The short answer is yes, you can get paid to do surveys. Just don't expect to give up the day job anytime soon! They really do pay pennies. However, if you've got a few spare minutes a day and don't mind spending it answering marketing type questions, then why not?
I started doing this around two years ago, mostly just to see what it was like. I joined one online survey site, Panelbase. It pays you in either vouchers, or in a donation to your chosen charity. It pays out the vouchers in sums of £10, so you need to have earned at least £10 before you can make any withdrawals.
My biggest disappointment really was that there was only Iceland on the list of shops that used the vouchers that I wanted to shop at. My plan had been to use the 'savings' I made doing the vouchers to spend on the food for my son's birthday party each year. Still the large Iceland stores do sell a lot of groceries, so it came in handy anyway. But my advice is to look at what you'll get paid, and how you'll get paid, when you first join up.
Survey and market research sites pay anyway from 10p a survey to £10 or more. It depends on the company, the type of survey, and what they're after. General rule of thumb is that, the harder it is to register with a market research company, the more they pay or the more surveys they offer.
What do you have to do?
With Panelbase, I get sent email invites to surveys that fit my profile on the site. Don't lie or try to exaggerate as you don't know what they'll be looking for. It could be that most of their surveys are aimed at household earning £26K a year and you might put yourself out of the running if you claim £50K.
Likewise there's no point in trying to fib your way through the surveys, or answer randomly so you can get through quicker. They have software programmes designed to spot this sort of thing, otherwise the results would have little value for their customers, and you won't get paid. Payment on most sites is dependant on verification.
It took a while to set up my profile properly, as they do ask a lot of questions. But it is worth doing this on these sorts of sites as it increases the number of surveys you might be eligible for.
I click on a link in the survey and it takes me to the site's questionnaire. You have to be quick, especially if you live in a well populated area like London or the South East. I find that if the survey invite is more than a couple of hours old, I'm too late.
Next you'll be asked a few questions about your background, some of which might eliminate you from the survey. I've also been restricted on the surveys I can answer since I lost the sound on my computer! Many of the ones that come through Panelbase ask you to listen or watch adverts and give an opinion on what you see. So I can't do those. And there's no point in trying to wing it - the survey weeds you out at the start by asking you to identify the sound in a test file such as a dog barking.
Who's out there?
Doing a google search for 'Paid Surveys' is actually not the best way to start. It's full of rubbish, and you don't want to end up on a disreputable site that at best deluges you with junk mail or at worst infects you with malware. Keep in mind that none of the reputable market research companies that offer paid surveys charges you to register.
I got my start on Mumsnet. Do a search or browse in the Legal and Money section. Today, for example, I found this discussion under Credit Crunch - Paid 4 Surveys. It was here that I also found the other survey site I signed up to, although I haven't actually done anything with them yet. Simply haven't had the time! If you're interested, the site is Ciao Surveys.
There's the, apparently, from what friends have told me, potentially rather lucrative YouGov at the 'top' end of the paid-survey market. The downside is that you have to earn £50 before you can withdraw the cash. Other sites in operation include New Vista, and Valued Opinions. I haven't tried these last two sites myself, and I don't know anyone who has. All I know about them is that they exist and they're active, so it would be worth doing a little bit of homework on their background first. At least a Google search to see what people are saying.
There are real companies out there willing to pay you to do surveys, go shopping and rate products. However, like all things in life, there are also scamsters. Avoid any company that asks you to pay money to access their services. It doesn't work that way. You don't get a database of clients looking for people to do surveys. The job of the market research company is to find people for their clients, not the other way around. They give you the survey if you fit the profile, and there's never a charge for this. Not to you anyway.
This ones a nasty sting, as reported in the Guardian. Although it dates from 2006 I wouldn't be surprised to find it is still doing the rounds. The fake survey company, known in this article as Paid Surveys, says "it wants you to mystery-shop Marks & Spencer and - here alarm bells should ring - test money transfer service Western Union by sending cash overseas."
So have any of our intrepid PlayPennies readers tried these sites out? What has your experience been like? Earned any money - or found it not worth the hassle?