Focus Groups: An Easy Way to Make US $100

Updated on June 24, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I write about employment issues, ways to earn money and how to get best value when spending it.

A focus group enables a cross-section of the population to give their views.
A focus group enables a cross-section of the population to give their views. | Source

Earn Cash by Giving Your Opinion

I enjoy a good discussion with friends. Our chat consists of information sharing, questions and answers back-and-forth, resulting in a genuine (and polite) exchange of views. At the end of our conversation we are still friends and have learned a little more about each other. Focus groups are a bit like that. They are a controlled dialog between strangers that take place in a relaxed atmosphere. Not only are they fun, but you are paid a cash sum to take part.

If you accept an invitation to join a focus group, you will be expected to take part in the discussion. You will be paid real money, it’s not a scam, but you have to earn it. You'll be encouraged to express your opinions and be asked to explain them. By the end of a session, you'll not only have earned some dollars, but will also have the satisfaction that your views are going to be heard by decision-makers.

What Are Focus Groups?

  • Focus group sessions are a type of market research. They give qualitative (subjective) results rather than quantitative (objective) data. Both types of information are important.
  • Quantitative information, also called statistics, consists of numerical data that describe a situation in objective, non-emotional terms. For example, the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that more than two-thirds of adults in the US are overweight or obese. This factual evidence about the overall population helps politicians and businesses decide how much to spend on healthcare provision, versus other goods and services.
  • Qualitative data fleshes out the bare numbers and reveals how real people actually experience life. Stating that 66% of Americans are overweight, doesn’t describe an individual’s experience of coping with obesity. For instance, a person could be on a low-income, from an ethnic minority, and have poor access to fresh fruit and vegetables in their neighborhood. These multiple deprivation factors would hinder their attempts to eat a healthy diet. Without knowing about these individual circumstances, money could be wasted on a badly-targeted health promotion campaign.
  • Focus groups are a way of adding qualitative information to statistical data. Is there something stopping or encouraging people to take a particular course of action? What can businesses or governments do to encourage behavioral change or product loyalty? There can be many cultural or financial reasons; a focus group can probe further into how real people actually behave.

How to Participate in Focus Groups for Money

How Do You Get Chosen for a Focus Group?

  1. Register Online with Focus Group Agencies
  2. Respond to Adverts in Gumtree and Craigslist
  3. Be in the Right Place at the Right Time

1. Register Online With a Market Research Agency

It’s a good idea to register online with several specialist market research agencies. If you live in or near a big city, there are more opportunities to take part, but there are also some sessions which take place online or over the phone. To register you will need to give a lot of personal information, so make sure the agency is a member of a reputable market research body.

A genuine research company will state that your details will not be used for any purpose other than selection for a focus group. If you’re unsure about a company’s credentials, check them out. I have given a list of professional market research bodies at the end of this article.

To apply to participate in a focus group, you’ll need to answer a detailed questionnaire about your finances, your family situation, your politics, and your health. This enables the agency to select the right people for each discussion group. I use a spreadsheet on the OfficeSuite Free app to help me remember my answers, and list all the agencies to which I’ve applied. When you’re sent an invitation query, you’ll be asked further screening questions.

Thousands of people register for the chance to take part, but opportunities are limited. A discussion group usually has between six and ten participants, and some interviews are conducted with just a single individual. This means that very few people receive an invitation, and agencies send out more invites than people needed to allow for some refusals. So, if you do receive an invitation to be part of a focus group, be sure to respond promptly.

2. Respond to Adverts in Gumtree and Craigslist

Sometimes a company wants opinions from a very narrow group of people. For example, a child car-seat manufacturer may want to understand how their product is rated by their customers, and their competitor’s customers. They are looking for views of parents of children under two-years old who retrofitted a car-seat.

The market research company may have only a few applicants on their books that meet these narrow criteria. Gumtree and Craigslist are therefore used to find the right candidates. Your chance of being selected for this type of targeted callout is good, if you are the right match.

3. Be in the Right Place at the Right Time

Serendipity has rewarded me with a place in a focus group several times. A sweet one was when I was approached in a shopping mall by someone with a clipboard. I was asked a few screening questions, and then offered the chance to join a focus group there and then if I had an hour to spare. It was fun, the discussion was about a new candy bar, and I earned US $50 for an hour’s work.

Another time, I had just joined a new hiking club. One of the other walkers was a recruiter for a market research company. She asked me a few questions to see if I met the criteria, and then invited me to a focus session for the following week. That time I earned US $100 for 2 hours discussion about health spending priorities and enjoyed a free buffet meal too during the session.

Recently I opened a new savings account, and was asked if I wanted to join their consumer panel. Some months later, I was invited to a discussion session about a new logo the bank was planning, and earned myself a nice US $100 for giving them an hour’s one-to-one feedback.

Focus research is about studying a small part of the bigger picture.
Focus research is about studying a small part of the bigger picture. | Source

What Does a Focus Group Involve? How Do They Work?

Each session will be slightly different but the following gives a general idea of what to expect if you take part in a focus group.

  • Your conversation will be recorded (audio) and you may be videoed too.
  • You will be observed; either covertly behind a one-way mirror or overtly with watchers in the room.
  • You will be in a small group; usually 6-10 people.
  • You will be informed beforehand how much you will be paid, and how long the session will last.
  • You will be in a group of strangers.
  • You may withdraw from the research at any time, but if you do, you will not be paid and you will be removed from the agency’s list.

The video below shows a real focus group session. The research topic was whether childhood obesity is influenced by cultural factors. Notice how the facilitator encourages the quieter ones to participate fully in the conversation. She makes sure the client gets their money’s worth from everyone.

A Focus Group Discusses Childhood Obesity

Further Information

In the US, a reputable focus group market research company is likely to be a member of one of the following organizations. Check with them if you have any doubts about whether a focus group or market research project is legitimate.

American Marketing Association (AMA)

International Social Marketing Association (iSMA)

Marketing Research Association (MRA)

Council of American Survey Research (CASRO)

American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 months ago from Sunny Florida

    I use to be part of different focus groups several years ago and I made some money that way. This is a good article that covers focus groups very thoroughly.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    4 months ago from UK

    I have signed up in the past to UK focus groups. I did one several years ago in a nearby town. It was interesting and paid well. Since then I have found that the screeners were very specific and I didn't make the cut or locations were too far away. I have occasionally participated online, which has been easier. Again criteria can be quite restrictive though.


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