14 Paid Survey Tips and Tricks: Waste Less Time, Earn More Money

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Paid survey sites provide a reliable way to earn extra cash, but they do have a rather mixed reputation.

I know that our readers are broadly split between those who think surveys are a worthwhile way of making side income, and those who think they’re a waste of time.

If you’re in the former camp, these paid survey tips could help you to boost your income and waste less time on sketchy sites.

Why Paid Survey Sites ARE Worthwhile

If you’re in need of some extra money, I’d urge you not to turn your nose up at taking surveys. They’re never going to make you rich, but the little bits of income all add up. Every year, I cash out several hundred Dollars – and that’s just from using a few select survey sites for a short time here and there.

Really, it’s all about learning how to “play the system,” use the right survey sites, and know which surveys are worth your time and which are best ignored.

If you’re sceptical about taking surveys, read these online survey tips and perhaps reconsider giving it a go. I personally spend very little time on surveys, but still earn enough to pay for holidays and gifts several times each year.

Let’s get started.

1. Join Multiple Survey Panels

You’re never going to earn a bunch of money from only one survey site. (That said, there are some sites where I easily earn into the hundreds each year).

Panelbase earnings screenshot

The way to make your income add up is to be a member of several well-selected survey sites. There are about four that I use regularly, and my usual “survey reviewer,” Hannah, uses many more than that.

If you need some to get you started, here are some suggestions:

2. Look at the Time vs. Reward Ratio

Of all the online survey tips here, this is arguably the most crucial: ALWAYS look at how much time you’ll need to spend to earn each survey reward.

The ratios can vary hugely. On some sites, such as Populus Live and Prolific, it’s clearly laid-out (and reasonably consistent) how much your time is “worth.” On others, such as Qmee, the time vs. payment balance can vary between “worthwhile” and “total waste of time.”

It’s also important to realise that some sites are better than others about being accurate with the time a survey will take. This is something we always try to address in our reviews.

I OFTEN look at a survey and decide not to do it if the time / reward ratio doesn’t make sense. This approach can make a huge difference, compared to just grabbing anything and everything on offer.

Work smarter, not harder.

Egg timer photo representing time vs money

3. Don’t Cheat

Almost all surveys have attention-checking mechanisms in place to ensure you’re taking the surveys properly and not just blindly ticking boxes.

If you try to cheat, you will get caught out, and most survey sites have algorithms in place to ensure people who do it frequently don’t get offered as many (or any) surveys to take in the future. You may simply be kicked off the platform.

It’s revealing (and rather depressing) to see how many people Google “how to cheat survey sites,” or similar terms, each month.

Screenshot showing people searching for how to cheat survey sites

If you’re looking for advice on cheating survey sites, you’re in the wrong place. Cheating is dishonest and wrong – so don’t do it!

4. Grab Surveys Quick

When you get an email notification of a survey, it’s best to jump on it quickly if you want the best chance of earning the money.

Sometimes I leave survey invites in my inboxes – over the weekend or when I’ve not got time to look at them. More often than not, the surveys will be gone by the time I get around to them.

5. Grab Paid Survey Tips from Our Reviews

Beyond the online survey tips in this article, you’ll find plenty more – specific to each site – if you have a good look at some reviews.

For example, we’ve found that on Prolific there are often surveys open to you, even if you’ve not received an email notification. On some sites, you can earn larger rewards if you let your balance add up, rather than cashing out the tiniest amounts as soon as they are available.

All of these “hacks” add up, and make your time on surveys more organised and profitable.

6. Remember: Taking Surveys is NOT a Job

Taking online surveys isn’t a job, or a replacement for one. If that’s the expectation you go in with, you’ll definitely be disappointed.

I think, in part, that this unrealistic expectation is the fault of scammy websites and YouTube videos that suggest you can earn a living from taking surveys. You really can’t.

This is a money making side gig that you do instead of playing Candy Crush or watching Netflix, NOT instead of actual work!

7. Don’t Pay (Too Much) Attention to Bad Reviews

Research almost any online survey site and you’ll find a stack of bad reviews and vitriolic comments. Many of these are from people who went in expecting too much (see above), or tried to cheat and got caught out (see above!)

