focus-groupWe’ve all seen examples of focus groups on TV. They typically involve people giving feedback about a product while being observed by scientists through a two-way mirror. Well, not all focus groups involve a two-way mirror, but they’re a real thing where real people representing different types of consumers or segments of the population are asked about their opinion on everything from banking products to new food to television shows. And the best part is they pay! Read on to learn about my experience and how you too can earn.

It pays to be a part of a focus group

Focus group participants are paid an average of $75 to $200 for an hour or two of their time and thoughtful opinions. This payment is called an honoraria because it’s technically an appreciation of your time and not a payment for work. On average, I’ve participated in about two focus groups a year and am currently signed up with a few companies. Focus groups are an easy way to make extra money, but you aren’t able to participate too many times in a short period because researchers want to keep data pure—so don't think of it as a regular source of income. I’ve been paid by check through the mail, but often you’re simply paid via PayPal.

What they focus on

Market researchers interview people individually or in a group about their shopping habits, preferences, feedback to a product, and other topics. Often, you’re with a group of people and are asked by researchers about your experiences with an older product, suggestions for upgrades, or your feedback about a new item. I was even once asked to watch a new television show! You may be required to participate in a video interview where you’re recorded using a new product. You could also be interviewed over the phone.

How to participate 

Being a focus group participant means being honest in your responses. You are statistically representing a group of consumers and it’s important not to skew your answers just so you’re more likely to get picked for a particular study. For example, if the group is looking for women aged 25-30 who have had over five overdraft fees in the past year at a particular bank, don't say you qualify if you don’t. Also, speak up when you’re participating in your focus group. Even if you think it's silly or innocuous, tell the researchers your reaction. If you dislike the packaging or you think the announcer on the television show sounds snooty, say so. That's exactly why you’re there. And don't let the opinions of others participating in the study sway you. The researchers want to know what you, as representing a group of consumers similar to you, think and feel about a product. If you have an idea for improvement, speak up!

Find a local market research company

To find a local company just google your city name and "focus groups" or "market research." Local companies that offer focus groups will often have a place on their website where you can sign up for their list, and if they have a study that they think you may qualify for, they’ll call or email you about it. You can also go to Blue Book or Green Book to find a list of market research companies and focus group facilities in your area.

Look for focus groups online

There are a number of reputable online focus groups and market research companies. Here are just a few to sign up with:

  • 20/20 Panel: Conducts online video interviews as well as in-person interviews at their facilities across the country.
  • Schlesinger Associates/ Inspired Opinions: Conducts focus groups online, in-person and by telephone.
  • Focus Pointe Global: Research is also conducted in a variety of settings, and they also offer product testing.
  • Mindswarms: Conducts their focus groups entirely online via your computer camera and microphone.