We’ve probably all been asked to participate in focus groups or to take surveys, but do you? Would you participate if they paid you?


We’ve all received the phone calls asking us to participate in a survey, and depending on my mood or time constraints, I may or may not oblige them. Most of the time, however, I just cut them off early, tell them I don’t have the time, and hang up. (But during a political season, I might participate in short ones because I like to mess with them, giving them wrong or misleading answers.)

I remember years ago when I found myself on a list of being someone who would consider participating in focus groups, and in this case it was facilitated by a couple of different marketing companies that actually paid the participants for their time. It would usually take 30 minutes to an hour, and they would pay somewhere in the $50 to $75 range. I would usually get a call once a year or so, and depending on the circumstances, I may or may not have participated. But during one stretch of about six months, I was actually asked to participate in about three of them, all focusing on printers and plotters. I actually benefited from those in more ways than simply earning some extra cash because the products being discussed were ones that I might be purchasing myself. It actually enlightened me a bit on new products.

For some reason the calls stopped, and I wasn’t asked to participate in anything for probably five or six years, maybe longer. (Time flies much faster, it seems, the older one gets.) I’d still get the phone call surveys, which I’d almost always take a pass on, but the invitations to participate in paid focus groups pretty much stopped.

A couple of months ago, however, I received a call that I almost abruptly hung up on, but the caller was enticing enough to tweak my interest. In short, I was invited to participate in a one-on-one focus group (or focus session), and I was told that the only thing they could reveal about the subject matter was that it was limited to people who provided computer and user support in a small corporate environment. I was told that it would take no more than 45 minutes, and the fee paid would be $200 — in cash. The location was close enough to my home, so I decided it would be well worth my time.

This was probably one of the more interesting ones I’ve ever done. I was asked about how my network was set up, how I installed software, how I handled backups, what kind of hardware I was using, how old my hardware was, and other questions along those lines. In a way, it was actually an exercise that forced me to evaluate how I was doing things and how I might do them better. In the end, I surmised that the survey was for the purpose of developing or promoting a new product that facilitated the wide-scale deployment of software upgrades over a corporate network, since all questions pretty much led in that direction.

In the end, it was very interesting, it created a bit of self-evaluation, it took only about 30 minutes, and I was paid $200 for my time and trouble. Not too bad.

I know a lot of people might be quick to dismiss such a request, but if you’re ever faced with one yourself, you might want to give it some consideration. After all, it’s really no more than participating in a company’s market research project, and not only could it earn some extra cash for you, but your opinion just might steer their products toward your real needs.

Or perhaps you have participated in such things. Take the poll, and leave your comments

And please leave your thoughts and comments in the following discussion — either good or bad.

As an afterthought, in times that might be financially challenging to a lot of user support professionals, doing an Internet search for paid focus groups might give you some ideas on how you, too, can earn a few dollars by simply sharing your opinions.