Yes, there are tons of scammy survey sites and false promises, but there are also plenty of legit sites that pay out millions of Dollars to their members each year. So long as you choose wisely and follow the rules, everything usually turns out OK.

When we review these sites at HomeWorkingClub, we tend not to publish anything until we’ve cashed out, so we KNOW there’s nothing untoward going on.

8. Consider your Privacy

It’s inevitable that you’re going to compromise your privacy – to an extent – by taking online surveys. Often you’re giving your opinions on political matters or revealing the state of your health – at the same time as giving the survey provider your ZIP code!

Your overall attitude to privacy is a factor here. If you’re unhappy revealing anything unnecessarily, taking surveys for money probably isn’t a great fit for you anyway. On the other hand, many of us tell tech firms SO much anyway, thanks to web browsing and social media, that a little more self-disclosure may not feel like a big deal.

Even so, it still makes sense to be careful what you’re agreeing to. One thing I personally don’t like is when a survey site bounces me off to a third-party that wants me to tick five or six different privacy boxes before continuing. I tend to run a mile from surveys like that, and I feel inclined to say you should too.

9. Never Pay to Take Surveys

This should be obvious, but I include it in my paid survey tips just in case it’s not: Don’t pay to sign up to a service that promises you highly-paid surveys IF you pay a subscription fee. 

The likelihood is that anything like this is a scam, and the only people making any money are the criminals behind it.

10. Don’t get Upset About “Screen-Outs”

Getting “screened out” is when you start to complete a survey, and then get told you’re not eligible to complete it. It’s annoying but it’s unavoidable.

I can't believe it written on blackboard

You never know exactly what a survey provider is looking for when you start a survey; They may only want responses from car owners, smokers, people with annual travel insurance – or anything else you can think of. As such, it’s understandable that plenty of people don’t fit the demographic profile and get “screened out.”

Different survey providers have different ways of addressing this, and some are much better at it than others. Some give you entry into a prize draw each time you don’t qualify, others give you a “consolation prize” of a smaller reward.

We tend to discuss these differences in our survey reviews, and are critical of sites that take up too much of your time before a screen out happens.

11. Look Out for Product Tests

Several of the survey sites out there also dabble in product tests, where you’re sent something to review. Rewards for these are usually higher than for normal surveys, and you get to keep and enjoy the products too.

We’ve had all sorts turn up at our house over the years, including shampoo, soft drinks, and LOADS of baby stuff like powdered milk and nappies. There’s no real way to increase your chance of qualifying, but you can read a bit more on this in this article about getting free stuff.

12. Grab Any Invites to Focus Groups

Focus group

Like product tests, focus groups are something you’ll want to jump on if you see them. Many of the survey sites recruit for focus groups as a sideline, and they’re typically rather well-paid (in the region of anything for $50 to $200 for an hour of your time).

Some involve a video call, others just involve online chat, and you need to ensure you’re online at a specific time.

While I have no scientific evidence for this, I strongly suspect that participating successfully in a couple of these increases your chances of being offered more, and that failing to show up probably has the opposite effect!

Online focus groups and research panels have boomed in the past couple of years. A lot of this work used to be done “in person,” but has now switched to online.

I’d recommend signing up to the following panels to get a chance of grabbing these lucrative opportunities:

I’ve had positive feedback from readers regarding all of those sites.

13. Make Use of Referral Schemes

Many paid survey sites have “refer a friend” schemes. Some pay you a one-off commission, and others give you a percentage that corresponds to the income your friends make from the platform.

Obviously it’s best to use these selectively – you should only refer your friends to sites that you believe in, or they won’t thank you for it. But if you’re doing well from a certain survey site, why NOT suggest your friends benefit too?

14. Continually Research the Marketplace

Paid survey sites evolve considerably over time. Sites that were once good can become less worthwhile, and vice versa. There are also lots of mergers, acquisitions and rebrands in the online survey world.

As such, it’s worth keeping your ear to the ground, reading reviews and – perhaps – giving sites a second chance even if you weren’t impressed with them in the past. The companies behind these sites are all in competition, and one of them winning a big contract could mean they suddenly have new opportunities for their members.

Do you have any online survey tips to share, or any thoughts on these? Let us know in the comments below. 

For a good alternative to tasking surveys, why not think about testing apps and websites? You’ll also find an interesting article covering lots of other side gig options here.