews of a company. In those negative reviews I look for the issues. What problems do/have people had with the firm? In the legitimate companies the issues are typically things like “I don’t get enough surveys” or “it takes a long time to earn enough to get paid” whereas the low-end companies have issues like “they won’t pay me even though I requested my check.”
Using these two criteria I can weed out 98% of all the survey companies I run across because they don’t pass the tests.
Getting Started With Survey Companies
As you get started with a survey company keep the following things in mind:
- Create a new email address. You will likely get a lot of email, especially if you join multiple survey companies. Open a new email account and dedicate to this kind of thing so you don’t feel overwhelmed in your main inbox.
- Provide accurate and complete profile information. You are participating in market research. As such, surveys are targeted to people based on all sorts of demographic information they provide. You are more likely to receive a higher quantity of surveys, and thus opportunities to earn some money, if your profile is all filled in.
- Set reasonable income expectations. You’ll earn a little side cash for your time taking surveys, but I doubt you’ll be able to pay your mortgage with the income. Especially at first you’ll have to take enough surveys to reach the payment threshold with each company. Only you can decide if it is worth your time. I think that those with more time on their hands, than money in the bank, might take the opportunity to make every extra penny they can.
Legit Survey Companies Accepting Applications
Survey companies often open up for new applicants, then close again when their pipeline is full. As of this writing, these are firms that are accepting new applicants. Should the link come up “page not found” or something similar, that means they have enough people for now. Please leave a comment letting me know so I can keep the list current.
Campus Fundraiser (This program works a little differently than the others. I wrote a blog post about it last fall. Also, I’ve been told that it is slower to earn with them than some of the other companies.)
Opinion Square (they don’t pay in cash, only in gift cards and prizes)
Survey Head (reviews online say that this company pays, but it is slower than some of the others)
Toluna (They are, by the standards I described above, a legitimate firm, but word on the street is that it takes longer to earn rewards with Toluna than with some of the other firms and they are slower to pay)
Valued Opinions (They pay out in gift cards to stores like Macys and Blockbuster versus others that pay in cash)
Your turn: What criteria do you use when deciding whether to join an online survey company?
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