It’s inevitable: If you ask the Internet how to make extra money, someone (more likely several someones) will suggest taking online surveys (also, doing clinical trials). On the surface, this sounds terrific: Sign up with a few websites or apps, spend some downtime answering questions, get paid. And it generally is that easy to make a little money using platforms like Survey Junkie, Swagbucks, or Kashkick. The real question is, how little is the little money? Taking online surveys is easy work, but the Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25, and state minimum wages go as high as $17 per hour. Can you make anything even approaching that via online surveys?
The answer is: No, you cannot. Not even close (with one caveat noted below). Here’s how little the little money in online surveys actually is.
The downside to taking online surveys for pay
Every single online survey site you sign up with will pay you dramatically less than $7.25 an hour. In some cases, you’ll wind up earning less than one dollar an hour, while folks using Survey Junkie can sometimes get as high as $5 per hour—and on SurveySavvy, you can snag 10-minute surveys for $1 each, so theoretically you can earn a majestic $6 per hour if you hustle nonstop. Note that all of these ranges are significantly below the $7.25 you’ll earn—at minimum—from some sort of actual part-time job.
And these numbers assume you’re able to dedicate significant time and effort to surveys, and that you enjoy remarkable efficiency—which is difficult due to three aspects of the platforms:
The qualification process. When you sign up on these platforms, you fill out an initial questionnaire designed to determine which surveys would find your feedback valuable (you often get a small sign-up bonus for this). When you snag a survey, however, your first few responses will narrow things down even further, and you might be rejected from the survey after you’ve begun the process, and get paid just a tiny amount for your time—often as little as 2-3 cents. For example, one person attempted 152 surveys on Survey Junkie over the course of one and a half months, but only managed to successfully complete 53 of them. The typical success rate for completing surveys is about 25%.
Search time. While some of these platforms will actively recruit you to surveys you’re particularly well-suited for, you have to spend time searching for surveys to take—and they go fast. And that time is unpaid. If you spend an hour trying to sign up for surveys and then make $3 taking them over the course of the next hour, your pay is really $1.5 per hour.
This means it’s probably better to think about online survey work in terms of monthly earnings instead of an hourly wage. For example, the person who completed 53 of 152 attempted surveys? After one and a half months they’d earned $26.17, or about $13 per month. And the platforms themselves are pretty clear about this. Survey Junkie, for example, explicitly states in their FAQ that you can expect to make “as much as” $40 a month using the site, and Swagbucks states that typical survey-takers “should be able to” earn as much as $1,825 per year, which is about $150 per month—but that’s the high end. And one site reviewing KashKick concluded you could earn $10-$40 per month there.
That’s not nothing! But it’s also not exactly a great way to make a living, and it’s definitely not a replacement for a job.
The upside to taking online surveys for pay
So, online surveys won’t make you rich or replace your 9-5. But used in the right way, there are certainly upsides to online surveys:
Easy. They typically require no special skills or experience, and signing up is free. While specific backgrounds or demographic details may snag you more or higher-paying surveys, there’s almost zero bar to making at least some money on these platforms.
Spare cash. That $40 a month might not pay your rent, but since you can earn it in the spare moments between other tasks—clicking through a lunch hour, or tapping on your phone while on the bus to and from work—it’s a low-friction way to toss some extra cash into your accounts.
Fun. Most people enjoy offering their opinions and learning about new products or concepts, so taking surveys is often a lot of fun—fun you’re getting paid for.
Finally, if you’re a professional in a demanding field of some sort, there can be a lot more upside taking surveys. There are specialized companies that pay pretty handsomely for the opinions of doctors, lawyers, or other professionals—for example, one doctor reported earning as much as $1,000 per month taking surveys offered by companies like InCrowd, Curizon, and M3 Global Research.
There’s also FocusGroups.org, which pays pretty well for online surveys (they also do in-person focus group studies and phone call interviews, which pay more). Many of their surveys fall into the $6/hour range (or less), but if you sift through and do some math to translate their points system into dollars, you can find some that pay out pretty high hourly rates—as much as $60 an hour, according to one review. However, there are generally fewer surveys to take here, and they are harder to qualify for—and that hourly rate depends on how fast you can finish the surveys, so your mileage may vary quite a bit. In the end, even though FocusGroups.org pays a bit better, you probably still won’t make a huge amount there every month.